Daniel 3:21-23

How do you manage to endure trials and conflicts? Observe the trial which Daniel's friends had to go through in this passage:

Dn 3:21-23

"So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace."

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INTERLINEAR BIBLE

Some English versions call "robes" för "mantles" and "trousers" for "tunics", both good translations of the original Aramaic. Otherwise is NIV a rather good and literal translation. We see that, in spite of their proclamation of faith, they are casted in the blazing furnace.

"It is an incorrect view of Scripture to say that we will always comprehend what God is doing and how our suffering and disappointment fit into His plan"
"When God Doesn't Make Sense"
Dr. James Dobson

This declaration, from a book of this well-known evangelical author which we recommend, take us to the place of faith where nobody likes to go. Maybe because we are raised up with a "wishy-washy" theology which teaches us that God will always protect us as to little babies. But when the Lord gives us awesome promises, as in Psalm 121:7, "The Lord will keep you from all harm - he will watch over your life", He is talking about the eternal life and our soul's final destination; don't even think that it means that we Christians will not pass through trials and bitterness in our lives, just because we are believers.

In Luke 22:31-32 we read, "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers". This passage was a great revelation for me when the Lord talked to me through it. I thought I was in the ring boxing with an unable and bound devil. But the Lord showed me that the fact that I have faith doesn't means that my adversary is untrained and hungry, without boxing gloves, boxing shoes, and all protection elements which boxers use as their equipment. The promise of the Lord is not that Satan will be without equipment and training, but that Jesus equips us with his Spirit to defeat the evil one. It is the believers who has the task of "tie up the strong man", and it is because of that that the Lord is praying for us so that "our faith may not fail". The Lord didn't pray in order that God should prohibit Satan to sift Peter, but in order that Peter should become stronger in his faith, endure the "sieve" and defeat the evil one.

In a previous message in this site (Daniel 3:13-15) we were talking about the difference between the superheroes that we can read about in fictional literature or see in movies, and the Biblical ones. Observe the approachment of Dr. Dobson to this issue:

"The human spirit is capable of withstanding enormous discomfort, including the prospect of death, if the circumstances make sense."

In the world of the superheroes, the circumstances always make sense, and their difficulties are the problems they have to solve to defeat the villain. Even in real life there are many persons which have accomplished heroic deeds, saving people in peril, acting with incredible courage in combat, etc. In situations were their lives were in jeopardy, they risked it because they understood that the cause of giving their lives to save other ones was a fair price.

But faith doesn't gives us always this alternative. Believers can be overwhelmed by afflictions which don't make any sense, and which could overpower us if we believe that "God isn't fair with us". There are some examples in the Scriptures of persons in this situation.

One of the ancestors of king David - and obviously of Our Lord Jesus Christ - was Boaz, a Jew who married a Moabite woman called Ruth. You can read the beautiful story of Ruth in the book of the same name, in the OT. Ruth came to Israel because she remained loyal to her mother-in-law Naomi, who had lost her two sons in Moab and was coming back to his country in poverty. One of her daughters-in-law left her, following her own advice, but Ruth remained with her, went to Israel with her and became a source of blessings and restauration there.

That terrible trial which came upon Naomi made her very bitter. In Ruth 1:20 we read her words, "“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara,because the Almighty has made my life very bitter". "Naomi" means "my delight" in Hebrew, and "Mara" means "bitterness". Maybe the same thing could happen to anyone of us who, being a believer, is passing through a situation like this, when it seems that God is destroying us. There are situations in which our soul doesn't find an answer to the question, "why me?" and becomes bound in a vicious circle with a question that makes you mad, because you never can find that answer and you become more and more depressed.

Another great afflicted in the Bible is Job. His life is narrated in the book of his name, too. Satan attacked him so viciously that he lost his sons and daughters, his wealth and even his health. His prayer to God was a lamentation, in great bitterness:

Job 7:11; 19-21

“Therefore I will not keep silent;
I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit,
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul."
"Will you never look away from me,
or let me alone even for an instant?
If I have sinned, what have I done to you,
you who see everything we do?
Why have you made me your target?
Have I become a burden to you?
Why do you not pardon my offenses
and forgive my sins?
For I will soon lie down in the dust;
you will search for me, but I will be no more."

