But if not...

Yesterday was "quiet day" at All Nations. This happens each term on the 4th or 5th week. There are no chores, maintenance or classes. The students have a 24 hour period from 7pm on Tuesday night until 5pm Wednesday afternoon to read, reflect, pray, sleep or walk. The idea is to stop and hear God's voice. This is a good discipline for all Christians.

I decided to take yesterday as a quiet day as well. So instead of researching, writing and preparing, I read, or rather reread a book. The book I chose was Tested by Fire by Chris Wright. The book came out of a series of sermons Chris preached at All Nations when he was a visiting tutor before he went to India.

It is based on Daniel 1-6 and the four friends' experiences living their lives as worshipers of the one true God in a pagan context. It is a encouragement to Christians to live their lives out for God in their everyday lives.

Chris entitles the chapter on Daniel 3 "Bow or Burn". Nebuchadnezzar, after hearing his dream interpreted by Daniel, probably thinks "with my head of gold, I had better unite the empire. So he organises a cultural event with a statue at its centre. Everybody is told to bow down to the statue at the height of the celebrations. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego do not and are threatened with the fiery furnace. The verses that are so impressive are verses 16-18,

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

This turns the threat of the king on its head. The king says, "if you bow...all well and good...but if not...(vs. 15). The three friends says, "if we are thrown...then God will deliver...but if not (vs. 18). Chris says that this isn't a sudden loss of confidence but

Rather it is a triumphant affirmation of complete faith in God which still leaves God his freedom to do as he pleases. They fully expected a miracle, but they would serve God without one. They declared total faith in God's ability, along with the total acceptance of God's will.

What a wonderful demonstration of humble faith. They did not demand a miracle from God, as in a "name it and claim it" theology but were committed to the God they serve and rejected Nebuchadnezzar's gods.

We may believe that God has called us to something and we hold on to it in faith. If that something does not happen, serving God is the most important thing not our ministry dream. So we may believe we are called to a country, called to marry a person, called to a certain ministry, "but if not" are we still willing to serve God?