Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Christians and Suffering - What Can We Learn From the Fiery Furnace?

Christians have times of suffering too! There is the temptation sometimes to think that we are exempt from suffering, or difficult times; that God will protect us from anything painful or horrible.
But sometimes he doesn't.
We live in a fallen, messed up world and we suffer sometimes: sickness, relationship breakdown, injustice, financial difficulties, stress, pain... God does not cause these things. Life happens and sometimes it hurts. We need to respond to that.
Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (whose story is told in Daniel, chapter 3). Three good, Jewish boys, exiled unjustly to a foreign country, stripped of their culture, identity and even their names but getting on with the job. Outwardly they were obedient to their captors, but inwardly their hearts were kept for God alone.
The next thing they know they're heading for the fiery furnace.
What can we learn from them?
1. They trusted God and accepted His sovereignty.
"If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it... but even if He does not, we want you to know, King, that we will not serve your gods or worship your image of gold" (Daniel 3:17)
One of the greatest things we can do when faced with suffering is to trust God. To trust Him to deliver us from it but more than that: to trust Him even if He does not deliver us from it. Sadly, many Christians have lost their faith in God because their prayers for deliverance or healing were not answered as quickly as they expected. It's hard, but we need to trust God even when we don't see our prayers being answered as we want them to be. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were able to do that. Live or die they would trust their God.
2. They were not alone in the furnace
Go did not deliver them from the furnace as they might have wanted but He was with them as they went through it! And He is with us as we go through hard times too. Sometimes, from the depths of crying out to Him we might find a closeness we have never known before. Sometimes we may feel completely abandoned. He is as close to us whichever we feel. He will not leave us.
3. They came safely through and out the other end.
Sometimes it may feel as if we will be stuck in the darkness forever. Not so. Your pain and hardship may seem unsolveable but God is at work, He knows how much you can handle and He will bring you out the other end, stronger, with a greater faith and a deeper understanding of who He is. His promise is that trials develop character, and although it is painful there will be a great reward at the end of it all for those who remain faithful.
Would we have remembered Sharach, Meshach and Abednego, if God had answered their initial prayers, changed the King's mind, and never put them through the furnace? Probably not. Their testimony was great because of what they overcame. It is the same for us. Our testimony will be far greater because of what we have been through and come out of victorious.
4. They had 'no smell of fire on them' (v27)
Sometimes, when we have been through times of difficulty or pain, we can come out of the fire, but still have the small of it on us. By this I mean that there is a residue of bitterness, doubt or unforgiveness still with us and still affecting us. God's will for us is that we come out of the fire uncontaminated. our faith and love and knowledge of God increased through the time of suffering.

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