Nathan Foster, the Youth Minister at the Shady Acres Church of Christ in Sikeston, Missouri contributes this week’s Story of Faith. He dives into the actions of three brave young men who did something we can all do.
Do you remember as a little kid ever saying to some of your friends, “I’ll do it on one condition,” because whatever you were about to do was so important you wanted to get something out of the deal? It seems we continue to do this as we get older when we hesitate to do things without pausing and thinking about what we’ll get out of it.
When you look at some of the greatest stories of faith in the Bible, I can’t help but think that we see the exact opposite of that attitude. When we go down the list laid out for us in Hebrews 11, we don’t see a case of an individual who ever said, “God, what do I get out of this?”
That idea comes through clearer for me in one particular story – the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They prove that you don’t have to do something extraordinary to have a deep faith in God. Theirs is a story we can repeat today. At its core, they stood and that is such a simple thing we often overlook it. We skip right to the part about the furnace and we overlook what happened on their way there.
The conflict began in Daniel 3:13 when King Nebuchadnezzar called them before him in a rage. An earlier command was issued that instructed everyone in the kingdom to bow before an idol at specific times of the day. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego decided to forsake that command and remain standing. That simple gesture assures us that it doesn’t take moving mountains or traveling to a foreign country to make a difference. Sometimes all you need to do is stand.
Then we get to arguably the most popular part of the entire passage. In Daniel 3:17-18 we get to arguably the most popular part of this entire encounter. They say to the king after he threatens to throw them into a fiery furnace:
If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.
I’ve often wondered how this came across to Nebuchadnezzar. In verse 19 it says he was so angry his face became altered. Did he think it was just a sarcastic response? Was there some sort of sarcasm in their voices that caused the King to become filled with rage? Regardless of how it came across, the result was the same, a trip to the fiery furnace.
How cool would it be to see a faith like that everywhere? The most powerful way I have ever heard this story was in a single sentence – God can, but He might not, and it doesn’t matter.
Let us strive to have a faith that says “I will not break under pressure and that I love my God so much I don’t care what the consequences are.” For when it is all said and done, a faith with stipulations placed on it isn’t really faith at all.