Tuesday, October 4, 2011

How God can take our Trial and make it His Triumph when we cling to our faith in Him.

One of my friends had this saying on her facebook page today and I just loved it. Isn't that just like God? The way he redeems even the worst of circumstances in our lives. And isn't that a huge part of what we love so much about God? The way He gives us a reason to hope in something even when things look absolutely hopeless.

God is our Redeemer, Restorer, Rebuilder, and Rewarder.
I love it.

Isaiah 43:2 tells us,
"When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze."
I don't know about anybody else, but there are some days that I just need to be reminded that I am NOT going to be "set ablaze" when I am "walking through the fire" or the "trials" in my life.

God has been bringing the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to my mind lately. Three guys stepped out in obedience, doing what they felt God was asking them to do, knowing FULL well that the consequence for their obedience to God was probably going to be DEATH. They felt like God was telling them not to bow down to the golden idol that King Nebudchenezar made, because it was not honoring to their God. They stood firm in what they felt God was telling them to do, believing that it mattered that they live out their integrity and honor God with every part of their lives whether it resulted in death or not, and whether anyone noticed or not. Sure enough, someone noticed, and we get a front row seat to see where they are called out in verse 12,
"But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”
And sure enough, King Nebuchadnezzar is NOT happy about it. The Bible says he was "furious with rage". (something tells me he had anger problems) The intensity picks up here. Now, if you are like me you have heard this story growing up as a kid and you imagine it from a kid's perspective. (three happy little guys going into a furnace) Go with me, now, as an adult. Three MEN who are working for the King, are willing to risking their jobs and their lives over this issue. This moment is INTENSE. Imagine your boss staring you down in rage, after having built some trust and a working relationship over some time. The heat in this moment was rising before the furnace ever got turned up, if you know what I am saying.

He questions them to make sure that they're were "ridiculous" as he has heard they were and then gives them a second chance, reminding them that if they make the same "stupid" (implied) move again, their fate is the FURNACE, and then in complete bully fashion, he offers a threat in verse 15, "Then what god will be able to rescue you from my (as the KING..HELLO!?) hand?” So, he's not really all that nice to them, but he is offering some amount of grace to them at this point by at least giving them a chance to redeem themselves.

I would imagine that this would be a time of the guys looking at each other like, "Oh dear, so he's kinda mad, huh guys?" (gulp) Like, ummm...this isn't looking good for us guys...SO... Now might be a great time to retreat...develop an escape route or something! I heard there is a place called Eden somewhere. Let's run away and keep running until we find that place! :) Of course, that would not be consistent with who these three guys are. These are three men who act on their faith in everything they do. A weaker man would buckle under the kind of pressure this "boss" was dishing out. These are not weak men though. They knew what they were getting into. They counted the cost before they got started and they weren't about to buckle now. Here's what they did, and here's what WE are to do when the intensity picks up in our lives and we are waiting on God in our lives...

They stood FIRM!! In their faith, they stood firm, knowing that God called them to act in obedience, so He was going to pull through for them in one way or another. Verses 16-18 tell us this:
"Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King 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 deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 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.”
That's "faith talk" right there. Unmovable. "Your threats mean nothing to us. You are the KING, with all the power of the land, and you're our boss and yet your threats mean nothing." WOW! Right? Okay, keep going.

Verse 19 tells us that then King Nebuchadnezzar was furious (which is actually the same word from before) but it goes on to say that his "attitude towards them changed". What I imagine here, is the difference between the King going from mad, to PSYCOPATH. You know what I am saying? Because what we find out next is that the King's command was so "urgent" to have the guards turn up the furnace SO ridiculously hot (7 times hotter than usual) that his strongest guards who tried to throw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the furnace actually died from the flames of the fire by coming close to it because it was TOO intense to even come close to. The three men "fell" into the blazing furnace by the guards who died pushing them in. (I'm sure this was a lovely sight for the townspeople that day.)

HERE'S WHERE THE FAITH JUST BARELY STARTS TO PAY OFF... (This part taken straight from the Bible and my tidbits added in parenthesis to drive home this point of how our faith/obedience when played out pays off over and over again, and how we see that in the case of these three men)

Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”
They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”
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.”(You faith starts to pay off when others see that you are not alone in the "fire" or in your trial, but that God is there with you and they see how God is pulling you through, and start giving Him glory...Amen!?)
26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”
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. (ONLY with GOD can we be healed, restored, and come out unharmed, and even stronger than before the "event" took place like this. He carries us through an emotionally, spiritually, physically, traumatizing event in our lives, and brings healing. THIS is THE TESTIMONY RIGHT HERE!!! Again, God receives glory, and this is when faith pays off again.)
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”(King Nebuchadnezzar is probably just slightly over dramatic here, but still you get the point...EVERYONE began worshiping God after seeing what He did to save Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. God honored and blessed the obedience of these three men. Their faith pays off again each and every time everyone worships God. HUGE. Amen.)
30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

When you are being pushed through a hard season in your life, feeling the intensity of your "reality" remind yourself that you are in GOOD HANDS. You do not walk through the fire alone. God is with every step of the way and
When you pass through the waters,
He will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.

YOU are going to come out STRONG when you cling to HIM. Trust in Him. Put your faith in Him. Take the example of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Act out of your faith, not out of your sight. Live out of your obedience, act and speak out of your faith, trust in God. Let your life be a testimony! I want that so bad! Don't you? God is FAITHFUL!! And don't think for a SECOND, that those three men would have had that moment taken away from them. That was their GLORY moment! Their moment with and Angel of God...in that furnace when they should have been TOAST, they were unscathed, with and Angel of God protecting them. Well, now if that doesn't change your faith forever I don't know what will. That was an IRREPLACEABLE MOMENT that they could NEVER have had any other way. Trust me...Those men were blessed, in their own special, personal, unique, "nobody can take this from me" kind of way for their obedience.


Lord, Make our lives a testimony for you. Lead us. Guide us. One step at a time. Take us on a journey where you receive glory in our lives and others will be brought to you because of our testimony, Lord. May you always receive the glory for EVERY act of obedience in our lives, Lord. In your name we pray, Amen.

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