I have a deep admiration for any Christian in the past, who was so sold out to serving the Lord with their lives, that they were willing to suffer death, rather than turn their backs against God. That brings such warmth to my heart and conviction at the same time. I have to ask myself if I have a heart like that. Am I wholly committed to suffering pain, emotional or physical, for the sake of Christ's gospel? Am I willing to sacrifice every fiber of my own personal definition of happiness, in order for God to be glorified?
Shadrach, Meshach and Adednego were.
When faced with the ultimatum- worship King Nebuchadnezzar's false god or be burned in a furnace; there wasn't even a question, they only had one thought and that was solely towards serving the one true God. While they did have the faith that God could deliver them, they did not automatically assume that He would save their lives. (physically speaking)
"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." (Daniel 3:16-18)
As we already know, the King threw them into the furnace and then it became apparent that there were not just 3 men in the furnace, but 4... God had sent an Angel to deliver them. One of the things that I really love about this story, is that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not say that they were going to stand in their faith and believe that God would deliver them. They believed that if it was God's will, He would preserve their lives and if it wasn't, He would not. They just obeyed God without thinking how it would benefit them. They believed their souls were what mattered, and trusted that He had them in the palm of His hand.
Another example is Esther. When the lives of her people were being threatened, she made the bold move of going before the King; a move that could have cost her, her life, if the King did not extend his scepter.
"...Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16b)Esther did not sit and wring her hands wondering if going to the king was the right choice to make; she just took action and did it. She knew that it was the right thing to do and if she perished, she perished.
Are we willing to perish for Christ?
This is applicable to every aspect of our lives...not just our physical well being. Are we willing to let our desires perish? Are we willing to be childless? Or, how about single? (that's a big one :) Are we willing to give up everything we have ever wanted, because our duty to God requires it?
We should be willing!
Too much of our focus is spent on us. We need to be so utterly consumed with doing the will of God, that our every thought is geared toward how our life is a testimony to the redemption of Christ. The will of God is a tricky thing. What exactly is God's will for us? God's will for us is that we glorify Him and obey His Word with a joyful heart...period. That is God's will. Shadrach, Meshach and Adednego did not sit and wonder if it was God's will to deliver them, they just said it was God's will for them to serve Him and Him alone. We need to have a heart that desires to obey God so much, merely for the fact that He is God. Not because of what He can do for us, or how He will bless us if we obey Him, but because we love Him. If we want to earn brownie points, then we will keep His commandments? No, if we love Him, then we will keep His commandments.
"He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8)We need to see that no matter what period we are at in our lives, we should be taking dominion, furthering the kingdom of Christ and seeking to glorify God. God is sovereign and wherever we are at in our lives is where He wants us to be! We need to be content. If our first thought is about what God wants and not what we want, then we can be happy knowing God is accomplishing things through us that we are not even aware of. God is reigning on His throne on high with His infinite wisdom...what more do we need?! We are finite, fallible and hopelessly flawed and depraved, but we serve a God who is perfect; we can rest knowing that He is in control.
Let us focus on being like Esther, Shadrach, Meshach and Adednego, Daniel, David, Job, Paul, and every other Christian who experienced total contentment with whatever God's decision's might have been. What a beautiful thing when we live our lives dedicated to Christ and His honor! I cannot articulate how gratifying this is. If I could only make you all feel as I feel at this moment in time. I possess a contentment that is unspeakably joyful! I find such joy in relinquishing my worries to the Providence of God! If God is on our side nothing can harm us! Our bodies and our lives on this earth are just a temporary vapor that will soon pass away, but our souls are eternal, they will live on forever...it is just where they are going to live on forever, that is cause for concern.
If we can look at life on earth as a gateway to forever, then contentment can come much easier. We will be able to comprehend the bigger picture and resolve to proclaim with Paul: "...for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content." (Philippians 4:11) And not just be content, but be joyful as we embrace contentment and die to ourselves and our own fleshly desires.