The only way to know if your faith is real is by seeing how you respond when you are tested with trials of life. In this message, we read Daniel 3 and learn what it means to have faith on fire. When things heat up and you face fires, will you have blazing faith despite the circumstances and outcomes?
All right. Let's do it! What's up, Porch? My Porch.Live locations we are introducing tonight and saying a big "Hello" from Dallas… Y'all, help me out. Welcome Porch.Live Midland, Porch.Live Greater Lafayette, and Porch.Live Des Moines, Iowa. We are so glad you guys are tuning in tonight. And, of course, my friends in Dallas, what's up? I'm JD, if we haven't met. I serve as the creative director here at The Porch. It's a privilege to be here speaking.
David Marvin is in College Station tonight. Any Aggies in the house? Speaking of Breakaway… You're stuck with me, and I am so pumped. Daniel, chapter 3. We are in this series On God. That's on God. We're going to see that time and time again in this series. Week one, chapter 1, we talked about how Daniel and the Israelite people were different than those who were underneath the Babylonian captivity. They ate different food.
Night two, we saw what it looks like to have God confidence, as Daniel stood before the king and interpreted his dream on God's power and strength. Tonight, we're going to look at what it means to have great faith, not from Daniel, but some side characters known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Before we go there, I want to tell you all about this week.
Some friends and I were sitting in our apartment, and we were going through Netflix, trying to decide what to watch, and there was this show that kind of caught my eye (it was number one on Netflix at the time) called Is It Cake? You know when you hover over (it's not that good, honestly), and the commercial starts, and you have five seconds? I was like, "All right, Netflix. I'll bite." Click.
So, I start watching this show. If you haven't seen it, the premise of this show is these bakers are in a competition where, essentially, they have to fool these judges to convince them that what they baked is actually real, that it's not fake; it is a real thing. Imagine they would have to make this water bottle look exactly like a water bottle, but instead, it's cake.
Whenever they turn around the wall and they're done baking…they have four hours to do it…there are all of these different water bottles. There are five of them, except one of them is cake. Then the judges in, like, 20 seconds have to pick 1 through 5 which one they think is cake. So, all of my friends and I are like, "It's number 2!" "No, no! It's number 5!" Because it's shocking how much literal cake can look like a real object. So, we're all putting in our votes.
Then the way it's revealed is the host, who's interesting, if you've seen it… He takes this big knife and kind of violently, creepily, like he likes it too much… I'm like, "Bro, chill." He goes over, and he's like, "Is it cake?" And I'm like, "Yeah! Come on!" He goes to cut it, and if it's not cake, it just hits whatever the thing is, and the judges lost, and the baker won. Then he'll be like, "Which one is it?" and he'll walk over, and they're all like, "No!" Then he cuts it, and it's so nice. It's soothing, weirdly. He cuts it and reveals on the inside it's cake, and everyone is amazed.
I watched, like, two episodes. I was done with it after that. The point is I think a lot of us are there with our faith. In the same way that these guys are challenged to go, "Is it cake or is it real?" a lot of times, when it comes to our faith, we're going, "Is it real or is it fake?" Like, is my faith real? When I stand before God, will I be seen, "Well done, my good and faithful servant…" Like, "Your faith has been real. It has been well."
Just like the cake on the show, a lot of times, you don't know if your faith is actually about it until it's cut in two in life. With these guys, we'll see that it wasn't cut in two; it was actually burned in two. A lot of times, until the heat begins to be turned up, the pressure begins to be added on, the stakes begin to be raised higher and higher… In these defining moments in life, that is when we realize, "Man! My faith, all of this talk… It was either real or it was fake."
Our world is only getting more and more to a place where you're going to have to make a decision. I think the problem is so many people… When that moment comes to display radical faith in God, they crumble, and they're marked by conformity rather than courage and obedience, because they did not take today seriously.
You don't want to wait until the fires in life, the storms and trials in life, to decide "Is my faith real?" It's the decisions you make today. It's how you prepare today that prepares you for the moment that when the fires of life come, you'll be ready. You don't have to wonder, "Man, I hope it's real. I hope my faith is what I've always said it is." No. You can know today. We're going to see in the life of these men that you can know right now. You don't have to ever question again.
