Thursday, May 11, 2017

But If Not

We all remember the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. King Nebuchadnezzar had ordered everyone to worship the golden image he had set up. They refused. The Chaldeans "maliciously accused" them to the king (Dan 3:8) and the king was ... shall we say ... miffed.
Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, "Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?" Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." (Dan 3:14-18)
It's a magnificent picture, these guys standing there while everyone else is on their faces. They are heroic in their response. "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king." We like that. Very brave. Genuine faith. All that good stuff. But don't miss the next statement: "But if not ..."

How many of us would stand on that point? We are impressed with the boys because they trusted God to rescue them and we would like to have that kind of faith. It's not that common, even among us believers. Trials are not easy (or they wouldn't be called trials, would they?). But how many of us will stand on the confidence in God that does not include rescue? How many of us will stand with God in advance of trial with the admission that the outcome may not be pleasant? We're happy with "Our God can ...", but not so much with "But if not ..." We want comfortable outcomes.

I want this attitude, this faith. I know in my head that God is good -- indeed, that God is good all the time. I know that we are told that "for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (Rom 8:28) These are things of which we can be sure. But it's a long way from head to heart and I want that to be my default, my immediate response. I don't want comfort or pleasant circumstances to be my god over Him. That's simple idolatry. Job said, "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him." (Job 13:15) Jesus prayed, "Not My will but Yours." (Matt 26:39) That's the position I want to take. He can keep me from all pain and unpleasantries, but if not ...

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