Refined By Fire
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ConnectUs Church Audio Podcast
ConnectUs Church Audio Podcast

Episode · 1 year ago

Refined By Fire

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

God often uses difficult situations to grow your faith. He has also placed some important people around you to walk through it with you.

Daniel 3

It was the night after Thanksgiving, just a couple of months ago, and my two and a half year old daughter, Kinsley, if you haven't met her yet, she's running around here with bright red hair, but she woke up in the middle of the night and she said, Daddy, Mommy, Daddy, I want to have a tea party, and so we said okay, we got her out of bed and and we sat on the floor and we had a tea party at three o'clock in the morning. And what turns a cute story in a totally different direction is when I tell you that a bunch of icee you nurses at the a I do punt children's Hospital were witnesses to this famous tea party. And the bed in which she cried out for us was a hospital bed and the icee you one of those cool crib bed things. They're pretty neat if you haven't seen them. And when we moved them on to the floor to play and have the tea party at three o'clock in the morning, I didn't tell you she was hooked up to all of these monitors making sure that everything was okay because she had open heart surgery a couple days before and we praise God that the surgeon did an incredible job and she they he fixed everything. Her heart is perfect now. But that tea party and those five days we were in the ICU and spending the holidays in the hospital, it was a circumstance that God used to change our conduct. It's what we do and our character. That's who we are and that's oftentimes definition of a trial, a difficult circumstance that God allows to come into our life to change our conduct. That's what we do and our character. That's who we are and for you, your circumstance may have been similar. Maybe you have had a medical thing that you've been dealing with or have been dealing with and you know kind of what it's like to be there, or a child dealing with a medical issue, and you you connect with us in our story and in that similar way. Or maybe for you, this circumstance that God has allowed in your life it was much worse in many ways than what I described. Maybe for you it's there is no good ending. For you, this was a problem, a trial, a difficulty from years ago, and you know what it's still hasn't gotten any better. And you know what it's actually gotten worse, and I understand that there's so many different kinds of trials, so many different kinds of difficulties and circumstances that God allows into our life. But he allows them like God is in control and nothing happens outside of his control. In the big word is sovereignty, like he is in...

...control of it all and he allows these things to come into our life to change our conduct and our character. Now I want to tell you about a famous person that you know, and you might not know him by name, but you know what he has produced in this world because he came and had a circumstance like this that really impacted his life. And this guy's name is Steve Jobs, the Apple Guy, if you're holding an iphone or you know about that. You got to thank Steve Jobs for that. When he was thirteen years old, he showed up to church one day and instead of bringing a Bible with him, he brought a magazine. Actually, it's this magazine, the one thousand nine hundred and sixty eight edition of life magazine, and on the cover, as you can see, are two starving children in the BEAFFRA war, and Steve brought this magazine to his pastor and he said to the pastor, he said does God know if I lift my finger, which one I'll lift before I even lift it? And the Pastor said yes, he does, and Steve said, well, does God know about this situation and what's he doing about it? And the pastor answered and that day, as Steve Jobs biography reads, was the last day he ever went to church. And it's a circumstance like this that changed who he was, changed what he did. And so sometimes it's circumstances that God allows into our life to change our conduct, in our character, that move us actually away from God, that push us away from God, that we don't want, we don't understand, we don't want God to be dealing with that part of our life and we don't. It moves US away. But sometimes the circumstances grow us closer to God, because many people have seen far worse situations than these children depict. Meet people have been in very impoverished areas and couple years ago my wife and I have the opportunity to go to Guatemala on a mission trip and it's really a neat story. This guy in Indiana felt like I was calling him to move to Guatemala and he just moved his family to Guatemala and to be with the people and to serve and to love and to let help pastors and it's an incredible thing. We got to spend a lot of time with them and we stayed in a beautiful place, but we also connected with people that were living in some pretty impoverished areas and seeing that, like for Alicia and I, my wife and I, it didn't turn us away from faith, it didn't make us question God and what we were doing. It actually...

