Is your salvation an unspoken condition of your trust in God?
Today we will be looking at the topic of trust, and how true trust in God does not care for consequences, it only knows what’s true and right and cannot be dissuaded once it is fully embraced.
To help illustrate this principle, we can take a closer look at the story of Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego. For those who know their Bibles, the story is familiar.
When the Hebrews are captured by the Babylonians, they are taken captive, and the leading families are held in the king’s palace. The king has set up an idolatrous monument to himself and commanded that everyone in the area pay homage to it at a specific time, or be killed by being thrown into a furnace. These three prominent Hebrews with the Babylonian names of Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego, being Torah-observant, know of course that God has commanded that idolatry is forbidden, and honoring of any other gods is an abomination to him.
Daniel 3:17-18 – “The God we worship can save us from you and your flaming furnace. But even if he doesn’t, we still won’t worship your gods and the gold statue you have set up.”
Their act of defiance enrages the king, and he does indeed throw them bound into the fiery furnace. But, to everyone’s amazement, they not only survive, but their bonds disappear and they are visited by a mysterious angelic individual while in the midst of the flames. The king commands them to come out, and not even their clothes or their hair has been singed or burned.
In response to their miraculous survival, the king, who just previously wanted all people to worship him and his idolatrous monument, now commands everyone to honor the one true God of the Hebrews.
Daniel 3:28-29 – “They trusted their God and refused to obey my commands. Yes, they chose to die rather than to worship or serve any god except their own. And I won’t allow people of any nation or race to say anything against their God.”
While there are many fascinating facets to this story, the essence of what it conveys is both practical and challenging. True trust in God does not care for consequences, it only knows what’s true and right and cannot be dissuaded once it is fully embraced. These men were not trusting God to save them, they were simply trusting God regardless of the outcome. This demonstrates that their trust was not in a hoped-for resolution, their trust was in God alone, whatever was to come of it, even if death resulted.
So, this situation begins to draw us toward our application for today: If you are a believer, why are you trusting God? Are you trusting him to save you from the flames of a fiery hell? What if, for his own purpose and glory, there was no guarantee that he would deliver you from that fate, would you still trust in him? What if when you die, you cease to exist; would you still trust in him today?
Now, most of you might say, “This isn’t a legitimate question, since a belief in God assumes a belief in life after death, and therefore you are setting up a false premise.” Well, I guess that’s fair. But if nothing else, then, try to think hypothetically as if there was no understanding of a heaven or hell or promise of some sort of conscious existence beyond this life. Would you still trust in God based on what he has revealed about himself? I believe a real trust in God would say yes. Real trust believes that God has revealed himself to us as the all-powerful Creator and Sustainer of the universe and he alone is Sovereign. Because this would be accepted as fact, regardless of any consequence, nothing should be able to dissuade that trust. It should have nothing to do with our personal condition or situation, or salvation, for that matter.
Some might say, why believe in a God who doesn’t give you what you want? Isn’t that the purpose of a belief in God, to gain his favor so you can have things go your way? Shouldn’t we believe in him so we don’t go to hell, so we can spend eternity with him? Those kinds of questions belie an undercurrent of self-centeredness masked with false humility that runs deep in this world, and even within the halls of Christendom, today.
If the God of the Bible truly is God of all, then whatever he chooses to do with his creatures and his Creation is up to him. He has demonstrated he won’t ever go against his own word, so he is not arbitrarily creating chaos at his own whim; however, what specifically occurs in each person’s life and how it fits into his overall purpose is not always clear to us. Sometimes deliverance glorifies him most, and sometimes sacrifice.
Cases of deliverance are still circulated among believers today, especially from the mission fields. What follows is a story that took place in Peru in recent decades. I found this story on a website that includes many different examples of recent Christian testimonies:
Julio, a young lay evangelist, had been threatened by a terrorist group. “You must stop preaching,” they said. “If you do not obey us, you will pay with your blood.”
This terrorist group had taken control of the area where Julio walks from town to town to preach. They had closed the police outstations and governed the region by their own rules. Any individual or group that would not cooperate with them was in danger.
Julio ignored the threats and continued his usual rounds, preaching in the small mountain churches and encouraging the believers. Again the terrorists warned Julio, and again he disregarded the threats against his life. The terrorists were outraged. “Our vengeance will be complete. We asked for your cooperation, and you disobeyed us. Now we will make an example of you,” they said.
A few days later Julio was ambushed and taken to the center of one of the larger towns in the area. A crowd gathered to witness the sentencing. The terrorists hoped that Julio’s fate would put fear into the hearts of Christians and perhaps even result in closing some churches.
Julio was tied to a chair and carried to the middle of the square. Sticks of dynamite were tied to each of his arms and legs. The fuses were lit as Julio began singing praises to God. Other Christians joined him in praise, encouraging him with songs about heaven.
