The tale of Daniel's friends Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace is a favorite Christian story (Daniel 3), with all the elements that thrill our souls: an evil king, righteous men standing firm against the fiercest threats, and a certifiable miracle! But one detail in the tale is often lost in the excitement of God's spectacular intervention. In verses 16 through 18, the men speak to King Nebuchadnezzar.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (NIV)
The men recognized God's unsurpassed power. They knew that no mere man, no matter how vast his empire is or how powerfully he rules over his kingdom, can enact anything that he does not allow. This provides us great encouragement as we pray to God for deliverance in all manners great and small. But we must ask ourselves, does it comfort us when God chooses not to deliver us? Are we willing to sing praise to His holy name when his answer is no? Are we people of the Even If variety, or are we Only If people? The true question is whether we love God for who He is or whether we want Him merely for what we can do for us. My friends, I pray that you and I are the former, for the latter are no true children of God. Let us be people whose delight is in the Lord, who dwell in the peace and contentment of His shelter. Brothers and sisters, we must be like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; we echo the words of Paul to the Philippians from his Roman prison:
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (1:20-21)