No Smell of Smoke

Daniel’s three friends were in trouble. They had been invited to a celebration of sorts. The king had built an idol and expected his government leaders to bow down to it. And these three said No. They would not bow. They didn’t even have a second thought about changing their minds. Even when given a second chance, they stood strong on the grounds that it would defile their relationship with God. And there was no way they would let anything come between them and God. There was no hesitation or pause in their response. They had made that decision ahead of time, and they were sticking to it.

So here they were standing in front of a blazing furnace. And the king was so enraged that he had the furnace turned up several degrees hotter. And he had his mighty military men bind these three hand and foot before throwing them in the furnace. The fire was so hot that it killed the soldiers who shoved them into the furnace. As they fell down into the flames, the binding around their arms and feet fell away. They were free to move about freely. No. They didn’t burn up. They didn’t die. They were walking around in that big furnace. And suddenly the king shrieked! He saw a fourth one in the fire. I’m sure he was suddenly fearful. How did a fourth person get in the fire? Who was this and how did he get in there? And the king claimed he looked like the son of a god.

Oh. Deep down he knew, but he didn’t want to admit it. The king knew who was in the fire with these three faithful followers of God Almighty. This king, Nebuchadnezzar, had already had a run-in with this God, and God proved his might. Now, once again, here is God showing up to save the lives of three men who faithfully stood strong in their faith against a self-infatuated king. You see. Just before tossing these men in the fire, the king had dared to ask them just what god would be able to save them. And guess who showed the king. God himself.

So the king did the only thing he could do. He called to the men in the furnace to come out. So out of the furnace the three men walked. Not a hair on their heads was singed. Their clothes weren’t scorched. And they didn’t even smell of smoke. It was a miracle indeed.

You can read the full story in Daniel 3.

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Psalms 46:1-2

Imagine a time when you are called on to bow to a false god or a false ideology that goes against your faith in God. As you stand with the crowd, there are watchers. They are looking for those who refuse to bow to the demand. And the decision must be made in an instant. To bow or not to bow. What would you choose? Oh. If you’ve already made the decision ahead of time that nothing, and I mean nothing, comes between you and God, then you don’t hesitate. Making that decision in advance is key to not bowing to pressure. But if the decision hasn’t been made, then the split second you have will be very telling. If you haven’t thought out what you would do when a very difficult decision that tests your faith stands before you, you could easily bow to a demand you don’t support. And then. There you are.

Let’s say you decide to stand for God’s truth. You buck the trend and choose to share the reason you can’t comply with what is being demanded of you. And then you’re challenged even further with loss of job or worse. Do you still stand strong in your convictions? Or, does your courage begin to fray? Do you go against the grain and maintain your personal faith in the face of any and all threats? Let’s say that you do.

Then the true test comes. You lose your beloved job and no one will hire you. After all, you’re not one who can be counted on to support current cultural trends. So you’re blacklisted. Loss of income. Loss of respect in your field of expertise. You’re an outcast. During that time of testing, do you feel the fourth person in the fire with you? Do you sense God’s sweet presence walking with you through that burning furnace? Just because you alone stood for your faith when others bowed to pressure doesn’t mean you’re standing alone.

Then, by God’s grace and provision, you land on your feet. You find a job and you’re saved from homelessness and embarrassment. You can once again pay your bills and provide for your family. You know that it is through the hand of God that you have gotten through the difficulty, and you’re so very thankful. You know that God is truly the source of your strength, and your faith is stronger than ever.

But do others see that stronger faith and courage in you? Did you walk out of the fire without any smoke damage? Was your hair singed? Were you clothes scorched? Do you smell like the smoke of testing? Did you walk out with a bitter attitude? Do you grumble and complain because life isn’t fair? Do you carry the smell of smoke or the aroma of Christ?

We’ve all been through deep trials in our lives. Some are walking through the fire of testing at this moment. Others feel they’re about to be burned. They are standing strong in their faith, but some days are more difficult than others. They wonder if standing strong is really worth it. They wonder if giving up and giving in to the pressures they’re facing is the best thing to do. Is it better to cave to pressure or burn in the fire?

When we are in the fiery trials, we can know that God is with us. We know his goodness exists even when life doesn’t feel good. We can sense his nearness as we walk through the fiery trials of life. We don’t know if the three men in the furnace knew there was a fourth person in the fire with them. So, we may not always be aware of God’s presence with us as we face trials and tests in our lives. Can we accept the trials knowing that God has allowed them, even if we don’t sense his presence?

We must walk worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ regardless of the cost. We must stand for what is biblical. We must also decide that the things we believe, the biblical values we hold near and dear to us, will impact the way we live our lives. It is time for Christians to be courageous.

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