...strengthened our faith to engage in this situation, that do something about this situation. And so I share that because it's important to know that it's not the situation that determines if you're going to grow in your faith and strengthen your faith or to turn away from faith and run away from God and not want to know about God anymore. It's not the circumstance, it's your interpretation of the circumstance, it's the way you understand the circumstance. And so God created each one of us unique and how we interpret it, how we understand the circumstances. But one of the biggest influences that God uses and help us interpret the what is happening around us, is the people God places in our life. And so I just wonder, like who was in Steve Jobs is life to help him put into perspective what he was seeing, what he was feeling as a young teenager? Who was there and what could have happened differently in this world if somebody maybe had guided him a little better or stronger, or he had been more recepted to more of the people around him, whatever the case may be. And so I the same is for you, like who is around you, who is in your life that is helping you, influencing you, helping you get a perspective and a faith on about God. And so today that's what we're going to talk about. We're going to talk about this story in the Scriptures and if you have your Bible, and encourage you to turn to Daniel, chapter three, where we meet three guys that were facing a really insane circumstance that God had allowed in their life to grow their faith, to test their their change their conduct and their character. And these three guys, their names are shadrack, me shack and a Bendigo, and the circumstance that we find them in is they have to decide are they going to worship this golden image idol that the king set up or are they going to not? And the consequence for not doing that was to be thrown into the fiery furnace. And it's like, okay, hold on, I either fall down and listen to the King and worship God or I don't do that. Like, how did these guys get there in the first place? Well, that's what we got to set the stage for, and so in Daniel Chapter three, verse one, we see and read that king then be Knezzar made a gold statue ninety feet tall and nine feet wide and set it up on the plane of Dur in the province of Babylon. Now we don't know exactly what the statue look like, but because of his dream and Daniel Chapter two, people guess that maybe it it was a statue that represented himself, but again, if the text doesn't tell us so. Then he sent messages to...

...the high officers, officials, governors, advisor's treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the provincial officials to come to the dedication of the statue he had set up. This was a serious thing and so all the officials came and stood before the statue King Nebbu Kenezzar had set up. And so then a herald shouted. People of all races and nations and languages listen to the king's command. When you hear the sound of the Horn, liars and other musical instruments to the ground to worship King Gold Statue. Anyone who refuses to obey will he immediately be thrown into a blazing fire for fern. And so at the sound of the musical instruments, all the people, whatever their race or nation or language, bowed to the ground and worship the gold statue that King Nebbu Kannezzar had set up. I don't see anybody us. I don't know if that's a good thing or not a good thing. But some of the astrologers went to the king and informed on the Jews, meaning they snitched on them. That's the Kevin Translation. Oh, they said to King Nebuchanezer, Long live the king. You issued at the cree requiring all the people to bow down and worship the gold statue and when they hear the sound of the horn. I wonder I might have kept this going. The entire time and all these slides, because I just copied them and that will be really, really bad. Oh, thank goodness. Okay, apologize for that. And so the cree also states that those who refuse to obey must be thrown into a blazing furnace. And there are some Jews, Shtrach, me Shach and a Bendigo, whom you have put in charge of the providence of Babylon. They pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They refuse to serve your gods and do not worship the gold statue you have set up. So that was a fun way to get into the scene. As you can imagine, that big statue and all of the people, this incredible amount of important people in the empire of Babylon, coming and obeying the king. And then you have these three guys, these three Jewish guys, that decided that we aren't going to do that. And maybe you're in awe of their faith, like how can they stand up and do that? Or maybe you think that these guys are notts, like why would they even make that decision? And so we have to look back further into the story and Daniel Chapter one to see why...

