Sun, 20 September 2015
“A Foxhole Faith or a Furnace Faith?”
(SERMON TRANSCRIPT FOLLOWS)
Key verse: “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).
There’s an old adage that says, there’s no atheist in a foxhole. I don’t know if you can prove that you can prove that. There have been some atheists who claim to be so in a foxhole, but when the bullets are whizzing by your head, and your life is on the line, people tend to seek and strike bargains with God. It would kind of go like this, “God, if you spare my life, if you get me out of this mess, I’ll believe in you.” “God, if you heal me of this cancer that I have, I'll serve you.” “God, if you will you, fill in the blank, then I will, fill in the black.” that's what we would call a foxhole faith. I really don't belittle that or make fun of it because I guess that’s a better faith and none. God is so gracious. He sometimes bows and concedes to that kind of a faith. But really not the kind of faith that honors God. What we want to do today is draw a contrast between what we might call foxhole faith, on one side, and a furnace faith, on the other side. Now a furnace faith is very different from a foxhole faith. Here’s what the furnace faith says. “God, even if you don't get me out of this mess, I still am going to believe in you.” “God, even if you don't heal me from my cancer, I know you're still good and you deserve my allegiance.” “God, even if you don't get me the promotion that I been working for praying for, God even then, I’m still going to praise your name. That’s the kind of faith that God wants every one of us to have. Not a foxhole faith but instead, grow up, and get a furnace faith.
Now where would you meet with some guys that have that kind of faith? Well I got good news for you. We’re going to meet them this morning. They’re right there in your Bible and if you’ll open up your Bibles to Daniel chapter 3 you’re going to meet them. Daniel chapter 3 and the whole chapter tells the story of three young guys. I'm only going to read a portion of the chapter to get us cranked up and going. We’re going to read verses 1 through 18. But really listen to this now, all right because this is a launchpad for our message. Lets stand up to show honor to God's word, all right. You can sit for my word but we’re going to stand up for God’s word. Here we go. Daniel chapter three, we’re going to start in verse one. King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” Here, perhaps is the key question in the whole chapter. “And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.
Lets pray. God I know that there have been times in my life when I’ve bargained with you. I’ve had a foxhole faith of sorts. Asking you to do things for that and me if you would, I would in turn do something for you. God I pray that you just blow that approach to you away today. And that all of us would come you, not in some kind of bargaining position but just to say, Lord even if you don't do what we prefer, even if we go through the fire, God we're going to seek by your grace to be faithful to you. Grant us, God, a furnace faith, I pray in Jesus name, Amen.
Please be seated. Well this morning, we are going to meet three very courageous men. And let me just go ahead and tell you guys, I’m going to have to be quick this morning alright, because when we finish this message, you’re going to meet a couple of other courageous young men who are going to take their stand for Christ in baptism and I want to gear up for that already. Because every one of us, needs to decide for whom we will stand and before whom we will not bow. These three young men made the right decisions and I want to share the story with you. And I know for a lot of you, you've heard this story, you know it. Its almost like Goldilocks and the Three Bears or Hansel and Gretel, except it's not. This is true. This is exactly what happened. It’s God working miraculously on the behalf of his children. I want you to perk up as though you never heard it before and we’re going to follow Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, as they demonstrate a furnace faith.
Now there was a song, sung many years ago, and I’m not going to sing it for you. I know you’re glad, but it's about these three young men they wouldn't bow, they wouldn't bend, they wouldn't burn. And that’s going to be the outline I’m going to follow this morning. Number one by the way if you want to follow along, just turnover on the back of your worship guide there is an outline and that you can write in some things as God impresses them on you.
