Introduction

Do you still have faith in God when things don’t quite go as planned? It would be remiss of me if I were not to focus on the great crisis that we are all still facing this week.  Many college students who were set to graduate this spring are being told they will not be able to walk across the stage for graduation. Many workers are being furloughed and we’ve even seen states shutdown with stay-at-home orders.  Do you still have faith in God when things go wrong?

We are constantly being inundated with stories about those who are becoming sick or are even dying from becoming sick.  It is time of great panic and great fear. It is during times like this where the believer turns in his or her faith to God and prays.  During this time of crisis, many of us are praying very hopeful prayers to God for the worst not to happen to us or to our loved ones.

We all make plans and have plans and in our minds and these things are always what’s best for us.  However, there are many times when things go wrong and not as planned. I feel that we have to have the kind of faith to where we are prepared to deal with those times.  Let’s take a look at the story of the three Hebrew boys.

The Three Hebrew Boys Stand Against Nebuchadnezzar

I imagine most of us have heard the story about the three Hebrew boys, but just in case you have not, let’s go over the story.  Scripture tells us that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, besieged (surrounded) Jerusalem in the third year of Jehoiakim reign (Dan. 1:1).  This was when Nebuchadnezzar first came to Jerusalem and took captive some of the Isaelites.   

Nebuchadnezzar would actually end up visiting Jerusalem two more times.  After Jehoiakim’s son rebelled against Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar made his second visit;  besieged Jerusalem and took even more captives from Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:6-16). There was another rebellion made by Zedekiah, and it was after this rebellion that Jerusalem was burned down, and destroyed (Jer. 39, 52).

Faithful men during this crisis

Times were rough for those who had been taken captive or even left behind.  Can you imagine even having faith in God during that time? Interestingly enough, many of the Israelites had already turned from God and were doing evil in his sight.  Their disobedience was the reason that led to their captivity and Jerusalem’s destruction.  

Daniel and his friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were part of the first group of Israelites taken to Babylon (Dan. 1:6).  Nebuchadnezzar wanted good looking young male Israelites who were gifted and smart so that they could assimilate to Babylonian culture (Dan. 1:3-4).  I imagine that Daniel and his friends prayed hard to the Lord for things to work out in their favor, but I believe we would say being held captive in a strange land was not what they were looking for.  Clearly, things have gone wrong for these young men and others.

Firm faith in time during a crisis

Let us remember that the Babylonian culture was one that was very secular; they worshiped idols and had a diet that these men were not accustomed to.  So these young men found themselves trapped in a place they rather not be. The king was trying to force a new normal or these young men who grew up in a different culture and society.  The question is: How would they respond? What would these faithful men now do?  What would you do?

Again, many of us are finding ourselves living “trapped” right now with the steps being taken to prevent spread of the virus.  College aged kids are ignoring the calls and still going on spring break. As I mentioned last week, many folks are acting as if the world is ending and completing raiding the store of supplies.  A new normal is seemingly being forced on us and it seems most of us are not taking well to it.

Facing the king’s wrath

The king tried to force a diet on these young men that would cause them to defile themselves in their faith in God (Dan. 1:8-20).  Nebuchadnezzar then made an image of gold that it would be mandatory for the people to worship. Failure to bow over in worship of this image of gold would lead to death by fire in a fiery furnace (Dan. 3:1-6). 

Now this is a serious crisis for these young men: life or death.  There is a decision that these young men will have to make that could cause them their life.  They choose to stand firm in their faith and defy the king (Dan. 3:12). Now, I do not want anybody to get the idea that I am saying we should defy the suggestion of others and continue to gather together in worship during this time.  (Nobody is forbidding us to worship because we can worship God anywhere.)

Still trusting in God’s will in a serious crisis

What I really want you to see is what these three young men say to Nebuchadnezzar when he threatens their life (Dan. 3:15).  In their time of crisis, these young men tell the king that the God they serve is able to deliver them from the burning fiery furnace (Dan. 3:17).  Not only do they say that God will deliver them from the fiery furnace, but they say that God will deliver them from Nebuchadnezzar’s hands – the hands of captivity.

I feel as if someone needs to hear this today:  we will be delivered! We will be delivered from every crisis that we face!  Coronavirus: we will be delivered. Pneumonia: we will be delivered. Flu: we will be delivered.  Drugs: we will be delivered. Alcohol: we will be delivered. Sin: we will be delivered: Satan: we will be delivered.

Jesus said (John 16:33), “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” God will deliver us from the afflictions of today! We will be delivered from all of our sufferings! Do you still trust in the Lord’s will even when things go wrong?

18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

key verse – daniel 3:18 nkjv

God’s perfect will and God’s permissive will

After everything that these three young men had been through, they still had great faith in God!  Last Sunday, I said that great faith is made up of knowing who God is, understanding His power and His authority, and truly trusting in that power and authority.  We find that these young men were still trusting in the Lord’s will! They even say to the king, “But if not [If God does not deliver us], let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

I tell you that this type of faith is just different.  Do not get these young men wrong – they were very hopeful in what God could do for them, but they also knew it was possible that they might not be delivered.  When we talk about the Lord’s will, we say that God has a perfect will and also a permissive will.

We are constantly reminded of the will of God throughout scripture.  Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans (Rom. 8:28), “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  Paul would later write in the same letter (Rom. 12:2), “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

The Lord has a perfect will in which He knows every single outcome from every single decision that we will make.  Within that, we find the Lord’s permissive will.  God permits us to make those decisions and that even includes whether we believe in Him or not.  This would then also mean that God permits disobedience and sin.  Let us remember that this does not mean it is OK to sin.

Trusting God’s will when things do not go right

These young men were trusting in the God’s will no matter what.  They knew that the God’s will was good no matter what the outcome would be for them.  Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into the fiery furnace and I want it to be noted that these men did not fight it nor did they complain about it (Dan. 3:20-21).

We know how their story ends.  The young men did not die a fiery death in the furnace.  Nebuchadnezzar was able to see into the furnace and notice that the three men were not alone, but that a fourth was there in the fire with them!  This, to me, is one of the more powerful images that we find in scripture. Notice the king’s astonishment when he says (Dan. 3:25), “the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”

God in the furnace with us today

You see, God was there in the midst of the fire with the three young men!  God was their shielding and protecting them; He was there to deliver them! It took very great faith in God for those young men to make it through that crisis.  Is it possible for you to trust in God’s will in the same manner?  

As genuine believers we should certainly trust in God’s will in the same manner.  I do not know the final outcome of what we are going through today. Sadly, I know that we have already lost some to this virus and it is likely we are going to lose more to this virus.  Unfortunately, some of us are losing jobs and businesses – our way of life – because of all that is going on. We are metaphorically in a fiery furnace at the moment.

With all of that being said, I want you to know that we are not alone in this furnace.  Either way, through life and through death, God will deliver us from this fiery furnace.  I pray that you continue in your prayers of hope. I also pray that you continue in great faith:  knowing who God is, understanding His power and authority, and truly trusting in the Lord’s will.