...they made the decision that they did, and in fact, in Daniel Chapter one we see that, I think that they were set up to fail this test, to in this circumstance, to bow down and to give in, because in Daniel Chapter One, verse seven, we see that the chief of the staff renamed them with these Babylonian names. Daniel was called Beltashazar, Hannania was called Shadrack, Michell was called me shack and Azrael was called a Bendigo. See, when the Babylonians came into Israel, they they took all of the strong, young, smart leaders out of Israel and into Babylon because they wanted to use them in their kingdom for their purposes, and it was like a re education program and they wanted to teach them the culture and the religion and and make them be like the Baba Loonians and not the Hebrews or the Israelites. And so the first thing that these Babylonians did to these people that came in and to help them rethink their whole entire life, was to give them a new name. And so Daniel Means God, is my judge, and the name that they changed it to, Belta Shazar, means bell, which is a Babylonian God, protect his life, Hanna and I ah Yahway has been gracious, shadrack, a companion of Aku, another Babylonian God, Michel, who is like God rite, God's awesome, God's amazing, and Meshack says, who is like a cou the Babylonian God, again, as Ariah Yahway, has helped a Bendigo, means servant of Nebo, another Babylonian God. And so what the guys were doing is smart. They're they're taking these people's identity that is created in God, of it's built kind of like into their name that they were worshiping God, and they were extracting that and replacing it with the new culture and the new way of thinking. And so it's important to know that your identification influences your interpretation. And so we might not get new names today in our culture, like no one's coming up to you and calling you different names, but aren't we good at giving people labels, like Oh, you're over there with that person, label, you you went to that thing. Oh label, you did that label. And those labels determine like, Oh, you can't work here if you're that label or you can't have an account over here with that label, or you can't do that with this label. Like we are so good in our culture with labeling, categorizing people to do if they do certain things or if they are a...

...certain way, and we have these labels that we place on ourselves, and the labels influence the way we interpret the world around us. And how do you label yourself? Like when I when as difficult circumstance comes into your life, what do you say about yourself? Sometimes we might use labels, like you know, had this always happens to me, or I deserve that, or I'm not good enough fight never am going to be good enough. And we use labels to describe ourselves in a situation and we also use labels to describe the circumstance that happens in our life. Like have you ever used the phrase maybe this last year, this was the worst year ever? Or my boss is the worst boss in the history of the world. This is terrible, I can't believe I work for this person, or I can't believe that my life is going this way. This is terrible. It's never going to be good enough. You know what it might be? I got might be true but there is more to it than that. And if we just use labels like that, your label influences your interpretation of the events that you are going through, and so I think we should reclaim some of the labels that we use, like let's take back the ways we identify who we are and the circumstances that we find our self in. So one of the things I like to do as I'm preaching and teaching, is I love to encourage you to engage in a way that you feel comfortable with. And it is takes practice because it's like, how do you talk and how do we talk together? It's it takes practice. But one of the tools that I like to use is I like to encourage you sometimes to look at the person next to you, like pick the pick the one that's next to you and tell them I am somebody. That's your way of saying I am you know, that's a label. Tell Him I am somebody. There we go. I am loved by God, my God protects me, my God is gracious to me. There we go. Then look at your other neighbor, the one that you've forgot about, that you didn't want to look at to begin with, and tell him. My God helps me through whatever I'm going through. There you go, there you go, that's awesome, that's awesome. And so then you you look at yourself, you label yourself that way. You look get the circumstance in your life and you label that circumstance and say, God is using you to grow my faith, God is using you to make me more like Jesus, God is using you circumstance to strengthen my relationship with God.

