But even if He does not…
I’ve often heard people quote this beautifully worded maxim: pressure creates diamonds and fire refines gold. What a lovely sentiment and a positive outlook to have! When people say this, they are usually trying to comfort someone who is going through a particularly difficult or stressful time. They are making the point that sometimes we need to go through tough processes in order for something beautiful to be created at the other end of it. They are basically saying ‘don’t give up, keep going, because soon it will all have been worth it!’ And often, no matter how many times we are told that, or how deeply we believe that God is always faithful and that He will work the situation out, we struggle with trusting Him in difficult times.
As human beings I feel that it is hard enough to trust that God will answer our prayers the way that we want Him to. But what about trusting that God knows best even if He doesn’t work out a situation the way we expect? That is a whole new level of faith and trust! What if the pressure is just going to cause us to crack, and the fire is only going to burn? For three men in the bible, the latter was a very real possibility! Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were literally, rather than metaphorically, walking through the fire. In Daniel chapter 3 we find the story of these three heroic young Hebrew men and their unwavering faith in God. King Nebuchadnezzar had created a golden idol and had ordered that all of his subjects bow down and worship the statue when they heard the sound of horns, flutes and lyres. When the three friends (deciding that honouring God and His commandments was more important than their own lives) refused to do as he commanded, they faced being thrown into a fiery furnace! I think that the bravery shown by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when they took their stand for God is inspirational! But what is even more impressive is their attitude when they were faced with the fire. Have a look at their response to the King’s judgement:
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 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. 18 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.” Daniel 3 : 16 – 18
Those six words are just so poignant: But even if He does not. How amazing of an attitude is that to have? Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had such steadfast faith in the fact that God would deliver them from a blazing furnace, but also were willing to say that even if He did not, He is still good, He still reigns and they would still worship Him. Wow!
You might not be facing a cruel death, courtesy of a burning oven, but what is the blazing furnace that is in front of you, at the minute? Is it the pressure of exams and results, or the prospect of a broken family, or the temptations of peer pressure and negative influences? The typical ‘Christian’ advice for all of these situations is to pray, and I agree that prayer is the most important response! However, sometimes we are guilty of treating prayer like a vending machine. We put in a prayer and choose which outcome we would like to be given to us. We ask for A* grades, and for our parents’ marriage to be mended, and we put in continuous requests but are only happy when the answer is ‘yes’. If we put in our 70p and ask for a Yorkie, we are not happy when we get a Mars bar! Sometimes, I think if we are truly honest with ourselves, our love for God is far too often, conditional. We praise and exalt Him only when we are getting our way.
The challenge for all of us should be – can we apply those six little words to our attitude? Can we, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, put so much faith in our God, that we allow ourselves to trust His plan over our own? Can we pray for help in exams and that God would help us to achieve the grades we need but accept that, even if He does not, He is still good? Can we request the restoration of a marriage, knowing that God is capable of healing any relationship but accept that, even if He does not, He is still sovereign? Can we pray that God will protect us from the dangers of peer pressure from negative influences but accept that, even if He does not, He is still worthy of our thanks and praise?
It’s not an easy challenge (I am sure that it wasn’t easy for the three young Hebrews either) but it’s such an important one! We learn our example of love from our heavenly Father, and considering His love is never conditional and never changes based on our actions and choices, don’t we – even more so – owe it to Him to serve and love Him no matter what!
And here’s the amazing news. It’s not all doom and gloom. Yes, life is hard and we face pressures, trials and hardships. Just know, that while God doesn’t always prevent us from facing the furnace, He does walk with us through the fire!
25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”… So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them. Daniel 3 : 25 – 27
Our God reigns on high, He is in control of every situation, He knows the greatest outcome for your life and best of all, He has defeated darkness and death! If you put your trust in Him during the bad times and the good, you could be in no better hands!
Officer 287th NI Tullylish Parish