Here's why this is relevant to every person in this room. Some of you are like, "Man, I know my faith is real." The reason this is so relevant to all of us is because even if we think, when we look into the deepest parts of our lives, there is something we do that communicates otherwise. So many times, our lives are marked by fear, worry, or even living in our own faith, our self-faith, rather than faith in God. That's what we're going to see in this story. We're going to see what it looks like to have a faith on fire.
If you're a note taker, if you like alliterations, and all that stuff, Faith on Fire is the title of tonight's message. We're going to do that by tackling Daniel, chapter 3. So, I want to go ahead and give a heads-up. This is a long story, but I will say, if you tell me, "The Bible is boring, especially the Old Testament," I do not know what book you are reading. This is one of my favorite stories of all time. This is a movie. When I read this, I cannot wait to get to the next sentence because it's so good. So lean in.
Although it's a lot of words, what we're going to do is… Every day, if you don't have a way you do your quiet time, if you kind of just open up and point, I'm going to give you a good way to know how to study your Bible. Write this down: observation, interpretation, application. When you open up a passage, when you hear, "Hey, The Porch is going through a book of the Bible," that should be an indicator.
"Oh, okay. So, what we're going to do is we're going to read the text. We're going to observe what it's saying. We're going to interpret it by seeing what the author's intent was. What was the author trying to communicate to me? How do I interpret this for my life? Then we're going to apply it." Knowledge puffs up. We don't want just more knowledge. We want to put it into practice. So, today, we're simply going to look at this story, observe it, interpret it, and apply it.
I'm going to kind of summarize verses 1-13, and then we'll read verse 14 to the end. Everyone with me? All right. Here we go. Daniel 3:1-13. What you need to know… Nebuchadnezzar is kind of out there. At the end of every chapter, he's like, "You have the Most High God," and the next one he's mad again. He's like, "Bow down to me." In this instance, he goes, and he acts all crazy, and he's questioning people's loyalty.
People have been whispering in his ear, and he's like, "I think a rebellion is going on." So what does he do? He makes an idol of gold 90 feet high. That sounds logical. He builds this huge idol of himself, and it's this moment where he kind of makes the people serve him both politically and spiritually. They were displaying their political loyalty and their spiritual loyalty to him, because he was the baddest king at this time.
So, what he says is, "Hey, I have all of these instruments. I have this band over here. They're the best in the nation. They're going to play some music, and then you're going to drop down and worship this idol." When you read this… A lot of you are too familiar with this. You are used to dropping when you hear the music in the clubs. Can you imagine just walking around with baskets of bread, and you hear "Give me some!" and you drop down. That's what I picture. You know, the bass is hitting. The saxophone is playing.
So, they're bowing down to the idol. "Oh, and, by the way, if you don't, I'm going to throw you in a fiery furnace. Okay? Casual. So everyone, bow." The reason he's doing this is because he wants to see "Who's loyal to me? Who will bow? If you're caught standing, you will soon be burning." That's what he says. As this is going on… Everything is going well. Everything is going smoothly. The king gets word that there are certain Jews…
These wise men go to him. They're like, "Oh, mighty king. Didn't you say that once they hear the music they're supposed to bow down to you to display their loyalty?" He's like, "I did say that." They're like, "There are certain Jews (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) who aren't doing it." He's like, "What? Bring them to me. Let me talk to them. Let me at them." So he's all fiery. He's hot. He brings in these three men to stand before him and plead their case, and that's where we are in the story.
Verse 14: "Nebuchadnezzar said to them, 'Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?'" He's about to see.
Verse 16: "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, 'O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you.'" I love this part. This is so funny to me. I don't know why. "'If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty [most loyal king]. But even if he doesn't, we want to make it [abundantly] clear to you, [again] Your Majesty, [we're just little peasants,] that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.'