And you tell it. I'm never going to give in, I'm never going to give up, I'm gonna make it through like that is a entirely different way to view the exact same circumstance that God has allowed in your life. So remember that we're talking about a circumstance today of three guys that had the decision. Do they bow down and worship the big golden image, idle thing, or do they not and get thrown into the fiery furnace? And they chose not to bow down. They chose to have this circumstance grow their faith. And one of the ways I think that they could do that is they remembered who they were. They they might have had their names changed by the king, but they knew that they wore worshippers of the true and living God, and they didn't let them for they didn't let themselves forget that. And so you might wonder, though it's like, how do you grow your faith in your God that much to make a decision like that, like I would die for this decision. And you know what, you don't end up at the top of a mountain by accident. You you get there one step at a time. And the same thing happened with these guys again in Daniel, chapter one, in this re education program that started with renaming their names. They also gave them food to eat, and this food was was offered to the idols and the gods of the Babylonians and and the these guys, Daniel, Shatrak mechack in a Bendigo, they said, we're not going to give into that where you are going to stay true to our God and the law that he's given us. And they even tested the situation. was like hey, come back to us after the time period is over and see if we're just as strong as everybody else. And certainly God was with them and they were, and it was pretty incredible. But how did they make a decision in the moment again. Well, and Daniel. Chapter One, Verse Eight, we read that Daniel was determined not to defile himself, and I love those words. He was determined. Another translation said he purposed in his heart, like the decision was already made before the circumstance ever showed up. Because you know when is the worst time to make a decision in the moment, like if you wait to decide what you're going to do when you show up at the play, it's going to be a bad decision. If you decide, are you going to watch this video or not when you're already on the website, you probably are going to make the wrong decision. If you show up to somewhere and you say, I don't know if I'm going to...

...drink that or not, but I you make the decision in the moment, you're probably going to make the wrong decision. In the moment is the worst time to make a decision. You want to pre decide predetermined purpose in your heart, even right now, where you're seated right in this place, to say when the circumstance comes, when the situation arises, I know what I'm going to do. I decided what I've going to do. That's what Daniel did and and I love that. This little lesson was one of the lessons that are football coach in college gave us. He would he would, you know, have a meeting before the game and he would call, you know, we'd all be sitting there, all the players, and he'd say to us, he's like, you know, you're going to have a great game today and you're we're going to win and it's going to be exciting and and then the next day is Sunday and it's like what, you don't have anything to do on Sunday and then school starts again on Monday. And so what do all the football players in college do on Saturday night on? They go and have a good time, right. And so the football coach told our team he's like you have to decide right now what you're going to do tonight. He says, if you wait until you show up after the game and all everyone's doing, you know what they're going to do, it's going to be too late and you're just gonna go with the flow. You got to decide right now what you're going to do. And I think it's a great lesson that's what Daniel did, that's what these guys did. They purposed in their heart. They knew, they were determined that, no matter what circumstance was coming their way, that they were choosing to follow and obey God. And I think we can do the exact same thing. And so these three guys, they had that choice, that difficult choice. Right, do they fall down and worship the idol or do they stay true to their God and face the possibility of a fiery furnace? And they knew what decision they were going to make, because they knew who they were, they knew their identity was in God and they knew that their God was going to be with them, was with them because they had predetermined that they were already going to choose to obey God no matter what was going to happen. And so the king gave them one more chance. Want to predetermine you will trust. The king gave them one more chance. He said Shatrack me, shack and ABENDIGO. They replied, Oh, King, Nebbi Knezzer, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from Your Power, Your Majesty. Like what incredible faith that they could stare right at this king and say, I believe that my God can save us from you and the most powerful man in the world. My God is bigger than...

...you and God can rescue you from any circumstance, any trial, any difficulty. In a moment it could be gone. And if you need him to show up in that way in your life, just ask him, because he wants to, he wants to be there and he can and he sometimes will change a circumstance in a moment and make it completely different or change it be gotten with it. Because sometimes, and maybe you've heard it said this before, preachers say this sometimes something like you know, God helps those who help themselves. You ever heard that before? I don't think it's true. I think it's very, very wrong, because God helps those who need help, and if you need help, God's ready willing and able to help you. No matter what situation, no matter what struggle, no matter what you're going through, he is ready willing and able to help you. Just call out to him and to be able to believe and to trust like that no matter what situation you're facing like that is a awesome level of faith. It's a it's a strong level of faith. But we're not just trusting in a God that does good things for us right like. We're not just trusting that, yeah, you know, it's all good, if he's if he does do what we want him to do. No, we're trusting in a personal God, in a relational God and in a person, not just in the actions that he can do. And so the way that Shadrach, Meshach and a Bendigo expressed this level of trust is in these next verse here he said, but even if he doesn't, which is incredible because they believe that God could and would and will save them. But then they've still recognize that there is a possibility that, even if he doesn't, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your God's or worship the gold statue you have set up. And this is the kind of faith that I want to see God develop in your life, that, no matter what happens in your life, no matter what circumstances come into your life, that you can choose to trust in God, that you will continue to serve him, that you will continue to obey him even if, and this is the key, even if the situation doesn't go the way that you thought it was going to go, because you're not trusting in this transactional do good for me God, you're trusting in a person, a personal relationship with God, the God, the creator of the universe. And how do you get this kind of level of faith, of trust? Will you have to have an...

