Monday, June 9, 2014

Even if He Doesn't

Everybody loves the underdog. There is something about a good story that appeals to each of us, struggling through our daily lives. It is attractive to believe against all odds that someone or something is going to come through. We've taught an entire generation that God wants nothing better than to answer their prayers and give them everything they could ever want.

Anyone else see a problem with that?

For all that it appeals to our wounded selves, there is nothing Biblical about what many people believe. It would be incredibly nice to have our own personal lottery where we win each time we enter, God has revealed Himself as a far wiser, complex and long-sighted God... and we are better off because of it.

What would happen if two people wanted separate things? Who would God choose to answer and who to deny? Would our entire faith life be turned into a game of piety where the most 'holy' person wins?

Clearly there is a different way.

My faith is present, but hardly tested in the good times. It is in those moments when my patience is worn thin, my faith stretched and I start to ask the uncomfortable questions that God teaches me the most. It is in these moments that I have learned to pray, "Lord, no matter what happens, I believe." He teaches me to mean that prayer as well.

Perhaps no story in Scripture lays this out for us better than the Fiery Furnace. Three young men, separated from their family and friends and enslaved in a foreign culture find themselves in a deadly situation. It is a moral conundrum that you could pour out millions of words upon and it would still have nuances undiscovered.

In his hubris, the king had built a massive gold plated statue in his likeness -- and then called together everyone in his kingdom to come worship it. -- Sounds like the kind of guy you would like to go to dinner with, eh? -- All these three young men had to do was bow down along with everyone else when the music started to play and the morning would have carried on with no further problems.

But they were unwilling to do the easy thing.

Their (and my) God had commanded a higher standard, You will have no other gods before me. These words must have played through their heads hundreds of times as they shuffled uncomfortably whispering to one another if they were going to let it slide this one time. Then the music started to play, and people began to bow around them until they were the sole stacks standing amidst a sea of worshippers.

It did not go unnoticed.

The king called them in front of him directly, threatened their lives and gave them one more chance to turn from their ways and worship his gods. This is where things get sticky. These obstinate, inflexible and bullheaded youths looked right at the king and said something that you simply do not say to the world's most powerful man -- no.
“Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king."
This would be commendable all on its own if the story had stopped there. God would send down the angels to protect these three and everyone would bow down before Yahweh because of His greatness and faithfulness to His servants. But that is not the whole story.
"But even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”
Even if he doesn't.

Their faith standing before the king was not dependant on whether God would deliver them. They had made their stand and went all in no matter the outcome. They were not asking God to do anything for them, but willing to give everything for Him.

As the story plays out, they refuse to bow down even standing before the king, the icy tension palpable in the midst of the desert heat. His anger stoked by their unwavering stubbornness, they stoke the furnace to its' hottest temperature and order them thrown in. So hot, in fact that the guards throwing them into the furnace die from the heat wave.

Even if he doesn't.

Would that be your attitude when faced with certain death? What breaks down when we're put under pressure? What gets polished away to reveal your true character?

Faith is not dependant on the outcome, and God is not a slave to our desires. Can you say in times of stress that you trust God, but even if He doesn't nothing changes?

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