Sermons

Summary: In times like these, when pressures are brought to bear on the omitted by the uncommitted, mature Christians stay committed to God's Way and Ways as opposed to succumbing to worldly ways and points of view.

COURAGEOUS FAITH ENDURES

"And they lived happily ever after"! Like so many novels that end that way, the end of chapter two of Daniel intimated that everything was going to be alright now that the lives of the four Jewish young men had been spared . . . and why not?

Daniel and his friends had been rewarded with prestigious positions of honor in Babylon. So it is rather shocking to learn that almost immediately thereafter these same faithful Jews are once again in trouble with the same king - Daniel 3:13-18 . . .

What happened to those devoutly religious Jews in this situation is sort of like a parable of what often happens to "good people" whose commitment to the Lord is evident in every aspect of their lives . . . Practicing one's faith openly incurs the wrath of secularists who jealously guard and resist perceived threats to their immoral standards. In such a society:

When "good people" make the mistake of assuming everything is okay . . . feel free to be the faithful servants of God they have always aspired to be . . . practice their faith unhinderedly, evil rears its ugly head - in many different forms - and seeks to thwart their efforts, take away their freedoms, and threaten their very existence. Such was the case with Daniel and his friends.

Lessons we learn from the fiery furnace ordeal can indeed be applied to us today . . . to difficult situations we as Christians may find ourselves facing in the current cultural war on Christian beliefs and moral values!

Understand, Nebuchadnezzar was not asking these devout Jews to deny the God they worshipped. He was "asking" (ordering) them to give his pagan gods and his golden image equal reverence. Compromise their convictions!

Such thinking is prevalent in contemporary culture. There are folks who vow and declare that in the 21st century we ought to practice syncretism - a coalescence of opposing beliefs, principles, and practices which we would syncretize (reconcile) into a new conglomerate of religious beliefs for the establishment of a new religion.

The idea is that we could establish a new "religious system" by combining the "good" parts of all religions, formulating them into a new doctrine that would require constituents to accept the notion that "God" is a generality rather than a personality, and that the worship of God can take any form anyone chooses.

I misunderstood Pope Francis on his visits to Cuba and the USA, but much of what I observed looked to me as if he may have unwittingly "played into the hands" of those who hold worldly views . . . What I DO understand is what the Apostle Paul declared to the Corinthians - 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 . . .

Folks: The consequences of adopting a "worldly point of view" is made clear in New Testament theology; for example, Paul to the Colossians: "alienation from God, enmity toward God at least in one's mind, unwittingly condoning evil behavior!"

The flip side of the coin of "consequences" gives us the second lesson we learn from the fiery furnace ordeal: Daniel's friends' refusal to adopt the worldly views of Babylon illustrates that faith with courage accepts the consequences of remaining faithful to God rather than adopting pagan ways of life under pressure.

In one of the high points of the Old Testament, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego courageously stood firm in their absolute faith in and loyalty to God, regardless of the possible negative consequences.

What they told the pagan king ought to be inscribed on the minds and in the hearts of all Christians on the face of the earth: "We believe our God is able to deliver us . . . If not, so be it . . . What you rulers of darkness need to understand is this: We will not serve your 'gods' whatever forms they take, or worship your idols. Amen!" Lesson learned: Faith is acceptance of God's Will regardless of the result!

Faithful Christians do not trust in God only when success and prosperity abound in their lives, as if to say, "We will bow down if our God saves us, but if he does not, we will try another god." No! They were confident about what God could do, but they were not presumptuous to say that God would do. To do or not to do would be up to God.

For Daniel, and for all other true and faithful servants of God, one's faith is nothing less than commitment to God's way regardless of where it takes them - victory over evil in the here and now, or through trial to victory in the hereafter, believing with all our hearts that God's Way always triumphs - as it did when an angel of the Lord preserved Daniel's friends in the midst of a fiery trial, as it did when Christ arose from the dead, as it will when we all get to heaven!

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