Some people might have said they were being disrespectful and disloyal to the king. Others could have condemned them for being ornery and unfaithful. Whatever was said against them at the time, the audacious faith that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had in God was undiminished and unswerving. And even when they faced a fiery execution, they still did not turn away from the God of their people, not even if God failed to deliver them.
That’s what made their faith so audacious. No matter what happened to them, whether for better or for ill, they still held on to their essential belief that there was only One God. No matter how many threats were made against them or how hot the fiery furnace was raised, they did not swerve from their devotion to the LORD. It must have been both perplexing and infuriating to King Nebuchadnezzar. He wanted to save them – all they had to do was bow down to a golden image – but they would not adhere to the king’s commands. There was a Higher Power active in their lives and a greater authority than that of the earthly king. The three men would not surrender their faith in order to save their lives.
In these contentious times for the Church, it can be very easy to let go of some essential beliefs in order to accommodate everyone’s ideas and notions about God. However well intended, if we stray too far from the truth, then we are in danger of losing our faith for the sake of keeping up with the world. We could even end up with a belief system that is not worth dying for, nor even living by.
Within each of ourselves, we have to work out what is important to Christ and His Church. Perhaps we can do no better than to practice a favorite saying of the 17th century English Puritan Richard Baxter: “In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.” Now that would be a faith worth living by and dying for.
Questions for personal reflection
What beliefs are essential to my Christian faith? Do I live according to those essentials?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, grant us the gift of spiritual discernment in order to truthfully know what is important to You, Your Kingdom, and Your Church. Grant us an audacious faith that will not compromise the essentials, but will also maintain a spirit of charity to those with whom we disagree. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to email@example.com.