This is a story most of us became acquainted with in the early days of our religious education. Maybe it was in the Beginners’ Class, or perhaps it was during Vacation Bible School that we were first exposed to the three Hebrew boys named Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Back then, we marveled at their courage, we were amazed that God would protect them and we learned to fear pagan kings, who held the power of life and death in their Hands.
As we grew and came to know the Lord in a personal way, many of us began to experience pressure being applied on our walk with God by the world, the flesh and the devil. Most of us have come to understand the truth that this thing called the Christian life is difficult! We have found that we are at odds with the world and how they live, Rom. 12:2. We are at odds with the devil and what he wants, 2 Pet. 5:8. We are even at odds with the flesh we live in and what it wants to do (Gal. 5:17).
With all of this conflict, there comes the temptation to conform to all the influences around us and go the way of the world, the flesh and the Devil. That is what much of the so-called Christian community is doing! We see churches, homes, families, and individuals who have left the high road of separation and have sold out to the world, the flesh and the devil.
That is why this story about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is so needed in our day. These men teach us the valuable lesson that it is possible to be on fire for God when most of those around us are headed for the fires of Hell. These verses teach us How To Get On Fire For God! Friends, where there is genuine faith in Jesus Christ, there is fire! Our enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil will try to extinguish our flames and mold us in their image, but we can live for God! We can stand and we can be on fire for God in these days. These verses tell us how! Will you join me as we look at these steps today?
Determining to be Different (Daniel 3:1-7)
Understanding the context
Evidently, Nebuchadnezzar had not been content with Daniel’s interpretation in chapter 2, and he wanted to establish his kingdom forever. So, he made an image of solid gold. He set himself up as a god to be worshiped. His decree was for all men to bow to him. Those who didn’t were to be sentenced to a death by fire in a furnace. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego faced a serious dilemma. There were temptations they had to overcome in three specific areas. By the way, these are the same areas also faced by the child of God in our world today:
1. There was the Temptation for them to Guard their Positions
There was the temptation to look after self in this matter and guard their personal interests. They may have been tempted to say, “After all, we are in positions of great influence in the kingdom, 2:49. Who knows what we can accomplish for God? But, if we get ourselves killed, we will be of no use them.”
2. There was the temptation for them to Avoid Persecution
According to verse 6, anyone who refused to bow was to be burned! No one relishes the thought of that happening to them. They may have been tempted to say, “A living dog is better than a dead lion! Isn’t it better to be a living coward than a dead hero? Besides, that furnace looks like a painful way to go. Surely God does not intend for His children to suffer like that!”
3. There was the temptation for them to Conform to their Peers
There was the temptation for them to be like everyone else. Perhaps there was the temptation to say, “After all, all the other people here are bowing. What’s it going to hurt? I will just bow on the outside, but I’ll be standing in my heart.”
Whether they faced such temptations or not is purely a matter of speculation. However, you and I certainly do think in the manner I just illustrated. We have a tendency to seek that which is best for self in any situation. While that may be true, if we want to make an impact for God in the world around us, then we must be different! Notice how these three men were different in their day. The same needs to be true concerning every child of God today!
Some Lessons that we can learn from them
A. Determined to Be Separated
These three men were willing to be different from everyone else who was around them. There aren’t many in this day who are willing to be different. Yet, this is just what we need in our day! Think about it. Who wants to be called weird? That is why people follow the fads in hairstyles and clothing. That’s why everyone learns the newest terms and hip expressions. That’s why millions get hooked on the same television shows. We don’t want to be different! We all want to know the same things, look the same, talk the same and act the same as everyone else around us. Nobody wants to be different! But, that’s just what the Lord has called us to be (2 Cor. 6:17). God wants His people to look different, to talk different, to think different, to appear different, to act different than the lost world around us. He wants us to be separated! In fact, He wants us to be so different, to stand out so much that we draw the world’s attention to Him (Matt. 5:13-16). God really does want us to be a peculiar People (Titus 2:4).
