Last week one of our lessons for the children’s Bible story time during day camp was the Fiery Furnace. You know the story well- Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn’t bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue, a “crime” which was punishable by death in a fiery furnace. So the three were bound and thrown into the furnace, but God saved them by sending “the angel of the Lord” into their midst, so that not one of their hairs was singed. It’s a wonderful account, one that most of us learned in Sunday school, but this time around what struck me the most about it was the response the three friends gave to the king before they were thrown into the fire. “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 deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18, italics mine).
Even if he does not. Think about the full impact of those words. What are Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego saying? “We know God can save us, but even if he doesn’t, we won’t turn away from Him.” That’s faith, my friends. Faith trusts God no matter what trials you face. These men were literally facing the prospect of death. I may have faced some tough times in my life, but I’ve never been threatened with death for my faith in God. These men were thrown into a blazing furnace for their faith, but they did not recant. And as hard as it may be to hear, there are times when it isn’t God’s will to rescue His people from suffering or death. Many of the apostles were martyred for their faith, and that fact stands as a clear testimony and encouragement to believers today who are persecuted for their faith. God doesn’t promise that He will swoop in and save us from the trials we face in this life. He doesn’t promise us a “happily ever after” on this earth. He doesn’t tell us that if we’re faithful enough, we will be free from worries. But He does promise to walk through it all with us.
So what is your “fiery furnace?” From what do you wish God to deliver you? Perhaps you are experiencing sickness or disease. Maybe you grapple with unemployment or underemployment. Perhaps you’re struggling with a bad relationship or divorce. Depression, anxiety, a rebellious child, bad finances- any of these things can seem overwhelming and lead us to despair. We beg God to deliver us and set things right. And He may do just that. In His own time and His own way, for His reasoning, perhaps He will deliver you as He did Job. But then again, maybe He won’t. Again, for His own purposes and reasoning, maybe it’s better for you not to be delivered. Maybe someone is watching your situation and will be more impacted by a persevering faith through trial than they would be if you were simply delivered from it all. Maybe you need to be an encouragement to someone in similar circumstances. And it’s likely that no matter what the reason, you may never even know why you need to endure the trials you face. But take heart. Even if God chooses not to deliver you from your earthly trials, there is a much greater deliverance in store for you in heaven, and that can never be taken away. James 1:12 reminds us of that wonderful promise. “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” That’s a promise that will be yours in heaven, dear Christian. You can count on it.