Saturday, May 26, 2012


            I have been studying the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3. This is one of those stories that is a standard in Sunday School curriculum. It is the story of three brave, young men who stand up against an evil king and trust God. They are thrown into the fiery furnace, but God miraculously saves them. It is a great story of God’s power and his provision for his people.

            The most important part of the story, for me, is found in Daniel 3:17-18. “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." The true depth of their faith is declared in that simple phrase, “But even if he does not…”

            That is the kind of faith that I want to have. I want to have and “even if” kind of faith that will remain strong and true in the face of difficulties. Unfortunately, we often fall into an “only if” kind of faith. We will serve God “only if” we feel it is reasonable. We will trust God “only if” he takes away our pain, illness, problem, etc. We will follow Christ “only if” He makes life easy for us.

            Many people with an “only if” faith have become discouraged and have given up. They are disappointed when God does not live up to all of their expectations. When their prayers are not answered the way they want them to be, they conclude that faith doesn’t work.

            At the heart of this issue is the question, “What is the object of our faith?” If the object of our faith is what we can get from God (pleasure, protection, power), then we will develop an “only if” faith. If the object of our faith is God himself (experiencing his love, grace and mercy), then we will develop an “even if” faith. Tim Keller, in his book The Prodigal God, pinpoints the real issue for us. Do we want a genuine relationship with the Father, or are we only interested in what we can get from the Father?

            Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were devoted to the Living God. They literally put their lives in His hands. They knew that, no matter what, they had to take their stand with God. The Apostle Paul lived the same kind of life. He faced all kinds of challenges and difficulties, yet he remained true to Christ. Paul summed up his passion for Christ in Philippians 3:7-11.
            But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

            In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul again talks about his “even if” faith. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
            Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:7-12, 16-18 (NIV)

            God has an “even if” love for us. He loves us “even if” we fail Him. He loves us so much that he willingly sent Jesus into the world to die for us.  
            This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10 (NIV)
            But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 (NIV)
            What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:31-32 (NIV)

            When it comes to the kind of “even if” faith that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had, I am not completely there yet. But that is my goal. I don’t know what challenges are ahead, but I want to take my stand with Christ, no matter what.

            Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV)

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