There is an amazing and powerful story in the Bible that as a child I could never get enough of, and as a matter fact, I still can’t to this day. When my parents read it to us at the supper table or at bedtime, I didn’t want to miss one second of it, and as a matter of fact, I wanted them to read it slowly so that it would last longer. And more than once, I asked Dad or Mom to read it again. (It is a good thing when our children like to OD on the Bible, when tragically today they are OD-ing on everything bad.) It was one of the most awesome and exciting things that I had ever heard, and of course I as a young lad was struck only by the more colorful and powerful points of the story, and I missed some of the more subtle and perhaps most important points of all. Let’s take a look!
You can read the account in Daniel 3:8-27. It is that astounding episode in the lives of three young Jewish fellows named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Mother would tell us that it was bedtime, and then promised us that she would read to us the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Tobedwego. It was her special way of luring us into going to bed which we otherwise always resisted like most kids do. (Truly successful parents have that unbeatable combination of personal charm and animal cunning to be able to win their children over. Mother’s smile along with Shadrach, Meshach, and Tobedwego worked every time.)
THE HISTORICAL SETTING
A bit of Bible history is required here at the outset. The three young men that we will focus on here were teenagers. They came from Godly homes back in Judah which we can determine from their real names. Parents then, though far more rarely now, named their children with names directed at the God of Israel which tells us that their parents worshipped Jahweh.
I believe that is why also when they were carried away with all of Judah into captivity in pagan Babylon, their names were changed to get rid of those Godly overtones and meanings in the midst of a heathen culture. An attempt to Babylonianize and Culturize the three vulnerable and impressionable young men.
“Hananiah’s” name, which meant “Jehovah His Been Gracious” was changed to “Shadrach” which some scholars believe related to the Babylonian “Moon God.” “Mishael’s” name meant “Who Or What God Is” and was changed to “Meshach.” “Azariah’s” name which meant “Jehovah Has Helped” was changed to “Abed-nego.” You can read about the name changes and how exactly that happened in Daniel 1:6,7. (Think about the government changing your name to something completely different, and you will get a small sense of what they were going through.)
Don’t forget that how all of this happened was because of the apostasy and idolatry of Jerusalem and Judah, and God handed Judah over to captivity in Babylon as punishment for their wickedness and idol worship. God never makes idle threats, and the Jewish people found out, as America will soon find out too, that they could not call Jahweh’s bluff. God bluffs about nothing! He is the God of His Word. Have you ever said about someone, “He’s a man of his word?” Well, you can with even greater certainty say about God, “He’s the God of His Word.“
And remember also that what God was about to do for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego would take place in a totally foreign and hostile land, far from their parents, and not knowing whether they would ever see them again, or even whether they were dead or alive. This was a most frightening and totally disorienting experience for three adolescents who had been carried off as POW’S to a strange land and culture.
This is all very important to realize! We are not dealing here with Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz of whom many children have asked their parents, “Why does Dorothy live with her aunt and uncle and not with her mommy and daddy?” “Dead, I guess,” has been the unadorned response of many parents to that question. However, we are not dealing here with fiction or fairy tales in the cases of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. This is hard, cold non-fiction and fact with parents and their children being torn apart by war and carried off and away from each other to who knows where. It was truly dreadful!
This judgment against Judah and the Jews of Jerusalem came through a King by the name of “Nebuchadnezzar,” which name came from the word “Nebo” which meant “Defend The Boundary.” (He not only defended his boundaries, but was constantly expanding them.) King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was a man of great passion, that is, passion for himself and his own power and fame. When I say King, I mean that he was an absolute Monarch. If you will,
“HE WAS A RUTHLESS DICTATOR, AN ABSOLUTE EGO-MANIAC, AN
EGO-CENTERED MONARCH WHO IN ACTUALITY WORSHIPPED
HIMSELF AS GOD AND DEMANDED THAT ALL OTHERS,
FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC, WORSHIP HIM AS
The truth be told, King Neb would be the type of person who on his birthday would send his mother a congratulatory card congratulating her for having such a magnificent son as himself.
We should not forget either that the Babylon of which we speak was actually modern Iraq. I don’t know what it is about that area, except then as well as now, it was and is under the control of a demonized religion that would just as soon slaughter infidels as look at them. (Infidels, as in Islam today, were and are those who did not worship and believe in their gods.)
When it comes to kings and potentates in that region, also then as well as now:
“IT SEEMED AND SEEMS TO BREED WHAT PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN
REFERRED TO AS THE ‘BIGGEST FRUITS AND NUTS’
THAT HE HAD EVER SEEN.”
