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When Faith Is In The Fire

Daniel 3

The noose is tightening.  The war is getting hotter.  If our Lord tarries, we will have to learn to stand alone and teach our children to stand alone.  They're going to face a world different even from the one we're living in.   And I pray you are preparing now to be ready for it and preparing your children for it.

This month, we’ll look at how we can prepare ourselves and our children—mind, heart and spirit—for what lies ahead. We don’t know how much more time we have before His return, but we do know it will be difficult.

In the 4th century, an early Christian leader named Athanasius was confronted by the Roman emperor Theodosius. Athanasius was a bold, strong Christian who stood firm in his beliefs when others called him arrogant, stubborn, and narrow-minded. The emperor said to him, “Athanasius, the whole world is against you.” He replied, “Then Athanasius is against the whole world.”         

It takes courage to stand alone.  But more and more it will be necessary.  And if necessary now, how much more so for our children. We must teach them to stand for Jesus, the principles of God's Word, for truth and righteousness.

Turn to the book of Daniel. Most of our study will be in chapter 3—the familiar story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, thrown into the fiery furnace. They wouldn't budge, they wouldn't bow, and we found out they wouldn’t burn. 

But how did they find themselves in this situation in the first place? Were they sinning? Had they compromised with Babylon? Were they out of the will of God?

Turn back to Daniel 1.

1. Summarize—what happened back in Israel to cause Daniel and his three friends
to now be living in a foreign land and culture? (Daniel 1:1-4) ___________________
_______________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________

2. What kind of young men were they?

a. What sort of families did they come from? (v. 3) ____________________________
______________________________________________________________________

b. What does verse 3 tell us about their character? (v. 4) List some of their
character traits. ___________________    __________________________
___________________________, ________________________________

3. Although we don’t know for certain, we can surmise: how were these qualities worked into their character before they were uprooted from their homeland? _____________________________________________________________________

Common sense—and an understanding of human nature—tell us that they could not have withstood the persecution about to befall them if they had not been trained from their earliest youth by godly parents and/or adult mentors.

4. How did our 3 “Hebrew children” (as they are sometimes called) come by the names
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? (v. 7)____________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________________

5. Normally what happens to a young person taken from his home and culture, dropped into
a completely foreign land, and given a new name—what happens to his worldview?______
_____________________________________________________________________________

We are about to find out…

(1) If the training they received in early life served them well in the face of a fiery
furnace and certain death.

(2) What they had that kept them standing strong.

(3) How we must appropriate it for ourselves and teach it to our children.

Magnifying glassA CLOSER LOOK AT THE SETTING
 
Daniel is a book of prophecy and Nebuchadnezzar is a picture, an illustration, of the Antichrist, who will one day rule the world as Babylon was ruled by Nebuchadnezzar.  He will be the devil's Messiah, an incredibly wicked human being.

You say, “Well, I don’t have to worry about that—Christians are taken out of the world before the Antichrist comes.” I believe that. But the apostle John said in the 1st century, "Little children, it is the last time.  And as ye have heard that Antichrist shall come, even now there are many antichrists" (I John 2:28). You see the spirit of Antichrist working now in our world, permeating every aspect of our culture.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow to the pressures that were upon them. We all rejoice in that story.  But the Bible is not just a record of what God has done; it is a record of what God is doing.  It’s not merely a record of what God has said; it’s a record of what God is saying. Soon you and your children will find yourself in a “fiery furnace,” some incendiary circumstance.  Your faith will be in the fire, and like these young men, it will be necessary for you to stand alone. The example of these young men points to how you are going to do it.

The Fury They Faced

Turn now to Daniel 3, where things really begin to heat up.

Social pressure:

In these last days, there is incredible pressure to get people to conform. In Babylon, things were no different.

6. Who was commanded to worship the golden image? (Daniel 3:2-3)___­­­__________________

Government Enforcement:

7. (v. 6) And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be ______   ________________
into the midst of a burning fieryfurnace.”

If you do not fall in line, if you do not do what you're told to do in this day and age, you're going to be looked upon as an oddball—or worse.

We're moving quickly to a one-world government. The America we’ve known is being diluted and absorbed into a globalism spurred on by those who will not stand for what is right. Determined to make everyone conform, government more and more says, “We will arrest you for contempt of court,” or “We will take away your tax-exempt status because you’re in the way of progress.” And in other lands, Christians who do not bow are being persecuted—sometimes put to death.

8. Turn to John 16:2. In your own words, what is Jesus saying will happen in the last
days?
_______________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________

When you stand and say “The Bible says this is wrong and this is right,” you will be persecuted—or accused of “hate speech.”

9. Let’s consider for a moment why this is.  Why not just “live and let live”? Why wouldn’t a government be content to let people follow whatever faith they choose? Why would they care? _______________________________________________________________________

Think about this.