B. Determined to take a Stand for God
While everyone else in Babylon was bowing before Nebuchadnezzar’s idol, these three men were standing straight as arrows. Why not just “Bow and repent?” Millions do that everyday! Not these men! They had made up their minds that they would not bow and they didn’t! Certainly, theirs is a good example for believers in this age! There are some things that are wrong! It doesn’t matter who may be for them, they are still wrong, and we need to make up our minds that we will take a stand against that which is wrong and for that which is right. God’s call for us is that we stand firm (1 Cor. 15:58; Eph. 6:10-18).
C. Determine to be different (Daniel 3: 8-15)
When these fellows refused to bow before that idol, some other folks, who were just jealous of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, went and told the king. As a result, these men were called on the carpet and given another chance to do it the king’s way! While they chose to be different when they were with the crowd, here they choose to be determined when they stand in the presence of the king. Their determination stands as an example to each of us today.
– Be different in Spite of Insinuation (Daniel 3: 8-12)
These verses tell us that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were accused of being enemies of the king. It is true that they would not worship the king’s image, but they were faithful servants of the king. However, where the king’s commands violated the commands of God, they chose God’s way over man’s way! Friends, when you decide that you are tired of the world’s games and you begin to stand for Jesus, you can count on the world turning against you (2 Tim. 3:12). The rational is that they hated Jesus and they will hate His people as well (Luke 23:31; Matt. 10:24-25).
But, when they rise up against you, be determined that you will stand for Jesus! When the time came He stood for us. The least we can do is stand for Him!
– Be different in Spite of Interrogation (Daniel 3: 13-14)
Nebuchadnezzar seems to be offering these boys a chance to save face. He gives them to bow where no one else would have the opportunity to see them do it. I can almost hear him whisper, “I know you boys are believers in the God of the Hebrews. But, nobody’s looking right now. Why not just bow down real quick and it will all be over? You can keep your jobs and people will still respect your testimony.” Even if Nebuchadnezer didn’t offer them the opportunity to save face, he was certainly offering them the chance to save their hides (v. 15). Yet, they stood and determined to stand for God even when they were under the gun!
There will be times when the world will try to pin us down about what we believe. They will tighten the screws on us and try to make us squirm because we think differently than they do. My friends, I submit to you that we have no reason to back away from what we are. We have no reason to be ashamed of what we are. We have no reason to be ashamed of Who we belong to. The advice Peter gave us 2,000 years ago is still just as valid today, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.” (1 Peter 3:15-16). Therefore, even when the world doesn’t understand you, be determined to stand for God anyway!
– Be different in Spite of Intimidation (Daniel 3: 15)
In these verses, Nebuchadnezzar really tightens the screws on our three friends. He reminds them that they face a terrible death at his hands. He is even quick to point out that God can’t save them! He is trying to intimidate them into bowing before his idol. Notice how they respond to his threats (v. 16-18). In effect, they are saying that this is not their problem! Whether they live or die depends entirely upon the will of the Lord. In fact, they seem perfectly content to do either! In their resolve they remind me of Job (Job 13:15 and of Paul, Phil. 1:21).
The example they set for us is priceless! These men loved God and could not even be intimidated into doing something they knew was evil! God helps us to stand even when the world, the flesh and the devil all start to growl at us and threaten us with harm. We are the Lord’s and He will see to us! What we do not want to miss is the truth that regardless of what Nebuchadnezzar threw at these men, they just stood their ground! What a lesson for us! We live in a day when many churches and professing Christians are crumbling under pressure from the world. If there ever was a day when we determined we would stand, it is this day in which we live)! Do you want to get on fire for God? Then Be Different and Be Determined.
Let’s face it, there are times when we are faced with the fire! Sometimes, if we were honest, we would have to admit that we backed down instead of facing the flame. Maybe that describes you! If so, you can come to the Lord today and get forgiveness for that things and take your stand with Him.
Others of you are more like Nebuchadnezzer than you are the three Hebrews. By that I mean, you only have a nodding acquaintance with God. You know Who He is, but you do not have a relationship with Him. Friend, you just need to be saved. Wherever this message has found you today, you need to deal with it before the Lord. There is hope and there is help in His altar. Will you come to Him as He calls for you?