Do You Feel the Burn?
Do you feel the burn? I’m serious, do you feel the burn?
No, I’m not some athletic trainer trying to make sure that you’ll be sore tomorrow, but I do want to know if you are feeling the burn too. You know the burn of past struggles that is still haunting you or the suffocating smoke of the never ending to do list. Maybe you are feeling the heat and pressure of living up to expectations of the world. I don’t know about you, but maybe I feel more than just a burn. It might be more like, I feel like I’m on a cookie sheet in an oven and the oven is on fire in the middle of a volcano.
You’re not the only one who was put in a hot situation. Three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not just feeling the burn, they were feeling a fiery furnace.
The three young men were smart, talented, and scholarly, but more importantly they were Israelites living in a foreign land working for the brutal (and maybe crazy) King Nebuchadnezzer. That is where our story starts. One day, on a whim King Nebuchadnezzer decided to build a 90 foot gold statue.
Because a king of a country has nothing better to do with his time…
He was so proud of his accomplishment of ordering other people around to build this statue that he sent word to all the provinces of the land to attend the dedication of it. All the high officials and fancy people of the land came to the fancy party for the fancy statue.
The proud king smiled as he announced, “When you hear the special music, you must bow down and worship the statue. If you don’t, you will be sent to your death in the fiery furnace.” If you ask me, it all seemed a little dramatic.
And this is where our scholarly Jews with funny names come in. They were so smart that they outranked some of the Chaldeans or local people in the king’s court. Those locals were out to get Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, because what is more offensive than the captive Jews taking your job in the land where you grew up. In their malicious quest to take down the Jews, they said to the king, “We’ve heard that those Jews don’t worship your fancy statue. We’ve heard that they worship their own God.”
King Nebuchadnezzer was offended. In a furious rage like an irrational toddler he ordered to bring the three man to him. All red in the face, he yelled, “Is it true that you won’t worship the statue that I made? You know that if you don’t do it, you will be burned alive, right? Who is this god that you worship? Can he save you from my wrath?” No matter what the king said, Shadrach, Meshach, Abendego were not going to worship a god that was not the one, true God of their fathers.
So the crazy king ordered the furnace to be heated to seven times hotter than normal. It was so hot that the guards who threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the furnace died from the heat.
I wonder what the king was thinking. Was he waiting to hear their screams? Did he have an ounce of regret? He didn’t have much time to think before he said, “Didn’t we only throw three men in? I see four people in there and the fourth looks like some sort of god. In fact, they aren’t even bound anymore, they are just walking around in there!”
They called the men out and sure enough, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendego were fine. Their clothes weren’t even singed. In awe, the king praised the God of the Jews and said that there is no God who could deliver like him. Then he threatened that if any person disrespected the God of the Jews, the person would be ripped limb from limb and his house made a garbage dump. (Again, King Nebuchadnezzer was a drama queen.)
I promise I had a reason for telling you this story. It wasn’t to learn about the crazy antics of ancient kings, or to teach you that we don’t need firefighters because God will save you from fires. At this point in my life, I read it and immediately thought, God could have extinguished the flames. He could have removed the men from the flames, instead he left them in that situation and joined them. It hit me hard.
As I looked at my own life, I realized that God doesn’t remove the challenges from my life, but he does promise to be with me through the challenges.
When I feel the pressure of life, sometimes it feels like a fiery furnace. The stress, the to-do lists, the pressure of the people around me, it is all as suffocating as sitting in a million degree bonfire. Those struggles turn me into a batch of cookies that has been in the oven for five hours: burnt, overdone, and worthless. My overwhelmed soul can beg God to take me out of the fire, but instead he says, “No”.
As much as that isn’t what I want, he continues, “Before you pout and complain, look around in the flames, my dear child. Do you see me standing by your side? Do you see my hand in your life? How can you be scared when I’m right here next to you.”
Sometimes it isn’t about God stopping the bad things in your life, it’s about who is there with you. I can feel the burn from the fire, yet I don’t burn up. It is only by a miracle of God that the three men didn’t die. In the same way, it’s a miracle that I make it through the rough days of my life. I don’t know about you, but if I had to save myself from the turmoil of this world, I would have lost it years ago.
Knowing that I’m not alone in the furnace makes the difference. The hope of deliverance from a Savior that never fails is the only thing that my soul can cling to when I’m thrown into a furnace of trials.
Sometimes, God lets you be thrown into the furnace to prove a point to those who threw you in. The public miracle of the true God caused even the most pagan cultures to see the power of a God that isn’t a rock or statue. The way that we handle our challenges is seen by others.
My prayer is that when people see me in tough situations, they wonder how I can handle it with so much love, patience, and joy. When I trust that he will carry me through, my actions look different. They shine with the hope of God’s plan. They radiate the joy of salvation. They glow with the love my Savior.
God will use those days in the furnace to show others what it’s like to live in the love of Jesus.
In the end, nothing can separate us from the love of God. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked into the furnace, they didn’t know that God was going to save them from the flames. To them, death was coming and it was coming in hot. What they did know, is that God loved them and even death couldn’t take away that love.
The same can be said for you. There is nothing you can do to lose the love of Christ. There is no bad day and no personal struggle that would take away his love.
Think Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Paul was serious when he wrote those words, so treasure that truth in your heart, shine for Jesus, and remember that you aren’t alone in whatever fiery furnace you find yourself in.