A junior in college this year, my son Colby lives in an apartment on campus that he shares with several roommates. The apartment was designed for young people who don’t always remember to turn off lights or stoves. The stove will only turn on after first pushing a switch on the wall. The stove is also designed to turn off after a certain length of time if not turned off manually. The lights are designed with a motion sensor to stay on as long as there is movement in the room. After a predetermined amount of time, if there is no movement, the lights will turn off.
Two of Colby’s roommates are home with their families for spring break and one is gone on a mission trip. We have enjoyed spending spring break with Colby at his apartment. I have adjusted to first flipping the switch on the wall before the stove will turn on. But, the lights are a whole different story. The lights do not work quite like they were designed to work. I’m going to assume the motion sensor is no longer working, because in the middle of fixing something to eat in the kitchen the lights will turn off. Or then there are the times that as soon as I step foot into the kitchen the lights will turn off. No amount of dancing around the kitchen and waving my arms will make the lights turn back on. Aspen seems to love it though and will immediately hop up from what she is doing to run and turn the lights back on.
I think that sometimes we are a little like those lights in Colby’s apartment. We don’t always work like we were designed to work. God created us with hearts that desire to serve him, but due to the malfunctioning of sin in this world our hearts no longer desire to do the will of God. Deep down at our core we will only be happy when we serve God entirely, but we don’t know that. We think we will be happy only if we get our own way. On paper somewhere the lights are designed with a motion sensor to make them stay on as long as there is movement in the room. But that doesn’t happen. It’s like serving God only with my words, but not with my actions.
Let’s look at the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3. King Nebuchadnezzar, desiring glory for himself, decided to build a large statue of gold. He invited all the princes, governors, captains, judges, treasurers, counsellors, sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, basically all the important people of his country, to come to the dedication of the image which he had set up. When everyone of these important people stood before the statue they were told that when the music played they were to bow down to the statue. If they didn’t bow down they would be thrown into the fiery furnace. I doubt these people were much different than most people. I’m sure they enjoyed their position in life. They didn’t want to rock the boat by not bowing down. In fact they had no reason not to bow down. Their king, the ruler of their country had commanded them to bow down, they would do as he commanded.
The music blared forth and as one the mass of people bowed to the ground in front of the image the king had created. Some maybe a little slower than others, they had spent their lives in service to the king and while possibly a little arthritis was slowing them down they weren’t going to let it stop them from obeying the king. But, wait there were three men who didn’t bow down. They stood erect, defying the order of the king. What was this? Three rulers in the country who refused to obey the king? If they couldn’t obey the orders of the king they were traitors and deserved the death awaiting them. In fact, the king became so angry he ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter. The kings strongest soldiers bound the traitors with ropes and threw them into the fire. The blazing heat from the furnace immediately killed the soldiers who threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into it.
I wish the Bible gave the account of the story from Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s perspective. What was it like to stand up for what you believed in so strongly that you were willing to die for it? What was it like to be thrown into the fire bound so tightly you couldn’t stand, only to have the ropes burn away. What was it like to walk in the fire with the Son of God himself? Could they feel the heat of the fire at all? When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire not even the hair on their head was singed. The only thing gone from when they had been thrown into the fire was the ropes that had bound them. There are times in life when only the fiery furnace of circumstances will burn away the ropes that bind us.
Nebuchadnezzar recognized the power of the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He actually promoted them for defying him. It’s not very often that an employee gets promoted for defying his boss. Though these three men didn’t face a fiery death in hopes they would receive a promotion. So why did they refuse to bow down to the idol? They were true children of God. As His true children, they saw God as their loving Father and were willing to give all and do all for their Father. We are more willing to do something sacrificial for a family member than for a stranger. If we are truly children of God we will be willing to follow Him with our actions and not just our words.
When the fiery furnace stands in front of me, what will I do? If I choose to stand alone under my own power, I will bow down to my wishes and my desires and goals in life. I will follow “Me” because I don’t have the power to do anything else. If I choose to give up “Me” and stand as a “We” with God, then with His power I will stand with Him, my Father, my family. We will stand together and I will not be alone. Even if bound by the ropes of others, when I stand with God, He will set me free.
The Bible doesn’t say it, but I imagine that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego thanked God for bringing them out of the fire. When you get down to the basics of it all they could also have thanked God for bringing them into the fire. “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1Thessalonians 5:18)
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) But, what is our purpose in life? I think that can be answered with Matthew 6:33; “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship anyone or anything but their Father in heaven they were seeking first the Kingdom of God.
A few months ago I decided to act on the knowledge of Romans 8:28, “all things work together for good” and put into practice 1Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks for all things.” When something happens that I don’t like I try to remember to thank God for it. Sometimes it’s relatively easy and I grin self-consciously to myself because I realize how silly I sound for giving thanks for something I don’t like. Other times it may take a few hours or even a few days before I can bring myself to say thank you for unpleasant circumstances. I recently experienced a circumstance that threw me completely off track for several days. I absolutely loathed and hated who I am. I finally got up one morning and my morning devotions put me back on track. Through much gritting of teeth I did manage to thank God for that circumstance and because of that have been set free from the ropes that bound me.
I challenge you today to give up the “M” in “me” and let God turn it upside down. Stand with God and become a “We” with Him. Become a part of God’s family. When we join forces with God and become part of His family our lives may get turned upside down. But only God and I together can withstand the fiery furnace of life.