The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Walking Through Fire’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 12/3/2017, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.
‘Tis the Season
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. – 1 Pet 4:12-13
The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas is an amazing & exciting time of year. We make plans to spend time with friends and loved ones. We contemplate the Advent season as we get ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We put finishing touches on one year, and get ready to launch confidently into the next.
But for some people, the holidays can be a very difficult time of year. Many of our CityLight family have lost loved ones around Thanksgiving and Christmas. In fact, for whatever reason, almost every funeral I’ve officiated has been around this time of year. This final month seems to be a prime time for people who have been struggling with terminal illness to let go and decide it’s time to go and be with Jesus.
For some people, the holidays can be a reminder of struggles with money. While the rest of the world is shopping and celebrating, there are those who are faced with the stark reality that they don’t have money to get the gifts they wish they could afford. This final month of the year is a prime time for businesses to lay off workers; after all, when I was laid off from a job years ago, it happened the week after Thanksgiving. I worked all year for a year-end bonus that never came!
This message is for anyone who is experiencing a hard time this holiday season. In an effort to reach anyone who really needs some encouragement, today we are talking about what to do when life comes at you hard.
Jesus warns his disciples that adversity would come. Peter reminds us (1 Pet 4:12-13) that we shouldn’t think of “fiery trials” as something “strange” that makes us question God’s love for us. In fact, he says, we should “rejoice!” So how do we rejoice through life’s fiery trials? More often than not, fiery trials are inevitable: death happens, layoffs come, and money is just sometimes tight. But what you find in the fire is up to you.
One of my favorite instances of a fiery trial in Scripture takes place in Daniel 3. God’s people are in exile in Babylon. Daniel and his three friends – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego – have all been selected by the Babylonian king to serve as provincial governors. Yet before these men can even get the chance to enjoy the favor they are experiencing from God, the fiery trial starts.
In Daniel 3:1, the Babylonian king sets up an idol for his people to worship. Yet Daniel’s friends refuse to bow down to it. The king was not happy when he found out:
Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, 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?”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, 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.” – Dan 3:13-18
Step One: Stand Your Ground
What should you do in a fiery trial? Stand your ground. Nebuchadnezzar was going to give them one last chance to bow down and serve this false god; yet Daniel’s friends cut him off. Don’t waste your breath, they said. It’s not going to happen.
Whenever we’re going through a trial, we must stand our ground. If you stand on God’s word, He promises to protect you…
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? – Ps 118:5-6
…but if you don’t stand on the word, you aren’t standing on solid ground at all!
Trust God. Trust that He gave you His word on purpose. Trust that He knows what He’s doing! Trust that He will deliver you when you stand up for what is right. Don’t allow the enemy one inch of wiggle room. God still loves you, and He will deliver you from this mess!
Needless to say, the king was not happy with their response:
Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. And he commanded certain mighty men of valor who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their coats, their trousers, their turbans, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore, because the king’s command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. – Dan 3:19-23
Step Two: Surround Yourself with Good Friends
What should you do in a fiery trial? Surround yourself with good friends. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego didn’t have to worry about standing on their own. If they were going down, they were all going down together.
Are your friends willing to pass through the fire with you? Or do they run at the first hint of flame? Do you have fair-weather friends who only want to be around you when things are going well? Or fire-worthy friends who are willing to get tossed in the furnace with you?
This is why the church exists, by the way. We come to church to worship God, yes; but one of the beautiful by-products is God surrounds us with other people with whom we can make lasting and permanent connections. People who will stand with us. People who will pass through the fire with us. People who will hold their ground in prayer, and contend for God’s best with you over your life!
Nebuchadnezzar really turned up the heat. He made the fire seven times hotter than normal. Even the “mighty men of valor” (v 20) who threw Daniel’s friends into the fire went up in smoke. But these three friends had God on their side, and they had each other; and that meant they had nothing to fear.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” – Dan 3:24-25
Step Three: Stay Close to Jesus
What should you do in a fiery trial? Stay close to Jesus. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego didn’t avoid the fire. However, they trusted that Jesus would meet them in it.
Some Bible scholars look at verse 25 and say that an angel met Daniel’s friends in the furnace. Others, however, say it was Jesus Himself. Matthew Henry puts it this way:
“But some think it was the eternal Son of God, the angel of the covenant, and not a created angel. He appeared often in our nature before he assumed it in his incarnation…”
When you have Jesus – no matter how hot the flames – you will come out alive! When you have Jesus – no matter what the odds – you have nothing to fear!
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. – Is 43:2
God didn’t leave Daniel’s friends in the fire; He met them there! And because God was with them, the fire had “no power” over them:
Then Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and spoke, saying, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here.” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came from the midst of the fire. And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them. – Dan 3:26, 27
Finding in the Fire
Fiery trials will happen; but what you find in the fire is up to you.
The men who threw Daniel’s friends into the fire wanted them dead! But God had a different plan. Not only did they keep their lives; God also promoted them!
Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the province of Babylon. – Dan 3:30
What the enemy intends for evil, God will use for good. This is one of the recurrent themes in the Book of Daniel. In Daniel 6, Daniel is thrown into the lion’s den as punishment for devoutly praying to God; yet Daniel survives, and the enemies who tried to kill him wind up dead instead!
God doesn’t cause the fire; but He will use it for His glory. Whenever you pass through a fiery trial, do not fear. Ask God, “Lord, what are you up to here? How are you going to turn this around for my good?”
Daniel’s friends went into the fire bound; but they came out free:
“Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose… – Dan 3:24-25
The fiery furnace actually burned up the very cords that were holding them captive. You see, clinging to Jesus in the midst of a trial makes you free like nothing else can. When we cling to God, no matter what, supernatural growth takes place. Sometimes we pray for God to deliver us from the fire, when what we should be praying for is freedom in the fire.
No matter what you’re going through, trust God. He will take whatever you are going through, and make you free. He will use what everyone else sees as disaster, and turn it around for you in the end.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. – Rom 8:28-29
© Michael D. White, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.