This topic has been on my heart since I was very first asked to contribute to this blog, but each week God has said “not yet.” I’ve sat down over and over again thinking I was going to write about this, but have ended up in another direction instead. This post may be too deep to cover all of the thoughts I’ve had all at once, but stick with me, I feel God really has a lot to say.
There have been many bible stories, especially Old Testament ones that I’ve heard over the years that I have sort of shrugged off. They are “good stories” examples of trials, faith, perseverence, promise, but there are many times I’ve thought “that’s great and all, but how is that relevant to me?” One of those stories comes from the book of Daniel.
Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its width six cubits. He set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. And King Nebuchadnezzar sent word to gather together the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. So the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered together for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then a herald cried aloud: “To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.” So at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the horn, flute, harp, and lyre, in symphony with all kinds of music, all the people, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the gold image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and accused the Jews. They spoke and said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! You, O king, have made a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the gold image; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego; these men, O king, have not paid due regard to you. They do not serve your gods or worship the gold image which you have set up.” Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, “ Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. And he commanded certain mighty men of valor who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their coats, their trousers, their turbans, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore, because the king’s command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” Then Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and spoke, saying, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here. ” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came from the midst of the fire. And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them. Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! (Daniel 3:1-28 NKJV)
I have heard this bible story many times but always seemed to have a hard time relating to it. What does that have to do with me? That was very brave, they weren’t willing to denounce their faith even if that meant death, but I’ve never really grasped what it was like to have that kind of faith. They trusted that God would deliver them from the fiery furnace, BUT IF NOT, they would still serve Him.
It wasn’t until I was faced with my own fiery furnace that I understood that “but if not.” My furnace wasn’t a matter of denouncing my faith, although there are Christians all over the world who are facing those very real situations right now, my furnace was more of a metaphorical thing.
2014 was my fiery furnace. It started in January and the fire kept getting stoked hotter and hotter. Just when I didn’t think it could get any hotter, it did. My “but if not” moment came when I was broken, on the shower floor, pleading for God to spare the life of my unborn baby. I prayed “God, please let my baby live, please don’t take this baby away from me. Please spare this precious little life, but if your answer is ‘no’ (but if not) I will still love you, and serve you, even if this breaks my heart.”
His answer was no.
My “but if not” came to pass. I was faced with the fire, and it was hotter than I could stand. The fire was so hot that there were people close to me who seemed to get burned up by the flames. My grief, my broken heart, my trials became too much for them to get close any more. My furnace was stoked seven times hotter than anything I have ever endured and it was too much for them, but in the midst of the flames I was not alone, just as the 3 men in the fiery furnace weren’t alone.
I went from broken hearted on the floor of the shower, to physically broken and in a hospital bed, but I can honestly say I meant it when I said “but if not.” I had reached that point in my walk with God where I knew that if He trusted me enough with the trials I was facing, if He allowed my furnace to burn as hot as He did, He wouldn’t leave me in there alone.
I can’t say my hair wasn’t singed, and that I don’t smell of the fire I endured. I can’t say that the flames didn’t leave their lasting impression on my life, but I can say that if someone saw Him in the midst of the fire I endured, it was worth it. If someone was able to see God’s goodness and faithfulness even when it seemed as though I was in the furnace alone, it was worth it. Now that these trials have let up enough to endure the flames I am thankful He trusted me with the trials, and He trusted me with the “but if not.”
Are you the midst of your own fiery furnace? Has the fire been stoked 7 times hotter than you have ever endured before? Are you tempted to give up, bow down, call it quits, or will you serve Him even if He doesn’t deliver you from the flames?
So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. (1 Peter 1:6-7 NLT)
In His Love,