Facing the Fire and Living with Lions (Part 2)

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

This is the second of a three part devotional series on standing Strong in the Midst of Your Trials

Have you read chapters 3 and 6 of the Book of Daniel?  In those chapters, you see God’s picture of true faith. The attitudes of Biblical faithfulness are evidenced by the “Three Men in the Furnace” and in “Daniel in the Lion’s Den.”  Those attitudes lead you to discover four facets of true faith that will give you the spiritual strength to stand in the trials of our lives.

Let’s unpack four facts of true faith found in Daniel 3 and 6.

1. True faith is established not just in the encouragement of friends but in the accusations of the Enemy (3.8-12; 6.3-9)

In the first story, three young Hebrews, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are targeted by “certain Chaldeans” who accuse these men of not bowing down to the golden statue of King Neb. Clearly, this is a plot to destroy these good men. An identical scenario occurs to Daniel, now under the lordship of Darius of the Medes and Persians, who have succeeded the Babylonian empire. So-called “presidents” and “satraps” are jealous of Daniel, who has become a governor and is well on his way to becoming the prime minister of the whole kingdom (6.3). They looked for a way to trip him up could “not find a ground for complaint.” We read in verse 5, that they figure that the only way to get him is through his faith in the One True God. Thus, the plot begins to destroy him. They conspire to get an injunction against any who would pray to any god or man thirty days, except for praying to Darius, will be thrown to a den of lions. The king signs it and it seems the enemy has gotten rid of Daniel.

Names change but the plot stays the same. This is what happened with the accusations against Joseph in the case of Potiphar’s wife. Remember Queen Esther? There a jealous and maniacal underling named Hamaan plots to kill all the Jews. And on and on it goes throughout the Old Testament. Then we read in the New Testament how the unbelieving Jewish religious leaders conspire to undo the Savior.  In Mark 3:6, you read that the Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, plotting how to destroy him.

Judas, too, becomes one who conspires with them, out of his own evil heart, to destroy Jesus.

After Jesus, the same motif continues in the New Testament records as we see how Paul spoke about “the plots of the Jews” (Acts 20.19). The Book of Revelation teaches us that after the Dragon, representing Satan could not destroy the Child of the Woman, speaking of Jesus; this serpent went after Jesus’ people.

The second Psalm speaks to this when it says:

“Psalms 2.1  Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2  The kings of the earth set themselves,   and the rulers take counsel together,   against the LORD and against his anointed, saying, 3  “Let us burst their bonds apart   and cast away their cords from us.”

Jesus identified those who opposed him and sought to kill him when he said:

John 8.44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

You see what’s going? The Bible teaches that faith does not exist in a vacuum. There is real spiritual warfare going on in the lives of believers. Being a Christian is not tip toeing through the tulips of life. It is life lived in the presence of the Enemy. The Bible is teaching us several things about this:

1.   Those who are Christ’s people and who live for Christ can anticipate their faith to be targeted for attack. The servant is no greater than the Master, Jesus told us.

2.   Those who do such things, unwittingly or not, are playing into the hand of the enemy. This is why Jesus told those Jewish leaders who opposed Him, in John 8.44, “You are of your father the devil.”

3.   Because Jesus was and remains victorious, every thing that comes against you comes against Jesus and therefore cannot be ultimately victorious. I say ultimately out of 12 apostles, 11 went to be with the Lord because of martyrdom. And our own times have witnessed unspeakable atrocities against Christians because of true faith. But I say there will be ultimate victory because God says so. Paul speaks a litany of crimes against Christians, and then says we are more than conquers through these very things because of Christ who loves us. And the Book of Revelation speaks of martyrs gathered under the very throne of Christ. And they cry out for vindication and it shall come in the judgment of a Savior who stands for His people.

So, where does that leave us? It leaves us where it left Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. And where it left Daniel. Our faith does not depend on good times. Our faith is actually strengthened in such time. We see this in church history too.

Once I stood in a great amphitheater that had been unearthed in Durrës, Albania. As I toured the facility, I saw the cages that held those wild animals that would literally devour Christian prisioners as entertainment. Looking closer, I noticed beautiful mosaics embedded into the walls of the cells. When asked about these mosaics, I was told that those cells  – cells that once held wild beasts unleashed to destroy believers –  became the catalyst that unleashed true revival in the Roman provinces and built the faith of Christ’s people.

Beloved, don’t fret over the presence of accusers. What God did for Joseph, for the three Hebrew children, for Daniel, for Esther and Mordecai and the Jews of that day, for Paul and for Peter, He will do for you. For if you have trusted Jesus, you now have the King of Kings and Lord of Lords as your defense. He has taken accusers on and through the paradox of the cross, where the Enemy thought he had won, Christ became the victor once and for all. Thus,

A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but [the Enemy] will not come near you.  Psalms 91.7

2. True faith is confirmed NOT in the fiery furnace or in the lion’s den, but in the decisions that bring us there (Dan. 3.16)

The Lord has blessed my pastoral ministry with numerous lawyers in my congregations. And yes I said blessed! Just try being accused of something in a court and not having a lawyer with you! Or think of the prosecutors who also stand up for us! Or the judges who ensure that our constitutional rights are preserved in the judicial system. Well, I am told that much goes on between the defense and the prosecution before the trial ever begins. There are pre-trial motions and negotiations between attorneys and so forth.

And it is certainly true in matters of our faith. Before the actual trial begins there are pre-trial motions. In fact, for the believer, it is because of his decision to follow God that he even ends up in the Fire or in the Lion’s Dens of life!

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego simply cannot bow to another god. And Daniel could not yield to the edict to not pray to the Lord. Peter was told to not preach Christ but he said, “Shall I obey God or man?” Paul was repeatedly beaten for preaching Christ but what choice did he have as a follower of Christ?

True faith did not happen for the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace. That was when God came and stood beside them. True faith did not happen for Daniel in the Lion’s Den for that was God’s part to stop the mouths of lions He had made. It was not Peter’s faith that released him from prison but the power of God.

And, beloved, the great faith that we are called to return to the Lord is not during the crisis, but in that moment when a decision is made: will you follow God or not.

I have been told by mature believers, “I don’t think I could stand for Christ in times of affliction.” My beloved, do not worry about the fire. Do not worry about the Lion’s Den. When the hour of decision comes to you, the One who called you to that hour will not forsake you. And the very words, the very decision, the very act of courage is found not in yourself but in the Spirit of Jesus Christ inside of you.

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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