...eternal perspective, don't you? And shatrack be check and Abendego there like, if you throw me in the fiery furnace, our God can bring me out of there and it's going to be good and that's a win. But if you throw me into the fiery furnace and he chooses not to save us and bring us out of the fire, then we get to be with him forever in heaven. And you know what, that's a win too. It's a win win situation. So, King Nebiy Kainezzar, do whatever you want to do, because we win in the end, and I think that's an incredible level of trust, because we're trusting in God and not just what he can do for us. And so what happens. King Nebbi Knezzar was furious with Shatrack, Meshach and Abenego that his face became distorted with rage. He commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. Then he ordered some of the strongest men in his army to bind Shatrak, Meshach and Abenego and throw them into the blazing furnace. And so they tied them up and throw them into the furnace, fully dressed in their pants, turbans, robes and other garments. And because the king and his anger had demanded such a hot fire in the furnace, the flames killed the soldiers as they threw the three men in. So shadrach, Meshech and a ben ago, securely tied, fell into the roaring flames. And I love the visual of them being tied up with those ropes, securely tied, because so often we live our life tied up with things that don't we habits, ways of thinking, places that we go, patterns of living that we just can't seem to break loose from those ropes, those ties. But God used the fire to break free their ropes, and I believe that that's oftentimes what God uses the circumstances in your life to do as well. He allows these circumstances to change your conduct and your character, and those things that hold you back, as things that hold you down, those things that control your life, they can be melted away, they can be gotten rid of. Finally, it's like a wake up call and a smack in the face, whatever metaphor you want to use. It's like sometimes we just need to experience the harsh, the difficulty, the fire, so that we have a little motivation to maybe delete that APP that we should have deleted a long time ago, or that contact that we shouldn't be in our phone, or whatever the case may be for us. We use the fire to get rid of those things. And that's what happened to these guys. I mean they went in and and the ropes were burned off, but then suddenly nebucannezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers,...

...didn't we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace? Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did, they replied. Look, Nebu canezzer shouted, I see four men unbound walking around in the fire unharmed, and the fourth looks like a God. God is with you in the fire. And now we don't know a hundred percent for sure how God showed up there or who that was, of course, but many scholars, many people, believe that that is Jesus showing up in the Old Testament, you know, before he was born, and we celebrate that on Christmas because it Jesus is eternal. He existed before he was born at, you know, two thousand year or two thousand years ago, six hundred years later, after these events were recorded, and so this is Jesus showing up in this moment to these people in the fire. And there's not many times in the Old Testament that we see this preincarnate Jesus showing up, and this is a special, special moment, and the big word for that is called a Christophany, Christ showing up in a physical kind of way. But God is with these guys in their deepest darkest moment of deepest need. Jesus shows up. God shows up in an incredibly personal way. And then Nebu Kanezzar came as close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace and shouted Shatrak, Meshack and have been Togo, servants of the Most High God. Come out here, come here. So Shatrak meetshach and a better go stepped out of the fire. Then they high officers, officials, governors, advisors, crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was sins and their clothing was not scorched. They didn't even smell like smoke. I love this point because I think God has brought you through some stuff and when people look at you, when we talk, when I meet with you, know, meet you and you tell me the things that you've been through. Maybe someone said this to you already. You've been through that like like. You went through that situation and you're still okay. You were able to survive growing up in that kind of household and God brought you through that. No Way, I would have never guessed that, because our God is that good, he is that gracious, he is that strong and powerful that no matter what you face in your life at doesn't have to continue to define who you are for the rest of your life. Like we, these guys went through the fire and they're looking at him like you don't even smell like smoke and you've been through some stuff and you don't have to smell like that. You don't have to be defined by that. It doesn't have to hold you back. You've grown through that. God's been with you each step of the...

