Persecution: Faith vs. the Fiery Furnace
In our generation, it’s easy to imagine a day in the near future when American Christ- followers will engage litmus tests regarding loyalty. The choice presented by the culture will be made in crystal clear terms: deny Christ and find worldly security; follow Him and lose your comfort in this world. This test is already being formulated in certain arenas, and the culture is quickly heading toward full-blown sanctioning of the faithful.
Many of our brothers and sisters are presently enduring extreme trials in various parts of the world. Christian persecution is at an all-time high around the globe. Loss of finances, family, and even life are being realized for the name of our Savior. Peaceful and loving Christians often face martyrdom.
Standing firm under the heat of persecution does not call for militant actions. Conversely, it requires faith in the Lord. I often think of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when it comes to standing for God. The three men refused to worship an image of the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. Although they were administrators in his kingdom, they could in no way violate their conscience by worshipping a false god. By faith, these men stood for the true God...a stance that placed them into a literal furnace.
Even as they faced death, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego held on to Yahweh. Their faith was not tied to a conditional outcome of their circumstances...it was tied to their trust in the Lord and His sovereignty. They understood that it could have been in God’s will to let them die in the furnace.
Yet, as events unfolded, it was in God’s purpose to have them live...and that purpose included Nebuchadnezzar’s acknowledgement of Yahweh and the king’s favor of all Jews living in Babylon. God’s will was accomplished. His sovereignty ruled.
Holding on to God in the midst of persecution is lonely from a psychological, earthly perspective. Many will abandon Christ and His word when it comes to saving their lives and their personal comfort on earth. But those who follow the Spirit will find victory in the furnace. Within the heat and pressure, persevering saints will receive spiritual blessings and God’s ultimate purposes will be accomplished.
Our Lord is in full control. Remember, no event or circumstances go to waste in accomplishing His plans. Let us praise Him when persecution comes!
Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king. Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?"
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. He commanded certain valiant warriors who were in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in order to cast them into the furnace of blazing fire. Then these men were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps and their other clothes, and were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire. For this reason, because the king's command was urgent and the furnace had been made extremely hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who carried up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. But these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, fell into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire still tied up.
Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, "Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?" They replied to the king, "Certainly, O king." He said, "Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!" Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!" Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire. The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king's high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king's command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way." Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to prosper in the province of Babylon.