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Conviction: Choosing to Trust God Anyway
01/27/2008
Scripture: Daniel 3:1-30
Track 4 of 11 in the Living Lives That Leave People Speechless series
Running time: 20 minutes, 01 seconds.


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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.


"Conviction: Choosing To Trust God Anyway"
Daniel 3
January 27, 2008

Well, they say everybody has a price. Apparently not Rack, Shack and Benny. Well, you know them as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, but it's a pretty common theme all the way through scripture. You start that theme clear back in the book of Genesis when Joseph is encountered by Potiphar's wife and she wants him to compromise on his values and he turns back, leaves his robe, and runs. We discover it again even in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus is challenged about his own system of beliefs and whether he is going to be honorable to God and do the thing that God calls him to do or is he going to turn his back on God and he stays put.

When we take a look at these three Hebrew men, what we see are people of incredible conviction, the kind of conviction that allows them to stand even when all of the pressure stands against them. You want to turn, we are going to be looking at the third chapter of Daniel. I want to set the stage for that. We are not going to read the chapter, it's fairly lengthy, but we are going to walk our way through it, and I just want to highlight for you some things that are in it because it is important for you to see how the writer of scripture has so clearly given us indications of what's important in this text.

You are going to remember from last week Daniel Chapter 2 is about that vision that Nebuchadnezzar had. The head and the shoulders are made out of gold, the chest made out of silver, the torso and the thighs made out of bronze, and the legs and feet made out of iron and clay. The indication is that the head of gold is Nebuchadnezzar.

Now, what happens in our text in Daniel Chapter 3 is in direct contrast to that because now there is a 90-foot statue that's been erected of Nebuchadnezzar, and it's entirely plated with gold. It is as if he has said, hey, I understand how this works, how one kingdom gives way to another kingdom which gives way to another kingdom. That's what all that different metal meant. So I'm going to make this all out of gold, indicating that I'm here for good. Nobody is taking my place.

And then he marshals all of this pressure so that people will bow down and worship that particular image. He is trying to pull all of those folks together. He brings all of the important officials in his kingdom. He brings people from other nations, and he says, as soon as you hear the band strike up, everybody is to bow down. That's the command of the king himself. The text indicates in verse number 7 that when the music began, at the very first note people began to bow. The text says, all of them bowed down. Except three.

Here you have these court officials, the magicians of Babylon who I suspect are just a little bit peeved because of the elevation of these Jewish men in the first place, and they immediately highlight Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. In spite of the pressure, in spite of the king's command, in spite of the fact that he comes directly to them and gives them a second chance and says, now listen, when the band plays, you bow, they refuse. What tremendous conviction. What a tremendous testimony to something that they held so valuable that they were not about to compromise it for anything.

Right in the midst of this particular story, as you know, Nebuchadnezzar becomes enraged. Now, there is all kinds of interesting words in this particular text to try to help you catch the sights and the sounds of what's going on. The writer has written it to grab your entire sense about this. There are odors, and there are images. For example, he calls his mighty men. These are not just a bunch of bums. These are the best men in his army who come and according to the text bind them tightly, and then they throw them into a fire that, because of the king's rage, has been heated seven times hotter than normal. In fact, the narrator is going to go so far as to tell you this, that when those men were thrown in the guys that threw them in died. He wants to make sure you understand this fire is deadly and it is going to do its job. In fact, it kills the very soldiers who take Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to the fire.

Well, you know the story. Well, you just saw it if you didn't know it. They throw three in. But there are four who appear in the furnace. There has been a lot of questions about that. Who is that fourth person? Is this an epiphany of God that appeared on the scene? Is this an early incarnation of Jesus? Does Christ show up in an early form? Is it an angel? Well, the answer to that is, I don't know. What we do know is this -- God showed up in some fashion to keep these people safe.

Now, the text is going to go on and tell you some remarkable things. They end up not bound, the ropes are burned away, but there is no evidence that they were ever in a fire. The text says, their hair wasn't singed, they didn't smell like smoke, it didn't look like they had been in a fire. Now, if you've never been in a fire and you don't know what that means, I'm here to tell you what, the stink is awful.

We had to have our house specially sprayed with odor deterrent to get the smell of the smoke out, and even on a hot humid day years later you would still have that odor that there had been a fire in this place. And they come out without any evidence whatsoever that they've been in the fire. God had brought them through in such a way that there was absolutely no misunderstanding they had been rescued.

The heart of the story after you think about the turn that happens in Nebuchadnezzar's life where for the second of three times he is going to actually honor God. It isn't going to be permanent, but he is at least going to honor God. When you look back at this text, you can't help but find yourself focusing on this key question. Come back to the middle of Daniel Chapter 3 and take a close look at verse 13 and following. Now, this comes right on the heels of the announcement that Rack, Shack, and Benny haven't been. Verse 13, "Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summons Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar says to them, 'Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up?'"

Did you not notice that, by the way? Seven times in this chapter he is going to call attention to the fact that he set the image up. It starts in verse number 1, "The image that I have set up." Verse number 2, "He has set up the image." Verse number 3, "Nebuchadnezzar had set up the image. Verse number 4, "The image of gold that king Nebuchadnezzar had set up." Verse number -- seven times it calls attention this is Nebuchadnezzar's thing.

