Monthly Archives: February 2017

Engaging in God’s Purpose

February 26, 2017

Pastor Bob Odom

Engaging in God’s Purpose

Nehemiah 2:1-5 – In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.”

Here is the question for us today. When you face difficulties in your life how do you react or respond? This is a critical question because how we respond or react to the trials and problems we face make a big difference. The fact is we all tend to respond in different ways at different times. Sometimes the events and circumstances we face will determine our response. Sometimes the people we are with will determine how we respond. Sometimes we continue to respond in certain ways based on our past experiences and how we have been conditioned or raised to respond.

We will return to this in a moment but before we do that lets peer into this passage so that we can begin to understand what God will teach us and accomplish through us. In Nehemiah 2, we find that Nehemiah had been a patient man and had waited almost four months before finally presenting his case to the king. We also find that in the meantime that Nehemiah had been faithful to carry out the tasks of being the cupbearer. He did not give up on the tasks he had to accomplish. Although the news he had received was dreadful and painful, he did not allow the news to cause him to curl up in a ball and shut out life. He continued live and press forward.

Finally and in the right moment, when the time was right, and it seemed that God had orchestrated everything in Nehemiah’s life it was time to present himself to the king. Life was more than he could bear and it was time to make a move. He could no longer hide his pain or his disappointment. In the moment that the king recognized there was a problem with Nehemiah, the  king responded to Nehemiah’s pain. In that moment Nehemiah had a decision to make in terms of how he would respond. When we were in the hospital this week Michelle read me a portion of a book she was reading. I thought what she read fit so perfectly with this message. The author of the book noted three ways we tend to respond to the events of our lives. We can endure the trial, we can escape the trial, or we can engage the trial.

Let us look at these for a moment. First of all, we can try to endure our trials but in doing so the tendency is that our trials can begin to master us, thus they begin to control us. The result is that we become hard and bitter. The problem with simply enduring the trial is that the trial or the problem we face tends to take charge and begins to rule our life. Left to its own devices the trial can become bigger than life. The result is that our complete attention can be focused on the trial and nothing else. While this is a natural outcome, we must be faithful to move beyond this.

The second way to to deal with the trials in our life is to attempt to escape the trials. The problem with using the escape mechanism is that when we try to escape the problem we often miss what God is doing and what He wants to achieve in our life. We run from the pain and in so doing we miss God’s blessing but we also postpone the difficulty until a later time in our life.

There is a third way and it is the best way to deal with difficulty. How do we do this? We enlist the difficulty or we engage it. When we enlist or engage our trails they begin to work on our behalf and thus they do not master us. We can overcome them and begin to see the benefits of the trial we face. This is critical as every trial we face serves a purpose in the economy of God. It pushes us closer to God, it can reveal sin in us, and it provides a deeper look into our heart.

Two passages come to mind as we consider these thoughts. The first of these is Deuteronomy 8:2-3. And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Notice here that God had orchestrated this plan in order that their hearts would be revealed and the truth of who they are was seen. Notice too that in this passage that the people experiencing the difficulty were not even aware of what God was doing in them. Without going through these difficulties, they would have never achieved the lessons required for them to learn: obedience to God, dependence on God for the provision of God, and the power of the grace of God.

The second passage is Romans 8:28. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Notice this passage does not say everything will be good but rather that everything will work together for a good outcome even if that is in the eternal perspective. Life is not good but God always is. He never fails. That is the exact point being made in this passage. Too many believe that because we are Christians no bad thing will ever happen to us but that is far from the truth. As we embrace the truth and the reality of our life in God, He can use these issues to form and shape us into what He desires.

My experience this past week with being in the hospital is in fact a perfect example of this. During the day on Sunday I began to experience a severe stomach pain. Through the day the pain began to become greater and more intense. At first I tried to endure the pain and do all of the home remedies that I knew without any relief. I could have chosen to endure the pain but the outcome in my life might have been different. It was beginning to control me. I could also have tried to escape and deny the existence of the pain but it would have mastered me and the results may have had a different ending. Instead I choose to engage the pain and drive myself to the hospital where we now know there was much more going on in my body.

