Monday, May 29, 2017

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

Most mornings I wake up and try to decide which day it is. This morning I woke up with three names on my mind, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Now it was only 4:26 and I didn't have to work today, so I tried to go back to sleep. But these three names kept rolling through my head. I promised God that I would go and read about them when I woke up. An hour later, and no real sleep, I climbed out of bed.

Now, like many Christians I heard the story of these three men when I was a child. I know the basics of the story, I've seen the cartoon version of the story, so I know what happened. I settled down on my couch and actually thought, "what more can I learn from them?" I read and reread parts of it trying to gauge what God wanted me to get out of it.

If you don't know the story or haven't read it in awhile, like I hadn't, then go to this link and read it. I'll wait for you.

Honestly, I was stumped. I didn't know why God placed them in my thoughts this morning. I didn't notice anything new about the story. No nugget of wisdom jumped out of the words at me. So I decided to just ponder the story and hope God revealed the message eventually.

As the day waned on a small thought started to grow in my mind. I'm not sure God had the three young men on my mind, as much as He had a growing concern of mine in mind. You see, when I was young I came to Christ and went to a pretty different church that was located at a Bible School. I had gone to church before then, but it was the place to go on Sunday. This place was different, at times very weird, but truly wonderful. I learned to love God and seek Him there. I came to think that all Christians were like that. We didn't have just one pastor, often the person who spoke from Sunday to Sunday was different. Each person had his or her own style and some got to the point much faster than others. Sometimes services were hours long and other times much shorter. But everyone seemed to be grabbing hold of God and what He was speaking. I heard prophesies and people speak in tongues. I saw people dance, and clap, and sing with total abandon. I heard God speak to me, and I knew it was Him.

Fast forward many years and many states away and I have come to realize that most Christians aren't anything like the ones I experienced there. Most Christians do not live their lives in abandon as those people did. Most Christians don't talk about God or hearing from Him like we did. I started to wonder who was the weird ones, the ones I grew up with and was a part of or everyone else. More and more I worry for those who call themselves Christians, including myself! How much time do I spend, now, listening to God, spending time with Him? Honestly, not nearly as much as I used to.

As I send less time with Him, the more time I spend doing and thinking things that I shouldn't. I long for fulfillment and seek it in ways that don't include God. Not that all those ways are evil or anything, but they don't bring me the deep heart fulfillment that only He can bring. I watch too much TV. I don't read my Bible enough. I allow myself to be involved in gossip and unwholesome talk. I judge people I don't know and only based a small glimpse of who they are. I worry. I fret. I feel discontent. I follow along with what others think or do.

By now you are wondering about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and if I have completely lost the point of this post. Be assured, I haven't. King Nebuchadnezzar made this golden image and told everyone that they must worship it. Music would play and people of every language and nation would fall down and worship this thing. Now it is conceivable that most people weren't really worshiping it, but he had threatened death to anyone who didn't, so they did. They went along with it, even the very people He had set apart, the Jews. Everyone followed the crowd because they either believed in worshiping this thing, didn't really care one way or the other but everyone was doing it, or they did it out of fear of being told on and put to death. But not Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

They refused to bow down, to worship, to follow the crowd. They were men of high position in the governing of Babylon. In the previous chapter they are mentioned as being appointed over the affairs of Babylon. They were important and noticeable when they refused to bow. So of course, people told on them. They were brought before Nebuchadnezzar, and even being told that they would be thrown into a raging furnace they refused to bow. He got so angry that he demanded the furnace be turned up so hot that the soldiers who threw them in were burned up. As you know from reading the story, they were joined by a fourth man in the furnace and came out without being singed or even smelling like smoke. Nebuchadnezzar repented, declared that no one could speak against God, and promoted them.

Back to today, I have worried about how many Christians follow after the words of man or chase after the idols of today. I worry about how I have done this as well. Thankfully He has convicted me and continues to do so. Why does it seem like so many others just keep going ahead and following? Why was it only these three men that we know of defying the king and culture of their time? Why is it like that now? Why do so many of us listen to and follow after the words of "great" men and women? Some of these "great" people having nothing to do with Christ, yet many who say they do! We accept so much that is called sin, and even abominations in the Bible and say that times have changed or God is all about love? Of course He is! "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 He loves us but He tells us to turn away from our sin, not keep doing it and say it's okay because He is love. What do we watch on TV or at the movies? Personally, I have been convicted so many times by what I've seen. How about the way we speak? The word we choose to use or the names we call people. The other day I called someone a name, behind their back, and I felt the evilness of it. My insides cringed. Why do I not stand up like these three men more? Why do I follow the crowd?

I don't know the answers for why others do, and the reasons I fall down to the idols of this world vary from I wanted to to I was afraid of what others would say. I want to verse to be true that He will be with me in the fire, but I wish I would stop dragging Him in with me. I create those fires by doing things, saying things, and thinking things that I shouldn't. I would much rather He go into the fiery furnace with me because I stood up and looked to Him instead. I want that for me, and I want that for more Christians. I want us to stop listening to "great" men and women and turn to His Word, not a paraphrase of it or a distortion of it, but the Truth of it. I want us to guard our eyes, ears, and mouths. I want us to speak what He gives us to say. I want to see us stand up, come threw the furnace un-singed and smelling good, and be promoted in His kingdom. I want to be more like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and I want other Christians to rise up too.