Ethan Hansen

Pastor Ethan Hansen

BThey say there are three rules in real estate- location, location, location. Real estate in the Mat-Su Valley is booming. Many factors are bringing people to our valley. One of those factors, I believe, is freedom. People are coming from the lower 48 and Anchorage to the valley for freedom.

It’s easy to see the gathering storm clouds of persecution in our nation. In California and many states, churches were ordered not to meet in groups of more than 25 people. In Nevada COVID rules favor casinos over churches. Casinos are allowed to operate at 50% capacity. Churches are limited to 50 people or loss!

We see the rise of cancel culture today. Even speaking up for the truth can be very costly.

How should we respond to persecution? Three young men in the Old Testament point the way. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were probably in their late teens in Daniel 3. These brave individuals show us the right response to persecution.

In Daniel 2 Nebuchadnezzar saw a vision of world history. His empire would be followed by other empires. King Nebuchadnezzar said, “No way. My empire will be eternal.” In Daniel 3 he erected a massive statue. This statue including its base was 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide. It was covered with sheets of gold.

The statue was a loyalty test. Nebuchadnezzar gathered his high officials. When the band played everyone was to bow. Bowing to the statue represented loyalty to Nebuchadnezzar, loyalty to the Babylonian empire, and loyalty to the Babylonian gods.

The penalty for refusing to bow was death by fire. A Babylonian blast furnace resembled an old -fashioned milk bottle with an opening at the bottom to add fuel and to increase the draft. Nebuchadnezzar had a history of burning people to death (Jeremiah 29:22).

Everyone bowed except the three Jewish captives. Even when the furnace was heated seven times (as hot as possible) they refused to bow. How should we respond to persecution? In Daniel 3:16-18 these brave individuals responded in three ways….

First, be absolutely unafraid of persecution. “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter’” (verse 16). They were polite and respectful but their minds were made up. They said, “Our minds will not change. We will not bow.”

As Christians we must fear only one person and that is God Himself. Our Lord Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, the fear the One Who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Our faith and trust are in God Himself.

Second, be confident in God’s power (verse 17). They told Nebuchadnezzar, “If it be so, our God Whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.” Our God is powerful! He created the entire universe in six days and rested on the seventh.

God is always protecting His people. Sometimes His protection is miraculous as in Daniel 3. Other times His protection is eternal. He calls us home to heaven. We as believers are completely confident in God’s power.

Third, be committed to God’s will regardless of the result (verse 18). “But even if He does not, 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.” God’s will is better than our will. God’s plan is better than our plan.

Hebrews 11 is God’s great hall of fame. Hebrews 11:33-34 says, “…who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword…” Sometimes God provides great victories. Verse 36-37 says, “…others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword…” We must be committed to God’s will regardless of the cost.

God protected the three men in the fiery furnace. A fourth Person supernaturally protected them- a preincarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Bible promises that God works through persecution. God uses persecution for His glory and our highest good. God protected and then promoted these young men. Their brave actions were rewarded by the king (Daniel 3:30). When the rest of the nation arrived in captivity these three men were in positions of power and influence to protect them. Their actions eventually even led to the salvation of King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4)! Be unafraid, trust in God’s power and be committed to God’s will above your own. It will surprise you what God will do!

Ethan Hansen is a pastor at Faith Bible Fellowship in Big Lake.

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