When I look at some of the men and women in the Bible, at a quick glance they seem to be so confident, so certain of everything. Next to such seemingly unwavering faith, we can start to feel a little unsure of our own faith.
Perhaps that’s because we’re seeing the miracles they experienced through the perspective of hindsight. But try to put yourself in their shoes. Consider how impossible the situation must have seemed for them at the time when they couldn’t see the outcome.
For example, look at the three Hebrew men who were about to be thrown into the fiery furnace for not bowing down and worshipping the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.1 It might look like they were glowing with confidence in front of the head of the largest empire of their day, certain that nothing could happen to them in that fiery furnace. But could it be that they also battled fear and the uncertainty of what would happen?
It’s true that their friend Daniel held a great deal of power and influence, and he might have been able to stand up for them and rescue them from their fate, but he is not mentioned in regard to this event and may have been away on a trip to another part of the empire. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were on their own, standing up for what they knew was right; and there they were before a king who saw himself as God, surrounded by the king’s jealous counselors who may have seen these Hebrews as a threat to their power. Those angry counselors had probably been instrumental in whipping up the king’s fury against the three Hebrew men.
Despite the bold declaration of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that they would trust in God no matter what happened, they were human and prone to the same fears that any one of us facing such a horrifying fate would experience.
Faith isn’t the absence of fear; faith is what overcomes fear. My guess is that they dreaded what was about to happen with everything in them, but they still knew what they had to do. Their faith didn’t seem to be based on any assumption that their bodies would miraculously be impervious to the heat and fire. At least, that’s not what their words in the Bible indicate.
They said, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”2
They didn’t know what would happen, but they had faith that God was in control. Their faith was in the fact that no matter what, they knew God had a plan, and they trusted Him to take care of them as He saw fit. They weren’t setting conditions according to what seemed best to them. They didn’t tell the king that their bodies couldn’t be burned. Of course they knew that God could do anything, but they weren’t basing their faith on God keeping them from burning up in the furnace. Their faith was in God’s love and power, not in the results they thought would be best.
We know that God will ultimately make things right in the next life, but that knowledge doesn’t lessen the struggles of possibly facing very painful experiences or death. At this moment in time, it’s not the next life that we have to deal with, it’s the present.
You may feel afraid of what you’re facing. You may not see anything you can do to fix the situation you’re in. But God’s intervention in your life isn’t based on your self-confidence. It’s based on your belief in Him and your trust in His unlimited power, goodness, and love. You don’t have to believe that what you want to happen will always happen. You just have to believe that God can bring about what is best in His time and His way, because you trust Him.
Faith knows what is most important to know: God will never leave you nor forsake you.3
None of us knows what lies ahead. We often can’t know if that setback we’re facing or the things we’re suffering will be gone in a minute or a month, or if they will last a lifetime. Our faith can’t be built on expected results that make sense to us. What faith knows is that Jesus will not leave us comfortless; He’ll be there walking with us through the fire, as He was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.