Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Even if ...

I’ve been reading and teaching through the book of Daniel the last few weeks. What a great book. If you’re looking for something to read and need a suggestion, I recommend Daniel.

He lived about 600 years before Christ and was among the faithful Jewish people of his day. When the Holy City Jerusalem was overthrown, he and many other Jews were exiled from Jerusalem to faraway Babylon, a land of idolatry and paganism. He found himself spiritually in the minority and on more than one occasion was challenged to compromise his faith. Yet, time after time he proves himself loyal to God. At great personal peril, Daniel stands up to more than one king and, as we all know, even manages to escaped unscathed from the lion’s den – the punishment meted out to anyway who dared to pray to anyone but the king.

Daniel is the epitome of a person standing firm in their faith in a hostile culture. And hasn’t that been the challenge for believers of all ages? I know it is in ours.

But Daniel is not alone. There are at least three others who shared this same faithful determination that Daniel demonstrated. Their names were Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego. They, like Daniel, faced a spiritual dilemma. The king commanded everyone to worship an idol he had set up or otherwise be thrown into a fiery furnace. They simply said “no”, and for their faithfulness were brought to the door of the fiery furnace. There, the king gave them a chance to recant. With the heat the furnace bearing down on them, they make one of the most beautiful and profound statements of faith:

Daniel 3:16–18 (NIV) —  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “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 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.”

What is especially inspiring in their statement is, “But even if he does not…” Their faith is not contingent on the outcome. Their “come what may” attitude reveals a faith that goes beyond immediate results.

Oh, for such a faith as this. Too often, my actions of faith are determined by the potential favorable outcomes. I look for instant rewards. Not so with these three. They are confident God can deliver, but their faith is in God, even if things don’t work out they way they want them to.

This “even if” faith is essential to all who live in a culture antagonistic to faith. Otherwise, we will find ourselves compromising our beliefs and constantly caving into the pressures of a godless world.

How would you describe your faith? Is it contingent on people’s response? Does it vary from situation to situation? Or is a deep-seated belief in the reality of God and the truth of His word? Are you faithful despite the consequences? Is it an “even if” faith?