Summary: Fireproof Your Faith 1) Let go of your ego 2) Lay hold of your God
A couple of weeks ago the members of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Wetaskiwin, AB learned that their church is NOT fireproof. The cry room now resembles a black hole a worm might leave behind after eating its way through an apple. The heat of the fire curled the plastic keys on a keyboard to look like arthritic fingers gnarled with pain. Isn’t there a way to fireproof churches so this kind of damage won’t happen? I suppose you could build a structure out of metal and concrete. But what would you do with the wooden pews and the upholstered chairs? Would you replace these with metal benches? And what about the hymnals? Should we go back to using clay tablets as in ancient times? One hymnal alone would consist of 900 or so tablets. Try fitting that under the pew in front of you! And what about the organ? I guess there are some things you just can’t fireproof.
Have you ever felt that way about your faith? Have you ever wondered whether or not your faith will withstand the test of cancer, or the death of a child or Mom and Dad? Or what if tomorrow the government of Canada demanded that you deny Christ and worship the Governor General instead? Would you willingly disobey even though it would mean losing your life? In our text today three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did disobey such a decree even though it meant being thrown into a fiery furnace. How did these friends remain cool when the heat was on? How did they fireproof their faith? Let’s find out.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, or the “3 Amigos” as I’ll call them, were young men from Israel who had been dragged to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. Life wasn’t too bad for the 3 Amigos. Together with their friend Daniel they became important officials in the Babylonian empire after graduating from the king’s university with honors. It must have been exciting to hold influential positions in the greatest empire of the day. But the 3 Amigos’ civil service routine was interrupted one day when they received word that they and every other official were to gather at the plain of Dura where the king had erected a 90-foot statue. This was Nebuchadnezzar’s idea of a team-building exercise. Every civil servant was to bow down and worship the statue in a show of loyalty. Anyone who disobeyed was to be thrown into a fiery furnace. This was not an idle threat. The king had burned people to death before (Jeremiah 29:22) and not too far from the statue stood a furnace already emitting a column of smoke as if to provide the exclamation mark to the king’s decree.
What thoughts do you think were going through the 3 Amigos’ minds? Did they consider: “If we don’t bow down to this statue, we’ll die and then what good will we be to the Lord and to his people? We’re so young. We have our whole lives ahead of us. Surely God didn’t bring us here only to let us die so soon! Anyway God will understand if we bow down just this once – especially if we’re just going through the motions. If he does count that as sin, we can always ask for forgiveness.”
Do you see the problem with those thoughts? They’re egocentric. Were the 3 Amigos really indispensible in God’s plan for his people? No. Just as we aren’t indispensible to the work of the church here. God doesn’t need us to keep his kingdom going. It’s a privilege for us to serve him. So what were the 3 Amigos to do? Since they realized that their goal in life was not to stay alive but to obey God, they did just that. While everyone else bowed before the king’s idol they remained standing, with pounding hearts no doubt.
It didn’t take long, however, for their disobedience to be reported to the king. He called them forward and demanded that the Jewish men bow down to his statue threatening “…if you do not worship [the statue], you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” (Daniel 3:15b). Yikes! It was one thing to disobey the king when they had been far from his throne, but what were they to do now as they stood face to face with a ruler who was clearly more Hitler than (Prime Minister) Harper? Remain cool. That’s what. In measured tones the 3 Amigos responded: “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” (Daniel 3:16-18).