If you will:
“KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR WAS THE MAD KING OF ANCIENT
IRAQ, THE SADDAM HUSSEIN OF ANCIENT BABYLON,
AND HE WAS HELL BENT ON TAKING OVER
THE WHOLE WORLD.”
You and I must now get a hold of the character of this self-appointed demigod, as when you see outside of the capital city a 90 foot high gold STATUTE-IDOL that he had ordered to be built as a tribute to himself, and then issued a kingly fiat that everyone bow down to and worship that golden statute in tribute to the greatest King of all time – Nebuchadnezzar himself. What if anyone refused to do that? We read in Daniel 3:11,
“But whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into
the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.”
No one in Babylon, you can be assured, walked by that statute with a carefree air or with a nonchalant attitude. It simply put was:
“BOW DOWN OR FRY.”
By the way, why do you really think Nebuchadnezzar erected that 90 feet high monument to self-adoration? Because it was his way of saying that not only was he the greatest god-king ever, but it was his way of also saying that this is how long his kingdom would last – on and on and on – upward and upward and upward. The arrogance of that man was enormous, reflected in the enormity of the statute itself.
You know, the Bible indicates that if you and I think often enough about something, that we will, in time, reach a stage when we can’t stop thinking about it – as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. King Neb could not stop thinking about himself, and he made sure that no one else would be able to stop thinking about him either. There it was, or should I say, there he was, looming above the capital city of Babylon like the Washington monument over Washington D.C.
THE CASE AGAINST SHADRACH, MESHACH, AND ABED-NEGO
These were three young Jewish men who in captivity had been, at the recommendation of Daniel their friend who was the King’s trusted confidant, appointed by the King as Administrators of the Province of Babylon. (Daniel 2:49) They were high up in the King’s power structure. They rose as supernaturally to power and status as young teen age Joseph had risen to power and status in Egypt.They had been shanghaied to Babylon and then like Joseph catapulted to high positions.
That meant of course all the perks that went with such an appointment, but because they were foreigners and not natives, there was a lot of jealousy of them and bitterness toward them by the locals. But nonetheless, the King had elevated them to very high and prestigious roles, and treated them in a very special fashion. (We however must not forget that they along with Daniel were still Jewish POW’s who made good.)
We all know the timeless and yet ever timely words of James 3:16 NASV,
“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder
and every evil thing.”
It would seem that from the very beginning of time, jealousy and selfish ambition are the father and mother of all sins. Their presence has thrown ominous shadows over world history again and again from the beginning of time. Envy and selfish ambition have always proved to be fatal in the lives of those whose hearts are overcast by them.
Well now, these teenagers were dragged off to Babylon, and the Babylonians tried to make Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego part of their culture. You know how teens are under culture-pressure, peer-pressure, pressure-pressure, and how quickly they conform in order to be accepted which is so important to young people. But these young followers of and devotees to Jahweh would not conform to the demands of their new master, and refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image to himself, as well as refusing to bow down to the other god-idols of Babylon. Hear me:
“THEY DID NOT BECOME PART OF THE PREVAILING CULTURE, BUT INSTEAD
BECAME A COUNTER-CULTURE FOR THEIR GOD AGAINST ALL
OF BABYLON’S FALSE GODS.”
That really made a big impression on us kids when mother read the story, and a lot of Babylonian pillow-talk went on long after mother told us to go to sleep as she left the bedroom.
Back to those envious eyes that we have mentioned before that were always watching them, looking for some way to bring an “ought” against them to the King. They now had found a really big one, and we read in Daniel 3:12 their report to the King about them,
“There are certain Jews whom you have appointed of the administration of the
province of Babylon, namely, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. These
men, O King, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or
worship the golden image which you have set up.”
King Nebuchadnezzar must have had special regard for these three gifted young men, in that he gave them another chance. So he repeated to them what he had demanded in the first place regarding the golden, heaven-piercing image. (Daniel 3:13-15) In essence he said to them,
“WHEN YOU HEAR THE MUSIC – THERE WILL BE DIFFERENT KINDS
OF MUSIC THAT I HAVE ORDERED RANGING FROM BAGPIPES
TO PSALTERY – WHEN YOU HEAR THAT, I WANT YOU TO
WORSHIP MY GODS AND BOW TO MY STATUTE! YOU’LL
DO THAT, WON’T YOU?” (Listen closely and you will
hear the ‘Or Else.’)