Nehemiah decided to engage and face his problems. He took a chance with the king who could have had him banished and worse yet killed him. Nehemiah chose to engage the problem and meet with the king directly. Remember last we week that Nehemiah had prayed and fasted. He had received as much information as he could about what was going on with his homeland. At that moment he could have tried to just endure and continue to pray and fast but not do anything.  That would have been spiritually accepted but while the spiritual and religious steps we take are important there is a time where we need to engage the problem and seek godly results.

We also find that Nehemiah could have tried to to escape the problem and pretend that was just the way things were going to be and therefore there was no hope for change. He could have run from the trial and would have been justified in doing so. He could have passed the buck and suggested it was someone else’s responsibility rather than his responsibility. So which would you prefer? Your trials mastering you, missing out on what God has to teach you, or accepting the trial and then being positioned for growth and strength. I not sure about you but I prefer the later.

Nehemiah had no idea of what would transpire in the days to come but because he accepted his trial and did not try to run from it, God used him and positioned him to accomplish His will. Nehemiah could have been “spiritual” and stayed in his room to pray and fast but he engaged. After he prayed and fasted he realized that he needed to do his part and that is just what he did and that is what we must do. We need to engage and get in the game so that we achieve God’s highest will for our lives.

So what did Nehemiah do? First of all, he did not try to hide his problem. He was honest about his situation. He did not overvalue the problem but he certainly did not underestimate the problem either. Notice that Nehemiah was willing to share his concerns directly with the king. This is critical because he took his need to the one earthly person that could do something about the problem. He did not talk with a lot people. He did not mumble and grumble. He did not use negative  self talk to get himself discouraged. Sometimes we can engage with everyone but the one person that can help us resolve the issues of life. As a result of the relationship Nehemiah had with the king, he engaged the king and thus the king realized there was a problem. Even then Nehemiah had a decision to make. How much would he share? How honest would he be?

This leads us to the second thing that Nehemiah did. Nehemiah dealt with his fear. Fear is a natural outcome when we face trials and difficulties in our life. Fear is a God given emotion that can be taken to the extreme and cause us to shut down, run, or hide. Fear can paralyze us.   But fear can also cause us to get a head of God and we can sometimes even circumvent what God is doing in us as a result. Nehemiah however faced his fears. Let me ask you two questions as we close this morning. First, what are you afraid of? And secondly, what could you accomplish if you did not have that fear any more? God never intended for fear to control us or cause us to be bound by the unknown. Nehemiah was gripped with fear but he did not allow fear to control him. He pressed through his fear and spoke truth to the king and as we know by history and the word that Nehemiah cam through in a big way and had compassion.

As we close would you take a moment focus your attention on the video we will play in second. So much of our failure comes in the form of fear. But that was never God’s intention. But we know who stands with us. He is God and He is always by our side. He overcomes our fear and the closer we get to him the more fear will subside. This video is Whom Shall I Fear by Chris Tomlin.

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Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Rebuilding Faith and Hope

Peninsula Community Church 

February 19, 2017

Rebuilding Faith and Hope

Nehemiah 1:1-11 – The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” Now I was cupbearer to the king.

This is a long passage but it is one that informs our perspective about confronting the issues we face. In this passage, we find there are at least five steps that Nehemiah takes that helps him process the news he received and aides him in overcoming the difficulties he faced.

To begin with we, find that Nehemiah was sincerely and genuinely concerned about the problem (Nehemiah 1:1-4) he faced and the issues confronting Jerusalem. Notice that Nehemiah inquired about the situation in his homeland. He asked questions. He got information. He did not want to assume what the problem was or how problematic things might be. The report from Jerusalem was that those who remained in Jerusalem during the captivity and had survived were in great trouble and they were filled with shame at the disrepair of their city. The city itself was broken down and the gates were destroyed. The walls had been destroyed and there was great discouragement in the city. It seemed that it was a impossible task to return to the homeland and even if they returned could the land be rebuilt and restored?

