Most everyone knows the universal action plan if you are on fire. STOP, DROP & ROLL However, not many know the universal action plan for living for God inside the fires of life? There are times in life were the heat is poured on and the fires of life get hot. What are we to do? How are we to respond? What is their purpose?
To illustrate this I will be shring a common story from the Bible. The story of Daniel and the fiery furnace. You might have heard this story in Sunday School as a kid and can still visualize the flannal graph. To give a brief History 101 lesson: the nation of Israel had once again rejected God and were living their own way rather than God’s way. Since they disobeyed God, He allowed a pagan nation [Babylon] to capture them. The ruler of this nation was Nebuchadnezzar. He was powerful and very prideful [Daniel 3:1-7]. When he captured Israel he took all their treasures and brightest men. He was strategic and put these men in places of leadership among his empire. Three of these men were Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. These men took some heat for a heroic action to stand up for what they believed in. This is where we will begin to look at the action plan these men had inside the fire…
1. Expect flaming words that will throw you inside the fire [Daniel 3:8-15].
Nebby built a big statue to boast in his pride [and god-likeness] and required all to bow to it. These men did not bow, instead they stood out like the squeaky tuba in the marching band. The men didn’t get away with a thing. In fact, some verbal flamethrowers [arsonists] came onto the scene, and accused the 3 men before the king. If you stand up for truth and stand out for Christ you will experience the harsh words of critics, skeptics and bullies. In middle school I was a professional flamethrower. I could cuss people out and cut them down like a lumberjack on steroids. It did not get me anywhere except being labeled among the bullies. Bullies, tattletales, flamethrowers or whatever you want to call them are all-words and no-impact.
We live in a day and age where people think they have a right to be flamethrowers. Just look at some of the examples from the news this week: Joe Wilson said “You Lie!” in congress to Obama, Serena Williams blasting a line judge for a bad call, and Kanye West belittling Taylor Swift at the MTV Music Awards.
Flamethrowers can be large and in charge, but we must rise above their flaming words. Do not stoop down to their level of immature speech, even though revenge is the norm. Be a fire extinguisher. Your priority is to please God and seek His approval. Being a man pleaser will only lead to disappointment. God can use your character in the heat of word battles to shine His glory.
2. Walk inside the fire with confidence [vs.16-18].
The 3 knew the cost of their obedience to God—their jobs and their LIVES. They did not care. They obeyed God and left their lives in His hands. They had confidence [humility], not cockiness [pride]. They weren’t too sexy for Nebby’s shirt. They knew, “Our God can save,” because they had a relationship with Him. They didn’t know if God would rescue them or not.
This week my aunt, Lori Dykstra, died of cancer. She was only 40, leaving behind 4 children and a husband. Yet her faith and perseverance inspired be. She had confidence that her cancer was from God and that He wanted her home soon. She impacted many in her church and family. Last night we attended her funeral. It was the best funeral I have ever attended. It was more of a celebration and worship service. She served God selflessly and confidently. She looked cancer in the face and said, “I do not fear.”
3. Don’t compromise when standing inside the fire gets hotter [vs.19-23].
Some say, “True worship comes from the heart, right? If I bow down and pretend that I am worshipping on the outside, but really worshiping God on the inside, then it doesn’t count. It can happen.” Sure, it can happen, but do not allow your circumstances to compromise you. What you believe on the inside will dictate how you live on the outside Remember the story of Braveheart? It wasn’t a happy ending; he stood up for that was right in the heat of the moment. Obeying God could mean sacrificing your friends, career, reputation, success, etc.
4. Grab hold of God while inside the fire [vs.24-26a].
What is disturbing is that Nebby was watching the 3 men burn. Yet that day he observed something miraculous. A fourth Man [Jesus] appeared in the fire and all the men were alive, walking around. When you go inside the fire others are watching your walk. They might want see you burn or end up getting a glimpse of God. God will sometimes use the fire to burn away things that bind you. Like Job we can say, “I’ve learned that the fire can purify me like gold. It was tough, but I would not trade it. I know God deeper now.” Remember, inside the fire God is with you.
5. Standing inside the fire is not forever [vs.26b-30].
The king was impressed. He had just witnessed the power of God. The character of the 3 men out shined the too-hot-to-handle fire. He immediately restored the 3 to their jobs and gave them a promotion. The greater reward inside the fire is the promotion we receive from God, “Well done. You have been a faithful servant, and I am pleased with you.” That will be amazing!!
In conclusion, a follower of God will undoubtedly spend sometime inside the fire. The question I must ask is not “Will I win? Will everybody see that I am right?” Rather, “Am I obeying God?” The consequences of our obedience are in the hands of God.