(I just jumped right in there, didn't I?)
Well, it's a fair question, isn't it? One I don't have all the answers to. But a recent study I've done in the book of Daniel gives me great comfort and it's something I want to share with all of you. If you've never heard of Beth Moore - please check her out. No one's perfect and some don't like her style but for me, there's something about her spirit that I connect to - something that fires me up almost every time I hear her speak. Her study on the book of Daniel is no exception. In fact, I still consider it one of her best studies, if not THE best! Anyway, many of us have had the same flannel-graph Sunday school lesson on the fiery furnace about how Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down to King Nebbi's golden statue. They were then thrown into the fiery furnace and were spared by God and lived to tell about it. It's an amazing story but I had no idea how applicable it could be to every day living until I heard Beth teach this chapter.
Daniel Chapter 3 - if you'd like to read the whole chapter first - here's a link where you can do so. http://www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Dan&c=3&t=NASB#1
Even better - if this little excerpt inspires you so - here's a link to where you can purchase the video to watch this session and hear her words verbatim - I believe the videos are $5 a piece and are available for download. http://www.lifeway.com/Product/daniel-lives-of-integrity-words-of-prophecy-individual-use-video-sessions-M00000115#product_specifications (Session 3)
The portion of this session that I will focus on is to do with the choice Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had (which I will lovingly refer to as SAM going forward) and the potential outcomes for the choice they made. First of all, SAM made the choice to follow God's word and obey even until the threat of death. They knew that worshiping idols was a sin and that doing so was wrong, so even in the face of an extremely HOT and LARGE furnace, they told the king (vs 17-18):
"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."
In this moment, Beth presents that SAM had the potential for three different scenarios that can take place when the people of God face a fiery trial. The first scenario is that God will deliver us FROM the fire. To use Beth's example (because it works well), lets say you just found a strange bump and are concerned it's cancer. You go to the doctor and he says in all his years, every time he's seen one like this, it's never been benign. So you and your family and friends rally around you in faith and pray for God to heal you or for it to be non-cancerous. To be delivered from this trial would be to have total healing or no cancer. The dividend of this scenario is that your faith has now been built or boosted, right? You asked and He granted. That's the outcome we always want, isn't it?! (I know that is what I want!!) If this scenario had been the one to play out for SAM, God would have somehow stepped in and prevented SAM from even being thrown in the furnace at all. Whether He would have had an angel show up and tell King Nebbi otherwise or what, I'm not sure but that is not the scenario that played out for them and so far that's not been my scenario either. But having faith in God does not lend itself to only ONE outcome. Beth offers two more scenarios that could play out.
The second scenario is that we can be delivered THROUGH the fire. In all reality, SAM, well it didn't even cross their mind that God would save them the way He chose to. They were thinking He's either going to keep us from going in or we're going in and dying...never did they dream they would go in the fire and live to tell about it! (I wonder what the heck that felt like - how strange that must have been!!) So, say you find that same tumor and go to the doctor and bad news - it's cancer. In faith you pray for the treatments to work, that on the other side of all the chemo, radiation, etc you will be healed and live to tell about it. The dividend of this scenario is that our faith is refined or in other words (as Beth says) it burns the "fake" out of us! She also references I Peter 1:6-7 to back up her point:
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;SAM ended up facing this scenario. And they lived to tell about it! Not only did it increase their own faith but it even caused King Neb to outlaw even speaking against SAM's God. Another dividend of being delivered THROUGH the fire is their ropes alone were flammable. See, SAM was thrown into the furnace bound or tied up. But you'll notice in verse 25 that it is noted that they are alive and walking unbound within the furnace with a fourth person there. Many good scholars interpret this differently but I take great comfort in believing in might have been Jesus himself because as scripture promises over and over again - we do not walk through trials ALONE. God is with us and as the famous "Footprints" poem suggests - He is carrying us every step of the way! But back to the ropes - you see, the only thing that burned in that furnace was their bonds. Beth notes that sometimes God will have us go through a fiery trial to free us from a form of bondage in our own lives. She takes it even further to suggest that full deliverance is to no longer even smell like smoke. As it notes it verse 27 that SAM came out totally unharmed and w/out even a scent of smoke! To be fully delivered from bondage is to have no hint of it left!
The last scenario we as God's people could face when in a fiery trial is to be delivered BY the fire into His very arms! SAM knew that there was a chance this could happen and obeyed anyway - TRUE courage and faith in God. While this was not to be their scenario - this is an option for any of us. Going again, back to the tumor, what if treatment fails? Does God care less for you because He didn't answer how you asked Him to? Not a chance!! The dividend of this scenario is to be with God FOREVER and have our faith perfected! Although Satan's deception of heaven tries to keep us from longing for it - we know that from scripture - heaven will be JOY complete! We will want for nothing and finally be at peace in Christ's arms!!
One final question Beth poses was "What gods would we be tempted to bow to if we knew set before us was either the second or third scenarios?" Unbelief? Bitterness? Self-pity? Despair? Anger? Resentment? While there are those out there that hold to the silly belief that God would heal me if I only had enough faith - I can know from the truth of God's word that to be truly healed has nothing to do with my physical body and has everything to do with accepting God's love and allowing Him to rule my heart. Do I still sometimes worry or get upset about my situation? Yes, I do. But once I get back to God's word I am quickly reminded of my more permanent need for His salvation than for a temporary want of physical comfort.
I pray that these words and scriptures would offer you the same comfort it has offered me in whatever trial you face or may come to face in this world! Let's encourage one another to not lose heart and be there for each other as we face life's trials together.