I live in the desert, and it has been a hot one here. One week we had temperatures near or beyond 120°F. They were grounding aircraft and warning everyone to stay indoors. So, there I was, walking the distance to my afternoon bus that would take me home ... in the heat. And I'm thinking, "This is something new." I've been in 105°, 110°, even 115° heat, but this was something different. It felt like ... a furnace, like I was standing in an actual furnace. Which called to mind some guys who actually did.
You remember those three Jewish boys who refused to bow to the king's golden statue (Daniel 3:1-30). The king was mad and said, "Look, guys, it's simple. Just bow down at the next sound of horns or I'll have you thrown into the furnace. Can your god save you from that?" And they answered, "We don't have to answer you, but, yes, He can. However, even if He doesn't, we won't bow." The king was hot under the collar, ordered the fires seven times hotter, and got some of his bravest warriors to toss them in. Mind you, this heat was not like what I was walking through. This heat killed the men who threw them in. Well, you know the rest. They didn't burn. The king called them back out, finding the only thing they lost was the ropes that tied them, and he blessed God.
What I was thinking about was what it was that these three were thinking when they declared "Our God can, but even if He doesn't, we won't bow." You will notice that they did not overstate their case. They spoke to God's ability -- He was able to deliver them. They did not speak of God's will. God's power is easy. We can see His power through what is made (Romans 1:19-20). If He can make all that is, He can do anything at all. But in order for anything to happen, there must be two aspects. There must be ability and there must be willingness. These guys knew what God was capable of; they didn't know what His will was.
So why? Why did they defy the king? It wasn't some grand faith thing -- "Our God will save us, oh king!" It wasn't what they hoped to get out of it. For all they knew, they would get incinerated. What were they expecting? What made it worthwhile?
Well, if God's power is shown in what is made, so is His wisdom, His goodness, His love. David wrote the 23Psalm while he was on the run from King Saul and in that piece he said, "I will fear no evil." (Psalm 23:4) In that context he wrote, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." (Psalm 23:6) You see, David was also in on this secret that those three guys had. So was Paul. "I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." (Philippians 3:8) Not "what God gives me." Not "what I can get." Not "whatever I can name and claim." These guys understood that we are generally looking at things backward.
How? Well, we tend to think, "This happens and it's bad and that happens and it's good." These guys think, "If God does it it's good ... regardless of my perception." To put it another way, "Whatever God gives me is good." If that's a good job or I'm fired for my faith, it's good. If it's health or cancer, money coming in or a financial setback, a long life with those I love or the loss of a loved one, it's good.. Nothing else is as valuable as simply knowing God. No price is too high for this relationship with the Most High. And those guys were planning on paying the highest price.
I will be honest. I'm not there yet. Oh, I want to be. I long to be. I want to be at the place where nothing gives me as much delight as simply knowing Christ. Nothing. Because where my treasure is, there will my heart be, also (Luke 12:34). So it's a lifelong, time-consuming process of relabeling things. "Oh, I thought that was bad. But You're good, so it's not." "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) That's what I need -- an eternal perspective. Then the furnace doesn't seem so hot. And the only thing I'll lose are the things bind me here.
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