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Fireproof Faith

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

1 Peter 4:12 says, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.” Why? Hopefully because of your faith in the power of God, His promise, and His character and integrity as Sovereign God—you are fireproof. To be fireproof is to be able to withstand great heat or fire; it is to be resistant to destruction by fire. Fiery trials in your life may not be literal fiery furnaces, but it can feel that way in crumbling marriage, imminent financial ruin, having an incurable sickness, etc.

A fireproof safe is designed to resist extreme heat and flames to protect the contents, per the fire-resistance specifications. God has designed us—not to resist the heat and fire—but to endure the fiery trial. Our best example of this is Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego and their fiery furnace ordeal. They displayed the following characteristics of fireproof faith:

(1) Boldness (Dan. 3:18, 19). They didn’t just “talk the talk”; they walked the walk. Their faith had bold corresponding actions (Jas. 2:26); (2) Fearless (Dan. 3:20, 21). They didn’t resist or try to escape the trial, no matter how fiery the furnace may have been. They allowed patience to work in the trying of their faith (Jas. 1:2-4); (3) Relentless (Dan. 3:22). They were determined, unyielding, and unswerving trusting in God‘s deliverance notwithstanding the threat. They confirmed that the righteous is delivered from trouble, and it comes to the wicked instead (Prov.11:8); (4) Humility (Dan. 3: 23). No matter what, they fell down on “bended knees” in a show of humility and prayer, believing for God’s deliverance (1 Peter 5:6-7; Ps. 34:7-8); and, (5) they showed that fireproof faith seeks to please the God at all times; as a result, they were delivered by the Angel of the Lord (Jesus) and regained their favor with the wicked king (Prov. 16:7).

Beloved, you too have fireproof faith, and in this you can greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you may have been grieved by various fiery trials; but know this—that the testing of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7).

 

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!

 

 

 

Undeniable Faith

Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” 16 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 3:14-18 NKJV

Undeniable faith “in the fire” is plainly visible and unquestionably true faith. It isn’t foolish or presumptuous; it doesn’t resist the fire, it falls down in the fire in humility and faith in God (Jas. 1:2-4; 1 Peter 5:5-6). If you don’t deny your faith in God, He won’t deny you when “in the fire.” And, remember, God doesn’t deliver you from the fire; He delivers you in the fire. Thank God, there can be victory in the fire where there is undeniable faith!

The first commandment written by the finger of God was: “Thou shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3). God was saying, “don’t ever let any other “god” get between your face and my face; never place a less powerful being between me and you. Even if you find yourself facing some extremely painful and unbearable situation,  a hard test or trial, or even threaten with a “burning fiery furnace” experience, don’t serve that god, nor bow down to worship it. Never ever deny your faith.

As demonstrated by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, undeniable faith is strong faith—faith so strong—in God that is incapable of being contradicted, denied or disputed; faith that is incontestable and unquestionable, even in the midst of a burning fiery furnace. Some of the characteristics of undeniable faith, which can be plainly seen, are that your faith is unshakable, bold, and fearless; and, you don’t try to figure things out or explain it away; you don’t compromise; and, you abide in constant unswerving faith.

The three Hebrews, mentioned above, abided in three levels of undeniable faith. First, faith in the power of God when they said to the king, “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; second,  they expressed faith in the promise of God saying, “He will deliver us from your hand, O king; and, thirdly, they intimated faith in the character of God saying, “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 . . .” (Dan. 3:16-18). Undeniable faith manifested for them a complete deliverance, without hurt or harm, from the burning fiery furnace (Dan. 3:26-27).

 

Unshakable Faith

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

As Christians, we all have faith (Rom. 12:3), but we don’t all have unshakable faith. We can sometimes find ourselves “in the fire.” The expression “in the fire” is an idiom that means that you’ve encountered a situation, test or trial that is extremely painful and unbearable; you’re facing a circumstance that threatens to consume you. In order not to be consumed and defeated, you need faith in the fire—an unshakable faith.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego refused to serve neither king Nebuchadnezzar’s false gods nor bow down to worship the gold mage that he set up. They stood on the Word of God as outlined in the first of God’s commandments ever given to Israel (Ex. 20:2-4). As a consequence, they were casted into a burning fiery furnace, literally. In the face of impending death and being consumed in the flames, they demonstrated their faith—unshakable faith (Dan. 3:16).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego demonstrated, not an ordinary faith, but an unshakable faith. This strong kind of faith delivered these three Hebrews. Their response to the king showed that that there are three levels of unshakable faith. They said the following to the king: (1) “God is able to deliver us.” They had faith in the power of God (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 3:20); (2) further said, “[God] will deliver us from your hand, O king.” This evidences that they had faith in the promises of God (Ps. 34:17, 19); and, (3) moreover saying to the 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 . . .“ This unquestionably proves that they had a deep faith in the character of God and His Word (Deut. 31:6, 8; Josh. 1:5; Heb. 13:5; Matt. 18:20).