Job was even more afflicted, in spite of being a believer, a just and godly man who offered to God continually and was a good counselor to his fellow men who sought his help, because of his wisdom. Most of the book of his name is about a conversation with some friends which came to comfort him - supposedly - but which insisted in trying to convince him that the evil which came upon him was a just pay of his sins, and that he was supposed to repent and ask God for forgiveness. Job got no consolation from them, and he desired to die, because of his great pain and his bitterness and depression.

Nevertheless, both Naomi and Job were blessed when their trials ended and they didn't abandon God. The knowledge of God is essential to put trials and afflictions in the right place, no matter what. Our heart aches, our mind battles with something seemingly unjust, but we need to have our hope in God.

One of the afflictions which came upon king David is in 2 Samuel 12. The king had committed the sin of adultery with Bathsheba, who would give birth to king Solomon. Bathsheba's first son with David became fatally ill - as Natan had prophesied to David, that it would be the wages of his sin - and king David was praying and fasting in great affliction, so that his son shouldn't die. He kept praying and fasting a whole week. In spite of his tears, his prayer and fasting, the child died, as it was prophesied. Then David got up, got a bath, perfumed himself, dressed himself with clean clothes and sat to eat in peace, after worshipping God. His servants didn't understand the sudden change:

2 Samuel 12:21-23

"His attendants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!”

"He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

Observe that David expected that the child would live because the Lord could be "gracious to him", even when he had been told that the child should die. And he understod that the death of the son was the just retribution from God, because of his sin. This lost didn't afect his faith in God, who gave him another son with Bathsheba who became one of the most wise kings in Israel and author of the book of Proverbs and other Scriptures.

The NT shows also believers in affliction. In the book of Acts, chapter 16, we see Paul and Silas who, because of setting free a slave girl from a demon, were sent to prision, after being badly treated and flagellated. Observe their response:

Acts 16:22-26

"The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks."

"About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose."

Hallelujah!

In the darkest cell, immobilised in the stocks, with the pains of the flogging, their clothes torn and bloody, the apostles were... singing hymns to God! You need some faith to sing to God in a Sunday service in your church, when you've been blessed and you want to give thanks to the Lord. Now imagine the kind of faith you need to praise God when you're in prison, flogged and immobilised and... yet you want to give thanks to God! The world doesn't understand this, and even many believers find this hard to do. But it wasn't a problem to Paul and Silas, as it didn't worry Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. In the midst of the trial, they kept their faith intact.

Do you endure trials that way? Do you get depressed, or angry? Have trials destroyed your faith and changed you? The Lord promises that He will not give us a trial that we can't endure, but with every test he will give us a way out too, so that we can endure. If you have not received yet Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, give him your life now! Confess your sins to him, and ask him for forgiveness. He is waiting for the repentance of every sinner, because His joy is to see them to straight their paths, and to turn back to the Giver of life.

If you have received Christ, but you have been in afflictions - or are - which have taking away your joy, fidelity, your love or your generosity, let me tell you that you are not the first and you will not certainly be the last one. Many believers, besides those we've seen in the previous Biblical examples, have been tested through similar or even worse afflictions, and they ended purified and strengthened. Turn back to God, and ask Him for forgiveness! He has promised to pour out his Spirit on every one who seek him sincerely, and God does not lie. His Holy Spirit is the one who affirmed Paul and Silas, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, and all the other ones who have endured hard tests and affictions by faith.

In these Easter times, when we remember the death of Christ on the cross, we remember also his resurrection. As there was a resurrection for Jesus Christ in that glorious Sunday, there is a resurrection for every believer. And as there was a restoration for him in his heavenly place, at the right hand of God, and there was a restoration for Naomi, Job, king David, Paul and Silas and every one who's being afflicted because of his faith and even because of his sins, there's a restoration for you, if you seek God, because He loves you.

May the Lord bless you!

In the love of Christ, your brother

Israel Leonard

PS. Jesus comes quickly!

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