...way, and so we've made it this far in the story, so we might as well finish it. So here's how it ends. Went too far. I don't have a slide for this. I'll read it then then, because, as I said, praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abendego. He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king's command and we're willing to die rather than serve or worship any God except their own God. Therefore, I make this decree. If any people, whatever the race or nation or language, speak a word against the God a Shatrak, Meshach and Abendego, they will be torn limb from limb and their houses will we turn at the heaps of rubble. There's no other God who can rescue like this. What a testimony these guys were to the entire world the choice that they mean. And then the king promoted Shatrak Meshach and Abendego to even higher positions in the province of Babylon. Like they were better off after going through the fire. They were refined by the fire. And so my question to you as we closed today, who will? Will you allow circumstances that God allows in your life to change your character and and your conduct? See, don't flat the circumstances turn you away from God. Don't let the difficulty push you away from God. Allow the circumstances God uses to grow your faith. And you can do that if you remember who God is, that he is good, he is loving and he's got your best in mind. And you can do that when you know who you are, your identity in Christ, that you are a child of God, that you are loved, you're forgiven, you are born into the family of God. And you can do that if you predecide that, no matter what you face in your life, that you are going to trust in God, that you are going to follow him, that you are going to live for him and that no matter what difficult circumstance God allows, he is with you right there in the moment. And if you do that, I believe that God will use whatever circumstance he brings into your life to grow your faith. God will show up for you no matter what it is you going through. And now you might not have God show up physically. That be cool of you did, and in because he doesn't show up physically, sometimes we doubt, don't we? We sometimes feel like really, God, are you really there? And it's in those moments that I just encourage you to always, always, always, look back and turn back and remember the cross, because whenever we forget that, if God cares about us, if God is really there, there was an event two thousand years ago where God literally died for you. Like these guys, they thought it was worth dying for to trust and obey God. God thought you were worth dying for and he died on the...

...cross in your place. He was buried and rose again the third day, so that anyone who puts their faith and trust in him can be saved, can have their sins forgiven, have new life, eternal life. And we see this image of the Gospel played out so clearly in the story of Shadrach Meshek in a Benego, don't we? How many people went into the fiery furnace this isn't a trick question. Three people. How many people were in the fiery furnace for people? How many people came out of the fiery furnace? What happened to the last one? It's a great picture of God absorbing the fire, being there in the fire, taking that trial, that difficulty, that pain, that punishment for our sin, taking that in our place so that we can get free. It's a beautiful, beautiful picture of how Jesus would do that for us so that we could be set free. And if you are making a decision this moment, this morning, that like it's clicking, it's making sense of what Jesus has done for you. Like I'd love to hear about that. I'd love for you to just mark it on the connection card or or talk to me afterwards and love to pray with you and and help you answer those questions. That's what the first step group is really designed to do. So I encourage you to ask those questions and talk about that when we get there as well. But for all of us, God wants to grow your faith and he's using difficult circumstances oftentimes, to do exactly that. And he's placed us in rooms like this, with people around that want to help you grow in your faith, to help you interpret the things God is allowed into your life, to see that God is really working. And for many of us this pandemic time has been really difficult and it's been caused a lot of circumstances that we wouldn't have chosen otherwise. And one of the things that has done it has caused us to feel really alone, hasn't it divided us, made us segregated in different rooms or houses or however they've done it, and that's like the greatest tactic of the enemy is to feel like, when you're going through something, that you're the only one who's going through it right, and that's just not true. I mean, God is with you and so many other people are with you. There is another in the fire with you.

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