Metaphorically, when you find yourself “in the fire”, just know that every fiery experience has a God-ordained purpose when you stand with unshakable faith (Rom. 8:28), regardless of the circumstance or situation—God is at work, and He will meet you in the midst of the fire just like He did with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego (Dan. 3:24-25).

Again, not only did their unshakable faith deliver them, it also converted a whole nation to the true God (Prov. 16:7). Unshakable faith is knowing that no matter what you’re facing—even in the midst of the fire—nothing is greater than God. Faith in the fire knows that God can do anything, and He will deliver you from all things including a premature death. God said, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you” (Isa. 43:2). Faith in the fire is unshakable faith!

 

 

Waiting Since the Year 1619

Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. Psalm 130:2 NKJV

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. Proverbs 14:34 NKJV

America is on fire, literally. Distraught and distressed people in Minneapolis, and others in the North, the South, East and West cities in America are protesting, rioting and looting, and burning and destroying businesses, crying out: “No justice no peace” in their frustrated—can’t take it no more—response to the nation’s systemic racism, which reared its ugly head again; most recently, in the police killing of an unarmed black man in Minnesota. While the nation burns, where is the church of God? Where are the voices of the “so-called Christians”, especially the white brothers and sisters? Jesus said that the church would be the salt of the earth, and the light of the world (Matt. 5:13, 14). It appears often that “the salt” has lost its savor” and “the light” doesn’t shine, especially in trying times as these.

It all began in the year 1619 when descendents of Africa was first brought to America against their will, and forced into the bondage of slavery, America’s original sin, and still the nation’s un-repented sin. This original sin of our country still stains deeply the soul of our nation until today. America must repent if it ever, truly, wants racial healing and international exceptionalism (2 Chron. 7:14). After 401 years here in America, including after the Emancipation Proclamation, the Reconstruction period; post-slavery amendments to the U.S. Constitution; and, after a vigorous, on-going and unrelenting civil rights movement, black Americans have at best achieved some integration in society, but not equality and equal justice under the law. It’s time for the true church of God to take a Biblical look at unsettling truths. Isn’t this what God requires “but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God”? (Mic. 6:8).

Let us never condone violence, looting, and the destruction of property, under no circumstances. But peaceful protest is a worthy and lawfully protected American value. Instead of injudiciously blaming the looters and the violent, take a prayerful moment and try to understand that the oppressed blacks of America are sick and tired of being sick and tired. How long must they wait for equality, police reform and a fair criminal justice system? How long?   It’s high time for change to come. They have been waiting since the year 1619. The church of God is the one institution that can be the most effective catalyst for effecting positive racial change and justice in America (Matt. 16:18).

The riots across America are responses to the violence that people are forced to live with every day, i.e., violence that flows from oppression, poverty, injustice, and alienation. Dr. Martin Luther King once said: “A riot is the language of the unheard.” The church can’t afford to turn a deaf hear and turn a blind eye to the centuries-decades long problems that have been “swept under the rug.” It’s time for the church to pay attention and hear (Prov. 31:9), stand up and speak up!

 

The Elevator

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. James 4:10 NKJV

Most commonly speaking, an elevator is a cage or platform for conveying people or things from one level to another (Merriam-Webster).  During my years as a corporate executive, I often needed to take an elevator to reach a floor of my office, in a high rise building The Scripture shows that God is our “spiritual Elevator.” He elevates us from one degree of glory to another when we humble ourselves under His mighty hand, and then He exalts us in due time above our circumstances and situations. Elevation happens when we cast all our cares upon Him, for He cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7). But without a heart of gratitude, we would never cast all our cares upon Him and be elevated.