Nebuchadnezzar was so furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face became distorted with rage. He commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. Then he ordered some of the strongest men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So they tied them up and threw them into the furnace, fully dressed in their pants, turbans, robes, and other garments." That's apparently important to know.
"And because the king, in his anger, had demanded such a hot fire in the furnace…" This is crazy. "…the flames killed the soldiers as they threw the three men in. So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, securely tied, fell into the roaring flames. But suddenly…" Mufasa! You know that part? "But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, 'Didn't we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?'" They're like, "Yeah, it just happened, King, like, five minutes ago."
"'Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,' they replied. 'Look!' Nebuchadnezzar shouted. 'I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!' Then Nebuchadnezzar came as close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace and shouted: 'Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!'
So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire. Then the high officers, officials, governors, and advisers crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn't even smell of smoke!" That's crazy.
"Then Nebuchadnezzar said, 'Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king's command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore, I make this decree: If any people, whatever their race or nation or language, speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will be torn limb from limb…'" Here we are again with the tearing from limb to limb. This guy needs to go see a counselor.
"'…and their houses will be turned into heaps of rubble. There is no other god who can rescue like this!' Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to even higher positions in the province of Babylon." Phew! Okay. Tonight, like I said, we're observing this story, and we're learning what it looks like to have a faith that's on fire for God. So, right into it.
You need to know this about faith: real faith will produce real testing. If you are going to be marked by real faith, you'd better be ready to be accompanied by real testing. They always go hand in hand, because the more your faith builds, the more that testing is used to strengthen your faith, and they go hand in hand. God uses these moments of testing and trying to build your faith on him. We see that all throughout Scripture. You've probably experienced that in your life.
If you're going to be a Christian in the world today, you're going to have your "Is it true?" moment. What do I mean by that? King Nebuchadnezzar looked at these three guys, and he said, "Hey, is it true that you won't bow down to me? Is it true?" If you're going to be a Christian marked by radical faith and obedience, you're going to be asked, "Hey, is it true that you only believe there's just male and female? Is it true that you're actually against pro-choice and you are for the sanctity of life? Hey, is it true that you believe Jesus is the only way to heaven? Hey, is it true that you believe same-sex marriage is wrong?"
There are going to be all of these different things that the world, your jobs, your friends, people you encounter on trips, and different moments of life are going to ask you, "Hey, is it true [blank]?" If you want to be marked by real faith, you have to be ready to be tested, and in the testing, our job, as Christians, is to look different.
It's surprising to me. The church, I think, has sought so hard to reach the world that it's slowly starting to look like the world, and you can't tell the difference between Christians and the world. Because of that, we've become soft as Christians. We don't like the tension of looking different. Actually, when the world doesn't agree with us, we're hurt by it. We're surprised by it.
It's so shocking to me that we, as Christians, are so torn up when the world is mad at us, when our coworkers talk about us, when we're treated differently. It so surprises me, because Jesus says it point blank that this will happen for the believer. In John 15, Jesus says, "Hey, when the world hates you, remember that it hated me first." Then he goes on to say, "If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own, but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, the world hates you."
I know. Take it from me, a fellow people-pleaser. My people-pleasers, you're like, "But no. I want everyone to love me. No haters. Good vibes only. Positivity." But it cannot be at the expense of your faith. You cannot seek to please man over pleasing God. We see here that Christians living out a radical faith are called to look different.
TA, one of our teaching pastors here at Watermark, said something two Sundays ago that really stuck with me. He said, "Hey, if your life makes perfect sense to the unbeliever, then something is terribly wrong." Right now, I think if I followed you into some of your workplaces and asked your coworkers, "Hey, he's a Christian. Why don't you want to be like him?" they'd be like, "He's a Christian?" They'd be like, "Wait. Why would I need God when clearly he doesn't?"
You have to ask yourself… If right now I went into your spaces of influence and asked the people around you, "What's different about this person?" what would they say? Would you look any different to the world? Because if you're a Christian today, you should not feel like you are home. You should feel out of place. Why? Because this isn't our place. We live for heaven. That's our home. So, you should not feel like "This is it." Christian, this is not it. There is so much more. So, until then, yeah, you're going to feel a little uncomfortable.
