I live in the Midwest, which means we spend time each fall outdoors preparing our yard for the upcoming winter season. I have a love/hate relationship with this time of year. I love the smell of the air. I love the crisp feel of the temperature. I love hoodies, hot chocolate, and a warm fire to sit by. But the yardwork, and preparation? – Not so much. I can do without cutting grass, pulling weeds, and raking leaves, however it’s a task I know is necessary as we work hard to take care of the home God has provided.
One day last year I went about working through this mundane task. Hedge trimmers in hand, I went to work removing ornamental grasses from our landscape. Quickly finding myself in a mindless, cut – swipe – move rhythm, I was taken by surprise as a clump of grasses gave way to a pair of eyes staring back at me. One glimpse and my trimmers were on the ground, a scream was out of my mouth and my legs were running – that is… until I saw our neighbors watching, their eyes stopped me dead in my tracks. Realizing the fool, I must have looked, I sent a forced smile, laugh and nervous wave their way. Aware of my audience, I mustered some courage and carefully made my way back to see what those eyes belonged to. Keeping a safe distance, I stooped down to that place, and found they weren’t attached to the poison possessing body I was certain they must, instead, what I saw was a toad, a harmless – still sitting there lazy, and calm – toad.
What adult screams and runs from that?
Gathering my trimmers and resuming work, I laughed at what my neighbors must have thought, “Silly girl!” Yet – my mind was drawn to something deeper. This isn’t the only time I’ve experienced something in life evoking fear that sent me running, only to find in the end there was no reason to run.
I’ve walked some fearful paths – and I’d go to guess you have too (uncertainty, poor health, addiction, relational, financial, spiritual etc.) life is full of moments that persuade us into fear…
God knows this…
God is so good, and his understanding of his creation so extensive that he gives us pattern after pattern in his word equipping us with the ability to overcome temptation and willingly provides the strength, we need to stand firm.
One of my favorites, is the truth we find in the lives of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Reading about their life in Daniel 3 – You can almost feel the strength of their Spiritual Armor as they stood tall and immovable in the face of death.
A little background…
These are the men who walked through the fiery furnace and emerged unharmed. We often learn of them as a child in Sunday School. At that point, we imagine them superhuman – but a deeper dive and intentional study reveals what they possessed wasn’t mythical strength, in fact, what they had is readily available to all of us, if we’ll choose to see it.
Without intentional study we can assume these men were captive in Babylon for a quick while and found themselves standing in front of that fiery furnace. However, intentional study reveals to us this wasn’t immediate, this happened as they were slowly submerged into this new culture.
It reminds me of the way temptation comes to us. Very rarely does it ever present itself in a loud in your face manner, rather we find it tip-toeing in ever so gently pulling away at what we know is truth by building acceptance and tolerance – craftily attempting to reshape our thoughts to shift them away from the truth we know, as it lulls us into living life in a mindless cut, swipe, move motion…
Let’s look at the cut, swipe, move motion that tried to take hold of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
First, they were taken from a people that served the One True God and placed into a culture where the One True God was foreign, next they were given new names, then they were taught new customs, and finally they were shown a new god to serve.
Does any of this sound familiar? It should because it is the exact same methodology that’s used against us today. Which tells us that this super human seemingly out of reach strength they possessed is totally and certainly within our reach – just waiting, in fact begging, for us to reach out and grab hold of… Yet, here we are dropping our tools and running at the smallest glimpse of the unknown – and there they stood immovable in the face of certain death.
What is it? What is it about these men that gave them the ability to stand in the face of such a fear evoking situation? Was it God himself holding them there against their will? Did God transcend all of Heaven in that moment and give them new minds?
No – he didn’t do any of this.
What they had, was faith – totally, available and applicable faith that reveals to us God’s – roll up his sleeves walk through the fire – love for his people.
They had everything we have available to us. The only difference is they chose a life of intention, day in day out serving of the Lord. It was their obedience to God’s word and the faith that they had INTENTIONALLY worked to build that gave them the ability to respond so radically as they stood before that fiery furnace.
Right now – things just got personal. How so? we just revealed a lie that too many of us believe. It’s that lie that’s told you your situation is too big, it’s the lie that you believe that has erected an idol of fear in your life that you’re willingly bowing down to in worship of as you refuse to believe that God will walk you through the fire your facing…
You guys, the life of intention that these men lived gave them the ability to look fear straight in the eye and say – ”Bring it.” It gave them the ability to see the army standing against them – and not drop everything and run – BUT to stand in confidence acknowledging the greater army that stood with them – and God going before them – and their confidence was in Him.
Amazing isn’t it? I. Want. A. Faith. Like. That… do you?
I wonder today, if you’re facing something that feels just as scary and looks just as impossible? Do you feel the intensity of the eyes of fear staring at you? Do you feel the discomfort of a heated situation? Do you feel alone? Are you afraid? Do you not see a way out? If that’s where you are, I encourage you to read Daniel 3 with understanding that its placement in scripture is for you, purposed to give light to your hopeless situation as it reveals to you the path out by building your faith in the One who has promised not to allow any temptation to come to you that is more than you can bear.
Be encouraged by the faith of these three Hebrew men, and remember that the same God they served – the One that walked them through the flames, He’s the same God we serve today, and his desire is to grab you by the hand and pull you through your situation just the same, but it begins with a decision to make, a decision Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego made as they looked Hell straight in the eye and declared their allegiance to the One True God. They had their mind made up – won’t you join me today, and over the next few weeks as we look to them and apply their life to our own. Let’s sit at the feet of Jesus, and choose the good part that won’t be taken from us as we dig together and allow God’s light in their experience to shine in our own. let’s – Choose Him.
I bow my head to you in acknowledgement of your sovereignty. Whether I feel it or not, I know that you are in control of all things. I thank you for this truth. Right now, I’m in the midst of uncertainty that is causing me to be afraid. I don’t want fear to stand as an idol in my life. I ask for your help to remove it, and I ask for your help to build my life grounded on you. I ask for your help in establishing a faith like these three Hebrew men. When I don’t feel like putting in the effort required to live a life for you, please draw me back to truth – that my life is not my own, it’s yours and my purpose is to bring glory to You and You alone. Thank you for helping me, and hearing my prayer. Thank you that your strength is made perfect in my weakness. Thank you that you already see the other side of this trial, and thank you for your patience with me as I learn to trust and follow your lead.
In Jesus’ name I pray.