TRIAL BY FIRE 9-23-18
Trial by Fire
September 23rd, 2018
The story of Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego, which you heard in our first Scripture reading (Daniel 3:1-30) is familiar to most Christians. These three brave men refused to bow to an idol, or worship anyone or anything other than the one true God, even if it would cost them their lives. And while God miraculously kept Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego from being touched by the flames of the fiery furnace, this is not the norm. He did so then to demonstrate his power to the king, and thus turn that entire nation of Babylon around. In addition, through this miracle God provided a beautiful prophetic example of salvation through Christ, who saves us from the fires of hell.
Here in America today, it is extremely rare for someone to be called upon to sacrifice their life for their faith; but in some other countries, it still happens quite often. Satan, out of his intense hatred for God’s people, has inspired many leaders and their followers throughout the ages to pass death sentences on those who will not deny their faith in our Lord. I could give many examples throughout the Bible, and throughout history itself, all the way from Abel, who was killed by his own brother (Genesis 4:8), to the present day Islamic suicide bombings, executions, and other terrorist activities. Out of the 12 original disciples, not counting Judas who hung himself, only one – John – was not martyred. The rest all gave their lives for Christ.
The apostle Paul warned us in our second Scripture reading (1 Peter 3:12-17), that Christians should expect to go through fiery trials. They are not the exception, they are the rule! If you have put your faith in Christ believing that it is the way to an easy and prosperous life, you have been misled. While Christians are indeed blessed, loved by God, and saved by grace for all eternity, they are not promised the road ahead will always be covered with rose petals, and their faith will never be put to the test.
Kids in school will be ridiculed for their faith, taunted for going to youth group or church, and for not partaking in alcohol, drugs, or sex. How many are willing to stand for their faith even if it means being snubbed by the popular kids, or being excluded from clubs, activities, or parties? Or what if that person a teen has a crush on thinks it’s stupid to believe in God, much less follow Jesus? Even kids and teens have to make tough choices, but when Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24) he wasn’t excluding any age groups.
Adults, too, are faced with choices that are at odds with living as a Christian. Parents often are forced to choose between setting an example by bringing their children to church, or giving in to more ‘fun’ activities, such as sports, or even a few extra hours of sleep. Do our children see us as only wishy-washy Christians, following Christ when it is convenient, or to our benefit to do so? Workplaces are often not conducive to ethical Christian conduct, and some will pressure employees to compromise their beliefs. But if we have committed to placing Christ first in our lives, then we must be willing to make a stand for our faith when called upon to do so. In Hebrews 12 we are admonished “to remember all the hostility (Christ) endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin” (vs. 3&4). No, we have not yet been asked to make a choice for Christ that would mean sacrificing everything, including our lives. But someday we might…
In our third Scripture reading, from the prophetic book of Revelation (Revelation 13:1-18), the apostle John saw a vision of the future in which everyone in the entire world will be told to once again worship the king’s idol, an image of the beast, just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were told to do. And anyone who refuses to do so will be put to death. Now, no one knows exactly when this period of tribulation will take place. And most Christians believe that all true believers will be removed from the earth, in an event commonly called ‘The Rapture’ before this evil one world government seeks to eliminate every last trace of Christianity. But I ask you to look into your own heart and ask yourself - if you were faced with death, would you deny Christ? Or would your faith be strong enough to stand up for Him? Does your love for our Lord Jesus overrule everything else in your life? Or does it take a backseat to other priorities?
And then as you go about your daily life, I ask you to remember those who have willingly sacrificed their life for their faith. May doing so help you to make bold decisions in your own life, and give you strength and courage to face whatever trials you are currently going through, and might face in the future. May the Lord use them for His glory and your ultimate good. Amen.
VIDEOS: "Fiery Furnace" (from "The Bible") https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJ3ipCxp2KY
"Guilty" (Newsboys) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dq1-lX9U95I&list=RDDq1-lX9U95I&start_radio=1