Number one, a furnace faith, all right, its what were talking about. A furnace faith will not bow. Furnace faith will not bow. Now that there are a couple of temptations that came these young men's way. They were, first of all, tempted to bow in compromise. The King, the mighty King of Babylon, the greatest king of his day had erected this giant statue. I want you guys to just get in your mind's eye, the magnitude of this. Maybe you can conjure up the image of other statues that you know. Here’s one you have seen before. It’s the statue of Christ the Redeemer. It’s in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. And that statue spans about 60 cubits high. The very dimensions, within a few feet, of the statue that was erected in the plains of Dura. Can you imagine that the grandeur of that scene. Here is this mighty statue, an idol, erected by King Nebuchadnezzar. It was made of solid gold. What would the worth be of that? You know that gold sells for about $1500 an ounce. This is 90 feet tall. Solid gold. And it dazzles in that desert sun. And he commands that everyone at the sound of the orchestra, they will hit their knees, in obeisance to that idol. And I know all of you have been to the stadium and maybe some of you guys were yesterday at the Stadium and you’ve seen in a crowd, the wave right? It starts over in one section, someone will stand up and then it goes through the whole and the wave passes through. Will I imagine here an inverse wave? Because at the sound of that trumpet, when they saw the fiery furnace over there smoldering in the distance. And by the way, you remember that Babylon had its start as a place called Babel. You guys remember Babel? It’s where they were going to erect the Tower to the heavens. And many scholars believe that the brick kiln, K I L N, in the brick furnace, that was used to make all the bricks that built a tower toward heaven in Babel, this is the same fiery furnace where threatened to be cast there if they don’t bow down. Now, so here we come. Here is the inverse wave. And boy then the music sounds, they all in terror, they hit their knees. Perhaps the get on their face. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are the exception to this. Here comes the inverse wave and those three boys stand there. I don’t know that they made a scene; I don’t think they shouted out, I don’t think they try to draw attention to this. They just, in humility, yet loyalty to the Lord, the just stood their ground. They were tempted to compromise. They had a reason to be afraid. The king of Babylon set bow down. They had a greater fear than the king of Babylon; they feared the King of Kings. And the King of Babylon said bow down, the King of Kings said, don’t you bow down. Where did he say that? You remember? You guys know your Ten Commandments? Lets just start the very beginning. Number one, Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Number two… Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images, nor shall you bow down to them. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had a choice to make.
Are we going to compromise? Are we going to go along to get along? Are we ore are we going to standup for what God has said. I want to challenge every one of you listening to me today, to have a furnace faith. And to say God, I’m going to stand for you no matter how hot it gets in the kitchen. They wouldn't compromise. Not only would they not compromise, they wouldn't conform. You see a furnace faith will not bow down in conformity to what the world demands of us. And you know we’re living in a day when it seems as though the pressure to conform is as great as it's ever been in my lifetime. There was a time when our culture kind of aided you in your walk toward Christ, at least to some degree. Ostensibly, but today it's as though, the culture is going one way and God is saying go the other. You have to be like a fish willing to swim upstream if you're going to stand for the Lord. When that inverse wave hit everybody was bowing down. Everybody’s doing it. Everybody’s getting wasted. Everybody’s doing drugs. Everybody’s sleeping together before they're married. Everybody’s morals are changing. Everybody’s conception of marriage is changing and everybody's doing it. No. Everybody is not doing it. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are not doing it. They’re standing for the Lord. And I want to challenge a whole auditorium of people here, to be willing, in the furnace, when the fire is hot to say, “I am not going to bow.” what God has said, by his grace, and for his glory, I'm going to seek to be obedient.
You know peer pressure is powerful. There’s an experiment done, some years ago, to illustrate the power of peer pressure. Here’s the way it was done. It was done by a psychologist, her name was Ruth Berenda, and they worked with teenagers. And would all you teenagers, look right up here. Here was the experiment that teenagers, at a time, come into a room. Nine of the 10 were in on the deal. One of them though, was like the guinea pig. And so they would come in ten at a time and what they were asked to do was to raise their hand when the teacher pointed to the longest line on the board. There were a number of lines. Each of a different length. It was obvious which is the longest and had before hand agreed, with the nine, when we point to the second longest all of you raise your hand. And the experiment was to see what would the one teenager do that was not In the know. So the teacher began to point to the lines. Raise your hand will become the longest line. When the teacher pointed to the next to the longest line, all nine hands went up. They were watching I guess through two-mirrors or something like that and they watched as invariably, the one teenager that was, like not in the in the know on this, they would look around, with a bewildered look, and be like [shyly raises hand]. 75% of the time. They were just doing what everybody else was doing and don't we feel this? There is such a temptation to conform.
