Faith Under Fire!

 

Faith Under Fire      Daniel 3

Audio:

Introduction

What would it take to renounce your faith? Peter by the fire renounced his knowledge of Jesus. Persecuted Christians in the world today are faced with life-or-death faith decisions every day. Our text is a story about three men of faith who stood up to a nation.

Nebuchadnezzar built an idol and demanded that everyone bow down to it. Three Hebrews would not bow down to the idol. Even under threat of death – to be thrown into a furnace and burned alive – they would not. The furnace was prepared…

Daniel 3:21-27 (CEB)  21 So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were bound, still dressed in all their clothes, and thrown into the furnace of flaming fire. (22 Now the king’s command had been rash, and the furnace was heated to such an extreme that the fire’s flame killed the very men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to it.) 23 So these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell, bound, into the furnace of flaming fire. 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in shock and said to his associates, “Didn’t we throw three men, bound, into the fire?” They answered the king, “Certainly, Your Majesty.” 25 He replied, “Look! I see four men, unbound, walking around inside the fire, and they aren’t hurt! And the fourth one looks like one of the gods.” 26 Nebuchadnezzar went near the opening of the furnace of flaming fire and said, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire. 27 The chief administrators, ministers, governors, and the king’s associates crowded around to look at them. The fire hadn’t done anything to them: their hair wasn’t singed; their garments looked the same as before; they didn’t even smell like fire! 

We are not under threat of death for living out our faith, but our faith is under fire today in many different ways.

Faith Under Fire

Pressure from Friends (1 Cor 15:33 Don’t be deceived, bad company corrupts good character.) The desire to be liked is a strong one. Our faith can take a beating from our desire to conform with our friends.

Pressure from Culture (all forms of media). We can never trust our culture as a basis of God’s truth – we will be misled every time. Romans 12:2a Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds .

Pressure from Temptation. 2 Timothy 4:10aDemas has fallen in love with the present world and has deserted me… I don’t know what Demas loved about the world, but it was enough to draw him away from Christ. We have to be cautious that we are not taken captive by the temptations we face.

Pressure from our Fears. We feel pressure because we face losing relationships. We feel pressure because we face our own weakness. We feel pressure because we face our Lord. Matthew 13:20-21– falls away when trials come. Instead of a faith under fire, have a faith on fire!

Faith On Fire

The three young men faced quite a challenge – a fiery furnace that was so hot it killed the men who tended it. What two things did they teach us about a faith on fire?

Faith on Fire Believes in a God who is Able. He may rescue  / He may not rescue. Our faith is in God, not in what He does for us.

Isaiah 55:8-9 My plans aren’t your plans, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my plans than your plans.

Faith on Fire Believes in a God who is Present. He is not far away, but rather near.  Shadrach, Meschach, Abednego were not alone in the fire. God was with them. We sometimes think trials mean that God is not here, but maybe it means he is closer than ever! Because of their faithShadrach, Meschach, Abednego were men of courage, conviction, and confidence in a sovereign supreme God.

How Do We Cultivate a Fired Up Faith?

A Heritage of Faith that Begins at Childhood. These three young men were brought from Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar gave them new Babylonian names. Their parents were people of faith. Original Names:

*Hananiah (The LORD has Been Gracious).

*Michael – Who is What God Is?

*Azariah – the Lord has helped

Their parents had named each of these young men in demonstration of their dedication to the Living God. Parents, what are we doing to instill in our children a heritage of faith? Bringing them to church/Sunday school/youth group are all great. But it all falls second to a life of faith at home. Not everyone was blessed with a Christian home… and not every child stays with Christ. But this is our best effort for the future of faith for our children.

A Habit of Sticking to Convictions.

Daniel 1:8-10 Daniel decided that he wouldn’t pollute himself with the king’s rations or the royal wine, and he appealed to the chief official in hopes that he wouldn’t have to do so.Now God had established faithful loyalty between Daniel and the chief official;10 but the chief official said to Daniel, “I’m afraid of my master, the king, who has mandated what you are to eat and drink. What will happen if he sees your faces looking thinner than the other young men in your group? The king will have my head because of you!”

These three Hebrews and their friend Daniel would not eat the royal food and wine presented to them. It was offered to idols and they didn’t want it. What conviction to tell their captors that they would only eat certain food! Not afraid of the consequences. Do we stick to our convictions or are we washed about like waves of the sea?

Ephesians 4:14-15 As a result, we aren’t supposed to be infants any longer who can be tossed and blown around by every wind that comes from teaching with deceitful scheming and the tricks people play to deliberately mislead others. 15 Instead, by speaking the truth with love, let’s grow in every way into Christ…

We can never have a fired up faith without convictions

A Hope Beyond our Circumstances.

Daniel 3:17-18 If our God—the one we serve—is able to rescue us from the furnace of flaming fire and from your power, Your Majesty, then let him rescue us. 18 But if he doesn’t, know this for certain, Your Majesty: we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you’ve set up.”

They had no reason to believe that they would walk out of the furnace but that didn’t change their decision.

2 Timothy 4:18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil action and will save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and always.

Isaiah 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Conclusion

The fired up faith of these three Hebrews led to the change of heart of King Nebuchadnezzar. He then recognized the power of the true God of Israel.

Daniel 3:28-30 Nebuchadnezzar declared: “May the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be praised! He sent his messenger to rescue his servants who trusted him. They ignored the king’s order, sacrificing their bodies, because they wouldn’t serve or worship any god but their God. 29 I now issue a decree to every people, nation, and language: whoever speaks disrespectfully about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s God will be torn limb from limb and their house made a trash heap, because there is no other god who can rescue like this.” 30 Then the king made Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego prosperous in the province of Babylon.

If we fail to have a fired up faith, how will the world know the wonders and awesome power of our amazing God!

LifeGroup Questions

1. What is your favorite fire-related activity? Grilling Out, Bonfires, Fireplace, Burning leaves, Lighting Candles or something else?

2. Read Psalm 135:1-7; 15-18. There is quite a contrast between the living God and the dead idols. Idolatry is a sin we do not often confess. Maybe we have trouble identifying it. What is the difference in having something you’re very interested  in… and treating it as an idol? How would you know if something in your life was being treated as an idol?

3. In the 1950s, psychologist Solomon Asch did a study that demonstrated that people often conform. He invited 8 men to take this test with a series of cards. 7 of them had secretly agreed to give a wrong answer. The 8th man was unaware of  the conspiracy. 75% of the men conformed to the group when it was wrong. 

*Why do you think we are always in danger of conforming to others around us?

*Can you remember a time (maybe a religious discussion) when you were the only one who held your opinion? How did that feel?

*What can give us the strength to be different from the crowd around us?

Resource

4. What does fire often symbolize in Scripture? Can you give some examples?

5. Nebuchadnezzar (and others) saw four beings in the fire, not just the three Hebrews. How do you picture that in your mind? What did Nebuchadnezzar see? Some suggest it was an angel; others that it was Jesus Christ. What part did that play in the King’s change of heart?

 Here is a link to art from some Christians in 300 a.d.

6. The great preacher of another generation, Charles Spurgeon, said of this passage: “Duties are ours, events are the Lord’s.” What does this statement mean to you? Do you agree with it?

7. Why is God’s presence more precious than his deliverance?

8. As you consider the story of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, what is the one thought you have that stands out  the most?