Valley Forge was a tough time for the Continental Army. Recent defeats at Brandywine, Paoli and Germantown demoralized the soldiers. The British captured the rebel capital of Philadelphia. The weary soldiers left bloody footprints in the snow. The cold winter of 1777 resulted in the deaths of 2,000 Americans.
But all was not lost. God raised up a German officer, Baron von Steuben, and a French officer, Marquis de Lafayette, to rally the men. The crucible of Valley Forge transformed the men into a disciplined and efficient fighting force.
These are dark days in America. The famous poet said, “Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne. Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown, standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.”
As Christians we see the gathering storm clouds of persecution. How should we respond? Once again the answers are found in the Bible! Three unlikely individuals- Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego- in Daniel 3 reveal four responses to persecution.
The first response is to be unintimidated. These men were threatened with a fiery furnace. They refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar, his empire and the gods of Babylon. In verse 16 they responded to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.” They were unafraid standing before the most powerful person on the planet.
As followers of the Lord Jesus we are unintimidated. Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him Who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). A healthy respect and awe of God conquers the fear of man. The apostle Paul in Romans 8:31 said, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Never fear people. Never be intimidated.
The second response is to be confident. We must be confident in God. In Daniel 3:17 they told Nebuchadnezzar, “If it be so, our God Whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire…” As Christians we do not trust in our own strength. Martin Luther wrote, “Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing; were not the right Man (the Lord Jesus) on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing.” We trust in God’s strength and God’s power.
The third response is to be submissive. Verse 17 continues, “…and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not…” We must be submissive to God’s will. God is good. He is loving. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrated (proved) His love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Whatever the outcome we must trust God. God may deliver us or He may call us home to heaven. We leave the results in His hands.
The fourth response is to be committed. Daniel 3:18 says, “….let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” We must be committed to God regardless of the consequences.
We know the rest of the story. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego ended up in the fiery furnace. However, they were not alone. A fourth Person was present with them. Nebuchadnezzar said, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods! (Daniel 3:25) Who was this mysterious Person? It was a preincarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ! God is always with His people!
Tough times produce tenacity, endurance and proven character. Intense heat and pressure transformed the Continental Army into seasoned veterans. May the closing days of this age be our finest hour for God’s glory!
Ethan Hansen is a pastor at Faith Bible Fellowship in Big Lake.