God’s word is alive and active, breathing new life and meaning every time I read it! I am grateful for this as I read through scriptures during a season that is unlike any other that I have experienced. As I read stories that I first learned in elementary school, they come alive with a freshness from our Savior. One such story is the telling of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace (Daniel 3).
I have personally experienced the enemy doing the work of division in our community. The lines of division are all over the place: how you feel about school closures, church closures, COVID in general, how you stand politically, how you feel about the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’, who you feel is to blame for the wildfires, and how we are to process and understand end time events or signs. All of these scenarios, and others, breed opportunities for offense.
As I read the story of these three servants of the Lord, my threshold of offense gets smaller. Here are some thoughts to encourage us during this season of interesting trials and to help eliminate the residue of offense from our hearts.
When reading this story, the first point that connects to today is found in Daniel 3:16, when the three men respond to the angry king: “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.”
There have been many moments when accusations, or confrontations, lead me to feel defensive. I want to be clearly understood, and if I’m even more honest, I want to be clearly vindicated of any wrongdoing. I want to be seen as just in my actions, thoughts, and feelings. This can lead to people holding on to statements far too long as we seek an opportunity to defend ourselves, rather than to move forward in relationship with that person.
The reason these men did not need to defend themselves is because they were confident with Whom they stood: God, the ultimate defender. As we keep ourselves in check, we will not need to check other people. Holding on to the scorecard of who has been more just, therefore needing a proper defense, will only separate families, friends, marriages, and churches.
As these young men walked out of the fire, totally unscathed, God’s work was the final word. When we seek Jesus, and serve His people in the way He’s asked us to love people, His power of healing and transformation will be the thing that changes minds. It will not often be our social media posts or eloquently worded arguments.
I am praying daily for the Lord to give me the right words to say in areas of conflict. The day I stop praying for the Lord to work, and assume I actually have all the right answers, is when I have decided to take justice and righteousness into my own hands. Let’s be a humble people who daily showcase how God’s hand works. Sometimes this means being brave to share your own story. Sometimes it means being brave and forgiving those who haven’t apologized. Sometimes it means allowing someone to have the final word, even if you still think they are wrong.
The final element of this story is how the young men emerged from those flames: without even the smell of fire on them. I am praying that this season not only doesn’t break relationships, but that there isn’t even the smell of division or brokenness on God’s people. My prayer is that we come through this season unscathed and without even the residue of what we went through, other than the miraculous testimony of what we went through.
In order to do this, and to keep ourselves from the stench of bitterness, resentment, division, or animosity, we must hold on to a few things. We are to forgive quickly. We are to be slow to speak and quick to listen. We are to assume the God knows best and not that we know best. We are to speak kindly (to a fault!) of those who have hurt us. We are to pray for those who have hurt us to not only do well, but do more abundantly well than we can ask or imagine. And we must eliminate the space where laments can become slander.
You may be going through the fire right now, but you can come out without even the smell of that experience on you! You can praise in EVERY season. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus and our hearts residue-free in order to love both His Church and His entire creation well!