Can I get a volunteer right in the middle? Stand up, Gabriel. How are you feeling? Nervous. A little uncomfortable. Everyone is looking at you. You're probably starting to sweat in different regions of your body. Welcome to my life. Yeah, it's hard up here. Okay? See how it feels? It's getting a little more… Everyone else is sitting, and right now there's something in you, naturally, that's wanting to sit. Don't!
I know we read this, and we're like, "Wow! Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego… What great men of faith." I can tell you, when everyone else went down, I bet it was hard to stay up. I bet it felt uncomfortable. I bet they began to sweat and get nervous. (You can sit down. Give it up for Gabriel.)
Here's the reality, guys. When you go to work, when you go to your master's program, when you go to your sphere of influence back home to your family, that should be your reality. If you look just like everyone else, I would ask you: Is your faith real? We, as Christians… What we see here is that it's not a matter of if but when. You will experience testing because you will look different, but remember, you are not alone.
There is a Savior. His name is Jesus. He walked the walk for us. The world hated him too. Like we sung earlier, he hung on the cross, he defeated sin, and he rose from the grave so, that way, today, when the world looks at us and sees that we're different and is like, "Is it true? I'm going to give you one more chance or you're fired. I'm going to give you one more chance or you're never hanging out with us again. I'm going to give you one more chance or this relationship is over…"
When you get to that moment, will you stand or will you bow? There are people in this room who have lost jobs because they have stood up for their faith. I want to say I'm so proud of you. God is so honored by that. The world is looking, and they're watching. When you're tested, and how you respond… That's what they're attracted to, and that's what they're following. So, I'm asking you: Does your faith look any different?
To these moments, these defining moments that are hard and a decision has to be made, the Christian's response should be faith and courage. The world's response? Fear and conformity. Everyone else was found bowing down, listening to the king, but the Christians stood in faith. They said, "We will not bow." How did they have such assurance, knowing that on the other end was the fire? How did they do it? Because they had faith.
Hebrews, chapter 11, defines faith like this: "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." They could not see if God would save them from the fire, but it did not matter, because they were assured that God would be with them. Whether it was the fire, whether it was on land, or whether it was in heaven, God would not leave them.
They knew he would never leave them or forsake them. That's not who he is. He is always present. Because of that, they were able to stand and be different, although everyone else bowed. How were they so assured? Because they had the right informing of their faith, which leads me to the second point.
"O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us." Notice they said he is able, not that he will. He's able. That was enough for them. "He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn't, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up."
What we see here is that these men's faith was rightly informed by God's Word and God's character. God's sufficient Word and God's never-changing character. How do we see that? Look at their response. First, they say, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you." What does that say they know about the character of God? They're saying, "We don't need to defend ourselves because our God is a defender."
Second response: "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power…" They're saying, "Hey, the saving isn't on us. We don't have to save ourselves, because our God is a rescuer." That's a part of his character. He defends, and he rescues the oppressed.
Third response: "But even if he doesn't…" I think that part is really challenging for us today, especially in America. We have created a comfortable Christianity that doesn't want to say this line. "But even if he doesn't, we want to make it clear to you…that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up."
What they're saying with that response is, "We will be obedient to our God, the God, despite the outcome." Why? Because they knew, "Our God is the ultimate King. You might be king on earth, but we serve a higher King, the King of majesty, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. His name is God Almighty. That's who we serve. So, even if he doesn't give us our desired outcome of staying alive, we will never bow down, so you might as well put us in the fire."
Their response informed what they believed. We know what they believed by the way they responded, because God's Word and God's character is what informed their faith. The reason we know this… At this time, we don't know how many books of the Old Testament these guys had to study and know. We know they had the first five books of the Bible.
By these responses, what I'm seeing them say is, "Hey, we know the God who fulfilled his promise to Abraham, the father of Israel, is the same God today. We know the God who took Israel out of Egypt through 10 miraculous plagues and split the Red Sea for our people to walk through is the same God today. We know that God is faithful, that he breaks down the walls, that he wins wars, that he makes ways. That's who our God is. Because of that, because we've read it and we believe it, and because that God is the same God today, we will never bow."