Listen to what God says. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds. Proving what is that good and acceptable of will of God be transformed by his words .I would challenge us to stand. Even if there is peer pressure to go the other way. And let me just add this one other thought and then ill go on. Pressure is not a sin. Peer pressure is a fact. I’m going to say it again. Peer pressure is not a sin. Peer pressure is a fact. What does that mean? That means, if you got good friends, peer pressure can work to your advantage. But if you have poor friends, peer pressure can work to tear you down. Do you think it’s coincidental that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stood? What difference did it make to Shadrach that he had Meshach and Abednego to stand with him? I believe it helped him. Peer pressure can work for you. And I'm so glad for you collegians and you high schoolers and you middle schoolers that are standing together. Be involved in the student ministries here. Be involved in the collegiate ministry. Man if it Micah says Hey were going to get together and we’re going to stand on our heads, just bring your pillow and come on man. Whatever were doing, you be involved in it. because peer pressure isn’t a sin, its just a fact. If you get good peers, they will help you toward God.
All right so, number one. A furnace faith will not bow. Number two. A furnace faith will not even bend. All right now. This is bow right? You get down like this. This is bow. Those boys wouldn’t even bend. They wouldn't do it in the face of a second chance. Now this is a part of the story you may not have noticed when were going through it in that initial reading. Let me just review this for you. The king gave the command, right. Everybody bow down when you hear the music. And everyone bowed down in the inverted way except these three guys. There were there some tattle tales in the group. Who likes the tattletale? Nobody likes a tattletale but here come the tattletale's. O king, live-forever, they’re buttering him up. There’s some Jews that you appointed, they're jealous of these men and they don't pay attention to anything you say O King. And that was in exaggeration. Those are good young men. They are in fact; the King had concluded that they were 10 times better than all the other servants. He actually, I believe, really liked those young men. But they don't pay any attention you King, they don’t bow down to your gods. They don't worship the idol that you set up. The latter half is certainly true, they would not bow. And so the king, the Bible says was enraged. Now watch this. When the Bible says that he was enraged, my own conviction is that he was not enraged solely at those three young men. I think he was enraged because of the tattletales. He was enraged because these three young men whose service he valued now, or he's put into this quandary of what to do with them, because obviously they defied his authority. If he lets them go, it undermines his authority before all. And he is enraged at this. He wishes that it had not been brought to his attention. Now why do I say that? It’s because he gave him a second chance. Had his rage been solely and wholly against them, he would just execute them. But I think he had an affection for these young men I believe their witness to him had been strong. He knew there was something remarkable about the young men. And he said, boys, I’m going to give you another chance. Right. Here is what we’re going to do. Same song, second verse. Were going to tap the baton, and we’re going to crank up the orchestra and when they do, fool me once shame on you, burn me twice shame on me. I’m not going to let you get me again. This is your last opportunity. Going once, going twice. He gives them a second chance. Did you know that’s the way the devil works? The devil is always going to come and give you a second chance. He's going to tempt you. And if you don’t yield to it, it’s not like the devil just gives up. Doesn’t say oh man, he whooped me. Ill just give, all right. He’s a hause, I ain't gonna mess with him. NO. The devil is going to come after you a second time. He is going to give you a second chance. You don’t believe me? Do you remember what happened to Jesus? We’re talking Jesus here. Jesus all right. Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. This is Luke chapter 4. Listen to what happened at the very end of those temptations. Jesus triumphed in everyone. Partly because he knew the word of God and he quoted it to Satan. He whipped him. Listen to how it includes. Luke, the Bible says, that Satan left him for a more opportune time. That is, the devil wasn't even giving up on Jesus. He is going to come after him again. And he did. Don’t think you not to come after you, he is. I want to challenge you, don't bow, don’t even bend. Don’t even bend when a second chance comes your way. Do you know why they didn't bend; do you know why they didn’t bow? Because they had some sure convictions. I mean they were rock-ribbed in what they believed. Now I want you to look at the verses that are on the screen. You are going to see the convictions that they held. And this is what you make you stand when everybody else's bowing. The Bible says, when threatened again a second time, “if this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the fiery furnace and he will deliver us out of your hand, O King. But if not,” now mark those words, “but if not, be it known to you O King, that we will not serve your gods.” now what are the convictions that shine in those verses? Number one, they had a conviction that God is strong. I love what they said, “our God is able,” he is able to deliver us and he will, they had a conviction that God was strong. In fact he is stronger than anyone. I love that truth reinforced in the New Testament. But now unto him is able, to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or imagine. Friends of our God is strong and he is Almighty deserves our allegiance. So they had that conviction. And then, the other condition that they have was he was sufficient, he was sufficient. Now listen to what they said, and here we come to the furnace faith in its purest form. Our God is able to deliver us, we believe he is going to, but if not, but if not, but if not! I love phrase. If he doesn't deliver then I’m just going to give up on God, I’m just going to quit, I’m just going to throw my Bible away, If God doesn’t do what I want….is that what they said? No, I love what they said. They said, “but if not,” if he doesn't rescue us, we are still not going to bow down to the idol that you have made. We are not going to serve your gods. They believed that God, in himself, was sufficient. God is enough. He alone is worthy. Not for the gifts that he gives me. What if I got sick of cancer? Say God you heal me from my cancer, and if you don't heal me, then forget you God. That’s a foxhole faith. Right. God, my marriage is falling apart and God if you'll save my marriage then I'll follow you. God I need this new job. God I’ve worked hard for this. I deserve this new job. God if you'll do this for me, then I'll follow you. NO, these young men said, “but if not.”
