For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life
Let us pray:
Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen
It is not what they wanted. It was not where they thought they were going to be. But they knew God had promised to be faithful.
Refusing to eat the food.
Believing God hates idols.
How does this apply to us:
We might feel like we live in a place that is against us. Looking at things like laws that increase abortion or that hurts children by keeping them from their parents or any number of things that are anti-God, anti-compassion, anti-Christian. They don’t have to be laws, sometimes it is just the attitudes of people around us, or the sense that there is a lot of animosity generally toward us as believers in the One who rescues. After all, this world is NOT our final destination. We do live here now, and we do have the opportunity to help see it become more like the Kingdom we belong to, because following Jesus makes the Kingdom come to life where ever we are.
But we can look at Daniel and his friends and notice some things about how they respond in the face of adversity:
- They are respectful. They don’t storm off or stomp their feet. They listen to what the Babylonians want and they simply say no. They say no to eating defiled foods, they say no to bowing to an idol, they say no to ending prayer and ultimately, they are respected for it.
- They are not offended – they are simply true to what they believe. They don’t denounce the other, they don’t create an us vs. them scenario, they don’t condemn anyone else – they simply stand firm for what they believe and do otherwise. They don’t call for an end to all food offered to idols for everyone, they don’t embarrass any other Israelites in exile who did bow to the Nebuchadnezzar statue, they don’t call out the ones who told them couldn’t pray – they just stick to what they believe and firmly refuse to do anything else. I was reminded just last night how important this is. Sometimes when we get outraged, it looks like we hate those who are against us. That may not be what we intend, but if we look closely at what these exiles living in a strange land did, we can remember the less angry way to stand firm and know that our outrage, our anger, our insistence that everyone believes the way we do only hurts our witness.
We don’t have to prove we’re right to be right.
- They trust God for the outcome. They know that things could go wrong in each of these instances: but they trust that God has got their backs and will be faithful no matter what they face
We can learn a lot from how they handle themselves. We can stop being disrespectful to those who oppose us. We can stop being offended or outraged about other people’s behavior – just stay in your lane and do what you are accountable for: Stand firm, but don’t whup and holler about, just do it.
And we can trust God for the outcome. Sometimes we might have to say with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: 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 Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
It’s not likely we will face a literal furnace. But we might have to walk through job loss, financial devastation, family derision, all kinds of things. And even if God doesn’t rescue us from those things specifically, we can absolutely trust that EVEN IF he does not, you can trust him to be faithful, to be who God is, and to walk through it with you, no matter what your battle looks like.
In Babylon, our best witness is us being true to God and letting God be faithful, no matter the opposition. We may live here, but we don’t have to serve the god of this place; we 100% know better.
As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:
What does it mean to say God loves?
God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.
God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.
God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.
God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption
God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing
God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.
God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.
God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.
God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.
God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.
God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.
God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.
For God so loved the world…
God loves you.
God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.
God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.
God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.
So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.
God loves you. Go, love the world with him.