The same God who was the God of Israel whenever they were in slavery to Egypt, the God of Israel when they were enslaved to the Babylonian Empire, is the same God today for you. When you are underneath the oppression of the darkness of this world, of culture, of people who are telling you that you have to go this way or else, you have to know, "What informs my faith is God's Word and God's never-changing character."
I think a lot of us, when we get to these defining moments in our lives… The reason we crumble is because, sadly, we don't know God's character because we don't know God's Word. We know a quote on Instagram. We know a pastor's one-minute clip. We know little bits of sermons that are fed to us. We remember the one sentence we wrote down, but these guys clearly had spent time knowing God's Word; therefore, they had a very real view of his character, and that's what dictated their right response to these defining moments, because their faith was informed by something that doesn't change.
Today, so many people's faith has been formed by their feelings, by their emotions, by their experiences, by their opinions, and those things are the improper way. They are the wrong way to inform your faith. Why? All of those things change. Your feelings… You're like Nebuchadnezzar. All right? You're hot, then you're cold; yes, then you're no; in, then you're out; up, then you're down…all the things.
Feelings make terrible gods. Emotions… Yeah, they're real. They're there, but they are not what dictate your faith. Experience is. So many of you have experienced… The reason you come to The Porch but are out on church, and you're like, "I don't need to go to church to be a Christian," is because you've let one experience of church hurt… Which, hello. The reason that church hurt exists is because you're a broken person interacting with broken people. That's what causes, oftentimes, dysfunction.
You let that experience inform your faith, so now you're out on church because an experience guides your life. We need to stop projecting our experiences onto God. Because your dad left you does not mean your God will leave you. Because that person cheated on you and left you does not mean God will forsake you. God is not that experience. God is not that person. He is the only thing that is available and fully capable of informing your faith, because he's the only thing that never changes. That's why his Word and his never-changing character are the right ways to inform your faith. These guys clearly understood that.
Second Timothy 3:16 says, "All Scripture is breathed out by God…" Everything you read in the Bible is inspired and breathed out by God. "…and it can be used for teaching, for correcting, and for training in all righteousness." That means it is complete. The Bible says it's complete and lacking nothing. You don't need to add anything to it. You don't need to take away anything from it.
The reason we would like ourselves to be gods of our lives, the reason we want our feelings and our experiences to inform our faith is because we get to decide when we are in and out with God, and we get to decide when we want to pick what parts of the Bible we want to follow. If my feelings and how I feel today get to determine how I respond to God, that's much easier and more comfortable than relying on what he says is best for me.
So, if I wake up today, and I feel like walking rightly with God, then I will, but if I feel lonely and sad, then, yeah, I'll go hook up with that person, because my feelings inform my faith. Those things are the wrong way to inform. The right way to inform your faith… If you're going to have a faith on fire, it must be rightly informed. You inform it with God's sufficient Word and his never-changing character.
Their faith was not just talk. Talk is cheap. They were men of action. We always say actions speak louder than words. These men are displaying the kind of action that follows real faith. Here are the kinds of actions that follow a false faith, a fake faith. "God, I trust you with my life." A guy walks by. "I'm kind of tired of singleness, you know. God is kind of taking a long time. He doesn't go to the church. He doesn't read his Bible. He calls himself a Christian. Good stable career. He's enough for me." Walks over here.
You just said in faith, "God, I trust you with my life," and then when something walks by that clearly isn't God's best and your actions take you over here, something is off. Real faith is followed by actions. What you do points what you actually believe. So, that action tells me, "No, God. I don't trust you. You're taking too long. All of my roommates are married with two kids, so I'm taking matters into my own hands. You can be God when I need blessings, but I'm going to be god when I want to get what I want."