Christians are an annoyance to bad government. We get in the way—or slow it down. Christians have values—godly principles—that interfere with a wicked government. Bible-believing Christians oppose government-funded abortion. We are an annoyance. We oppose graft and corruption—that irritates certain politicians. We prefer leaders who live moral lives. That crimps the style of some—as we have recently seen.

10. A diabolical force is behind all this—Satan. Learn this about the devil: he does not want casualties, he wants converts:  “And whoever does not fall down and worship” (Daniel 3:6). The devil wants to be worshipped. The Antichrist will want to be worshipped.

Turn for a moment to Revelation13:7-8:

And it was given to him (Antichrist) to make war with the _____________ and __________________ them (governmental enforcement).  And power was given him (Antichrist) over all kindreds and tongues and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

This is the force we are up against even now, before the Tribulation. Satan was behind all of this in Daniel’s day—and he is behind it now. 

Back to Daniel 3: Nebuchadnezzar says, “You shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?”

Notice the spirit of Antichrist here, the contempt he has for God.

The Faith They Followed 

What helped these three young men stand alone? What will enable you? What will empower your children in the coming dark days?

A Settled Faith

11. Examine their response: (look at verses 16-18)

16“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17If that is the case, our _______ whom we serve is ________ to _____________ us from the burning fiery furnace, and He ______ ____________ _____ from your hand, O king. 18______ _____ ______, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

Pause here and transport yourself back into that moment.  We are standing there. We feel the heat from the furnace. What would I decide to do? What would you?

The average carnal Christian would advise, 
“When in Babylon, do as the Babylonians do. Go along to get along. Better to compromise a little bit here and live a little longer so you can do some more good, than simply be stubborn. Christians are supposed to get along with everybody and everything. So don't stand alone.”

But these men did and how did they do it? Their settled faith.

Magnifying glassA CLOSER LOOK AT COURAGE

Adrian Rogers paraphrased their response this way:

“We don't have to get in huddle. We don’t we don't have to ponder it.  We don't we don't have to say, ‘Now, king, give us a night to sleep on it.’ We don't have to have a committee meeting.”

They had God's Word hidden in their hearts. They already knew what was right. They already knew what was wrong.  Let me tell you something, dear friend: there too many of you spending too much time trying to make up your mind what you’re going to do about this thing and that thing.  One of the greatest things I’ve learned in life is this: one big decision will keep you from having to make a lot of little ones. Just make one big one. When you make a certain decision, when you say “this is right and this is wrong,” and then Nebuchadnezzar says, “What are you going to do?” you say, “Hey, I don't have to think about it.” Their faith was a settled faith.

A Strong Faith

12. Look again in verse 17. They said, “…our God is ________.” 

You must believe that. When the enemy says “Who is that God that shall deliver thee?” you must have a strong faith.

13. Turn to Psalm 50:15

Call upon Me in the day of _______________; I will _____________ thee and thou shalt ________________ Me.  That is the word of a holy God.

Sometimes our troubles have a purpose beyond the immediate moment we’re in—beyond what our eyes can see. At the time, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego probably weren’t looking ahead thousands of years into the future, thinking,

“Centuries from now, folks are going to be saying, ‘Look how they glorified God,’ so let’s be brave.”

 No, the heat focused their minds on the moment.

Yet centuries later they—

  • show us how we must have a strong faith 
  • remind us that our choices in a crisis either will or will not bring glory to God.
  • prove that God is all-powerful, able to deliver us through our crisis
  • encourage us that if we are found faithful, He will deliver us in a way that we bring glory to Him.

As the Steve Green song goes, “May all who come behind us find us faithful.”

He will deliver us. If He doesn't deliver us through the fire, He'll deliver us in the fire. But He will deliver us.

A Steadfast Faith

14. Look again at verse 18: What are the first three words?

“_____ ____ ______, be it known unto thee O king, we will not serve thy gods nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up”

Again, Adrian Rogers gave his own translation of what these boys were saying:

“God is able to deliver us. We don't have any doubt about that. And He will deliver us, no doubt about that. But if not, we're not going to serve your gods. We're not going to worship your image. When you throw us like chips of wood into a fiery furnace, if we're consumed, fine. We're still not going to worship your god, Nebuchadnezzar.”

They don't have any doubt to God's power. It may happen that God in His sovereignty may want these boys to die in the flames.  You can die in the flames. 

Now let me ask you a question.  Does your faith have an “if not” clause in it?  “Our God is able to deliver us,” we all like that.  We all believe that.  But if He doesn't, are you still going to serve Him? 

Does Your Faith Have An “If-Not” Clause?  

Now we're getting down to the nitty-gritty.