The question for us today is are you facing issues that seem to have your spirit broken and your heart devastated. Does the issue you face seem impossible to resolve? Does the mountain in front of you seem too large? Does the rubble and junk around you seem to be too much to overcome? You might answer yes to all of these but that is where Nehemiah found himself. While the problems we face may seem overwhelming and may seem too big to overcome, I wonder sometimes if this is exactly where God wants us to be because it forces us to turn to him.

So what did Nehemiah do? As we have already stated Nehemiah had an honest appraisal of the situation. Two things happen here that I think are very positive in the story. First of all, Nehemiah does not deny the problems in Jerusalem. At the same time, he does not over exaggerate the problems.

You see we can deny the problem that exists but in denying the problem we are never moved to make a difference or bring change. You see I am very familiar with this mode of operation. When I was growing up, my family was good at denying the problems that existed. It is not that we necessarily denied them, the fact is we just did not talk about them. The unspoken reality for us was that if we did not talk about the problem then the problem would go away or it would cease to exist. While this seemed helpful in the moment, because we refused to talk about problems we faced, they in fact affected and impacted all of our relationships. The truth of the matter is that we must be honest and acknowledge the problem in realistic terms. We must not and cannot deny the problems we face. We cannot be an ostrich with our heads in the sand.

On the other hand, we cannot nor should we exaggerate the problems we face. We can make mountains out of a mole hill but in so doing we can talk ourselves into doubt and hopelessness. Once again we need to be honest about the issues we face. We do not deny the problem but at the same time we must not exaggerate the problem either. Nehemiah had a real sense of the problems and he brought those things to God in prayer. That was the wisdom of God being exhibited through Nehemiah’s life.

The second thing we find here is that Nehemiah had a strong conviction about God’s Character. In Nehemiah 1:5 As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. 

Notice what Nehemiah did. He did not run to a whole lot of people to tell them the story but he got on his face before God in prayer and fasting. These are two critical keys to victory in our life. First, we need to know that prayer helps us align our will with God’s will and secondly, fasting invites God to feed our soul and our spirit with His nourishment and His food.

In the process, Nehemiah proclaims the greatness and awesomeness of God. He reminds himself that God is faithful and that He will keep His covenant and that no matter what comes God does not ever stops loving us. His conviction is that God will save him and the city of Jerusalem and that God will keep His word. So let me ask you, are you convicted or at least convinced that God is faithful and that He will keep His word. That was the heart of Nehemiah. He had an assurance of God’s faithfulness and that God would come through in a big way. May we too understand the power of God and know that He is awesome and that He is faithful to fulfill His word in us. May we never lose sight of that, no matter what comes our way.

The third act of Nehemiah is that he confessed his sin (Nehemiah 1:6-7). Notice that he did not blame others nor did he excuse his sin but he admitted that he needed to confess his sin. He took responsibility for his part of the problem while acknowledging that others were also responsible. Here is the deal. We must be honest with God about our role and our part in the situations we face. The problem too often is that we fail to personally address the issues that should be addressed. Perhaps our actions or our words have added to the depth of the problem so we need to take on our part of the problem. Israel had been disobedient and therefore had their land taken from them. That was the reality of the time. Disobedience and rebellion on Israel’s part had caused them to lose what had been promised to them.

I must admit that there are times where we are innocent in the issues we face but the reality is too often we have things in our life that need to be repented of. Notice that Nehemiah stood in the gap for his family, his nation, and he repented not only of their sin but also his sin. This has always been a major part of the restoration in our life. We recognize the problem, we honor God, and then we repent of those things we know where we have come up short and where we have sinned. This is critical so that we do not repeat the issues again. We repent and change our ways so as not to exasperate the problem.

