Winter in South Africa is not always that mild. Indeed, at nights we frequently have a fire roaring in the fireplace. As logs get put on the coals and burst into lively, heat-emitting flames, I think of Daniel’s friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, who were faced with certain death in a mighty furnace. It must have been terrifying to look at the fire, hear the command to make it hotter still, and to maintain the stance that they had adopted – not to bow to the golden idol. But what could have made them so resolute and steadfast in their choice?
The four friends had been hand-picked from a defeated Israeli race as potentially promising scholars. Experience had led them to see that the God they served was indeed greater and more powerful than the best magicians of the age. They had found favour with man through honouring God (Daniel 1:8-17). They had seen God’s hand on them through their obedience, and found that diligent prayer and devotion to the Lord God was beneficial to their well being in a foreign land. Together they were able to encourage one another and they later undertook to pray for Daniel when he needed to interpret the king’s dream (Daniel 2:17-18).
Their words speak of uncompromising single-mindedness in honouring the Lord, Creator of the heavens and the earth. ‘We want you to know O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up’, (Daniel 3:18). We see their complete confidence in God’s ability to save. ‘If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king’ (Daniel 3:18). The three friends stood firmly in the knowledge that God was trustworthy even in the face of peer group pressure (to bow before the idols), promises of security in this world (whoever does not bow will be burned), and threats from authority (the kings’ fury).
Taking their example let’s gain our boldness to stand against peer pressure to compromise our faith. Let’s acknowledge Jesus’ strength and faithfulness in our lives and let’s be in unity with our Christian brothers. The apostle Paul prayed that the Ephesian Christians would not lose heart during difficult times and that they would be strengthened through the Holy Spirit. He prayed that God the Father would grant ‘that you may really come to know [practically , through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the Divine Presence, and become wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]’ (Ephesians 3:19, Amplified Version).
Prayer: Dear Father God, Help me to recognise Your hand of mercy, strength and provision in my life so far, so that I can face today’s challenges without fear and fainting. Help me also to develop godly friendships that mutually support, being in unity with one another and You. You are my shield, my strong tower and my shelter from the storm, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
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