Did you not bow to the image that I have set up? Verse 15, 'When you hear the sound of the musical instruments, if you bow down and worship, then good; but if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace." Now, don't miss this question. This is the key question. "Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand? What kind of a God do you think can stand up against me?" That's the heart of the text. What kind of a god exists that can empower people to stand against its culture, to stand against its pressures when literally everybody under the command of the king is bowing to the cultural demands? What kind of a god can do that?

And in this text you are given that answer. Come over to verse number 28. And I recognize that Nebuchadnezzar doesn't always mean everything he says, but look at what he does say. Verse 28, "Nebuchadnezzar said, 'Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who has sent his angel and rescued his servants. They trusted in him. They defied the king's command. They were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own god.'"

You know who that God is. The biblical God empowers men to be able to stand against the tide, and Nebuchadnezzar recognizes that. So what kind of thing produces that? What gives us -- what gives people the ability to make that kind of a choice to stand against the tides? I want you to look at verse number 16. If you write things in your bible, if you underline in your bible, I'm going to recommend that you might want to just mark this one somehow so that you can come back to it again and again.

Verse number 16, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king." Now, this is after the question, what kind of a god can rescue you? And they replied, "Oh, Nebuchadnezzar, we don't need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to rescue us from it, and he will rescue us from your hands, oh king." Do you hear it? Do you hear the absolute confidence, the absolute conviction? It does not matter. We are going to trust in a God who can do this, and we believe that God will.

But you never want to stop reading there, because we are all tempted to think that we know what that deliverance looks like. You've got to read the next text. Because even though Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego says about God he can, and they believe he will, look at the following statement, verse number 18. "But even if he doesn't, we want you to know, oh King, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." Do you hear that depth? We believe he can, but if he doesn't, it doesn't matter. We will be faithful anyway. If it doesn't go the way we expect, if it does not happen the way we want it to happen, it's all right, because we believe God knows more than we do. We trust this God to give us the right answer, not just the answer we think we ought to get.

I think the world is looking for that kind of conviction in people. I think the world is asking us as believers in Jesus who claim to follow him, do you have what it takes to live like that, to trust me no matter what? To put your trust ahead of the answer, not to say after everything turns out, I knew God would do it, but to say ahead of time, I know what God can do, but even if he doesn't, I will stay faithful. I will be loyal to God. I think the world wants that.

I want to show you a really silly commercial. Can we have that little commercial?

(VIDEO SHOWN)

If a car company understands what we are asking for, why can't we? If a car company can figure out what the American public is looking for is a level of commitment beyond the ordinary, why are we having such a hard time making that commitment as believers in Jesus, because the world is looking for it? They are looking for anybody who will stand up and say, I am committed to this, and I will stay with this no matter what.

I don't know if you saw this, but this is what we are up against. This is the difficulty that we face. This news report was on a number of different news reports at the end of December. Police in Washington State say that Joshua Stetler, 20, of Granville, New York, met a girl on the internet. Now, parents, she was playing X-Box Live. Now, that's another matter. I'll let you determine what to do with this information. He met a girl on the internet and sent several hundred text messages to her cell phone and sent her flowers. The girl is 15. He then said that he was coming to see her, and here is the quotation from the text message that he sent from her curb parked out front. Tell the cops I'm going to rape you and your sister. Her sister is six.

When the girls' parents spotted him sitting in front of their Spokane house minutes later, they called the police. Officers discovered Stetler had driven 40 hours straight to meet the girl. He was arrested on felony stalking charges but was released after posting a $10,000 bail. He continued to harass the girl and volunteered to work at her school. He was again arrested. His bail was raised to a hundred thousand dollars.

Now, listen. Investigators went to his My Space profile, and here is his profile. He studies psychology and as a very conservative christian hopes to maybe one day become a christian school teacher. We've got people out there in the world claiming to be disciples of Jesus behaving this way. It is no wonder the world looks at the church and says, is that the best you have to offer? Is that as good as you can be?

I think I'm looking at several hundred people every Sunday who believe differently than that, who believe that they can make a commitment that matters, who can live a life that will leave people literally speechless because we have chosen to live our commitments. That we're not just playing this game, that it is not just a label that we are wearing, but we have made a choice to say, I will follow God, I don't care what happens. If he does it my way, great. If he doesn't do it my way, that's all right, because I have put my feet firmly in this conviction, God can, God will, and even if he doesn't, I'm staying put. That's the call, and nothing less is adequate, not in a world where there are people like this claiming to be christians.

We have to counteract that, and the only people who can do that are sitting in rooms like this one today doing exactly what we are doing -- giving God the honor that is due him. How do you do that? You make a commitment to trust God no matter what. You make a commitment that you will do what God calls you to do no matter what.

Debbie Fitzgerald was kind enough to send me some information that they used in their bible study over Daniel. Some of you have heard this before, but I think it has great meaning. When it comes to hardship in life, when it comes to difficult times in life, God may well deliver you from the fire, in which case your faith will be built because you will have seen him at work. It may, however, be that like these three men in our story and like many of you God will deliver you through the fire, but your faith will be refined and strengthened. But there is the distinct possibility, my friends, that God will use the fire to deliver you into his presence in the case where faith has been fulfilled. In any case, we're going to trust God to do what's right.

That is what we are calling you to do. No less a call than the call to be faithful to God no matter what, to trust him when all the rest of the world is bowing to the culture, when all the rest of the world is succumbing to whatever the world wants them to do and to be, to put your feet firmly in this conviction that I can trust God no matter what, because He will always do things right. Nothing less than that. Nothing less than that.