But if Not
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 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. 18 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.” Daniel 3:16-18 NKJV
Can you imagine being in a situation where you are under life-threatening pressure to deny God and His Word? What would you do? Would you cave? Would you compromise? Would you coward? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego (the three Hebrew boys) chose to be faithful to God, no matter what happened. They trusted in God to deliver them, and they were determined to be faithful regardless of the consequences.
Yes, God has the power to deliver and could and did deliver them, and God can deliver you in any situation, too. But if not, will you continue to trust Him? Think about it. If God automatically delivered those who were true to Him, Christians wouldn’t need faith “in the fire”—facing some fiery trial. Faith in God is not a “fiery trial” insurance policy. We should be faithful to serve God and stand on His Word whether He intervenes on our behalf or not. But if not, our eternal reward in heaven is worth any suffering we may endure, here on earth.
Although the three Hebrews boys boldly told king Nebuchadnezzar that they had no need to answer him in the matter (Dan. 3:16), the king gave them a chance to change their minds; but they did not. They continued to believe in the power of God and in the promise of God to deliver them; but if not, i.e., if God chose not to intervene, their resolve remained unchanged. Under these same set of circumstances, would your faith be unshakable and undeniable? Or, would you have faith to say, “But if not.”
“But if not” expresses strong faith in the character and integrity of God, and His sovereignty. Remember God said, “Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him” (Isa. 43:7). Every thing that happens or don’t happen in the life of one who believes in God is according to His eternal purpose—good and adversity. Job, through all of his suffering understood “but if not” (Job 2:9-10; 13:15; 19:25-26). David in the 23rd Psalm knew that “but if not” was about faith over fear (Ps. 23:4), and Jesus also emphasized the importance of faith in the face of fear (Matt. 10:28, 32, 33). “But if not” as displayed by the three Hebrew boys demonstrated that “but if not” is about boldness in the faith (Prov. 28:1).
Bottom line: “but if not” recognizes that God’s glory is greater than your story. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego’s “but if not” experience in the fiery burning furnace was, not so much, about their story, or their experience; but rather, their victory was all about God’s glory. “But if not” continues to trust in God!