Fourth, Nehemiah had a confidence in God’s promises (Nehemiah 1:8-10). God had promised that if they repent and change their ways, He would restore and heal their land. Not only did Nehemiah praise God for who He was but He also placed his confidence in God’s ability to keep His promises. God had promised He would keep Israel and that He would restore them if they repented. And as we read the rest of the story, we find that is exactly what God did.

And finally, Nehemiah made a commitment to get involved (Nehemiah 1:11). We find that not only had Nehemiah been getting news about the condition of Jerusalem, not only had he been praying and fasting but he also took steps to bring change. He decided to approach the King which took a lot for him to do this because the king had the power to destroy Nehemiah if he so desired. But Nehemiah was not going to sit back and allow things to continue the way they were.

You see, Nehemiah was the cupbearer for the king. For those who may not understand this job let me explain. Nehemiah was tasked with tasting the wine that was to be served at any of the meals that were served to the King. Now for some of us might want a job like that. It would be like going to a wine tasting every day. But here was the problem. The wine taster’s job was to test the wine to be sure it was suitable for consumption but also that no one had placed any poison in the wine. So he had built a trust with the king. Using this trust he went before the king to seek permission to go to Jerusalem to begin the rebuilding process. This was a real step of faith because that meant that the king would have to select a new cupbearer but as we learn later the king relented and allowed Him to go.

He took action knowing that God would protect Him and would bring about His will for the day and the time. Sometimes when we face issues in life we can fail to play our part and accept our responsibility for the task. We can easily make excuses and put off doing our part but we must step up to the plate. We must be in the game and be engaged in the process. You see Nehemiah could have stayed in his home and wept and cried but never engage. In so doing, he would never feel the impact of being a part of the solution or the process of healing. It is possible that Jerusalem would not have been restored which would have delayed the return of the children of Israel to their homeland.

Please note that Nehemiah did not force anyone else to be apart of his plan. He offered and people stepped up to the plate. Too often we try to force God’s hand or the hand of others. It is noteworthy that there was almost a four month period between the time Nehemiah received word from Jerusalem to the time he encountered the king. He was patient. He did not rush into the situation. He took one step at a time. In the end, he chose action and faithfulness over denial and fear. That is our choice and that is the action we must take.

God was in all of this. Not only did the king give permission but its is noteworthy that as you read this passage you will find that Nehemiah was careful to note that the queen was beside the king. This is critical because it has been suggested that this queen was none other than Queen Esther. God was orchestrating the return back to Jerusalem. Years before Esther had taken a step of faith to be obedient to God’s call to step up to the plate and let God use her. I encourage you to read three books together. Read Esther, Ezra and Nehemiah as they portray the faithfulness of God and the way He moves to bring about His will and purposes. Esther stepped up to the plate and so did Nehemiah and God used their faithfulness to bring about His will and purpose.

Here is the promise. God is at work even when we don’t see Him. God will move people, He will move mountains, He will change hearts but He will move. Things may be in motion when we don’t even realize it. That is God and that is the way we should be moving forward. That is why we can praise Him in the storm no matter what comes.

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Focusing on God in the Midst of Change

Peninsula Community Church

February 12, 2017

Focusing on God in the Midst of Change 

Daniel 6:16-24 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel…The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

As we often do, I believe that it is important for us to look at the back story for this passage in order to understand the details of the story of Daniel. Several things had transpired and changed from the time of the story of the three Hebrew children to the time of this story in Daniel 6. For one, several years had passed and two significant things had occurred. There was a new king in town and Daniel had grown from the teenager that was brought to Babylon to now being a full grown man in his 80’s or 90’s. In this story, we see there are four elements to this story that need our comment. These serve to teach us and guide us as we grow older and seek to do His will.

The first element is that Daniel adapted to unavoidable change. I do not know about you but I do not always like change because I tend to be a creature of habit and I like order but I have learned that change does come. I also know that we do not always expect change to happen. Change often catches us by surprise and can cause us to become unsettled. As we read this story, we find that during the time between the three Hebrew Children and Daniel there was a major change in the landscape of the kingdom in that the Babylonians were defeated by the Medes and Persians. The Medes and Persians were now in control. The positive was that it appeared that the Medes and Persians were more open to God as a whole than the Babylonians.

