If I were to tell you that three young men defied what they were required to do by law, what would be the immediate image that jumped into your mind?
Would you think of a few speeding teenagers?
A criminal assaulting a police officer?
A high school student refusing to clean his or her room?
Whatever came into your mind, chances are it was pretty negative. When we consider rebelliousness, it rarely feels like a positive trait. And yet Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (from the book of Daniel in the scriptures) where just that: three rebellious young boys who were willing to risk their lives because they loved God.
It’s pretty likely you’ve heard the story. These three young man are commanded to bow down to the king, and threatened with a fiery furnace if they refuse. They explain to the king how they won’t bow to anyone who isn’t their God, so he has them arrested and thrown in the flames.
Minutes later the king realizes, they’re in the furnace, but not burning.
When we look at a story like this-of 3 young men who were willing to defy authority-I think we can learn several things about what it looks like to share the gospel.
Here are four of the things I learn reading this story.
1. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life
Jesus teaches his disciples, in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes through the Father except through me.” This is not a popular thing to say in our world today. In fact, people will call you intolerant for talking like this. They will label you a bigot. But if you really believe that all truth comes from the creator of the universe, it isn’t a matter of tolerance or intolerance. It’s simply the way it is.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego understood this truth. In fact, they were so certain it was true, they were willing to bet their lives on it. I doubt they were certain God was going to spare their lives when they were thrown into the furnace, but they weren’t trying to protect their lives. They were doing what they knew was right.
How many of us live like this?
2. Not everybody likes the truth (or people who tell it)
You have to know that if you choose to follow Jesus, and to proclaim his truth, not everybody is going to be happy with you. In fact, you can assume many people won’t. This was true for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and it has been true for me. The other day I got into a conversation with a friend that turned to this subject. My friend became so angry about the conversation, he got up and left.
I hate that. I was sick about it. It’s not easy to stand strong for a truth when it makes your friend mad. No one wants to lose friends. But you cannot bow to a lie because it is more convenient.
If you are going to communicate the truth of the gospel, you have to be willing to stand strong, even when it causes conflict.
3. The truth of the gospel is often revealed through fiery trials
What’s most amazing to me about this story is that, once the king saw the God of Israel protect the three young men, he believed. Their testimony was that powerful. It swayed the heart of a king. But notice that God did not deliver the young men from having to go into the furnace altogether. He merely delivered them from death in the flames. He stood with them in the middle of the fire.
Sometimes, God does this with us, too.
He reveals himself to us and to others by putting us through fiery circumstances-trials, heartache, grief, loss, unfair treatment. Just know that none of the suffering you face is without purpose. It all points back to Jesus.
4. The way you speak truth should reflect the heart of Jesus
Take time to read the passage (Daniel 3) and note how Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego handled themselves. They didn’t judge anybody else for worshipping the idol. They didn’t get the crowd all riled up against the king or try to lead a rebellion. In fact, they didn’t say a thing against the King or the nation of Babylon. The only way the King even found out about them refusing to bow is because someone else told them.
We can take note from these young men. There is no need to be mean spirited or violent. You don’t need to pull out a bullhorn and yell.
Simply live out your faith with integrity and respect, and people will notice.