Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 1 Peter 4:12
This week’s chapter in Reclaiming Your Joy is called “Troubled by Trials”. And we will be discussing the role of trials in the Christian life. When I think of trials I always think of what Jesus said about them. “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
Trib·u·la·tion – 1. Great affliction, trial, or distress; suffering. 2. An experience that tests one’s endurance, patience, or faith. (from merriam-webster.com).
Lorraine Hill shares some of Paul’s words from letters to the Philippians and Corinthians about his own trials; he had been imprisoned, whipped, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, in danger from his own people and from Gentiles, in hunger and thirst, sleepless (2 Cor 11: 24-27). I can’t say I can relate to those experiences, thank the Lord, but I (like you) have endured hardships. Lorraine Hill makes a small reference to an Old Testament Story that has made a big impression on me. The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace made an impression on me in my college years and has been a comfort ever since. Carried away from Israel into exile in Babylon, these young men were friends of Daniel. The four of them were part of a group of sons of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and [were taught] the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king (Dan 1:3-5). Daniel and his three friends did not assimilate into the Chaldean culture as expected. They could not forsake their God and their upbringing ‘“ they knew who they were. They did not subscribe to what we would now call “situational ethics”, where the rules change depending on your circumstances. They knew that God’s expectations of us are absolute and He does not lower the bar for us when times get tough.
I love this story because it is a picture of the Christian life. They are asked to violate their consciences by denying God. ”You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” (Dan 3: 4-6). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego cannot do this because they will not bend their knee to any other god than the true God. So they are cast into the fiery furnace ‘“ it is so hot that the guards escorting them are killed by the flames.
There are three things that bring me to tears in this story. Here is the first.
- Just before they are cast into the furnace, the young men tell the king, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Dan 3:17-18). Their obedience to God is unconditional. They do not obey based on expectations they have of God, they simply obey.
- The second that brings me to tears is this: Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers,“Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.” He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods” (Dan 3:24-25). They entered the fire on their own but they did not endure it alone. Here is a promise for us ‘“ when we enter our trial by fire, we will not be alone! Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:35-39).
- Finally, the third thing that brings me to tears is what happened at the end of the story. When they came out of the furnace, everyone was amazed. The fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them (Dan 3:27). In the end, if we endure our trials in the presence of the Lord, we will be victorious. The fire will not harm us.
In this Old Testament story, we see a picture of the Christian life. It is just as Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). The key is that we must rest in Him to have the peace. We must look for Him in the fire because He is there.
Justa Girl‘¦just like you