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Keep Cool While the Heat Is On

 


I know it’s hot outside, after all, it’s June. However, the title of this article may be a bit misleading. It’s really not about summer heat, but heat of a whole different kind, the heat of a man-made furnace.

No doubt you are familiar with one of the most dramatic and exciting stories in the Bible. It comes out of the book of Daniel. You will remember the incredible experience of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who were thrown into the fiery furnace. As far from reality as it might seem, it is a true event filled with life lessons for each of us.

It all began when King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold and commanded everyone to bow in honor of it. He stated that everyone who did not fall down and worship would be thrown into a blazing furnace. You can almost hear the thump of people’s knees hitting the ground. Word got back to the King about three Hebrew teenagers who refused to bow down and worship the idol. It’s hard to imagine all the emotions going through their minds with hearts almost beating out of their chests.

Pause with me to consider the situation. Sooner or later everyone who claims to be a Christian will be faced with temptation to compromise his or her faith. We live in a pagan society which gives lip service to Christianity as long as someone isn’t too serious about it. That is especially true for those who go through our education systems and into the world as adults.

Observe with me their defiance. They wouldn’t bow. That’s devotion. Have you wondered why they were so devoted to God? Perhaps the secret to their courage was their upbringing during a time of revival in the land. You can read about it in I Kings 22-23. A young King Josiah had rediscovered the Word of God and had led the nation in repentance. These young men knew God’s Word and had taken it to heart.

Look further with me into this intriguing story. Not only did they refuse to bow, they wouldn’t bend. That’s determination. Notice how it played out.

The old King immediately summoned and threatened the three Hebrews to be thrown into an even hotter fire if they did not bow on the spot. “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, ‘O, King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Aren’t you moved with the quality of their faith? It was not the kind which says “I’ll trust God if He delivers me.” Instead, it was a resolute commitment to “trust God no matter what happened.”

I wonder how many of us have that kind of faith. Too many wish to bargain with God. You hear it in statements like “God if you give me a good husband or wife, I’ll serve you” or “God if you give me a good job, or good health, or plenty of money, I’ll serve you.” We must remember “God is not some heavenly puppet, and your prayer is not some string you pull.” The only kind of faith which will get you through the fire is one committed to trust God even if a prayer is not answered in the way it was asked. “Too many of us don’t have a faith to use the daring words of these young men, ‘But if not…’”

There’s a third component to this fabulous drama. The King orders the furnace to be heated even hotter and for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to be bound and thrown into the fire. The fire was so hot the soldiers who tossed them in died from the searing heat. In a few minutes King Nebuchadnezzar looks in and is amazed because he sees FOUR men walking around. Their bonds are burned off, but other than that they are unharmed. Nebuchadnezzar observes, “The fourth one looks like a son of the gods.” Who was the fourth man? Throughout history there has been a lot of debate about the fourth man in the fire. Along with many others, I believe it was an appearance of the Son of God before He came to earth in the flesh as Jesus. I appreciated one writer who said, “If you have a problem believing the miracles of the Bible, you’ll never really be able to know God.” If you take all the miracles out of the Bible, you will have little left to read and believe.

They wouldn’t burn. That’s God’s deliverance of the faithful. So what does their experience mean to us today? Let me offer four simple observations.

It reminds me that facing the fire becomes an instrument of witness. People know when we are in the fires of persecution or suffering. They pay attention to whether we believe what we say we believe when all is going well.

It also speaks to the devotion necessary to deal with peer pressure. Even when given a second chance to avoid the fire, they didn’t bend. “In other words they had already determined beforehand they were going to be faithful to God.” How did they do it? They had determined ahead of time to be faithful. If we are to avoid the pitfalls and traps of temptation and testing, we have to make commitments worth following ahead of time, not in the midst of a crisis.

Their experience is a powerful assurance that Jesus will be with us no matter what we face.

“Some are so careful to avoid the fires they miss the blessing of His presence with us. Problems are going to come. And it is during these times of fiery trials that we find the strength and grace of Jesus.”

Finally, God uses fires to purify our faith. In Malachi 3, there is a verse which pictures God as a refiner of silver. “God is like a silversmith. You and I are the silver. The silversmith places the silver in the crucible [that’s your personal furnace]. The Silversmith heats the crucible until the silver becomes liquid. The liquid silver sinks to the bottom and the impurities rise to the top. Then the silversmith takes a skimmer and he skims off the impurities. He carefully regulates the heat so the silver is not damaged, just hot enough to remove the impurities, any substance that pollutes the purity of the silver. Now, do you know how the Silversmith knows when the silver has become pure? It’s when he can see a clear reflection of his own face in the surface of the molten silver”.

I can just see Jesus, looking into the eyes of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the furnace. What did He see? He saw a reflection of the time when He himself would endure the fire of hell on the cross for each one of us. And when He saw that kind of unselfish nature, He said, “You boys can leave the fire, now because you have been purified.”

I wonder what God sees in us when we go through the fiery trials of life. I hope He sees clearly the reflection of His Spirit and character. “Make up your mind. I won’t bow. I won’t bend. I won’t burn. And when you do, God will deliver you through the fire!”

 

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