My pastor taught on Daniel 3 two weeks ago where we learn about the events of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. For those of us who have been Christians for some time now, this is a familiar story.
You probably learned, as I did, that these three men were steadfast and faithful to God despite opposition. We learned the result of their faithfulness landed them the death sentence by fire. Once inside the furnace, a fourth man showed up described as a ‘son of the gods’. Yet instead of death, the men lived without even the smell of smoke and fire on their clothes. This led the King to decree that all should worship the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
There is more surrounding this event but that’s pretty much the gist of the story. But, my pastor pointed out a key component of the text that I previously never noticed.
In verses 24-25, Nebuchadnezzar is the only one mentioned who noticed the fourth man in the fire. Scripture never indicates whether Shadrach, Meshach or Abednego noticed the fourth man. Granted, Scripture doesn’t say the three men didn’t but it doesn’t say they did. This struck me so as I meditated on it, my thoughts went back to 2006.
The year 2006 was a bittersweet year for me. It was sweet because I married my beautiful wife. It was sweet because my precious little princess was born. Yet, in the midst of tremendous sweetness, I experienced one of the most bitter periods of my life. I experienced the most intense period of spiritual warfare that I have ever experienced to date. While different, it was similar to 9/11 for me because I recall with detail the exact place where I was when the battle ignited.
I was in a buddhist temple in Fukuoka, Japan. I was in a room with paintings that pictured horrific images of death and torment. I’m not attempting to sound melodramatic because this event is real. To simply refer to it as difficult period in my life is a gross understatement.
That day began a nine month journey of hell on earth. It was an experience I’m now thankful for while one I would not wish on anyone. Yet, God used it to do something in me He needed to do. He walked with me through a fiery trial to test me, refine me and get me to a place He designed for me. Thankfully, I did not have to do it alone. I had my wife by my side but God also brought Clyde Hodson into my life to walk with me. Clyde leads PrayerMentor.org if you’d like to learn about him.
This period did not cause my ministry work to cease, but it did cause me to pray more than I have ever have prayed. Every day was a mental spiritual battle that I wanted God to remove. Yet, he didn’t answer that prayer until 9 months later. While God did a lot in and through me during this period, I remember one moment vividly.
I was sitting with a friend from China. We met often to discuss what he was learning in the Bible. At the time, he was not a Christian but he was seeking. In fact, he drove the conversations to the Bible every time we met.
On one occasion, he made a statement that took me off guard. It was a pleasant surprise and gift from God. He said, “Every time I look at you, I see peace”. Well, I didn’t feel like I had a ton of peace in my life, not with this battle waging around me. But, he saw the living peace within me and that spoke volumes to me.
Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, I had a difficult time seeing God in my fire and my fire was hot. But like the King, my friend saw Jesus in the fire with me, even though my friend (nor the King) didn’t know exactly who was standing in the fire with me (or the three men). Hearing this was the gift.
It was a gift because God showed me that He was with me. He showed me that even in the midst of intense fiery trials, God is working in, through and around me. I (or we) may not feel Him in every situation, see Him always or have perfect peace 100% of the time but God is always with me (us). That promise is as true today as it was when Jesus verbalized it in Matthew 28:20.
As we individually and collectively walk through this COVID-19 pandemic (trial), remember that God is with His people (us). He has not left us nor will He. This trial is not a surprise to Him. Yes, he is refining us during this trial in various ways and in ways we cannot be refined when life is on easy street. But, he is with us. He will get us through this valley that feels like the shadow of death.
Keep focused on Christ. Keep encouraging one another in Christ. Do not neglect meeting with the saints (keeping social distancing in check). There are many tools available that we can leverage to connect with each other until the window opens once again for us to connect face to face. And when that days arrives, I know it will be incredibly sweet for all who know Christ!
Steve Schirmer, President of Silk Road Catalyst and co-Host of Missions Talk. Least Reached Advocate. Dedicated to No Place Left.