“DO WHAT I TELL YOU OR I WILL TURN YOU INTO DEEP FRIED
They already knew what the “Or Else” was. They knew, as did everyone in Babylon, that to pass by the statute without bowing meant sure death in a fiery furnace. Nonetheless, they responded to the King with these faith-filled, courageous, and totally defiant words in Daniel 3:16-18,
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered and said to the King, ‘O
Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer
‘If it be so, our God Who 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.’
‘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.’”
Hey fellas, can’t you back off just a bit? Your words to the King will instantly condemn you to death. Wouldn’t it be wiser to sip the Babylonian culture in controlled doses when it is advantageous, and do a quick knee-bend before this maniac’s statute when your very lives are in the balance? No, not in a millions years for these devotees to God Almighty! Their Jahweh God-consciousness and loyalty was overwhelming, and they knew that they lived their lives before and for Him and Him alone. They were super-conscious that there was not one moment that they were not on God’s candid camera. No compromise here!
More than that, they didn’t even appear to have a twinge of nervousness or fear. It seems that as we watch these three young men of faith in Jahweh, that they are strong in their God-convictions way beyond their years. They appear to be taking it in stride without a flinch or a falter, and are now merely taking time out along life’s way for a stop in a furnace, like most of us take time out for a meal or a nap.
You know Paul Harvey’s “the rest of the story,” don’t you? The three men are then thrown into the blazing inferno which for their sakes had been made seven times hotter than usual. The King chose hit-men (firemen) who bound these three teenage Jews and threw them into the consuming caldron. The flames were so super-hot and fiendishly devouring, that those who threw them into the furnace were burned to death in an instant simply by getting near it. Now you see them, and now you don’t. Poof!!!
But lo and behold, the three young men walked inside the furnace like eerie phantoms unharmed, untouched, and with no trace of fire or smoke on them. (No, this again is not a story from the fairytale classics as so many view such miraculous events recorded in the Bible.)
Oh, by the way, it was even far more disconcerting to everyone concerned, that there was a fourth person inside the furnace with them now, even though they had only thrown the three young men into the fire. Shazaam!!! They seemed to be multiplying unchecked rather than being subtracted instantly. The King checked it all out and he said about the fourth person in the fire, “He appears to be a son of God.” (Little did he know how close to the truth he was, with one little indefinite article separating him from confessing THE SON OF GOD.”)
Napoleon Bonaparte once boasted that he never had a friend. But when one of his commanders was dying, he looked over at Napoleon and said, “Leave. I know that this is pain to you, and I do not want to cause you pain.” At which, Napoleon simply said, “Goodbye FRIEND,” and stayed with him to the end. I know of another King, in fact the “The King of Kings” who says to His friends, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the world.” That truth is written here in fiery letters.
FURNACE FAITH PRAYER – TWO DIFFERENT ANSWERS
True believers in and lovers of God always become Heaven’s heroes and heroines in such threatening situations, which situations they could never have envisioned themselves being in, or envisioned themselves behaving like they did in the midst of them. But it is when the moment of crisis-testing comes, that is when they are revealed for who they really are.
I am reminded for some strange reason at this point of the words of W. C. Fields who said that he wanted the following words written on his tombstone:
“ON THE WHOLE I WOULD RATHER BE IN PHILADELPHIA.”
Frankly, coming to think about it, I would rather be in the furnace with the FOURTH MAN than in Philadelphia with W. C. Fields any day.
Nebuchadnezzar never had a chance with these towers of faith who made his statute look like a little erector set. They would have none of the King’s self-idolatry and blasphemy. These young giants of faith were miraculously saved by their God who totally shielded them from the hungry flames.
But it doesn’t always happen that way to God’s heroes and heroines of furnace-faith. Hundreds of thousands of God’s champions have had the same furnace-faith in the fire of persecution and martyrdom over the centuries, and would not deny their God either or worship other gods. And yet they were consumed by the furnace-flames like the 6 million Jews in the Holocaust.Yesterday and today, these giants of faith have died and are dying for their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with great furnace-faith even as I write this. Every day!
We call them martyrs, and the truth be known, all of us may soon have to face the same fiery furnace and confess and obey our Lord under the threat of martyrdom in a culture that is being heated 7 times hotter than ever before with anti-Christ and anti-Christian hatred and hostility. Hear me:
“CHRISTIANS IN THE 21st CENTURY ARE AND WILL MORE
AND MORE BECOME THE JEWS OF THE 20th CENTURY.”
