In recent months, there have been several news reports about Middle Eastern Christians who have been detained, threatened, incarcerated, or killed because they have refused to reject their faith in Jesus Christ. It’s hard to imagine being forced to choose between renouncing Jesus or being tortured, imprisoned, or executed. But, we live in a day and time when such atrocities happen.
Although most of us may never face physical persecution, we may have to choose between silence, indifference, and compromise or experience the loss of life as we know it: job security, lost opportunity, or tarnished reputations. It’s a hard reality to think about, much less to face.
Four young Judean men faced that very reality. When Babylon seized Jerusalem (around 605 BC), King Nebuchadnezzar took the brightest, smartest, and best-looking young Judeans to be a part of his court—the best of the best (Daniel 1:3-7). Among the Judeans who fit this profile were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (whose names would be changed to the Babylonian names Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego).
God favored these men. He gave them knowledge and understanding of all kinds of things; and to Daniel, He gave the ability to interpret the king’s dreams (Daniel 1:17). Because of God’s favor upon them, they rose to prominence and were given responsibility in the king’s court. With that prominence and responsibility, there was an expectation to pledge allegiance to the Babylonian gods and to the king. The Babylonians worshipped idols; and when Nebuchadnezzar built his golden idol in Babylon and decreed that all the people should bow down and worship it at the sound of music, he expected all would submit. The choice was clear: obey, or face the consequence of disobedience to the king of Babylon.
But, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah neither served the Babylonian gods nor worshipped the golden image (Daniel 3:12). When confronted by the king for non-compliance and given a chance to change their stance or face death by fire, they still refused to bow to the gods of Babylon or to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image.
O 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 save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up (Daniel 3:16-18).
But even if He does not… WHOA! Those are tough words. These young men did not flinch in their allegiance to God. They trusted Him. Whether He would save them from burning to death or NOT, they were going to trust Him and His will. It’s hard to imagine dying for your belief—even harder to imagine God not coming to your rescue when you’ve been obedient and have done what pleased Him.
Again, for us, we may not face death for choosing Christ. The circumstance could be something else. But even if He does not…
- bring healing,
- open the door to that job,
- remove the opposition,
- cure the disease,
- restore the marriage,
- change the circumstances,
- _____________________(fill in the blank),
Will we trust Him? Will we be faithful to Him? Will we rest in His sovereignty? Will we believe that His will, plan, and purposes are perfect?
Our circumstances and situations should not dictate our faithfulness, our trust, or our obedience to God. Neither should they cause us to question His goodness, sovereignty, faithfulness, power, or trustworthiness. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah did not know if they would be rescued from a fiery death, but they still chose God and obeyed His will.
You and I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. We do not know if the challenges we face will work out like we think they should. Yet, we will have to decide. What will it be? Safety, comfort, ease, compromise, or…TRUST?
Have a great day!