These changes teach us that change is inevitable and will occur. The problem is that most of us do not welcome change as it usually impacts us negatively and we often have to deal with the unknown that comes with change. We all face change and change effects us in many different ways but the constant is that we are all impacted by the changes we face. The best way to handle change is for us to recognize that no matter what comes our way God is still with us and He is still in control.

The second element was that Daniel did not allow his age to deter him from accomplishing God’s will. Daniel was now in his 80’s or 90’s. The issue here is not so much his age as it was more about the fact that Daniel did not rest on his laurels. He was continuing to invest his life into the ministry of others and he was ready to serve wherever God would lead him. Too often, we can begin to believe that once we reach a certain age or that we have accomplished certain goals that our life is over and done and there is no need to continue to give of ourselves.

Historically, there are more than enough examples of those did not begin to find their destiny until their elderly years. Michelangelo was still painting at 89. John Wesley preached with almost undiminished eloquence at 88. Thomas Edison was still inventing at 90 years old. Frank Lloyd Wright was developing some of his greatest designs at 90. Bernard Shaw was writing plays at 90. J.C. Penny was working strenuously at his desk at 95.

The point being made is that we can never discount our ability or our effectiveness just because we are getting older. We all have something to give and if we seek God we will find what that task will be. Here is the point to be made. Age can never be a prerequisite nor a deterrent to achievement. How do we prevent age from being a deterrent? We stay young in our spirit. We focus on what is needed and not what has been done. I was reminded of what a friend of ours in their early 80’s once said. They did not like senior citizen’s groups because he stated that every in the group was old. He was a young 80’s as he continued to play tennis and ride bikes. He kept his mind stimulated by always learning and developing his life. I can remember one of the things he did was to publish a book in his 70’s.

The third key element is that Daniel maintained his integrity which kept him grounded in God. In the opening verses of Daniel 6 we find that Darius was establishing his cabinet so to speak and one of those he chose was Daniel. The Scripture tells us that Daniel was distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps because he had an excellent spirit. In fact, he was so admired that Darius wanted to set him up over all of his kingdom. Listen to the words of Daniel 6:1-5. It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.”

As often happens those around Daniel were jealous of this choice and so they started a campaign to prevent him from taking the role to which he was appointed. But as we see in the passage that we read the other leaders could not find anything to use against Daniel because he was faithful and no error or fault could be found in him. The only chink in his armor was the fact that he faithfully served God. It was on this point that they developed a scheme to destroy Daniel and his life. They basically set a trap for him because they knew that he would not compromise his life or his beliefs.

Once they realized this, they set their plan in motion. They went to King Darius to get him to sign a decree that would be legally binding. The decree would send anyone to the Lion’s Den if they made a petition to any god or man for thirty days except the king himself. There is no hint of a reason why Darius signed the decree, but he did. Let me just say here that when someone or a group comes to disparage another that may be a warning to their motivation. I remember when I was in Bible School there was an issue that needed to be addressed. A large group of people got together to bring the issue to the president of the school and I was voted to be the spokesperson for the group. The problem is that when we went before the President everyone else backed away and I was left on my own. That taught me a lesson. Be careful of the mob mentality when a group of people begin to complain or want to get us.

Once signed and enacted Daniel made a purposeful decision. He was well aware of the decree and the penalty that would be exacted if he were to pray to God but that did not stop him or deter him from doing just that. Notice what he did. He went to his chamber and opened his window to heaven and he prayed. His daily act of connection with God was not going to be deterred by a decree from man.