Does that mean that the Christian martyrs who are dying in the fiery furnaces of persecution today have been abandoned by the fourth man in the furnace, or that their prayers are puny, or that their faith is a failure? After all, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were miraculously insulated against the flames by their fiery-furnace companion.
I would strongly remind all of us about the earthly life of the only perfect man who ever walked this earth, and Who did so with perfect faith and perfect prayers – Jesus Christ. Our Lord prayed with the same but perfected furnace-faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, but was not spared the fires of Hell’s furnace which were not simply 7 times hotter, but infinitely hotter as they were fueled by the infinite wrath of God Almighty Himself.
We remember His prayer in Gethsemane that echoes the words of the three in Babylon, as we read His prayer in Matthew 26:39,
“My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me, yet
not as I will, but as Thou wilt.”
Remember the words of the THREE:
“HE IS ABLE TO DELIVER US, BUT IF NOT….”
And the prayer words of the ONE,
“IF IT IS POSSIBLE, YET NOT AS I WILL, BUT AS THOU WILT.”
The three young men’s great but imperfect faith saved them from the flames, but the ONE MAN’S greater and perfect faith did not save Him from the flames. In one instance, the three were God’s sons, and in the last instance, the ONE was God the Son. Their words were in essence the same, but the results were more than just somewhat different!
Gethsemane is a short form for the worst night that anyone has ever spent on earth. That was the same night before the Son of God, not a son of God, suffered in the flames of Hell more than anyone has or will ever suffer again, because He bore the fiery wrath of God against the all sins of the whole world. He deep down was hoping for a truly “Good Friday,” but “Bad Friday” was in reality His Divine destiny. He saw it coming and asked for an alternative plan, but it was not to be.
Have you too had that same furnace-faith when you prayed, and yet what you prayed for didn’t happen? What you have longed for, believed God for, and prayed for again and again has not and did not come about! When you have poured out your heart to God as well as your time and dedication, and it just didn’t work out that way? Is that true in your life?
My dear Lord, in whose life is that not true? It was true in the life of our Lord no matter what He prayed as the desired alternative, for it was His Father’s will that Jesus would pay the full penalty for our sins with no short cuts, no change of plans, but the one and only plan to suffer for your sins and my sins, and suffer your Hell and my Hell in our place.
FOR GOD’S SONS – NO SUCH THING AS UNANSWERED PRAYER
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego could feel the flames afar off, even as Jesus could already feel the flames in the Garden of Gethsemane which made Him sweat – great drops of blood. In the first case, God protected His three Jewish sons from and took them out of the flames, but in the second case God took His only begotten Son into and through the flames. The three strongly trusted God and were delivered, while the One perfectly prayed and trusted God and died. The three led the way to a heathen King being saved from himself, while the One became the only way for the whole world to be saved from themselves, their sins, and from the fires of Hell.
You see, for the true and faith-filled sons of God, listen:
“THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS UNANSWERED PRAYER, BUT
PRAYERS THAT RECEIVE DIFFERENT SOVEREIGN
ANSWERS FROM THE SAME SOVEREIGN GOD.”
I John 5:14-15 state:
“And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if
we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”
“And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know
that we shall have the requests which we have asked
“GOD ALWAYS ANSWERS OUR PRAYERS IN HIS PERFECT
WISDOM, IN HIS PERFECT LOVE, AND ACCORDING TO
HIS PERFECT WILL AND ETERNAL PURPOSES.”
“OUR GOD IS ABLE TO DELIVER US, BUT IF NOT, WE WILL
OBEY AND TRUST HIM NO MATTER WHAT.”
“BECAUSE THE LORD KNOWS PERFECTLY THE FUTURE HE
HAS PLANNED FOR HIS GLORY AND FOR OUR GOOD,
AND WE DON’T EVEN UNDERSTAND THE PAST
OR THE PRESENT PERFECTLY, LET ALONE
“GOD SEES THE HERE AND THE HEREAFTER, WHILE WE
ONLY SEE THE HERE.”
There is a powerful story behind the International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan. The main building is magnificent both in size and structure, the gift of a Japanese industrialist and his wife. They had one son in the war for those safety they fervently prayed. But the son was killed in battle. Did the father and mother have defective faith, or did they have sin in their lives. True on both counts, but then who of the best of us doesn’t?
The parents remembered that God had lost His only begotten Son Who was killed in the war against sin. So they dedicated their factory building to Christian education, and put their money and their influence on the side of world peace. God, Who seemed indifferent to the prayers of the parents, used these parents and their prayers to bring Christ to thousands of Japanese youth. We know the now, but only God knows the now and forevermore.
