Comfort in Affliction – Part 1
“8 At this time some astrologers[h] came forward and denounced the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever! 10 Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, 11 and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”
13 Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, 14 and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” Daniel 3:8-15 NIV
We will see that when it comes to having a faith under fire, there will be three promises for Christ followers.
1 – God promises Persecution
2 – God promises Protection
3 – God promises Promotion
In this devotion, we will explore the first promise. While we love God’s promises to be with us, to empower us, that He has a plan for our welfare, and that in Him we can do all things. The first promise we look at in the lives of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-nego is a far less popular promise. The first promise we find is for the persecution of God’s people.
Here is the key lesson the Lord is teaching me from the lives of Daniel, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-nego. My prayer needs to change from “Lord keep me safe” to “Lord make me brave.” 99% of people will bow to the gods of convenience. 99% of people will give in to what is most comfortable. 99% of people will give in to what is easiest. 99% of people will give in to what others are doing. God doesn’t call us to be the 99%! He hasn’t commissioned us to live the safest lives, but to live the most courageous lives.
Our prayers needs to change from “Lord keep us safe” to “Lord make us brave.”
The three young Hebrew men were less concerned about being safe, and more concerned about being faithful to God.
Romans 13 make it clear that believers are to obey the rules and laws of the land. Acts 5:29 and 4:19 however, makes it clear that Christians are NOT to disobey the Lord by obeying the government. When the government tries to control our conscience and our demands our worship, we are called to obey god rather than humans regardless of the cost.
Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-nego show us what it means to be courageous without regard to the cost. When they were brought before the king, they were given a second chance. They had the ultimatum to “turn or burn.” They resolved that they would rather burn (with God) than turn (without God)! They could have been a part of the 99% of people. As believers, it is important we understand we will face the heat of persecution from a world that is hostile toward and hates Jesus Christ.
When we are challenged to face the heat of persecution, we have a tendency to try and control the fire. We pray for God to put out the fire. “Calm the storm around us,” we pray. “Ease the pain. Comfort us. Put out the fire dear Jesus!” The three young Hebrew boys teach us that there are times we need to let the fires burn. There will be times when we cannot control the fire and we cannot put it out. God promises persecution.
“12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” 1 Peter 4:12
Here’s what the king’s persecution did to the young Hebrew boys.
1. The king eliminated religious exclusivity. Nebuchadnezzar recognized that not everyone would worship the gods of the Babylonians, so he set up a golden image as an alternative that everyone could identify with. People didn’t have to STOP worshipping their own gods, rather, they needed to add Nebuchadnezzar’s statue to their worship. It wasn’t about worshipping the Babylonian gods INSTEAD of their own gods, but about worshipping the image IN ADDITION to their own god. The law required that no one worship their gods exclusively. They could worship their gods, but also had to worship the statue. He forced religious pluralism upon the people. He made it culturally acceptable for people to worship however they wanted, as long as they acknowledged the statute in addition to whatever they did.
2. The king forced people to privatize their faith. In private, it was ok for people to worship their own gods in private, but in public, they needed to act like everyone else. They had to fit into the culture and worship the statue. Pluralistic societies do the same thing today. You cannot claim your god to be exclusive truth. Your faith must be kept private. In public, you are expected to be like everyone else.
The boys had a choice. They could privatize their faith, or they could stand up for God, knowing they would face persecution.
Christian brothers and sisters, expect persecution when you follow Jesus Christ. It is an unpopular promise of God, but it is a promise. I know this is not a “seeker-friendly” message. I know it’s not a popular way to promote the Gospel, but God promised it in Philippians 1:29 and John 15:18-20. How can we claim the promise of God to be with us and have a great plan for us, while putting aside His promise of persecution?
The Gospel of Jesus Christ has NEVER been about getting an easier life. It has always been about walking with a greater courage and purpose because we have discovered that living someone worth giving EVERYTHING for!
Don’t receive Jesus Christ as Lord because you want to escape the fires of Hell. Receive Him because you discover in Him a prize that is worth giving everything for.
In Romans 8, Paul poses the question, “if God is for us, who can be against us?” The truth is the world can be against us, Satan is against us, our families and friends can be against us, and at times, even other believers can be against us. Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-nego could easily have made excuses and gone along with the crowd, like most of the other Jews in captivity likely did. Instead they chose to stand together and trust God to get the glory – either in their life or death. Here’s the key… they would rather be in the fire with God than avoid the fire and be without God.
Don’t move on to the second promise of God in Daniel 3, until you grasp the first. When you understand the promise of persecution, you can appreciate the next promise… God’s promise of protection.
Although I am hesitant and bit nervous to say this prayer today, I thank You Holy Spirit for Your promise of persecution. Lord I pray less today for safety, and more for courage. I pray less for comfort and more for boldness. Today Lord, I don’t ask for greater material wealth, but for greater strength to follow You fully and without compromise. Lord it scares me a bit to pray this, but may I burn with You in the fire rather than be comfortable without You, outside the fire. In Jesus Christ, the name above all names, amen.
Ty Tamasaka is an author who hold a Master of Arts Degree from Pacific Rim Christian University in Christian Ministry He is a Bible teacher who loves to encourage people to enjoy Jesus’ grace and extend His Kingdom. Ty just released his new book More than a Conqueror: 5 Pathways to Personal Revival.