They now had him and they brought the news to Darius who was forced by his own decree to cast him into the lion’s den which brings us to the third element to this story. Daniel had an unshakable trust in God which delivered him the lion’s den. Daniel had an incredible faith and trust in God’s power to deliver him from the lions that were destined to devour him once he was in the den. As we see in the story we find that Daniel was cast into the lions den but listen to Darius’ own words. “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” I heard a saying this week that intrigued me. The statement was this, the aggressor has the advantage and the power. It is a military statement. The idea is that the aggressor is the one who starts the battle and with the act of surprise overcome the victim or the one that they battling. So we need to be the aggressor as we take on the enemy’s schemes. We know the enemy’s tactics and his ways so that we battle against him. God is always the aggressor for us. He knows what we need when we need it. He will come to aide and He will protect us.

So I ask you this morning how are you doing with change in your life. Has change overwhelmed you to the degree that you are depressed and stressed as a result. How is your integrity? Is your integrity being attacked? Are you being fought against? Are you facing great turmoil to the point that you feel broken and weary. There is hope. Daniel had the solution. He kept his eyes on God who he knew would deliver him. As a result he was delivered from the lions.

Listen to this song by Natalie Grant and meditate on the words. May it be your prayer.

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Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Focusing on God in the Midst of the Struggle

Peninsula Community Church

February 5, 2017

Focusing on God in the Midst of the Struggle 

Daniel 3:24-25; 28 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods”… Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.

Last week we looked at the promise given to the Children of Israel as it related to their captivity in Babylon. This week we will look at one of the stories that occurred during the captivity and how the promise of God was fulfilled even in the midst of the captivity. As always, we must look at the back story so we can understand the story before us even better. When the Babylonians carried the Children of Israel into captivity they desired to indoctrinate the young people in the ways of Babylon. They envisioned winning the people of Israel by winning the hearts and minds of the children.

While this was their desire they had not figured on the number of youth whose faith in God would always trump anything that the Babylonians would try to do to them. We will see that in this story and in the story of Daniel that the Babylonians tried to change their perspective but that would not work as they had fully committed their way to the Lord. The fact is, the Hebrew children were not willing to give themselves to the ways of Babylon. Rather than live by a way of life that would leave them empty and longing for more they did not compromise their beliefs or their way of life.

In this story, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, built a statue that was to worshipped by the people of Babylon and the Hebrew captors. This was motivated by his pride and his arrogance as he believed that he was a god. As we see in the story, while everyone else bowed their knee to worship the statue the three Hebrew children did not. In fact, they refused to bow down which led them to be judged and subsequently they received a judgement against them.

As we review this story, we find that there were at least three tools used against them. The first tool used was the tool of false accusation. The Chaldeans came to destroy the three Hebrew children’s integrity and their standing in Babylon. In Daniel 3:8, we see they maliciously accused the Jews. The problem was that the Chaldeans were jealous of what the King had done for the Jews in that he had elevated the Israelites to positions of power often at the expense of the Chaldeans and men of Babylon. Their goal was to remove them from power by falsely accusing them. You see they did not just accuse them but they did so with an intent to get rid of them and to neutralize their effectiveness.

As we discussed last week, there is never a lack of people to try and tear us down. There will always be accusers in our life. We are accused by the enemy. We are accused by others. Sadly, we are also accused by ourselves. Have you ever noticed for example that when you are sad or down there will be those who think you are too sad and others who think you are not sad enough. You cannot please others and that often results in accusation most often founded in false truth. It is interesting that when trouble comes there is always someone around to accuse us and try to convince us there is no hope and that we should just submit to whatever issue we face. These accusers were no different. They wanted to create an atmosphere to discourage and defeat the faith of the Hebrews but they failed big time. They could not deter their faith nor could they defeat the Hebrew children.

The second tool used against the Hebrews was compromise! You see if the Hebrews only bowed their knee and followed the commands of the King everything would have been good. They would not have had to suffer the judgment that was to come but they chose to suffer death rather than compromise what they believed. Most often you can know that you face an attack of the enemy when there is a push to compromise the truth of the gospel and what you believe.

