Today’s message from Daniel 3 is about preparing for the pain in your life. If you needed a lung transplant, before any surgery could be approved to place you with a match, an additional assessment would be done by the medical staff to determine whether or not you would be equipped to take care of the new orgran (i.e. not smoking, being able to afford the medication, having a support system of family and friends to support you, etc.) Just as a patient would need to prepare to take on the trauma of having a new lung or an athlete would need to train her body for an upcoming race, you need to spiritually prepare for trials in your life.
Just as an athlete would need to train her body for an upcoming race, you need to spiritually prepare for trials in your life.
Today’s scripture from the book of Daniel describes men after God’s heart -- men who were spiritually prepared to handle trial, even unto death. Pastor Miles challenged that as you read through these stories of God’s people being challenged by the culture around them, place yourself in the story. What parallels can you draw between the actions and attitudes of the men in the Bible and your own?
In 606 BC, Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem and took many Jews captive, four of which were Daniel, Shadrach (Hananiah), Meshach (Mishael), and Abed-Nego (Azariah). These men were together through thick and thin - and they are still together in this story, though 20 years had passed. (Daniel is not a main character in this story, but his role in their lives was still important.) Eventually, these four men were brought to the king’s palace to serve and be educated according to the Chaldean culture. Immediately, they were faced with actions that defied their beliefs and practices as children of Israel.
But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Daniel 1:8
So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king’s delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants.” Daniel 1:11-13
And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies. Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.Daniel 1:15-16
As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Daniel 1:17
And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm. Daniel 1:20
Some time later, the king had a dream that could not be interpreted. In his anger, he sent a decree to kill all the advisors who could not interpret correctly. But Daniel prayed to God, who revealed the dream’s meaning to him, so Daniel went to the king and offered the interpretation so that he would not continue killing the wise men.
Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon. Also Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king. Daniel 2:48-49
After this promotion took place, king Nebuchadnezzar made a golden statue and set a decree...'you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace'. Daniel 3:5-6.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego refused to bow to the idol because their loyalty was to God; bowing to idols was not part of their spiritual disciplines. So some of the Chaldeans reported them to the king. When they were brought before him, their faith stood firm:
“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.” 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. Daniel 3:16-20
The fire was so hot, in fact, that its flames actually killed the men who brought Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego down to throw them in.
And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 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.” Daniel 3:23-25
God was blessed by these three men who were willing to die in order not to dishonor Him. They knew that He had been faithful in the past and that He would be faithful again. Looking to the example of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, here are three things you should put in place in preparation for the pain and trials that will come into your own life:
1. Friends that stick closer than brothers / sisters. Daniel 1:6-7, Proverbs 27:17, Proverbs 18:24
Thirteen times in this passage we read the names of these friends together: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. God wants you to know they were standing firm together the whole time.
True friends will support you when times are hard. They will remind you of who you are in Christ and encourage you. As iron sharpens iron, a good friend doesn’t just tell you what you want to hear, but is willing to tell you when you are wrong and hold you up to a higher standard. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were this kind of friend to each other.
Who is in your life that will pray for you and encourage you in hard times? The reason our church has life groups is to have a group of people in your life who can be there for you in advance of pain, in pain, and through pain.
2. Consistent spiritual disciplines. Daniel 1:11-13, Daniel 2:16-17, Daniel 6:10
Whenever Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were in trial, they always returned to the spiritual disciplines, which were their habits. They did not allow the pagan world into which they were kidnapped poison or distract them from their spiritual disciplines. They prayed regularly to the one true God, so when the time came, they were able to stand up to the most powerful man in the world, even in the face of death.
You may not be facing death for your faith today, but you will face temptations and trials. If you’re going to face them with boldness, you have to predetermine each day before you get out of bed what you do and do not do. Don’t get up and say, “Whatever.” Instead, tell God in advance, “I’m serving you today. I’m going to pray. I’m going to spend time in your Word and listen to your voice. If I’m tempted, I’m going to contact ___________. If I am bothered by _________, I am going to call my friend __________ for support.”
3. Examples of God’s miraculous faithfulness. Daniel 1:19-20, Daniel 2:48-49
Knowing that God has been faithful in your past should help you to know He will be faithful today and always in the future. Make a list of ways that God has saved you, blessed you, encouraged you in the past and let these serve as a reminder when the tough times come again.
How can you be more like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego today? Is it time to dedicate your life to God? Is it time to “walk into the fire” - away from sin and temptations around you? Know that God will honor you when you step out to honor Him.