“PRAYER IS NOT A MIRROR IN WHICH WE LOOK AT OURSELVES. IT IS
A GLASS THROUGH WHICH WE LOOK TO GOD, AND THROUGH
HIM TO THE WORLD AND ITS NEEDS.”
Let’s get down where the rubber hits the road and be totally honest with each other. There are those times in great longing that we pray according to OUR WILL, and not according to GOD’S WILL. We give God the solution and do not wait for His. We talk to Him and shout to Him, as it were, from afar, and try to twist His arm into seeing and doing things our way and according to our will. We fail to realize that we are ultimately not the boss of ourselves, others, or God.
You see, we analyze the situation from our point of view and tell God what we have determined so that He will understand what must be done. And then we are befuddled because our prayers, as we say, “WERE NOT ANSWERED.” We set ourselves and others up for failure, disappointment, and even disillusionment.
But you see, when we speak like the three sons of God, and when we pray like the only begotten Son of God, we are speaking and praying according to God’s will and not according to our wills. This means:
“THAT WHEN WE PRAY ‘THY WILL BE DONE’ or ‘NOT MY WILL BUT THY
WILL BE DONE,’ WE ARE PRAYING ACCORDING TO THE WAY
HE OPERATES, AND NOT ACCORDING TO THE
WAY WE OPERATE.”
That takes total trust in and reliance upon God to answer our prayers not according to our temporal solution and understanding, but according to His eternal solution and understanding, for He alone sees the end from the beginning and all the way in between.
I am reminded of the wife who shares, “In my own life I’ve seen near paralysis from an accident, and a severely diabetic husband. I’ve seen him march off to seminary at age 38. I’ve seen him for 60 straight nights in the hospital with diabetes, and for the corresponding 60 straight days I have seen him hold down two jobs and carry a seminary load. I have seen him graduate and never receive a call. I have seen him with cancer of the brain and a series of surgeries after he had been told he would live only six months. I have seen our child die by murder, and now I see myself with lymphoma.
She goes on,”We have prayed all the way through, but these things I have learned – I don’t have to like any of it. I don’t have to explain it. I don’t have to understand it. I don’t have to fix it. But I do have to trust the Lord like a helpless child, and He brings us through each and every time.”
David Livingstone and his wife were missionaries together in Africa. People of devotion and prayer, but his wife died. He prepared her body and helped dig the grave. He helped to make the coffin, and conducted the service at the graveside. David Livingstone concluded his wife’s funeral with these words:
“THE LORD JESUS IS TOO MUCH OF A GENTLEMAN NOT TO KEEP ALL
OF HIS PROMISES. FOR HE HAS SAID, ‘LO I AM WITH YOU
ALWAYS, EVEN TO THE END OF THE AGE.”
David Livingstone continued his work, and a very great work it was. And his laying his wife to rest could not bring him down.
And so it is:
“THAT IN ONE CASE GOD ANSWERS OUR PRAYERS BY TAKING
US OUT OF SORROW AND BRINGING US INTO JOY, WHILE IN
THE OTHER CASE GOD ANSWERS OUR PRAYERS BY
TAKING US THROUGH SORROW AND TURNING
IT INTO JOY.”
But either way, we believe the Lord’s promise in John 16:20,
“You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned to joy.”
All of us at times pray, “Lord, I can’t take it any longer. Take it away please.” And then God does not take it away, but leaves it with us. We say to God, “You promised not to push me to my limits. I now have gone way beyond my limits. And as far as I am concerned, it has gone much too far, and yet there is still no relief.” But then in time, God takes that sorrow, that pain, that hurt, and turns it into joy.
Listen, I ask you, “How much time have you spent trying to figure God out, the way He does business, the way he operates, and the things that He does and brings to pass.” Someone once said, “Never judge a tragedy on the day it occurs.” So too:
“NEVER JUDGE A PRAYER, OR THE GOD TO WHOM WE PRAY, A FAILURE
ON THE DAY THAT THE PRAYER WAS OFFERED UP TO GOD.”
“DON’T BE DISAPPOINTED IN PRAYER IN THE SHORT TERM,
FOR THE GOD OF YOUR PRAYER IN THE LONG TERM
WILL NEVER DISAPPOINT YOU.”