I’m going to tell you a story out of World War II. It’s a true story and it was set on the beach in France. This is in 1940. Early in the war. And was not going well for the Allied cause, in fact, the United States and not even entered World War II yet. And Hitler and the blitzkrieg were rolling across France. The British had come to France’s aid and there were over three hundred thousand Brits in France trying stop the onslaught of Hitler. But they weren’t faring well. And they had retreated as far as they could go. They had gotten right up against what he called the English Channel. There were in a little port called Dunkirk. There was no escape. Hitler's Panzer divisions were surrounding them. The enemy. And behind them was the ocean. England was terrified that they would lose 300,000 of their finest. Their governing authorities declared a day of fasting, and prayer that God would intervene. One of the stories that comes out of that battle was of one of the commanders there in Dunkirk. It said that he simply sent a telegram back to England. The question was what are you going to do in the face of this overwhelming enemy when it seems as though there's no escape. He answered with a three-word telegram. His words were, “but if not.” We want to be rescued. We want to be saved from this dilemma. But if not, were still going to face the enemy. But if not, were still going to hold the line. But is not, we’re going to give our lives in service for right. But if not. I don’t know if you know the story, its called The Miracle of Dunkirk. God blessed and it was a remarkable story of how they rescued out 338,000 soldiers. Many of them were rescued to what they called The Little Boats of Dunkirk. There weren’t enough army boats to get them all, so mom and pop got in their little trawlers and in their little dingys and went across the British Channel and rescued those men. It’s a great, great story. But I love the commander. But if not! We’re not going to bow before you. Were not going to even bend.
How does it conclude then? What happened to these three young men? Well, if you won't bow and you wont bend, then you wont burn. Furnace faith will not burn. You know the story don't you? The Bible says that the king was furious now, doubly so. He ordered that the furnace be heated up seven times its original level. And they bound those men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They threw them into the fiery furnace still bound. So hot was the fire that the burly men who carried to the mouth of that oven and threw them in were overtaken by the flame and in the heat. They were killed. Down went Shadrach Meshach and Abednego. Bound into the flames. Apparently there at the floor of the furnace there was an opening through which, perhaps, they injected the fuel for the flame and the king was positioned just so he could see those three young men. Perhaps he imagined that he would in glee, watch their bodies burst into flames and be consumed. But instead as he looked into the furnace, he was amazed. He asked some of the other attendants, he said, “How many men did we throw into the fire?” they said, “O King, we cast in three.” He said, “How is it that when I look in there, I don’t see three men, I see four? And the fourth is like a son of the gods.” There was something about that one that glowed. Probably redundant, but he shown with the Shekinah glory. Who was that fourth man? Do you know who it was? It was a Christophany. It was an appearance of the Lord Jesus pre-incarnate. Jesus had come to the fire to rescue them.
