One of the most powerful examples of faith found in the Bible involves three young men named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. Many of you will recall they were exiled Jews living in Babylon, along with their friend, Daniel. Over time they had distinguished themselves as leaders and were entrusted with administrative powers to manage the king’s affairs.
Eventually, the king issued an edict demanding everyone worship a statue of gold, a violation of the Lord’s command that people worship Him alone. Anyone defying the decree would face immediate death by being thrown into a fiery furnace. The declaration forced these young men to make a critical decision. Where would their loyalty lie: with God or with the king; with their faith or with their careers? Would they compromise their faith by trying to have it both ways: loving the Lord in private while publicly obeying the king’s decree?
Once the order was made public, colleagues immediately leveled accusations against the three young men. The rabble-rousers informed the king that this trio of Jewish exiles refused to obey his proclamation. Furious, the king demanded their instant obedience, taunting them with this rhetorical question: “Who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” (Daniel 3:15, NKJV).
The young men responded, “O king, 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” (vs. 16-17). What a bold witness. The men not only refused to obey the king, they used the encounter to testify of God and His omnipotence. Instead of destroying their faith, the king’s threat fueled it.
The three men then declared, “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” (vs. 18, emphasis added). With those words the Jewish exiles removed any doubt about their commitment to God. They knew He could rescue them from the fiery furnace and the painful death that would result.
But if, for whatever reason, He chose not to, they would refrain from denying Him or serving a false god. Their faith was not predicated on God blessing them, making life easy, or protecting them in the face of danger. They trusted Him implicitly, even if doing so yielded intense pain and a brutal death. They understood that God worked in ways that did not always make sense to them and therefore would obey Him no matter the cost. What a powerful testimony.
Job possessed a similar perspective and evidenced a comparable commitment to God. His faith was not predicated on having his desires met or his agenda fulfilled. It did not ebb and flow with the tide of God’s blessings. Instead, it remained steadfast in the face of whatever circumstances he confronted, including a series of relentless and brutal attacks by Satan that left all ten of his children dead, destroyed his wealth, and weakened his health.
Yet in response to that collection of tragic events, Job didn’t shake his fist to the sky and curse God. Nor did he renounce his faith in the Lord. Instead, Scripture tells us “he fell to the ground and worshiped” (Job 1:20, NKJV). What a remarkable reaction. Despite being unaware of what had precipitated the catastrophes or why God would allow them, Job instinctively placed his trust in the Lord and praised Him. He knew that out of the ash heap of overwhelming pain and tragedy God would raise up something good.
Not surprisingly, Job’s response pleased God, who subsequently described him as “a blameless and upright man who fears God and shuns evil and still holds fast to his integrity (Job 2:3). Though obviously grieved and devastated by the news of the calamities, Job resisted the temptation to blame God. Instead, he found solace in his Creator and worshiped Him in the midst of his tears.
That response, however, shocked and angered his wife, who remarked contemptuously: “Do you still hold to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9, NKJV). Her statement captures the predominant view of faith in our secular society: unless faith yields immediate and lasting temporal benefits, what’s the point. Sadly, that perspective infects many churchgoers today as well. As long as the sun shines on their lives, they remain loyal to God. But the moment tragedy strikes, their faith weakens or collapses altogether.
Job provided the perfect rebuke to such faith, telling his wife: “You speak as foolish people do. Should we accept good from God but not adversity as well?” (Job 2:10). Later Job would proclaim, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15, NKJV). Job did not withhold his own life from God nor condition his obedience on understanding God’s purpose. He assented to follow, worship, and praise God irrespective of his circumstances or the condition of his life.
Do you possess a similar commitment to God? Is your faith as steadfast in the midst of painful trials and difficult circumstances as was the faith of Job? Are you willing to obey God, no matter the cost, as were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego? Confronted with a comparable choice between life and death, would you choose the Lord or your life? As our world grows increasingly hostile to God, a modern version of the scenario confronted by that trio of Jewish exiles seems more and more possible in our generation. Are you prepared to stand firm for God? I pray you are.