Turn to the book of Hebrews, to the famous 11th chapter, which is often called “The Roll Call of Faith” or “Heroes of Faith Hall of Fame.” Here Paul recounts the great stories of heroes of faith.

15. Beginning with verse 1, how many verses report the victories of faith? (down to what verse)? ______

16. What happens halfway through verse 35? ___________________________________
__________________________________________________________________________

The words “and others” kind of grabs us, doesn’t it?

We relish hearing about Daniel and the lion’s den, David and Goliath, our Lord raising the dead and healing the sick, Peter coming out of prison. But the writer of Hebrews would be less than honest if he stopped there.

17. Continuing in Hebrews 11:

35And others were _______________, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36And others had a _________ of cruel _______________ and scourgings, yea, moreover of __________ and _____________________. 37They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were ___________ with the ___________: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being _______________, _______________, _________________; 38(of whom the world was not worthy) they wandered in deserts in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39These all, having obtained a good report through faith…. (v. 35-39)

Consider what we hear is occurring right now to Christian believers worldwide. In Iran an American-citizen pastor of Iranian descent is unlawfully being imprisoned; nuns in Egypt are paraded through the streets; more than 60 Christian churches burned in recent days in Egypt alone; reports from Nigeria that Christians—including children— are being systematically murdered by roving squads of extremists. An internet search of current persecution reveals that Hebrews 11 is taking place today.

You say, “Well if they just had enough faith, they’d be delivered. Oh no. Hebrews 11 tells us that these believers in Bible times received an “A” on their report card through faith.  And they were not delivered in the way you and I would call deliverance.

18. In verse 38, what does God say about these martyrs of verses 35-37…how does God rank them? (see the parenthesis) _______________________________________________________

What a compliment from Almighty God.

19. Turn to 2 Timothy 4:8. Don’t miss this. This is an aside, but let’s look at a good companion verse, one we’ve looked at before. It was written by the apostle Paul. Almost the last words that ever came from his pen:

“Henceforth there is _______  ____ for me a ___________ of ______________, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.”

a. The term “is laid up for me” implies both past tense and present tense. The crown “is laid up.” It’s there—present tense. “Laid up” implies an action that has already taken place. The crown “is” (right now) “laid up” (it’s there waiting because God has already placed it there).

b. Do you think this is a literal crown or just a figurative one?___________________

c. Have you ever put something on “lay-away”?  If you “lay something up” for someone, what thoughts go through your mind as you do that? We know God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9), so we do not want to presume, but using our Holy Spirit-directed imagination, what do you think God’s thoughts were as He laid up that crown for Paul—and all those who “love His appearing”—including our heroes in Hebrews 11? _________________________________________________________________________
_________________________________________________________________________

d. The saints in Hebrews 11:35-38 suffered unspeakably. Do you think that when they passed through their trials and arrived in heaven that they deemed what they went through as “worth it”? (You can ask them one day when you arrive.) ____________
We’re not making light here. This is serious business. Christians today are suffering in this manner. 

Friend, when you are staring down death—the executioner’s sword, the doctor’s diagnosis, the challenge to recant your faith to save your life, the choice to “go along to get along” with the crowd at work or school—what will be your response?

A direct quote from Dr. Rogers and a passage from Romans answer that and bring this month’s study to a meaningful close:

     “These three Hebrew boys, they knew. They said ‘Our God is able and He's going to deliver us. He may not keep us out of your fiery furnace and He may not keep us alive in the furnace. That’s OK.  We're still not going to bow.  We're not going to budge.’

“All these by faith received a good report.”  Now, my dear friend, listen to me and listen big, straight, and plain. It’s is one thing to have faith to escape. It's another to have faith to endure. It's one thing to be sick and have faith to be healed. It's another to be sick, not be healed, and still praise God. It’s one thing to be delivered.  It's another to die—and all by faith. That takes greater faith. 

     “What are you living out in your own life right now? What are you modeling for your children? What are you teaching your children and grandchildren in these days?

     “There better be an 'if not' clause in your contract with God.  Our God is able to deliver us, and if He doesn't deliver us it's not because He can't. 

     “Friend, I just want to tell you that God is a sovereign God and God knows what is best. God may not always deliver you from your trials and your tribulations and your temptations.  If He doesn't, what are you to do?  Just stand.  Just stand by faith. 
“Faith is not primarily receiving from God what you want.  It is accepting from God what He gives.  These boys have a settled faith.  We don't have to worry about it.  A strong faith.  Our God is able.  A steadfast faith. ‘Even if He doesn't deliver us, we're not going to bow, we're not going to budge, we're not going to bend.  We may burn, but our God will deliver us out of your hand.’
“There is a God in heaven who will take care of you in the fire or through the fire. I love Romans 8:35—39:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written, “For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.
38For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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