How can you keep your faith strong in a culture that is increasingly antagonistic toward Christians? This week, a missionary friend told me about a friend of hers from Bible College who came for a visit to her missionary location. They attended a well known, Conservative Christian university. Her friend was a spiritual leader on campus, and was one of the school’s residence supervisors. Everyone looked up to her.
On the second or third day of her visit, the friend shared the real reason that she had come to visit. Without sadness or remorse, she told my missionary friend that she no longer considered herself a Christian. She stopped going to church years ago, and she no longer prays, reads her Bible or even believes in God. Needless to say, my missionary friend was shocked and greatly surprised because this young woman seemed like such a strong Christian just a few years ago. She reasoned with her visiting guest, but they left without any change of heart.
Why do some people lose their faith? There are deep theological questions connected with this question - questions centered on eternal security and whether a person’s faith was genuine in the first place. This message is not intended to answer these questions, but rather to ask the question, “How Can I Keep My Faith Strong?”
There are many contributing factors that cause some to walk away from their Christian faith. I believe that these three are the most obvious.
SIN is the first and foremost example. In fact, all of the reasons one would deny the faith are sin, but here I am thinking of a person who wishes to continue to sin against God. One such example is the friend of the Apostle Paul, Demas. We read in 2 Timothy 4:10 "For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me.” One could not have a greater teacher, mentor or example that the Apostle Paul, yet for Demas, the lure of sin was so strong that he left Paul’s side to continue in whatever worldly practices to which he was lured.
PERSECUTION or TRIALS are another reason that some walk away. Jesus spoke of this as the “seed that fell in the rocky soil.” Matthew 13:20–21 "[the rocky soil] is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away."
A third reason some fall away is PRESSURE from the WORLD. Romans 12:2 "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
This third example is what we want to focus on today.
How can I keep my faith from faltering when there is so much pressure from the world?
The Pressure can be GREAT! Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego experienced a tremendous amount of pressure to bow down and worship the statute of Nebuchadnezzar.
Daniel 3:1–12 (ESV) 1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Their dilemma is similar to the pressure that we are facing today. No one is asking us to bow down to a gold statute. No, we are just asked to bow down to the thinking and practices of everyone around us. The pressure comes with challenges like.....
“Everyone is doing it.”
“Even some Christians are doing it.”
“If you stand out too much, you will lose friends and face ridicule.”
In America, the pressure is to conform to our society. But in other parts of the world, the pressure is much more like that faced by the three Hebrew men in Daniel 3. Christians today are facing the threat of death if they insist on remaining faithful to Christ.
SOMALIA, Nov. 2009 A 23-year-old Christian convert, Mumin Abdikarim Yusuf, was murdered by Islamic militants for converting to Christianity. In an attempt to gain evidence against Yusuf and to gain information about other Somali Christians, the extremists knocked out all of Yusuf's front teeth and broke several of his fingers. They then shot him twice in the head and dumped his body on an empty residential street.
The gods of our day cry out to be embraced in our minds and actions. The gods of:
Pleasure at all cost
Unrestrained sexual fulfillment outside of marriage
Nebuchadnezzar’s Image was a DIRECT ATTACK against God! He got the idea of an image from DANIEL’s REVELATION in Daniel 2. As idolatrous as it was to create a stature to be worshipped, Nebuchadnezzar demonstrated his disapproval with God’s revelation that Babylon would be the first of four great world kingdoms. Nebuchadnezzar’s dreamed about a statute with a head of gold, representing Babylon. But the stature Nebuchadnezzar had made was all overlaid in gold, from head to toe. It was Nebuchadnezzar’s way of saying to God, “No kingdom will ever defeat Babylon, no matter what you may have to say.”
Three Hebrew Children, aware of the danger, would not BOW DOWN!
Characteristics of FIREPROOF FAITH
Fireproof Faith Begins with a COMMITMENT to CHRIST. Daniel 3:16–18 (ESV) 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
There was NO DEBATE: The made a commitment to God that was unshakable.
They knew that death was real (Not flippant. Didn’t pretend that everything was OK)
2 Corinthians 4:18 (ESV) 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Phippians 1:21 (ESV) 21For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Hebrews 11:13–16 (ESV) 13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
Fireproof Faith is COURAGEOUS.
Others gave in, but they would not
Those who gave in lost the reward of faithfulness. The faithless don’t get to see God’s miracles in their lives.
Fireproof Faith is CONFIDENT
Daniel 3:17 (ESV) 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.
Even though they didn’t know God’s plan, they knew the Scriptures which promised that God will deliver His children from death
(Psalm 23:4) "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."
(2 Timothy 4:18) "The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen."
Fireproof faith is possible because of CHRIST, not you! Daniel 3:19-27
Jude 24–25 (ESV) 24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
1 Peter 1:5 (KJV 1900) 5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Ultimately, we are not kept because of our obedience, we are kept because of Christ’s faithfulness.
Fireproof Faith is REWARDED.
Christ was with them in the fire
Their clothes were not burned, or even smelled of fire
Nebuchadnezzar was amazed “no other god dan save in this way”
The GREATEST REWARD in your spiritual life lies just beyond your greatest trial!
There is a powerful story connected to Daniel 3 and the faithfulness of Shadrach, Meeshach and Abednego. It centers on their profession that God had the power to deliver them from Nebuchadnezzar’s hand. They knew that God could deliver them from this trial, but that even if they had to endure the trial, God’s promises to give them eternal life were still sure. That’s why they said, “But if Not.”
The date was May 29, 1940. German was achieving unprecedented battlefield success with their Blitzkrieg, lightning fast attack. 450,000 British and French Soldiers had been pushed back through France to the shores of the English Channel.
German tanks had broken through and German’s air force now had the capacity to obliterate the British and French forces - the only army standing between British defeat and continued freedom.
It seemed like Germany would completely destroy the French and British army. For some unknown reason, Hitler told his generals to stop the attack. Generals were furious, knowing that they were in a position to destroy the French and British Army and end the war. Britain’s only hope of surviving was to escape back across the English Channel.
In a desperate radio communique, a British commander radioed three words
“BUT IF NOT”
All of Britain recognized the source of those words. They remembered the faith and courage of the three Hebrew children - and God’s ability to deliver them in their greatest time of need.
All of Britain recognized what must be done. Every vessel that could float was LAUNCHED from England in the the largest water evacuation in human history. For 9 days soldiers, materials, weapons, escaped to England. Britain was saved. They would not surrender.
What about you?
Is your faith fireproof?