This past Friday marked the 36th anniversary of one of the saddest days for our nation. That was the day when the Challenger space shuttle exploded just over a minute after takeoff, literally right before our eyes.
My wife and oldest daughter were watching from the steps of our Orlando home when it happened, and I saw the vapor trail of disaster moments after the explosion. It was shocking, and a brutal wakeup call for us all, and a reminder that courage doesn’t come without risk.
We in the United States may well have become too comfortable with our regular shuttle missions, lulled to complacency by one success after another.
Past success does not mean an easy, trouble-free future. Not in any aspect of our lives. Church leaders who teach a prosperity doctrine that includes the possibility of a life lived free of suffering or pain have an incomplete viewpoint of scripture and of what happened to leaders throughout church history.
The Bible actually promises that we will suffer in this broken world. There is risk in adventure of any kind, and that includes the process of living out our lives for Christ.
Just consider the three Hebrew young men we know as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The book of Daniel highlights their story of convictions and resolve.
When faced with a command to bow and worship the king’s golden image, they put their faith first and refused to bow. They knew the consequences of not bowing to the image of gold, yet their words to the king revealed not only their faith, but also the ingredient we all need when we face the risk of an uncertain future.
“…Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” ~ Daniel 3:17-18 ESV
The king heard these words, then ordered the three to be bound and the fiery furnace with which he had threatened them to be heated up seven times hotter than usual—so much so that the guards who then threw the boys into the furnace were killed by the heat and flames.
Then…the most amazing thing occurred. As the king peered into the flames, he saw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, as well as a fourth person, who looked like the “son of the gods.”
The king called out to the young men, commanding them to come out of the furnace, and when they did, the king and all those around saw them completely untouched by the flames and the heat. Their hair wasn’t singed, their clothing unharmed, and they didn’t even have on them the smell of smoke.
These three young men faced death with courage, realizing the risks to believing in God at any cost. They believed that the Lord had the power to deliver them, but even if He chose not to do so, they still wouldn’t deny Him and bow. They discovered that God and His answers can be found in the flames.
Think about this: three men went in, but four were seen inside the furnace. Then, three were called out. That fourth person…well, He is still in the fire, ready to comfort, console, and walk beside us, whatever our flames in life may be.