Some friends of mine have been walking through some fires lately.
For the past couple of days, the heat got turned up even hotter than usual.
Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury,
and...he spoke and commanded
that they heat the furnace
seven times more than it was usually heated.
The Biblical account doesn't tell us if Daniel's three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, felt fear as they defied the king's order and stood true to their God. I imagine they did. Surely the superheated furnace made the three men sweatingly, painfully hot before they even got near it. Each step provided an opportunity to repent of their righteousness, to plead for their lives at the cost of their souls.
My friends felt fear too. They had to sweat some. They struggled with all sorts of emotions. They're only human, and wouldn't want to be placed on any pedestals. They're real, normal, good, sinful, wonderful, flawed people.
People who chose to remain stubbornly true, even when their feelings couldn't catch up with their good intentions.
And in their fire, they met with God.
I know how it feels to find life's inferno transformed by His Presence. So did my friends, before this newest trial. But still, when new crises loom, the fear comes back, and the uncertainty, and the anger, and the pain. And yet, when we stay true to Him, He meets us there, and we come away knowing Him a little more, trusting Him more deeply, loving Him more truly."Did we not cast three men bound
into the midst of the fire?
Look! I see four men loose,
walking in the midst of the fire;
and they are not hurt,
and the form of the fourth
is like the Son of God."
Where did He meet with you this year? If your life has been like mine (and many others'), there have been times when He's met you on the mountaintop. But there have also been times, precious times, when He has met you in the furnace.
And tell me, haven't subsequent mountaintop experiences been all the sweeter for the heat they came through? Haven't your joys been more thankful, less selfish, less prideful, more pure?
Where did He meet with you this year?
Then Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth
of the burning fiery furnace and spoke, saying,
"Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego,
servants of the Most High God,
come out, and come here."
Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego
came from the midst of the fire.
Don't you wish you knew what God had said to them in that fire? Wouldn't you love to know how it felt to be with Him like that?
And can you imagine how sweet their freedom, their very lives, felt to them afterwards? Can you picture them going home and answering the question, "How was your day?"
Imagine as they grew old, how often they thought of that day, how often others would have asked them to tell the story. What do you suppose they focused on when they told the tale?
- Their own bravery?
- How mean and unfair Nebuchadnezzar was?
- How hot the fire was?
- How the men who cast them into the fire were burned up at the entrance?
- How great it felt to get out, unhurt?
No one could doubt that God Himself was worth it.
Perhaps the reason why we aren't told of their flame-encircled conversation is that no words could suffice.
In fact, we know that even the most magnificent words cannot suffice. Look with me at the words which God Himself spoke in the last chapters of the book of Job (Chapters 38-41). Wonderful words that speak of God's incredible power and wisdom fill these pages. But as majestic as they are, you and I are still left wondering, "How could those words be enough? How could they satisfy a man who had lost everything?"
They couldn't. They didn't.
God could. He did.
Those words were precious, and I'm so glad they've been preserved for us from antiquity. But even Job himself said that it was not the words which made the difference for him.
(Now, if such an outcome doesn't sound appealing to you, it's because you haven't yet tasted the sweetness that comes from such repentance, or from the new intimacy with God that results.)"I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees You.
Therefore I abhor myself,
and repent in dust and ashes."
Whatever Job experienced in that conversation with God, even the sacred text cannot fully express it. There are some things that are too profound for words. To know them, one must meet with God.
Where has God met with you this year?
Where will He meet with you next year?
2009 has many dark shadows on its brow. Do you fear them? Probably, at least a little. The furnace's heat can be felt from a distance.
If God has chosen a furnace for you, step in. I can't tell you how long you'll have to stay in there, or how badly it might hurt in your case. Not everyone comes out unscathed.
I can tell you that He will be worth it, if you meet Him there. And when you come out, there will be a new glow in your eyes, a new passion in your souls that will leave others longing to know God for themselves.
Seek Him. Meet with Him, no matter where He is when He offers the invitation. Let Him be your legacy for 2009.