Fear not, for I am with you….I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you. (Isaiah 41:10)
God is with us in our troubles. He does not merely send grace from heaven to meet our trials. He Himself comes to help us. “Fear not,” He says to us, “I am the one who helps you.”(Isaiah 41:14) He promises. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you, when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”(43:2) He will not spare us from the waters of sorrow and the fires of adversity; but He will go through them with us, regardless of their nature or cause.
It is often in the very midst of our adversaries that we experience the most delightful manifest of His love. “ For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”(2 Corinthians 1:5)
Christ identifies with us in our distresses. When He confronted Saul on the road to Damascus, He said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And in answer to Saul’s question, “Who are you, Lord?” He replied, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:4-5) Because His people were in union with Him, to persecute them was to persecute Him. This truth is no different today. You are in union with Christ, just as surely as the disciples were in the time of the book of Acts. And because of this union, Christ shares your adversities.
In whatever way we view our adversities, we find God’s grace is sufficient, His love adequate. God’s unfailing love fo us is an objective fact affirmed over and over in Scriptures. It is true whether we believe it or not. Our doubts do not destroy God’s love, nor does our faith create it. It originates in the very nature of God, who is love, and it flows to us through our union with His beloved Son.
The two stories we read in the book of Daniel gives credible witness to the truth that though God doesn’t keep us from all adversity, He does keep us in it. There are no promises that we will not experience adversity. As a matter of fact Jesus told us that on more than one occasion.
In His parable of the two builders, the one who built his house on the sand and the one who built his house on the rock; Jesus said that upon both houses the rain beat and the wind blew. He did not indicate that the force of the storm was any different upon either house. Rather He focused on their foundations. If our foundation is Christ then when the storms of life come, we will come through the storm still standing, but if we build on any other foundation, the storms of life will leave us devastated and ultimately destroyed. The song writer captures this truth with the words, “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
We read that the three Hebrews, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced the test of their commitment to God. Brought to the plains where the king had erected an idol, they were commanded to bow down and worship it. Choosing not to, they faced the wrath of the king. Their response to his command is important to read.
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
They did not say that they would be delivered from the furnace, only that God was able to do so. What they said was that they would stay true to their faith whether or not they were delivered. This is the point of building our foundation upon the rock. Deciding that we will continue faithful to God in the adversity whether we are delivered or whether we perish. We know that God can deliver us but even if He doesn’t we will not renounce our faith.
Their statement got the attention not only of the king who became even more angry and ordered the furnace fired seven times hotter; so hot in fact that the heat killed the guards who threw the Hebrews into it; it was noticed by God. Let’s read further.
“Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. And he commanded certain mighty men of valor who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their coats, their trousers, their turbans, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore, because the king’s command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” “Look!” he answered, “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.” 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. And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them. Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this.”
We may not all be delivered from the furnace of adversity says Hebrews 11 but there are none of God’s children who walk in the fiery furnaces of life alone. “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?”,said the king. “Look, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire….and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” John’s description of Christ in Revelation says this:
His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters;
The second story is the story of Daniel, who had great influence in the kingdom of Babylon had incurred he jealousy of the other leaders who sought a way to destroy him. Sometimes we as the children of God become so blessed that it irritates our neighbors or coworkers to the point that they may cause adversity. These leaders could only find one thing to use against Daniel: his prayer life. O if that could only be us, the only thing that could be used against us would be our faithful prayer life! These leaders influenced the king to issue a decree that for 30 days no one could petition anyone except him and being a human king, this so fed his ego that the decree was so ordered. Daniel continued his daily prayers of three times without interruption. Soon the spies reported that Daniel was still petitioning God rather that just the king and he was brought before the king and charged and found guilty. The sentence was to be thrown into the lion’s den and it was so. Now we would think that a child of God who was faithful in prayer would be spared adversity. After all many times we are sure that we are in adversity because of our weak faith or prayer life. We are sure if we prayed enough or had faith enough that things would be going better. But Daniel is experiencing adversity because of his prayer life. What this says is that even the most faithful will experience adversity and the point again is not that we are kept from adversity but we are kept in and through adversity. Let’s read:
“Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days. Then these men assembled and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. And they went before the king, and spoke concerning the king’s decree: “Have you not signed a decree that every man who petitions any god or man within thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not alter.” So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions. But the king spoke, saying to Daniel, “Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you.” Then a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signets of his lords, that the purpose concerning Daniel might not be changed. Now the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; and no musicians were brought before him. Also his sleep went from him. Then the king arose very early in the morning and went in haste to the den of lions. And when he came to the den, he cried out with a lamenting voice to Daniel. The king spoke, saying to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you.” Now the king was exceedingly glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he believed in his God.
Again we see that God was with Daniel in adversity for He sent an angel to be with Daniel in the lion’s den.
You and I may never have these dramatic experiences but they teach us that God is always with us in adversity. We may never face the raging fire of the furnace or the roaring mouth of the lion, but even in the smallest or the largest time of adversity we know that God is with us and He never leaves us to face it by ourselves.
“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
Dr. John Thompson