We are admonished by Apostle Paul that “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18). Thanksgiving follows a grateful heart, and a truly grateful heart requires humility. It’s an attitude of gratitude that determines one’s spiritual altitude. Gratitude is a force, i.e., the energy that diverts the “bad air” of your circumstances down, and fuels the promised elevation—the lifting up in due time. God is the Elevator!

There is a difference between gratitude and thanksgiving. Gratitude precedes thanksgiving; it is a feeling of appreciation in your heart. Thanksgiving is the expression or manifestation of gratitude. The life of Moses is a good example of the relationship between humility, gratitude, thanksgiving (See. Num. 12:3; Ps. 90:12). A grateful heart is a humble heart; and gratitude and thanksgiving are choices we make daily. As an act of your will, you can choose to be grateful for what is, rather than being ungrateful for what is not. Don’t allow adverse circumstances, problems, and disappointments render the “elevator in the building of your life” to be out of order. Find something to be grateful for and offer thanks unto the Lord.

What happens when a building’s elevator is out and you desire to go to another level?  You toil, strive, tire and get exhausted, and get weary climbing the stairwell, rather than humbling yourself in the sight of the Lord (1 Pet. 5:6). But Jesus said, “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11). Isn’t it better just to cast all of your care upon the Lord, for He cares for you? (1 Pet. 5:7). Carrying your anxieties, worries, stresses, and daily struggles by yourself shows that you have not trusted God fully, nor have you been grateful. Although you know God, you must glorify Him as your Elevator and be thankful, lest you become futile in your thoughts and foolish in your hearts (Rom. 1:21). “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift (elevate) you up (Text). God is your Elevator!

 

 

Force of Gratitude

[I]n everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV

Never allow a circumstance or situation stop you from being grateful. No, you shouldn’t thank God for everything bad that happens, but rather, thank God in everything. Why?  Remember God’s promise to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience . . . let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (Jas. 1:2-4). When you’re “perfect and entire”, you have ascended higher in the things of God. It’s your attitude of gratitude that determines your altitude, spiritually speaking.

Evil things like viral pandemics, sickness, and suffering are allowed by God, but they don’t come directly from God; neither do feelings of isolation, loneliness and depression. So why would you thank God for any of it? When evil circumstances rare their ugly heads, you can still be thankful in it for two reasons: (1) you can be grateful for God’s presence (Ps. 16:11); (2) and, be grateful knowing that God will accomplish His good, notwithstanding the circumstance (Rom. 8:28). Bottom line: it is the will of God, according to His pleasure and purpose that you have an attitude of gratitude, so stay submitted and humble to His Word and He will lift you up, higher and higher! (Jas. 4:7, 10).

Gratitude is a force that works much like the Law of Lift. In Physics, the science of matter, motion, energy and force, Lift is the Third Law of Physics that explains how birds and airplanes achieve lift in order to fly. For example, “the wing of the airplane must change something of the air to get lift. To generate lift, the wing must divert lots of air down, then the lift of the wing becomes equal to the change in the momentum of the air it diverts (Newton). You can change the “air of your circumstances” with gratitude, which will divert the “bad air” of your circumstance down; rather than allowing the circumstance to get you down, with gratitude and thanksgiving, the Lord will lift you up!

Social scientists and mental health therapists are now saying that one of the best ways to overcome feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression is to feel gratitude (Psychology Today). Circumstances and stuff happens in life; they really come with living your life (Phil. 4:11-13). But be grateful. To be grateful is to count your blessings, not your problems; give thanks for the abundance of all of the good things that God has ready blessed you with (Deut. 28:47).

 

 

 

A Stayed Mind

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength. Isaiah 26:3-4 NKJV

There’s a song that we sang in the “old church”—the church of my upbringing, entitled: “I Woke Up this Morning with My Mind, Stayed on Jesus.” What was the import of that song? Well, a stayed mind is a mind at perfect peace; a single mind; a sound mind; and, a strong mind—a mind that leans and depends upon the Lord and takes hold of the unchanging truth of His Word (Ps. 119:160; Matt. 24:35).