Roy L. Smith tells of an unusual fear of the dark that he had when he was a small boy. One evening after dark his father asked him to go to the barn for some tools. Then it was that he had to confess to his father that he was fearful of the dark. The father put a lantern in his hand and asked his son, “How far can you see, son?” The boy said, “As far as the mulberry tree.” Dad said, “Then go to the mulberry tree.” When the boy arrived at the mulberry tree, the father asked again, “Now how far can you see, son?” The boy said, “I can see to the currant bushes.” When the boy arrived at the currant bushes his father asked, “How far can you see from there?” This time it was to the hen house. Next it was to the hog lot, and finally to the barn. And so step by step, the boy made it to the barn.
Day by day and prayer by prayer, we must trust God in the midst of what we can see, and not be afraid or discouraged by what we can’t see or do not yet see. Even though we may be discouraged, we are to walk in the light that faith in the Lord gives us a step at time. He will not disappoint us.
I tell you and myself:
“UPON THE AUTHORITY AND TRUTH OF ROMANS 8:28, FOR THOSE
WHO LOVE GOD, ALL THINGS WILL WORK OUT FOR THE BEST,
EVEN THOUGH NOW THEY LOOK LIKE THE WORST.”
“OUR PRAYERS WHICH PRESCRIBE AND DEMAND OF GOD THE
ANSWER ARE OFTEN WIDE OF THE MARK, BUT GOD THE
EXPERT PRAYER ANSWERER IS NEVER WIDE OF
THE MARK BUT HITS THE BULLS-EYE EVERY
“PRAYER IS NOT OUR WORKING OUR WILL UPON GOD, BUT RATHER
OUR GOD WORKING HIS WILL IN AND UPON US.”
Or as C.S. Lewis states in Shadowlands:
“PRAYER DOES NOT CHANGE GOD, IT CHANGES ME.”
THY WILL BE DONE – A PRAYER MUST
Why must we pray what Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:10,
“Thy Will be done?”
Why must we pray what Jesus Himself prayed in Matthew 26:39,
“It it be possible, yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt?”
Why must we likewise speak as the three young Hebrew men spoke in Daniel 3:16-18,
“Our God is able to deliver us, but if not, we will not serve your gods?”
Why must we pray and speak what the Apostle James commands in James 4:15,
“Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and
do this or that.'”
FIRST, we must pray like Jesus prays, and pray what He taught us to pray, and what is confirmed throughout the entire Word of God. Either He is our Lord or He is not. What settles it is what Jesus says in Matthew 6:10,
“Pray, then, in this way….”
Why would religious and non-religious folks alike refuse to pray the above prayers? Simply because to pray “Thy Will Be Done” and, “If it be Thy Will” etc. puts God in charge of our lives and not ourselves, and there is the prayer rub.
Where did Satan come from? God tells us that he is angel who fell from grace – and did so by COMPETING with God. How so? Satan competed with God for the top spot, for numero uno, for the Throne of God.
You say, “I cannot imagine an angel competing with God.” Haven’t you done that very thing? I have! Never mind the fact that we lost. Haven’t you competed with God? Every time you refuse to pray, “Not my will, but Thine be done,” and, “Thy will be done,” you are competing with God for the control of your life as your own god.
SECOND, simply because God’s ways and actings are not only perfect, but infinitely transcendent above all created human brains and intelligences. That is why we must pray, “Thy will be done,” and “Not my will, but Thine be done,” and “If it be Thy will.” Simply because compared to God our brains and intellects all come up an infinity short compared to God.
We read in Psalm 37:6,
“…Thy judgments are like a great deep.”
How often we hear someone say, “Well if you ask me, according to my better judgment etc.” Sorry, we are not to pray according to our better judgment which often is very shallow and sub par, but according to God’s best judgments which are deeper than the oceans, while our judgment in comparison is like a puddle. Thy will be done!
We read in Psalm 77:19 about God,
“Thy way was in the sea, and Thy paths in the mighty waters,
and Thy footsteps may not be known.”
“GOD WHO WALKS UPON THE WATERS LEAVES NO FOOTPRINTS,
AND HIS WAYS CANNOT BE EXAMINED AND FALL UNDER
NO INSPECTION BY MAN.”
THIRD, when we refuse to submit to His will, we often pray against His will. For instance, and this will put our brains in a whirl, but hear it:
“GOD MAY ORDER AND USE WHAT HE DOES NOT APPROVE.”
If you will:
“GOD WILL USE THE WICKEDNESS OF WICKED MEN WHICH WICKEDNESS
AND WICKED MEN HE DOES NOT APPROVE BUT DENOUNCES
THROUGHOUT HIS HOLY WORD.”
