Walking in the Favor of God: Fire

This week, we continue our message series, “Walking in the Favor of God.”   Last week, we began a journey with Daniel learning how despite horrific circumstances and an attempt to completely change the identity of young Daniel, he was able to walk both in the favor of God as well as his enemy, King Nebuchadnezzar.  Daniel revealed to us today how and when to draw the line between embracing the culture of the world and when to boldly cling to God’s Kingdom culture instead.

Since Daniel chose to completely trust in God alone, he served the very one who deeply wounded him with excellence.  God gave Daniel a word of knowledge regarding a dream that the king had as well as the interpretation.  This changed Daniel’s fate from a death sentence to this:

Daniel 2:46-49

46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. 47 The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”

48 Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. 49 Moreover, at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court.

This, however, is far from the end of the story.  King Nebuchadnezzar’s pride caused his repentance to be very short lived.

How many here have seen this happen?  God does something miraculous FOR someone, something that only He could do.  That person acknowledges  God for a little while, but then quickly go back to their old ways.

Unless we choose to surrender our lives to God, He cannot do something IN us.  No matter what He does FOR us, no matter how miraculous and undeniable, it will simply be a nice gesture.  It will not result in the powerful life transformation that God desires to do if we do not, in turn, give our lives to Him.

We’ve simply been introduced to Him.  He won’t do anything more than that without a genuine and sincere invitation from us.

That is exactly what happened to King Nebuchadnezzar.  He had a powerful encounter with God that left him in awe of God.  However, he did not allow God to do a powerful work in his life.  He admitted that God did something FOR him, but refused to allow God to do something IN him.

Daniel 3

God is with us.  What a simple, yet powerful and life-transforming truth!  God is with us.

Though not many of us will be thrown into a fiery furnace as we choose to faithfully worship God alone, we all will face the intense fires of life.  Those fires can easily be intense enough to consume us; our every thought and our entire being.

What we find in Daniel 3 that is not revealed in the video is that the furnace was heated up seven times hotter than it usually operated and that it killed the soldiers who threw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into the furnace.

What is also not in the video is the statement of faith given by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to the king in response to refusing to worship this statue:

  1. 16-18 “King 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 deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

God is able to deliver us, but even if He does not, we will still worship Him alone.  Wow!  During the intense fires of life, do we have this same resolve and commitment?  Will we choose when everything of this world is stolen away from us to respond like Job:

Job 1:20-21

He fell to the ground in worship and said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,

and naked I will depart.

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;

may the name of the Lord be praised.”

When God permits us to go through seasons of fire in life, it is not meant to destroy us!  His divine purpose and intent is to test, prove, and reveal our faith; to burn away the things of the world and to refine and purify us.

These fires in life are much like the fires that these three men faced.  They revealed to all who were watching that their God was with them and for them, even when facing difficulties and death itself.  God proves to be good to those who remain faithful to Him through it all.  He is always with us, even in the fire.

Though King Nebuchadnezzar’s faith in God was very short lived following the revealing and interpretation of his dream, it was rekindled as he watched the deliverance of God firsthand through the test of fire.

Daniel 3:28-29

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.  Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”

Your life is simply a testimony in the making.  The stage is simply being set for a miracle so tangible and undeniable that it can only be God alone who delivered you!

Right now, I believe that many of us are going through this season of life.  We’ve been thrown into the fire and there’s no way out except for God alone.  This is a season of shaking!

Hebrews 12:26-29

26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”

Our God is a consuming fire!  This shaking that we’re encountering is intended to shake off from us the things of the world.  It’s revealing to us the things of God versus the things of the world.  The things of the world are being shaken off of us so that the Kingdom of God alone, those things which are unshakable, remain.  We cannot cling to the old securities that we once held dear so that the only thing that we can put our hope and trust in is God alone!

In a few weeks, the next season of the TV series “Gold Rush” will begin.  It is amazing how much time, effort, and money is spent literally shaking off hundreds of thousands of tons of dirt just to find a few thousand ounces of gold.  Monster Red was able to push through 300 yards of dirt an hour, using 3,000 gallons of water per minute and it ran nearly 24/7 for months only to produce 300 ounces of gold in season 5.

When we’re in seasons of shaking by God, it is best to cling to Him instead of the things of this world and to wait and see what gold lies hidden within our own lives that He is trying to reveal.

How do we respond to this shaking and to the refining fire of God, though?  Just as Paul wrote, “let us be thankful and so worship God with reverence and awe.”  Instead of looking in agony and defeat at the things of this world that are being shaken away from us, let us stand in awe at God.  In the midst of great worldly loss, let us give thanks to our even greater Heavenly gain!

Our worship in this season can only be described as a sacrifice of praise.  That sacrifice of praise, however, connects us straight to the heart of God.  It leads us straight into the Presence of God and boldly before the throne of Jesus who makes all things new!

1 Peter 1:3-9

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Suffering grief and all kinds of trials are simply the refining fire of God.  How do we respond?  Though it runs contradictory to worldly reasoning, we respond by being filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, with extravagant worship because we believe in Jesus and know that we’re not alone in the fire.  He is right there with us and for us.  He is going to work all seasons of life, even the refining and shaking ones, together for our good and for His glory!  God is with us!

Moreover, it is these seasons of life which permit the raw power of the gospel to shine in our lives the most purely and effectively.  It is when we face trials that would crush and disable any ordinary person that the power and peace of God scream through our lives the loudest.  It is these times when all eyes are on us and everyone is watching our response that they see just how strong and mighty our God truly is.  Can being tormented by a demon glorify God?  Can difficulties and weaknesses point people to Jesus?  Ask Jesus, Himself!  Paul wrote:

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

7b Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Would anyone say that Paul was effective at leading people to Christ, planting churches, preaching God’s word, or living out the gospel?  Absolutely!  Just because God has permitted the enemy to torment us doesn’t mean that we need hide in shame as if though we are not representing Christ accurately.  In our weakness, the power of Christ rests on us.  We need not hide in shame and condemnation when the attack of the enemy overwhelms us.  We need to boast in our weaknesses and expose the work of the enemy!  There is no condemnation for those who trust in Jesus for their salvation!  Let your light shine, even if there is a little tarnish on the handle and scratches on the glass!

That thorn of the flesh?  It is exactly that, a mere flesh wound, a spiritual battle scar!  Don’t hide it in shame!  Weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, difficulties, Paul said that he delighted in them all.  Why?  For when we are weak, then we are strong!  When we are weak, everyone will know that it is the power of God alone at work.  It is Jesus alone who works powerfully in and through us!

We gain an increase of God’s favor when we choose to serve and worship Him regardless of the fires of life that we’re going through.  We gain an increase of man’s favor when they see His power at work in and through our lives!  It touches His heart when we fully surrender our lives to Him in fullness of trust especially when we have worldly reasoning not to trust Him.  He sees it, acknowledges it, and will come rushing in to bring Heaven on Earth.

He’ll display His mighty power through our weaknesses and difficulties.  The King of Glory always comes and midnight, but He is faithful!  Just like these three men, He may not come until the fire has fully engulfed us, but He will surely come to our rescue.  It may be at the midnight hour, but it is certain.  He doesn’t promise and not fulfill, He doesn’t speak and then not act, He is always good, always faithful, and always trustworthy!

This morning, let’s give Him some extravagant worship!  Let’s forget what we’re going through and remember who He is!  Let’s forget about looking dignified and dance like no one’s watching!  Let’s be a people who live by faith and not by sight!  Let’s lay it all down at His feet and keep our eyes fixed on Him, the author and perfect of our faith, the beginning and the end, the all-consuming, refining fire!