A stayed mind will love God above all else at all times (Matt. 22:37). Nothing is more important even in the face of a crisis, test or trial. You love God with your entire mind, i.e., intellect and deep thoughts (Phil. 2:5), with your imagination (Eph. 3:20), and with understanding (2 Tim. 1:7). On the other hand, an unstayed mind is a double mind (Jas. 1:8). A double mind is a two spirited mind, vacillating in opinion and purpose; a mind that is unstable mentally and spiritually. In the field of mental health, double-mindedness can be a symptom of Schizophrenia, which is a mental disorder that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions, and to relate properly to others. Let us not be a “spiritual Schizophrenic.” God is good all the time!

Any serious challenge, crisis, or temptation that you face will reveal your state of mind. If you mind is stayed on the Lord, you will show perfect peace. If not, you’ll display your hidden hurts, or some unresolved issue in your life. But regardless of the challenge keep you mind stayed on the Lord, because a stayed-mind never gives in to circumstances (Phil. 4:6, 7). Keep your mind stayed on God’s goodness. Don’t give in to sickness and disease, financial problems and uncertainty, isolation and loneliness, depression and despair, and relationship problems. Why? Because the “Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace” (Ps. 29:11). Be encouraged and keep you mind stayed on the Lord!

 

 

 

 

Perfect Peace

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, For in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength. Isaiah 26:3-4 NKJV

So, what is God saying in current crisis (COVID-19 pandemic), which is causing people to suffer sickness, financial problems and uncertainty, unemployment, mental and emotional breakdowns, loneliness and isolation, depression and marital problems, spousal abuse and child abuse, and even substance abuse? God is saying, “[I] will keep [you] in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on [God].”

We can’t avoid conflict and problems in this uncertain world, but with God, we can be at peace even in the midst of this pandemic, affliction and persecution, chaos and confusion. When we are faithful in our relationship with God, our whole attitude can be healthy, stable and steady, supported by God’s unchanging hand of love and His mighty power. And, if we keep our thoughts on God and trust in Him, we can have, not just peace but perfect peace!

Perfect Peace is double peace (Shalom Shalom, Hebrew Text). It’s peace upon peace; it is to feel wholly peaceful and safe, happy and healthy, well and prosperous; and to feel all is well. The Bible speaks of two kinds of peace: peace of God (Text) and peace with God (Rom. 5:1). The peace of God is your mind-set and peace with God is your heart-set and righteous standing before God. The key to perfect peace is a stayed mind, i.e., your mind leaning upon the Lord and taking hold of God by standing on His Word. A stayed mind is having a sober and healthy attitude, not disturbed by sickness and disease, financial problems, and physical or emotional problems.

Satan uses adverse circumstances to rob you of your peace— things like affliction, fear, trouble, disturbances, distractions, and inconveniences. If your mind isn’t stayed on God, these circumstance will certainly reveal hidden and unhealed hurts and other unresolved issues in your life (See Mark 4:35-41). Every crisis you face is also is an opportunity to refocus your faith and reset your relationship with God. At the core of all these problems are fear and anxiety (Phil. 4:6), but God promised perfect peace, and He “the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen” (Rom. 16:20).

 

 

 

 

Fiery Trials

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 1 Peter 4:12-13 NKJV

Do not think that it’s strange; don’t be surprised, when you experience a fiery trial—something used by the devil—that is so calamitous, so devastating, so severe—in order to destroy your faith. Your adversary, the devil, is out to steal the Word of God from you. Just remember, it isn’t God sending the fiery trial, but it’s the devil.

Satan’s number one weapon that he uses to steal the Word from you is affliction and persecution (Mark 4:17). Affliction means “pressures of life.” Affliction includes sickness and disease, financial problems, and physical and emotional problems including anxiety and depression. So, what is the will of God concerning fiery trials?

The apostle James said that you should “count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations; knowing that the trying of your faith works patience” (James 1:2-3). Various temptations (tests and trials) are to be received with joy and endured with patience. The word, “temptation” translated means evil solicitation; tests and trials (Greek text); and Jesus called temptation evil (Matt. 6:13).

If Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”, then how could tests and trials be the will of God.  And, in the same teaching on prayer, Jesus first taught his disciples to pray: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). Since there are no fiery trials, tests and trials in heaven, then obviously, these pressures of life aren’t the will of God here on earth.

The will of God is to endure, i.e., be patient (Jas. 1:12-14); not waiting for something to happen, but enduring what is happening. Remember the devil comes to steal the Word with affliction to cause you to fail, to quit, and go back into sin (See Mark 4:15-20). When you are faced with a fiery trial, including this Coronavirus pandemic, “let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:4).