Facing the Fire and Living with Lions (Part 1)

Daniel 3.8-12; 16-26; 6.3-10; 14-24

Note: This is part one of a three part devotional series on “Standing Strong in the Midst of Your Trials”

If asked, “What do you know about the book of Daniel?” most likely you would recount the fiery trial of three boys who would not bow down to the golden image of King Nebuchadnezzar. Or, you might recall the bravery and miracle of Daniel in the lion’s den. While these two stories made Daniel a household name to this day, don’t miss the greater message: we find not just heroes in the book of Daniel, but Scripture reveals a living hope.

There are patterns in these stories and I call these patterns “movements in the life of a believer.” Patterns are important to recognize and study so that you too may stand strong when under fire. From the stories mentioned above, notice the following movements:

  • There is an accusation. Unwitting agents of Satan were seeking to kill God’s people. The Devil is an accuser. He accuses the saints, we are told. So we start there. But we see another movement.
  • There is conundrum. The leaders in both stories receive the accusations from the malicious prefects and presidents in their kingdom. Yet in both cases, the conundrum is there because the faithful Hebrew boys as well as Daniel had become model citizens and servants of the King. It is possible, then, to serve God by serving even pagan kings while you are in captivity.
  • There is a moment when true faith is tested. This is the time when a decision is made in prayer: “I will serve God rather than Man.” Everything that happens after that decision is simply the fall out of this decision.
  • There is persecution.
  • There is divine deliverance.
  • There is testimony.
  • There is conversion.
  • There is praise.

I want to focus on the moment of truth when decisions are made and true faith is revealed. Simply put: when faced with tests in this life, you will either stand strong or give in.

Introduction to Trials: What’s your Reaction?

The great G.K. Chesterton wrote in his wonderful book, Orthodoxy,

“As long as you have mystery you have health.”

Is that true? Is that Biblically “orthodox?”

Is true faith knowing, precisely, which way to go? Or is true faith taking the hand of God and walking forward though you really have no idea where you will end up?
In North America today, we’ve reduced Christianity to a faith wrapped up in a nice package with a bow on it. In the most bizarre and plainly unbiblical form, faith has been equated with health and wealth. This of course flies in the face off a suffering Savior who had no place to lay his head. Even in more mainstream Christianity, pastors are pressured to preach sermons that are “relevant.” Usually that translates to, “Seven Ways to Avoid Burnout in Your Life” or “Nine Ways to Make Sure Your Kids Turn Out OK.” There is nothing wrong with “How To” Sermons. But there is a problem with selectively using the Bible so as to fit God into a neat box or to reduce the mysteries of life to four steps that resolve all problems. “Do this, pray that and God will answer”…really?
The problem with such an approach, like the problem with a snake-oil-salesman advertising a happy marriage for whoever buys love potion number 9, is that life doesn’t always conform to philosophical syllogisms or 9-point happy-life sermons or potions. Our faith is best lived out in mystery. So I think Chesterton was right.

Now I do not mean by mystery (nor did Chesterton) that we can’t know God or His Word. We most certainly can and must. But the faith that comes and is built up in that Word is lived out in the unpredictable, transient, paradoxical places called life. It is a place where the beauty of nature, say a magnificent mountain, becomes a merciless killer to a mountain climber. It is a place, kids, where if you get caught cheating on your exam, you are expelled; yet if a journalist fakes a story, he doesn’t lose his job. He may in fact, become famous. It’s a place where innocent people are murdered by brutal terrorists, and yet it’s a place where God lives and reigns and where, in the midst of it all, we are promised peace by the One called the “Prince of Peace.” Admitting that mystery, as Chesterton suggests, leads to health (and I would emphasize, spiritual health).
We could put it another way:

I don’t know the future, but I know the One who holds the future.

Faith is uncertainty. Or like a former assistant pastor of mine would learn to put it, I do not know why the accident happened that took the life of my brother, but I know that God is there.

This is a faith that trusts in a God who is there in fiery furnaces and lion’s dens. More on this topic to come!

About Michael A. Milton, Ph.D.

Michael A. Milton, Ph.D., MPA (University of Wales; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), is an American Presbyterian pastor, theologian, and author.
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