One of my favorite scenes from the Old Testament is the one coming up in a couple of weeks in our Sermon Series from the book of Daniel, about the king who was so proud of a great image he had made of himself that he commanded everyone in the kingdom to bow down and worship it or they would be thrown into a furnace of fire. Among those in his kingdom were Jewish exiles, all of whom obeyed the king out of fear for their lives….except for three men. We even know their names: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They refused to obey the king’s order because they had made a prior commitment to worship and serve God only. They said, “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 that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:17)
Where do people like that come from? It wasn’t the times that produced them, because these were the terrible days of exile when people felt far from God. It wasn’t peer pressure, for what Jewish friends they had were all compromising their faith out of fear for their own safety. There is no way of explaining the conduct of those three men except to say they had a genuine relationship with God that was totally apart from every other force around them.
Is it possible to live like that today? Or must we resign ourselves never to rise any higher than our environment allows us? You may remember that man in Charles Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities” who worked for many years as a shoemaker in prison. Later in life, whenever he ran into problems, he went up into a little dark room in the attic and made shoes. Under stress, something like that often happens to us. We temporarily misplace our faith and go back to acting as if we had never heard the gospel before. We do this even though we know that faith is our greatest asset.
Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego we need people who will stand tall during stressful circumstances and proclaim “You do what you want, but here is where I stand.” Not only is it possible to live like that, but the times demand it. Our children must see it in us. Our friends and neighbors will be greatly impacted by it. Our biggest need in the church is for people of principle; people who have answered the call to discipleship; people who cannot be bought or compromised. Will you be one of those?
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship