Faith on Fire
Faith is a key aspect of the Christian life. We look up to those who are stalwarts of the faith, who have committed themselves to God and exhibit unwavering trust in Him. We hope to have as strong a faith as them. However, the strength of our faith is best demonstrated when it is tested by fire. Our faith will be tested by the fiery trials of life: sickness, discouragement, sorrow etc. What will be our reaction when we face such tests? In Daniel 3:8-13, we read of 3 men whose faith were literally tested by fire. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were Jews living during the Babylonian captivity. King Nebuchadnezzar had decreed that all bow down to his golden image when the music plays. However, they refused. They were captured, and the king threatened to throw them into the fiery furnace. The 3 men replied to the king:
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:16-18).
There are 3 things we can learn about faith from their powerful statement:
The 3 men had confidence and trust that God was able to deliver them from the fiery furnace. Indeed, the God we serve has demonstrated on many occasions that He is powerful and capable of saving His people. God was able to use 300 men to defeat an army of 135,000! (Judges 7-8). God was able to use the boy David to conquer the giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17). God was able to part the Red Sea so that Moses and the Israelites could walk on dry land! (Exodus 14). Indeed, God would go on to deliver Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, by sending the angel of the Lord to protect them so that they were unharmed from the fire (Daniel 3:19-27).
The same God who delivered Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is able to deliver us from our troubles as well. We need to have the same faith and confidence that God can deliver us, because we know that nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). Today we should not expect God to perform miracles to save us, because we know the age of miracles has passed. However, God can still work things out through His hand of providence, in the same way that He preserved faithful Joseph throughout his time in Egypt (Genesis 50:20). No matter what problem we face: it may be a health problem, or work problem, or family problem, or relationship problem… God can help us and deliver us.
Although the 3 men were confident that God was capable of delivering them, they also acknowledged that God may not. After all, God is not our servant to come whenever we call Him. Furthermore, God never promised to deliver His people every single time. Sometimes, God’s people are allowed to suffer as punishment for their sin (Judges 2:11-15). Sometimes God’s people suffer because of the evil doings of others, as Abel did at the hands of his brother Cain (Genesis 4:8). Sometimes, God’s people suffer without ever knowing the reason, as Job did also (Job 6:24).
As Christians, we will surely face troubles and persecution in our Christian journey (2 Timothy 3:12). We need to acknowledge that sometimes we may not be delivered from these troubles. However, that does not mean that God is far from us. Sometimes God allows us to suffer for our own benefit (James 1:2-4). Sometimes, God has something better prepared for us at the end of our trouble (Romans 8:28). Despite our suffering, we know that God is always watching and He will ensure that we do not suffer anything that is beyond our ability to overcome (1 Corinthians 10:13).
The 3 men were confident that God was able to deliver them; they acknowledged that God may not deliver them; but regardless whether God saves them or not, they proclaimed that they would never bow down to the idol. What faith! They were committed to obey God no matter the circumstances. They were even prepared to die for God. Unfortunately, some give up on God when they go through adversities (Matthew 13:20-21). Men of faith in the Bible follow God in spite of their adversities.
We need to commit ourselves to God regardless of the circumstances. We ought not follow God only when we receive blessings. We know that God will take care of us if we seek His kingdom first (Matthew 6:33). However, that does not mean that our life will be free from trouble. Jesus taught that all who follow Him must be prepared to deny themselves and take up their own cross (Luke 9:23). Why do Christians still trust in God when He allows us to go through suffering? We remain committed to God because we are assured of Him. We are assured of God’s reality, and of the reward that awaits all who suffer for His cause. We know that our heavenly reward will far outweigh any earthly suffering that we face now (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). Therefore, Paul affirms:
“For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12)