Why? Because He is God the Holy One. Jeroboam was a wicked King who made graven images, and caused the people of God to sin by worshiping them. Yet, the advancement and even the scepter of Jeroboam was under the control of God. So we read words like we do in Amos 3:6 KJV,
“…there is no evil in the city which the Lord hath not done.”
If we do not pray, “Thy will be done,” we could be praying at cross-purposes against the very thing that God wills to be done, and that we would not have thought about doing in a trillion years. You and I ultimately better leave everything with God, for He alone perfectly knows what He is doing, and He alone perfectly knows how to get it done for His glory and for our good. Thy will be done!!!
FOURTH, we by nature don’t like to turn all things over to God’s will, because so often we don’t understand what He is doing, and in fact, what He is doing from our vantage point seems so unwise to us if not unfair. But listen:
“OUR IGNORANCE OF THE PARTICULAR REASONS FOR WHICH GOD IS
DOING SOMETHING, DOES NOT MAKE HIS REASONS FOR SO
DOING THE LEAST BIT UNREASONABLE.”
We read in Job 4:18 KJV,
“…for He has charged His angels with folly.”
Believe you me:
“SINCE GOD CHARGED HIS GOOD ANGELS WITH FOOLISHNESS, WE
WHO ARE MADE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS HAD BETTER NOT
AVOID GOD’S WILL OR QUESTION HIS WISDOM.”
“IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD TO DO ANYTHING BUT WHAT IS
RIGHT, THEREFORE, WHO IN THE WORLD ARE WE TO
RESIST PRAYING ACCORDING TO HIS WILL AS
IF IT COULD BE WRONG.”
Thy will be done!
There are vast sections of modern religion where you will never hear the following words being prayed or spoken, – “Thy Will Be Done,” or, “If It Be Thy Will,” or “Not My Will, But Thine Be Done.” Never Ever!!! The Lord’s way of praying, and the Lord’s way of teaching us how to pray, which are, as we have seen, consistent throughout His Word, are not only never heard or prayed, but are banned and considered to be imperfect prayers from imperfect faith.
How has this happened? FIRST, because in much of modern religion, man has replaced God as the ultimate source of perfect wisdom and willing. God has become man’s servant, and man has become God’s source of wisdom and willing.
SECOND therefore, man knows the will of God in every situation, and not only knows it perfectly in every situation, but he declares it and speaks it into being. He tells God what His will should be, and then commands it into existence as God did in creation when He said, “Let there be, and there was.” Man does not pray any longer, “Thy will be done,” but rather declares, “This is what God’s will is, and I declare and speak it into existence.” Praying as Jesus prayed and prayer as Jesus taught it has disappeared as so many things have these days.
So then, if Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego would have bought into this replacement religion and replacement way of praying and speaking, they would have said to Ole King Neb:
“OUR GOD WILL AND MUST DELIVERS US, AND WE DECLARE
IT TO BE SO, AND IT IS DONE.”
No ifs, ands, or buts about it!
And if Jesus would have bought into this replacement religion and way of praying, He would have said to His father in the garden:
“FATHER, YOUR WILL IS AND MUST BE THAT AN ALTERNATIVE ROUTE TO
THE CROSS BE GRANTED TO ME, AND I DECLARE IT INTO
BEING AS YOUR ONLY WAY AND WILL.”
No ifs, ands, or buts about it!
And the people today who have bought into this replacement religion and way of praying are the ones who are causing themselves and others to be not only disappointed by “Unanswered Prayers,” but to become disillusioned with God Himself, because they will not leave everything up to God which He commands us to do in our speaking and in our praying.
THE CHOICE OF A LIFETIME
All of us have already tried life our way and according to our will. We all by nature are like strong-willed children who are hell-bent on getting our own way and doing it our own way. Frank Sinatra sang it as only he could sing it, while we with him by nature lived it as only we could live it:
“I – WE – DID IT MY WAY – DID IT OUR WAY.”
Or as Isaiah puts it in Isaiah 53:6,
“…each of us has turned to his own way.”
Jean Paul Sartre was captured in World Wear II. He escaped and became a resistance leader in France. At the end of the war, Sartre became the foremost spokesman for EXISTENTIALISM, which simply means that all there is in life are the existence-moments in a man’s life. He maintained that man is always alone, and existent-moment by existent-moment he has the terrifying freedom to make choices and basically be set adrift in a world without meaning.
