First, “Even if he does not,…”
King Nebuchadnezzar made an obnoxiously large seven-story golden statue. And at the dedication ceremony, he commanded all the officials to bow down and worship the image at the sound of some musical instruments. Because Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were officials, they too had to participate in this on-the-spot idol worship service. How terrible this must have been for them. They already had disgusting idolatrous names. And they didn’t even have any notice about this statue or worship procedures ahead of time. They were stuck between a rock and a hard place. There was no grey area at all, but they were faced with a black and white decision. If they did not bow down, they would be thrown into a blazing furnace.
Just by itself, a large golden statue was not very tempting for these three men to worship. It was a silly worthless idol—nothing appealing about it. But now, there was a lot at stake. At minimum, their future security and government jobs would be gone and their family members would be in big trouble if not killed. And most likely, these three men would die in the fiery furnace. They would lose everything. Surely, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not eager to have their lives go this way. Maybe bowing down to this silly idol now looked more appealing—even a logical solution. They could have justified doing so, saying, “Well, God wouldn’t want me to die over something so silly. He knows my heart.” But despite the great risk and even the ability to justify, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego firmly decided to maintain their integrity before God and refused to bow down. It was probably very awkward and obvious when they were the only ones who remained standing while everyone else bowed. But in this way, their decision was very clear. Wow! I can see that they really loved God. Many people can say they love God, but the test comes in what they are willing to sacrifice for His sake. In this day and age, most Christians can barely sacrifice 1.5 hours of their Sunday and 30 seconds before each meal for God. But these three put God before their lovely wives, precious children, and stable career. What kind of people could do something so crazy?! I see that this is the same kind of sincere love for God seen throughout the entire Bible. From Abraham to the prophets, the apostles, and Jesus Christ. And it’s the same kind of love that is so clearly displayed in God’s servants today.
I remember the first time I came to testimony sharing and actually paid attention to the testimonies. Shepherd Rafael shared about his long awaited doctor’s appointment that he scheduled to finally get some test results for his debilitating back pain. But when a student could only meet him at the exact same time of his doctor’s appointment, he rescheduled his appointment to meet with the student. And that student didn’t even show up to Bible study. I was so shocked. I would have been so angry if someone did that to me. But then he went on to say that if he had to go back, he would make the same choice again. I sat in my chair and thought, “Who are these people?” That testimony really touched my heart. And I even started to see that my shepherd had the same heart and struggle. And as I continued to come to testimony sharing, I realized that all the shepherds were this way. This kind of love and sacrifice was totally foreign to me. I could see that these people really loved God, because they were willing to sacrifice important appointments, special family gatherings, good job opportunities, and many other precious things in order to live as God worshippers.
So, what about me? Maybe the president of the United States has not constructed a tall golden image and commanded me to worship it. But there are many good-looking idols that society has faithfully worshipped for many years. Like career success, a comfortable life, family, and future security. Of course, I know those things are worthless to worship. I know my happiness does not come from those. But it’s quite different when those things are in my hands and serving God means losing them. When I am in a place where choosing God means losing something real and practical like a better paying job and a more comfortable future, it is not so easy to stand firm. And when my family life becomes a persecution mine field, it is tempting to go with the rest of the world to ease the situation. Recently, I was faced with a decision where I could either keep my commitment to Friday testimony sharing or go to my nephew’s wedding in Colorado. At first, I could easily justify it. “Well, it’s not Sunday worship service. I would never miss that. This is just Friday testimony.” But I remembered my personal commitment I made to God back in 2017—that I would come to Friday testimony sharing and Sunday worship service no matter what. I was very serious when I made that commitment to God. So I was encouraged to keep my purity in that way, even if it meant my family would rip me apart for not going to the wedding.
What Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did was a very bold and beautiful expression of their love for God. I pray that I too may always choose God over anything and everything. In this way, I can really show God how much he means to me. He means more to me than a career, a stable future, a beautiful family, and even a comfortable life. This week, I was so tired and falling asleep on my way to work in the morning. And I felt like a huge failure because I had not been praying as sincerely or working on my testimony as much as I should have. No matter how hard I tried, I was just so tired that I kept falling asleep. As I was telling God how awful I felt for not struggling harder, I heard the question, “Melissa, why are you so tired?” I was confused by this question. But I thought about it and answered, “Well Lord, I was up early for Bible study, worked all day, and got home late from Bible study.” When I said that out loud, I felt a wave of comfort. I sensed God wanted me to see that although I am weak and fail a lot, my small struggles of self-denial for his precious sheep are pleasing to him. I was so touched and encouraged—like God was giving me a big hug as I was driving on the freeway. I pray that I may always please God this way by choosing to serve him and take care of his sheep over all the good-looking idols of this world.
When the three men were brought before Nebuchadnezzar, amazingly, he did not kill them right away. Instead, he offered them one last chance to make things right. He gave his promise that if they bowed, they would be forgiven. But if they did not, they would be thrown into the furnace. Indeed, this is how Satan always tempts. The promise of a good future and a good life is the main message. His tactics have not changed since Genesis 3. The serpent told the woman in the garden, “You will not surely die, for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Pursuing future security through a career seems good. In fact, a good, high-paying career seems like the only path to security. So young people are constantly fed with the lie that this is what they must live for. On the flip side, there’s also the threat. If these three men did not bow down to the golden image, they would be thrown into the fire. Likewise, if anyone refuses to put their hope in a career for the sake of serving God, they are labeled losers, legalistic, or cult members. In regard to my school decision, my family members say, “Come on. Does God want you to be poor?” and “God helps those who help themselves.” Sometimes these things bother me and cause me to doubt my decisions. But I am greatly encouraged by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Even in that situation, when they had an easy exit strategy, they refused. They responded to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” It appeared that Nebuchadnezzar held their future security and lives in his hand. With one snap of his fingers, they would be thrown into the furnace. But they knew that their life was not in Nebuchadnezzar’s hands. And they made up their heart’s determination that no matter what, they would keep their purity before God. Wow! They were way cooler and stronger than any superhero you see in a Marvel movie. Clearly, they had a very real relationship with God. They were not guessing that their God could save them, but they had confidence that if it was God’s will, he could and would save them. But beyond that—even if God did not save them, they would still choose to worship him alone.
This is totally different from most people’s faith. They think if the situation turns out favorably, then God is good. They say things like, “God is in control. I surrender my life to him.” But if it goes terribly, they complain bitterly and say God is not good. But these three men trusted that God was good even if they were thrown into a fiery furnace and burned alive. Now that is faith. Sometimes I am very confident in God’s sovereignty over my life. When my job was at stake because of an investigation, I could freely say, “Yes Lord, even if I am fired, I trust you.” But when my family started to persecute me more and even threaten me, I was so bothered and my spiritual condition quickly sank. I don’t want to be like a house of cards that is easily blown over in a light breeze. But I want to be bold and strong like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Even if God does not deliver me from family persecution, I will stand firm no matter what. I will not worship their idols of career success and a comfortable family life, even if it means persecution will get worse. And I will not fight to defend myself or this ministry before them. Instead, I will serve God alone and even entrust their lives into God’s hands. In Bible study, it was said, “We serve God not because of the good things he gave us but because he is God.” I see that this is what Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were saying through their bold determination. I too will take my stand and serve God alone, even if he does not deliver me from the hardships and persecution.