Saturday, March 3, 2012

tested by fire

I've been part of a study on the book of Daniel since the beginning of January. It has been good to spend time in a book I don't read very often, and to take another look at a couple of stories from it that I thought I knew well. I grew up in the church and heard the story of Daniel and the Lion's Den and of The Fiery Furnace many times, but usually a pretty tamed down version compared to what those situations would have been like for Daniel and his friends. The same overall lessons could be taught based on the understanding that a child has, but the reality of what the fiery furnace and the lion's den would have been like was not touched on in much detail.

Because of that, the stories challenged me again when I studied them this time. Taking the time to think about what it would have been like to be making your stand with roar of a fiery furnace behind you - a fire so hot that the soldiers who threw them in the furnace died (Daniel 3:22). That is not something to take lightly. Realizing that detail made me think twice about the stand that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego made. Or noticing the detail that the lions in the den that Daniel was thrown into were actually hungry. Daniel wasn't spared because the lions weren't hungry. He was spared because God shut the mouths of the lions. Those who were thrown in the lions den after Daniel was pulled out were devoured immediately (Daniel 6:24).

For Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego they chose to stand for God even when they weren't sure they would survive that. They were tested by fire and they chose to trust God. In Daniel 3:16-18 Shadrach, Mesheach, and Abednego put it this way:
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 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. 18 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.”
They trusted their God was able to deliver them - whether that deliverance came on earth or in the form of being ushered into God's presence. And their trust in God was tested. They were thrown in the fiery furnace, but they survived it.

As a part of our study, we talked about how there are three ways a situation of being tested by fire can happen: (these are taken from Beth Moore's study on Daniel - Session 3):
  1. We can be delivered from the fire.
  2. We can be delivered through the fire.
  3. We can be delivered by the fire into eternity.
When I read those I definitely know which option I would prefer. If God would deliver me from the fire that would be fine with me. I'd rather not go through those kinds of things. But, when I look back on my life I know I've grown the most when God has chosen to deliver me through the fire - those times when I have had to walk through the hard time, but He has walked with me through it.

It may not be what we wish for in our human nature, but having a faith in God that is tested by fire  will bring us growth. And because we don't have to walk alone, when we're tested by fire we will be able to go through it. God walks with us through that.

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