Another example. "God, I want to go all in with you." You come to The Porch. We're like, "Hey, guys! God would call you to be a part of a local body, to serve the church, to serve the needs of the city, to be in community, to read his Word." You're like, "What? Sundays are my 'me' days…self-care. I'm so busy Monday through Friday, and then I go out for different things on Saturday. I get to pumping on Sunday. I just don't have time for that. I'll stream at home."
You just said, "God, I want to be all in. God, I want to be intimate with you. God, I want a thriving relationship with you. I want to be Christlike," yet you don't have time. Your actions point to what you believe. "God, I want to stop partying. I don't know how it happens. I keep hooking up with people. I want to stop."
"Are you going out tonight?"
"Yeah. I'll meet you there at 6:00."
Here's the issue. The next morning, when you're feeling guilt after sex… You're like, "God, I want to be done," and then the lonely hours come the next Saturday. You're sitting there. You get the text. "Hey, do you want to go out tonight?" You're like, "I know I shouldn't. I know I shouldn't. That's going to lead to me drinking too much. That's going to lead to me getting some liquid courage. That's going to lead me to Snapchatting that person and ending up at their house at 3:00 a.m. I'm going to just get into this vicious cycle."
I look at your actions, and if actions point to what you believe, what does that say about your faith? Do you have faith that God will fully satisfy your every need, that God knows what you need before you even ask so you don't have to go searching? James 2:17 says, "So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." Faith by itself, if it does not have action, is dead faith, fake faith.
I think I know what the problem is. There are a lot of motivational speeches out there that encourage people to have fiery faith. "Yeah, I want to be marked by courageous decisions, and I want to go all in with God, and I want fiery faith." You want it until it actually calls you into the fire. You want to be known as someone with a fiery faith until it's time to step up. It's really easy to proclaim it on the outside of the furnace looking in until you start getting tied up.
I mean, these guys did it all right. They were like, "We're not going to bow." They didn't bow. "Our God will save us. Our God will save us. Our God will save us. Right, God?" Tie the knot. Tie the knot. They're like, "Our God will save us!" They start to swing them, and they're like, "Really, God?" They start throwing them in like a stack of logs.
So many of us claim to want a faith on fire until it calls us to put some money where our mouth is, until action. We would rather have the perks of Christianity, but not the persecution that comes with it. We want salvation without suffering. We want amazing grace, but just enough to cover up our guilt, not to actually change our lives. We want to be sons and daughters of God but still cousins with the world.
We want to be known as people of radical faith until it calls us out into radical obedience, until it calls us into the fire. I'm telling you, if you want real faith, then you're going to get some heat. You're going to get some pressure from the world. Faith is followed by action. So, I'm asking you: What do your actions say about your faith? If what you do points to what you believe, how are you doing?
My wife and I, since being married… Girls have the craziest fears. I started noticing… She came from Arkansas, and she's in Texas, and she wasn't driving on the highways. She told me, "By the way, I'm afraid of Dallas highways, so I'm not going to drive on them." Now sometimes she tries to be sweet, and she's like, "Do you want me to drive?" I'm like, "Heck no, girl. A 20-minute trip takes 50 minutes with you on all of these back roads."
So what I'll do is I'll acknowledge the fear. She loves this, let me tell you. I'll acknowledge the fear, and I'll try to get to the root of it, because I'm like, "Wait. This is not okay. You are my wife. You can drive on a highway. All right?" I'll say, "Hey, why are you afraid to drive on highways?" She'll go, "Because there are a lot of cars going fast." Today, actually, she threw me a new one. She said, "Because what if I faint?" I'm like, "Am I married to a fainting goat? What's going on? 'What if I faint?' People are just fainting now?"
I'm like, "All right. Okay. So what if you faint?" She's like, "Well, then I'll get in a wreck." I'm like, "Okay. Well, what if you get in a wreck?" She's like, "Well, then it'll hurt." I'm like, "Okay. What if it hurts?" She's like, "Well, then I'll go to the hospital." I'm like, "What if you go to the hospital?" She's like, "I'll either get saved, I'll either heal…" I was like, "Or…?" She was like, "Or I'll die." I'm like, "Okay, okay. What if you die?"
