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Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.  If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.  But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.                         

Daniel 3:16-18

“I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” was the title of a popular book of a couple of decades ago.  It was about a persistent struggle of an emotionally troubled person to find health and wholeness.

It expresses also a profound, yet often frustrating, spiritual truth.  God doesn’t offer a life full of rainbows, garden blooms, thrilling mountain tops and ecstasy.  Faith is not grabbing the brass ring and signing up for the good life – in human popular terms.  Believers don’t get a corner on the stock market, or a pass on grief and hurt.

The biblical account of the expectation of the Hebrew children of their deliverance from the fiery furnace illustrates not simply their profound confidence in God, but that they were just as profoundly mistaken about how God would take care of them.  They insisted that God was ABLE and WOULD deliver them from the fiery furnace.  It was a bold, no hold barred, in-your-face, statement of confidence and assurance.

But appended to this affirmation – a sort of plea in the alternative, if you will – was that even if God didn’t deliver them – they would still not worship the idol.

Indeed as it turns out, God did not help them avoid the fire, or escape the trial.  They didn’t get summary dismissal.  The whole outcome wasn’t as the faithful believers expected at all.

Instead of deliverance from the trials, God would do something for them in the furnace.  First, He would be with them, and second, He would use their faith as a witness to the unbelieving Nebuchadnezzar.

This is the experience of the church and faithful believers throughout history.  Russian believers, huddled in darkened basements or in the woods, Chinese Christians in their house churches, and persecuted believers today in many Muslim countries doubtless pray daily for deliverance from oppression, for freedom from prisons, for basic human rights.  But often their prayers seem unanswered.

Victims of tragic diseases pray for healing, spouses pray for a healed marriage, we pray for release for our children from addictions – and often we pray in great confidence, we pray believing – but our agendas for God’s deliverance are unfulfilled.

But in this biblical narrative is not only a truth about unanswered prayer, but a promise – that though we may not escape trials – He is there “in the midst.”  There is deliverance IN the furnace, even if none FROM the furnace.

In all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us.  For I am certain that . . . nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Romans 8:37-39

This eighth chapter of Romans, vv. 18-39 is a powerful witness about our own weakness and struggles, and all the things that will come upon us – trouble, hardship, spiritual powers, death – but in the end, we have the victory already secured for us.  Indeed in v. 26 Paul tells us that the very Holy Spirit prays for us with “groanings” when we, in our turmoil don’t even know how to pray.

Yes, in the world ye shall have tribulation, but God has won the victory. Step up to your fiery furnaces and Nebuchadnezzars with confidence.  “The battle belongs to the Lord.”

That is the substance of the promise – “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” This is His sure commitment.  But after that, no promised couch potato, retirement easy-going, living.  Ask Paul, Jacob, Jeremiah – or any of your mature Christian friends.

Lynn R. Buzzard

 

– This article comes from AI’s devotional for lawyers titled, “What Does the Lord Require of You?”

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