character, convictions get tested, courage, Daniel, Daniel 3:8-18, is my faith for sale?, Meshach and Abed-nego, Nebuchadnezzar, no blame, prevent them from changing me, prophet, Shadrach, sold out, what you do when no one is looking
Yesterday, I blogged about how Daniel took a stand on not defiling himself with the food off the King’s table. It is a good thing when believers develop convictions and standards. What most don’t realize is those same principled convictions will get tested and tried. Listen to what eventually happened to Daniel’s buddies.
12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.”
…. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. 17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:8-18
As I said, every principled conviction we possess will eventually get tested. These men purposed not to bow down and worship idols… even the King. The punishment in this case was to be thrown into an instant crematorium. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed nego were not even phased by this threat. They didn’t blame God and they didn’t blame others. They stood on their principles and left the results to the Lord.
Here is the point… We are only able to withstand the tests and temptations of life when we internally value our relationship to God more than what we potentially have to lose in the flesh. Effective service in God’s Kingdom means we are willing to surrender everything in order to faithfully promote the Lord’s work. Even though it appeared that Nebuchadnezzar and his officials were in charge, the Lord was actually calling all the shots… He was in control of everything. Someone once said:
- He’s all the direction we ever needed: He is THE WAY.
- He’s all the revelation we ever needed: He is THE TRUTH.
- He’s all the fulfillment we ever needed: He is THE LIFE.
Character has been defined as “what you do when no one is looking.” When no one was looking these young men made a conviction not to defile themselves. When no one was looking these young boys made a principled conviction to follow God’s command not to worship any other gods except Jehovah.
So what would you have done when the test and temptation came to abandon your convictions in order to save your life? Surely God would have understood because your life was at stake. No, God doesn’t understand. He knows your character will grow as you take a stand on your convictions. The reality is you make these types of character decisions everyday in big and small ways. Every day you make choices that show whether you are courageous or cowardly. You choose between the right thing and the convenient thing. You stick to your convictions or you cave in for the sake of comfort, greed, or approval.
The big question we all need to ask and answer is… Is my faith for sale? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego proved they couldn’t be bought for any price. Most believers will stop having a quiet time for a few extra moments of “sleep”, much less a king ordering them to do so. It takes over 200 gallons of water to baptize a believer and just a few drops of water to keep that same believer from attending church on any given Sunday. What will cause you to forfeit your allegiance?
Somewhere in the “Believer’s Dictionary” is the definition for the phrase “sold out“. Being sold out means that no price in this world will buy or steal your affections from God. It takes real courage to be a Christian. You hear some people say that being a Christian is for weak people, cowards, old ladies, and sissy’s. The truth is it takes courage to own up and confess to your sins. It’s not easy to repent and be honest before a Holy God. In reality, cowards are weeded out in the beginning. Our faith continues to be forged day-in and day-out when we stand on our convictions and principles.
A prophet once came to a city to convert its inhabitants. At first the people listened to his sermons, but they gradually drifted away until there was not a single soul to hear the prophet when he spoke. One day a traveler said to him, “Why do you go on preaching?” The prophet said, “In the beginning I hoped to change these people. If I still shout, it is only to prevent them from changing me.”
This is the question we all have to ask and answer… Is my faith changing my environment or is my environment changing my faith and altering my beliefs?