Then came the miracle! Suddenly there was a loud boom as the dynamite exploded. The terrorists thought nothing would be left of Julio. But when the smoke cleared, there sat Julio unharmed and still singing praises to God! The terrorists were shocked. They were so overcome by fear that they ran away. At the same time, all the Christians were saying, “It’s a miracle of God!”
Julio left the square with the Christians. He continued his ministry in spite of persecution. He held firmly to the truth that Jesus gives strength to be courageous when needed.Christian Testimonies – Protection in Peru (the-new-way.org)
Of course, the Bible contains stories of deliverance, like Paul escaping from Damascus, or Peter being set free from prison. But it also contains accounts of those giving the ultimate sacrifice for their faith, such as Stephen being stoned to death, or the apostle James who was killed by the sword at Herod’s direction. Just because someone is a believer is not a guarantee that nothing bad or tragic will ever happen to them. It’s all about what serves God’s purposes best, not the individual.
As a testament to this, a common classic work among Protestant orthodoxy is a book titled “Foxe’s book of Martyrs,” first published in 1563 by John Foxe, detailing primarily Catholic persecution of the Protestants. However, it also covers many stories telling of heroic courage and overcoming faith, stories of the grace of God that enabled men, women, and children to endure persecutions and often horrible deaths. To illustrate, here is an excerpt of some stories regarding persecutions of believing Christians while it was still an “outlaw” religion around the year 200 AD.
“The Fifth Persecution, Commencing with Severus, A.D. 192
Severus, having been recovered from a severe fit of sickness by a Christian, became a great favorer of the Christians in general; but the prejudice and fury of the ignorant multitude prevailing, obsolete laws were put in execution against the Christians. The progress of Christianity alarmed the pagans, and they revived the stale calumny of placing accidental misfortunes to the account of its professors, A.D. 192.
But, though persecuting malice raged, yet the Gospel shone with resplendent brightness; and, firm as an impregnable rock, withstood the attacks of its boisterous enemies with success. Tertullian, who lived in this age, informs us that if the Christians had collectively withdrawn themselves from the Roman territories, the empire would have been greatly depopulated.
Victor, bishop of Rome, suffered martyrdom in the first year of the third century, A.D. 201. Leonidus, the father of the celebrated Origen, was beheaded for being a Christian. Many of Origen’s hearers likewise suffered martyrdom; particularly two brothers, named Plutarchus and Serenus; another Serenus, Heron, and Heraclides, were beheaded. Rhais had boiled pitch poured upon her head, and was then burnt, as was Marcella her mother. Potainiena, the sister of Rhais, was executed in the same manner as Rhais had been; but Basilides, an officer belonging to the army, and ordered to attend her execution, became her convert.
Basilides being, as an officer, required to take a certain oath, refused, saying, that he could not swear by the Roman idols, as he was a Christian. Struck with surpsie, the people could not, at first, believe what they heard; but he had no sooner confirmed the same, than he was dragged before the judge, committed to prison, and speedily afterward beheaded.”The Fifth Persecution, Commencing with Severus, A.D. 192 – Fox’s Book of Martyrs (biblestudytools.com)
These are just a few of the thousands of examples of courageous conviction throughout this single volume documenting these events. Faced with similar circumstances, would you have responded in like kind with these dedicated men and women?
Returning once again to our story in Daniel, what if God had chosen to abandon those three men in the furnace? Perhaps he could have decided that their perishing in light of their undying trust in him would have better served glorifying his name: three martyrs for Yahweh. It would still be a good story and they would still be honored as heroes of the faith. Yet God chose their miraculous preservation as a way of honoring their faith and converting a pagan king. That served his purpose better. Case in point: we’re still talking about the impact of this incident thousands of years later. It is still serving his purpose to this day.
Do you think those three men had stronger trust in God after that incident? I’m sure they were relieved, but to the point I am attempting to convey here, quite honestly, I believe that if they were asked about it, they would consider that an unnecessary, silly question. I believe they would say the point of their preservation was not to enhance their faith, but to enhance others’ faith by demonstrating God’s glory. As his glory was revealed, others came to know him.
Is your salvation an unspoken condition of your trust in God? Then you are believing in God for what he can do, not for who he is. As believers, we need to remove ourselves from the center of our own faith universe and make sure that we are recognizing and trusting God simply for who he is: God. We need to let him be God, and to unswervingly place our everything: our well-being, our lifestyle, our security, into his hands and let him accomplish his own purpose in his own way. The end result may not look like we expect it to, but it shouldn’t matter. We can be confident it will always be the outcome that best serves his purpose and provides him the most glory.
For me, I believe it would be a fitting testimony to the honor of God to have said about me what was said about those three brave Hebrew men: “he chose to die rather than to worship or serve any god except his own.”
We need to check where our trust is truly placed: in our salvation, or in the God who can provide that salvation. Place your trust in God for who he is, not for what he can do for you.
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