The fact is the enemy always wants us to compromise what we believe and what we stand for but in this story faith and trust in God prevailed. Rather than compromising they stood strong in their faith. The goal of compromise is to get us to diminish our faith and to begin to trust in everything but God. They refused to compromise because they had an unmovable faith in God. This is witnessed in the statement they made before being thrown into the fiery furnace. “God is able to deliver us. He will deliver us. And if He doesn’t we will not worship your gods.” That is the faith we need. We know God can deliver us but even if he doesn’t we will not stop serving him or believing in him. That is true faith.

The words of the Hebrew children are reminiscent of Paul’s words in Corinthians when he made the following observation. For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many (2 Corinthians 1:8-11).

The third tool used by the enemy is intimidation! The King did two things to create an atmosphere of intimidation. First of all, he had his men turn the heat up seven times the normal heat. Have you ever noticed how the heat is turned up when you are walking through difficult times? There is great pressure and the heat of the problems you face cause you to take a step back. Secondly, the king ordered his mighty men to bind them before they were thrown into the furnace. The point of the intimidation was to cause them to give up and surrender their belief. Think about this. We have three young teenage boys being obedient to God and He sends them some of the biggest and most powerful men in his army to bind them. It seems like overkill but that is what the enemy does. He tends to do overkill in every aspect of our life to force us to become depressed or discouraged.

As we read the story while we see the tools used by the enemy we also see God’s intervention. The three Hebrew children I am sure would have desired that God would have intervened and kept them from the furnace but instead God allows the Babylonians to throw them into the fiery furnace. Being thrown into the furnace was not the end of the story because even in the furnace God chose to deliver them in a big way! We see at the end of this that God had a greater plan. The plan was to reach those in Babylon.

As we review the story we see that God did so much more than just intervene. Notice what the King and his men witnessed what they returned to the furnace the next day. They saw four men who were unbound and they were walking around in the fire. The miracle was that they were not hurt in anyway. In fact, they saw a fourth person in the furnace that looked a whole lot like God. In fact, we know now that it was the Son of God. He had intervened and made a way of enduring the fiery furnace at all cost. I can promise you today that God will intervene and make a way of escape for you. Sometimes it means that we are able to endure the trouble we face. You see the three Hebrew children were not delivered from the furnace but they were delivered in the furnace. How powerful that is and how encouraging it is when we face all kinds of difficulty in our life that God will deliver us?

Here is what we know. God was present with them. God’s presence in the furnace made all of the difference in the world. He was with them and He protected them. He guarded them. His presence brought comfort, protection, and deliverance in the midst of their greatest difficulty. It is noteworthy that God did not keep them from the furnace but He certainly met them in the furnace. That is God’s mode of operation. He either delivers us from the furnace or He meets us in the furnace. We will not know His plan until we encounter the events of our life that require an intervention. As promised in Joshua, God will never leave us or forsake us. God is always there.

We also know that God delivered them from the effects of the fiery furnace. They were in the furnace but they were not effected by the fiery furnace. Look at this, the fire had no power over them. Their hair was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and there was no smell of smoke on them. God had delivered them from the effects of the furnace and He wants to deliver us from the effects of the accusations and intimidation offered to us by the enemy of our souls. How many of us are effected by past events that have shaped and formed who we are today. Notice that physically they were not negatively effected. The lesson is the issues we face do not have to define us. We can navigate the issues of our lives without being harmed by the power of the test. As Paul stated in Romans “If God is for us who or what can be against us.”

Finally and most important, God brings redemption. In this story, we see the redemption of the King. Through this amazing story Nebuchadnezzar honors God and acknowledges God as God. In fact Nebuchadnezzar is so moved by this event, he declares that God is the one God and that He is worthy of praise. The purpose of trials is for us to honor God and then to assist others in honoring God. It is noteworthy that Nebuchadnezzar is not changed immediately, but God uses this and other opportunities to reveal Himself. I am so glad for the redemption that comes from God and how He uses the trials of our lives to touch others and to bring them to a point where they recognize the power of God. If God can turn the heart of a wicked King He can touch every person around us for His glory.

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Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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