I have never met someone who enjoys trials. Yes, many believers enjoy the spiritual maturity and deeper relationship with God that come as a result of trials, but I have not met one that enjoys the trial itself. When trial strikes, we all desire escape to one degree or another. This can be seen in the way that many of us pray in trials. In desperation we plead with God to make it all stop with little to no attention given to our response if God chooses for the trial to remain. Certainly, it is not wrong to desire deliverance from hardship, but if that desire begins to dominate our thinking and prayers, then we need to remember how God’s Word would have us prioritize our goals in the midst of that hardship.
In Daniel 3, three young Hebrew men, exiled to Babylon, show us what faith looks like when we are squeezed by trials. The trial of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is brought about because of their faithfulness to God. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon gave the comand to bow down before the golden image he had set up on the plain of Dura, but as worshipers of Yahweh, the three young Hebrews would not commit the sin of idolatry. Nebuchadnezzar’s punishment for non-compliance was the fiery furnace. It is the response of the three friends in the face of this threat that is highly instructive for us. Here is what they say in vv. 16-18:
“Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists, then he can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if he does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” (CSB)
What is the priority of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in these words? Dale Ralph Davis, in his commentary on Daniel, captures it for us: What matters for them is not deliverance but obedience….what really matters is not security but worship.1
The three friends believe that God can deliver them; they don’t doubt His power or sovereignty. However, they also do not know whether God will deliver them. But they do not need God to deliver them in order to faithfully refuse to bow before a graven image. They have no plans of bailing on God if He doesn’t do what they want. Their goal is clearly to obey the Lord.
Do we have the same goal when we undergo the pressures of trial…or is our focus obstructed by a controlling hunger for deliverance? Each trial that confronts us is a fresh opportunity to show that God is infinitely better than freedom from suffering. We show this through our obedience to Him regardless of the risk or the hurt. We have help in responding this way when we remember that Christ has delivered us from something far more dangerous than the trials of this life. Through His life, death, and resurrection we have been delivered from divine condemnation (Romans 8:1) and eternal suffering (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). There is great motivation to face the sufferings of today, knowing that there is a day coming when they will only be a memory. Surely, the One who achieved this for us deserves our obedience whether or not deliverance comes today.
1 Dale Ralph Davis, The Message of Daniel (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2013), 56.