That about says it all for the vast majority of humans in this world who exist but have never known life as God created and meant it to be. So they work, eat, sleep, and insure themselves so that they can continue to exist. It is life without really living, dead men walking, just existing, for they have never found or given themselves to the one who said in John 14:6,
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
The human race is far beyond the hope of a few repairs and needs something far more extensive than a tonic. Recharging the entire system of the human race is artificial and will not get the job done. We may have a longer life span than our forefathers, but our suicide rate is soaring too.
We are much more nervous and anxious than the Apostle Paul was in spite of all of our modern medicine and therapy. But are we getting more out of our HD televisions than the Apostle Paul did out of his HD testings? Our hope is not in more recreation, but only in lives of re-creation in Jesus Christ. We have been looking absurd for some time now taking our bromides and our alcoholic spirits, when what we need is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. We take our naps and vacations, but the bottom line is giving our lives totally to Jesus:
“FOR HE ALONE CAN GIVE US REST FOR OUR SOULS.”
What must happen in the life of every existing human being is to get out of the existence that they are now existing in, and come in all over again in a brand new way never tried before. And what is that? The choice of a lifetime!!! Simply but most profoundly put:
“GOD, I DID IT MY WAY AND IT HAS BEEN A FLOP AND A
FAILURE. JESUS, I GIVE MY LIFE TOTALLY TO YOU
TO DO IT YOUR WAY ALL THE WAY.”
If you will:
“NOT MY WAY AND WILL, BUT GOD, YOUR WAY AND YOUR
WILL BE DONE.”
You see, that is what PRAYERS OF REPENTANCE are all about. We are not called to do PENANCE. We are called to do REPENTANCE. You see:
“DOING PENANCE IS TRYING TO DO SOMETHING GOOD TO
OFFSET WHAT WE HAVE DONE THAT IS BAD.”
That is not REPENTANCE! Rather:
“REPENTANCE IS CHANGING OUR MINDS AND YIELDING OUR WILLS TO
GOD. WE THOUGHT THAT IT WAS GOING TO WORK IN OUR WAY,
AND COMING TO THE PAINFUL AND YET GLORIOUS
REALIZATION THAT IT DIDN’T, AND THAT
WE MUST DO IT GOD’S WAY,
AND THEN DOING IT.”
Look, we have been walking with our heads high and cocky and self-willed long enough, and everything has gone crooked. Admit it to yourself and to God. We’ve tried it our way and it has been a bust. There can be no connection with life as God meant it to be until there is that strong connection of total submission to Christ. Or as Middleton Murray puts it:
“WE SHALL LOOK LIKE MEN ON THE MAN JESUS. HE WILL
STAND UP WELL UNDER OUT SCRUTINY. KEEP OUR
HEADS UP AS HIGH AS WE CAN, THEY SHALL
BE BOWED AT LAST.”
Don’t wait until it is too late. Bow your head now and pray:
“NOT MY WILL GOD BUT THINE BE DONE.”
Truthfully, that is what faith and prayer are all about. I think we can liken it to what we call in our world THE POWER OF ATTORNEY. The POWER OF ATTORNEY is putting our lives in this world, from a material standpoint, completely in the hands of someone else. It is really the highest praise, compliment, and trust that you can give to another.
And that is exactly what we must choose to do with Christ Jesus, and that is, give Him spiritually and materially, eternally and temporally THE POWER OF ATTORNEY over our entire lives. That is in effect what prayer is, and when we do that on a daily basis, we shall not be disappointed:
“NOT MY WILL, BUT THINE BE DONE.”
Come now Bob, isn’t something more compromising called for – sometimes our way – sometimes His way? Can’t we reach a more acceptable median somewhere in between where both ourselves and God can learn from each other, and reach more mutually compatible and prayerful settlements? Shouldn’t it all be based upon the giving of good advice to each other? You know, a give and take arrangement!
I am sorry, but no, not at all. That is not the way the three champions spoke, and that is not the way the greatest champion of all prayed:
“OUR GOD IS ABLE TO DELIVER, BUT IF NOT….”
“IF IT IS POSSIBLE TAKE IT AWAY, BUT NOT MY WILL
BUT THINE BE DONE.”
That is the way we must pray! That is the way we must speak! That is the way we must live! That’s how Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego lived and prayed, and that is how Jesus Christ lived and prayed. If it was good enough for the three sons of God, and if it was good enough for the only begotten Son of God, it is more than good enough for us. As a matter of fact, we cannot improve upon the will of God! It is the absolute best! Amen!