By Rev. Kyle Norman, Crosswalk.com
Faithful in the Fire
By Kyle Norman
“Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:24-25)
We would love to affirm that faith makes the problems of life disappear. How grand would it be if we could live our lives without hassle, discouragement, or frustration? Sadly, we know this is not the case. We are never removed from the frailty of life. We go through times of burden, hardship, and struggle. There may even be seasons where we feel tossed into a fiery furnace of affliction.
Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego knew about fiery afflictions…literally. These three young Hebrew men, probably no more than 20 years of age, find themselves on the wrong side of the King’s ire. They are arrested and threatened with death, all because they will not violate their allegiance to God. In refusing to bow down before the golden statue, they oppose the royal edict and must suffer the consequences.
What do you think they would be feeling as they are hauled before the king? Do you think they were afraid? Do you think they felt overwhelmed, discouraged, or downcast? And what about when they were bound and brought to the furnace? Do you think they questioned if that would be the end? Have you ever felt this way, or been asked those questions, in your life? Have you ever felt tossed into the fire?
Shadrack, Meschack, and Abednego, as faithful as they are, are not kept from the fiery furnace. There is no grand display of divine might that protects them from this experience. The three men are arrested. They are bound. They are tossed into a furnace.
I’m sorry to say this, but there may be times when we are asked to face a fiery furnace. There may be a season where life seems to turn against us, and where everything that we once knew feels ripped away. Israel was not immune from this. The disciples were not immune from this. Jesus was not immune from this. If we think that our faith in God means that such things don’t occur in our lives, then we will be left feeling condemned when these things befall us. We will feel that our fear, or our discouragement, somehow betrays the fullness of our faith. This is not true.
The truth upon which we stand is not that God shelters us from all struggles, but that God’s love remains with us during those times; God is present within the flames. Our times of hardship and struggle speak not of God's absence. In fact, these are the times when God draws incredibly near. True, Shadrack Meshack and Abednego aren’t saved from entering the furnace, but they are surrounded by the flames. It was in that oven, and not a moment before, that they meet the presence of the one who appears like the son of God. God dwells amid the fire. God incarnates God’s self in the flames. And it is because God is present in that place, that the power of God extends over the three men, and the flames have no power over them.
God’s response to the fiery furnaces of our lives isn’t to destroy them, but to dwell in them. This is what is shown in this beloved tale in the book of Daniel. More importantly, this is what is revealed on the cross. The cross testifies that there is no place where the loving power of God will not be present. The cross, which is the most extreme example of the world’s rejection, is transformed into the place where Christ’s relentless love is disclosed.
Intersecting Faith and Life:
It hurts when we find ourselves in the fire. It is scary and dark. Yet we are not alone. Christ enters that darkness and bears that hurt. There is no place in our lives where Christ is not present. Jesus promises us; “Surely, I am with you to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). If you find yourself overwhelmed by struggles or stresses, simply repeat this truth. In fact, try inserting your name at the start of the verse as a way to hear this declaration spoken directly over you.
I pray that you know the presence of the one who journeys with you. May your eyes be open to the presence of your Savior as he stands with you and extends his power over you.
When I feel overwhelmed by fiery furnaces, please open my eyes to see you with me. Help me to feel the comforting balm of your presence, as you uphold my life. I pray this in the name of Jesus, the one who comes to me, and stands with me. Amen.
For Further Reading:
Photo credit: Pexels/Jeremy Bishop
Reverend Kyle Norman is the Rector of the Anglican Parish of Holy Cross in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He has a doctorate in Spiritual Formation and is often asked to write or speak on the nature of the Christian community, and the role of Spiritual disciplines in Christian life. His personal blog can be found here.
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