What do we learn from this? Number one. Fire happens. Listen, if you live here on this Earth, you are going to have some fires come your way. There are going to be some difficulties. You’re going to get sick. Your child is going to get sick. Your relationships are going to be frazzled or broken. You’re going to have disappointments in your life. Fire happens to all of us. Doesn’t the Bible say? The sun shines on the just and the unjust. Rain falls on the just and unjust. You are going to go through the fire. Those young men did end up in the fire because they were disobeying God, those young men ended up in trouble because they were obeying God. God didn’t rescue them from the fire; God rescued them through the fire. He’s going to do the same for you. Fire happens. You better get ready. You better know Jesus, so that when you're in the fire he's there with you. Can we do a little math? Here’s a little math problem, all you bright university students. Let me give you a math problem. How many men were cast into the fire? Three. How many appeared there? Four. Four men in the fire. How many came out? How many are left in the fire? One. You know where Jesus is? So often, you’re going to find Jesus the fire. Trouble comes your way. You’re going to find him, as you never did before. He’s going to grow you. In fact, listen to this. Listen! Fire helps. That’s the last thing up here [pointing to sermon outline]. Fire happens and fire helps. They were thrown in bound. So how is it that they were walking about in the fire? You know how it is that they were walking about in the fire? The only thing that got burned was the ropes that bound them. When they came, because the King said, “come out, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.” And they came out and they went over to them, and they said, “Man! Your clothes aren’t even singed. Your hairs not singed. Even the sent of smoke is not on you.” The only thing they lost was the thing that bound them. Listen you go through hard times in your life, the only thing you lose are things you need to lose. There’s freedom in the fire. When we get into difficulties your going find Jesus closer is ever been.
All right now. To conclude. The story is told about a wagon train. It was traveling across the West, and as they traveled westward, they heard, behind them, the crackling of fire. They knew the sound. All of us have been watching fires out west. Those that were in the wagon train, they looked behind them and as far as they could see along the horizon, there were bright walls of flames. Smoke was billowing toward the heavens and the wind was blowing very fiercely. They knew that they could not outrun that line of fire. It would soon overtake them. There they are in the middle of the plains, no place to escape. What would they do? Many of them began to despair. Thought this would be there end. Then one enterprising person among them knelt down and he lit a match and he sat the grass in front of them ablaze. Now the same wind that's pushing the flames toward them catches this new blaze. And it begins to burn the grass in front of them and the brush in front of them. So now two fires are raging. Both going westward, one behind them, one front of them. Then you know what those enterprising settlers did? They simply rolled forward into the part of the plains that now is already been burned. You know what folks? Fire can't burn the same place twice. Once all that’s combustible been burned away, the safest place you can these were the fires already burned. What am I saying to you? Jesus was in the fire. That’s not the only time Jesus has been in the fire. When on the cross, God’s righteous judgment and wrath against sin was being poured out. You can imagine it a flame, as it were. The holiness of God, bringing judgment to bear. The Bible says, the soul that sins it shall surely die. The wages of sin is death God's holiness demanded that sin be punished. Did he just wink at sin? There would be no justice in him; there would be no holiness in him. No, sin must be judged. And Jesus, there on the cross, took our place. And it's as though the fire of Heaven burned across the ground at the cross. If you will, buy faith, step into that place where Jesus suffered your wrath, the fire can no longer touch you. You’ll be safe. You’ll be safe.
These young men hey listen; they didn’t have a foxhole faith. Now man the bullets were whizzing. Their lives were in jeopardy, but they were bargaining. They weren’t saying God if you’ll get me out of this, I am going to love you. God if you’ll get ne out of this, I’m going to serve you. No, they said God, if you don’t; we’re still going to love you. We’re still going to serve you. Now I want to challenge my own heart, as I do yours, to have more than a foxhole faith. If that's all you can muster, I guess I'll be glad for that, but it is not enough friends. God wants us to honor him by faith says, even if not. Even if not, I’m going to follow you. Now I’m going to pray for us. Here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to pray for us, then we’re going to see, two very courageous young men take their stand. And then we’re going to sing and praise to God. And when all that’s done and we’re dismissed. I’m going to remain here with some of the staff members to receive any of you that want to talk about faith in the Lord Jesus. How to know him as your Savior. All right, so lets pray to together God we give you praise for the testimony of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These young men, who wouldn’t bow, who wouldn’t bend. Thank you God, they didn't burn. You rescued them. Lord we know that you will meet us in our fires and you will help us. You’re able. You’re strong. You’re sufficient. You merit our love and our allegiance. May we give it to you. God give us grace to do that, we pray in Jesus name, Amen.