The pressure to fit in with the world is real. The church has known this over the course of its existence, and today’s church is no different. There is always pressure to give up our convictions, soften our beliefs, surrender to immorality, and turn back from following Jesus. Daniel chapter 3 demonstrates the risks in being obedient to God, and yet also the conviction that He is faithfulness is worth any price. When the pressure comes we need the conviction that God is worth the price.
In three chapters there has been increasingly escalating pressure to conform to the standards of the empire. Chapter one recounts the pressure placed on Daniel and his friends to violate themselves by eating the king’s food. Chapter two tells of their impending death. Now in chapter three it finally happens. Daniel’s three friends aren’t just threatened the empire actually attempts to kill them, and all because of their faith in God.
If you grew up in the church then you know this story well. It’s one of the more famous Bible stories we learn in Children’s Church or Sunday School. Yet, the lesson is much bigger than just, have faith in God. It’s one thing to trust God in the face of distress; it is another thing entirely to trust Him as you face one threat after another after another. Perhaps we can trust God with the first taste of trial, but when it seems that the disasters are unrelenting we are more prone to lose faith. That’s, in part, why Paul can speak of faith as a “fight” (1 Tim. 6:12). It’s not easy, especially when the pressure builds and builds and the waves of oppression keep crashing. Are we as strong in our convictions then?
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego demonstrate strong conviction for us in this text. When confronted with the command to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image they don’t. When confronted with the threat to bow down or die they still don’t. I love their boldness:
3 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good.[c] But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 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.[d] 18 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.”
“We have no need to answer you.” That’s how they respond. They don’t need time to deliberate or think. There is not an ounce of hesitation for these men. “Kill us if you must, King, but we will never bow down to a false god.” They assert that they trust God can save them if so chooses, but even if He doesn’t it makes no difference. They will worship the one true God alone!
There is a risk in this kind of conviction. For these three Israelite boys it was immediate death. They knew that when they maintained their faithfulness to Yahweh. For many of us the consequences and risks are not as high, but they are still costly. We may lose respect, admiration, promotion, security, etc. The pressures that call us to abandon our convictions often use threat and fear to intimidate and entice. They also often use persistence, seeking to wear down our integrity and vigilance. In this empire it had been one threat after another after another. How long can Daniel and these three men hold on? How long can they remain truly distinct and set apart within a wicked empire? Repeatedly, however, what we see in Daniel is that these men believe God is worth whatever it costs to follow Him.
Do you have this same sense of conviction and awareness? Do you believe that God is worth the price of your life? Is He worth the price of your job, your marriage, your finances, your acceptance, etc.? These men believed that God was worth it! They would not bow the knee ever, not even to save their own skin. Think about the ways that you are tempted to compromise your convictions, to sell your standards, to trade your integrity. What tempts you? Why does it tempt you? How does God answer that desire and encourage your faith?
The pressure will come, friends. Maybe it is already present. The pressure will persist. Plan for the pressure. You can’t avoid it, but if you plan for it you can prepare yourself. The key to persisting in the face of the pressure is to spend time regularly dwelling with God. Live in His presence, enjoy His presence, be comforted and encouraged by it. Meditate upon His character and His promises. Remind yourself that He is near and that He will give you grace for the trials. It is, after all, the presence of God that rescues Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. In this case it is the very literal, tangible presence of Jesus, one whose “appearance…is like a son of the gods” (v. 25), walking with them in the fiery furnace and protecting them. God does not always show up in this exact way, nor does He always keep us from being singed by the flames, like He did with these three men. But He is always with us, supplying grace and strength (Ps. 23:4; 2 Cor. 12:7-10). The more time you spend with God the more prepared you will be to face the pressures and trials.
Daniel 3 demonstrates the risks of following God. There are real risks and real consequences in this fallen world. Yet, the text reminds us that following Him is worth it, and the more time we spend with Him the deeper that conviction will go. In the face of pressure stand with conviction, for God is with you.