She kind of smiles every time, because it always ends to death. That's the root fear: death. I'm like, "So what if you die?" She smiles and goes, "I'll be in heaven." That's silly, but, y'all, that is powerful. The problem with us today… The problem with me today is there's something in me that doesn't actually believe heaven is better than earth. There's something in me that when I look at my actions, I'm living as if earth is the end goal.
I'm looking like conformity and having people like me is where the treasure is found. I'm looking like success and more money and more opportunities is where satisfaction lies. That shows me that I think earth is it, but I need to tell myself, and you need to tell yourself, in these moments of opportunity where you get to choose fear or faith… When heaven is the reward, suffering is the gain. Testing is the opportunity.
When the world is bowing, standing up for what's right, even though it might result in suffering… You have to see that as the advantage, because like Paul says, it's when we're weak that he's made strong. His power is made perfect through our weakness. These guys were thrown into a fire, and now this was the opportunity where God got to flex his power.
He wants to do the same with you, but you have to go, "When I am freaking out, when the rest of the world is bowing down, when the rest of the world is doing this, I will not bow. I am not afraid of what lies on the other end of not compromising and bowing down. I'm not afraid, even if it leads to death. Being with God is greater." I have to tell myself that all the time: being with God is greater.
These men clearly understood. They clearly had a right perspective of what it looks like to be marked by faith and where faith could lead them, and they were willing to say, "But even if he doesn't save us, to be with our King is greater than being here." Once they were thrown into the fire, that's when God showed up. Verse 24:
"But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, 'Didn't we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?' 'Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,' they replied. 'Look!' Nebuchadnezzar shouted. 'I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!' Then Nebuchadnezzar came as close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace and shouted: 'Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!'"
So they stepped out of the fire. Then all of the people gathered around, and they saw that the fire had not even touched them. They didn't even smell like smoke. He said, "Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him [just like they said he would]. They defied the king's command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God."
The point of having great faith is not to make your name greater. The point of having great faith is to point to the victory of your great God. That's why he calls us to have radical faith. That's why he calls us to step out into the unknown. That way, when you choose to surrender in radical obedience, despite outcomes, that's when he can put his glory on display through you to the hurting and lost world.
If you will choose to let your God define your suffering and not your suffering define your God, watch what he'll do. Watch what he'll do with that obedience. He will take that moment, and he will use it to display his goodness and his power and his glory to the world through you, just like he did through these guys.
Notice they didn't have to say anything profound. They didn't have to say anything to change their minds. They just simply had to live it out. Their faith had action. When they put that action into practice, that's when the king said, "Wow! Look at this God. He is the only God worthy of worship." If you, when compromise and those opportunities come, will stand up and be different, if you will inform your faith correctly, and if you will let your faith lead you to great action to point to your great God, watch what he will do.
I don't know what your fire is. I don't know what your "even if" moment is, that "Even if God doesn't give me my desired outcome, I'm going to trust him." I don't know what that moment is, but what I do know is that if you choose to respond with real radical faith, watch what God will do. He will do the unthinkable. He will do exceedingly more than you could ever ask or think. He's just waiting for you to say, "Yes." He's waiting for you to have real faith in him. Let's pray.
God, I thank you that it's not because of our faith, it's not because of our decision, it's not because of our works that we are saved, but it's because you, God, sent your Son down to earth to pay the ultimate price, because your Son stepped into the fire of this world and sin and shame and brokenness and defeated it by rising from the grave three days later. Because of that, we now can walk toward trials. We can walk toward persecution and suffering. We now can stand up when the rest of the world is bowing down. We can look different because of what you have done for us.
I pray that these people, that this generation would see that the world is hurting and looking for something real, someone different, and may it start with the radical decisions in this room. I pray that my friends here tonight and I would be marked by people of real faith, because you are a real God who wants to do real things through his people when they say yes to you.
Would we respond right now with whatever it is, that "Even if you don't heal the cancer, even if you don't change things around, even if you don't provide the spouse, God, I trust you. God, I trust you," and then with that trust, you would come and do what only you can do tonight. May we respond right now. It's in your name I pray, amen.