Tuesday, November 27, 2012

When God Says No

I read in Daniel this morning the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  They refused to worship the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had erected and the penalty for that was to be thrown into a fiery furnace.  These men were brought before the king who gave them another chance to serve and worship that gold statue.  The king entreats them and then states, "But if you refuse, you will immediately be thrown into the blazing furnace.  What god will be able to rescue you from my power then?"  This is how those men replied, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us, He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.  But even if He doesn't, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have put up." (Daniel 3:15-18, NLT1)  And so they were thrown into the furnace.  A furnace that was made so hot that those whose job it was to throw them into the furnace died in the process, but not Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  The God whom they served did indeed rescue them, not a hair was singed, not a thread of their garments was burned.  When they were thrown into that furnace they were joined by a fourth individual and even Nebuchadnezzar recognized the divine being in his furnace.  I don't know about those three men, but I would have been desperately praying to be rescued by the Lord before I ended up in the furnace.

This past week my mind has been drawn back to the last days of my brother on this earth.  It was my turn to go and care for him after he began hospice care.  The colon cancer had spread to his liver and now the time was drawing short.  I spent three precious days with him.  Mostly he slept but for brief moments of clarity when we shared a few words.  I had to know that it was well with his soul and he assured me that he was looking forward to going home to be with his Savior.  Nothing else really mattered.  He slipped from this life to his eternal home in heaven surrounded by family and friends who loved him.  The very first thing we did was to gather in a circle, holding hands and praying together to thank God for the blessing Jeff had been to all of us here.  We also had to acknowledge that it all seemed so unfair.  I wrestled a lot in the two years leading up to Jeff's death with what to do when God says no.  The pat answers do not cut it when your heart is breaking.

I have been wrestling with those same issues again, this time as a family in our church has dealt with cancer in their young son.  It is well with Rex's soul now too.  He went home to the Lord this past Sunday night.  And this mother's heart is breaking for another mother.  And the pat answers just do not cut it.  My questions remain the same, how is this a better story of God's glory than healing would have been?  I don't know.

What I do know comes from my reading of 1 Peter 4:7-5:14 this morning:  this world is not our home, not if we are Christians, not if we have the privilege of being called by God's wonderful name.  I can trust myself to the God who made me, for He will never fail me.  I can give God all of my worries and cares for He cares about what happens to me.  In His kindness God called me to His eternal glory by means of Jesus Christ.

As we enter into this Christmas season what greater reminder is there that this world is not our home.  My life is not made by the decorations I put up, the perfect gifts I give, nor the ones I receive.  It does not revolve around lights and parties and pageants, and certainly not shopping malls.  Christ came into this world those many years ago not so that I could have a wonderful party on earth each year, but that I could have my sins forgiven once for all, that I too might someday meet my Lord and Savior face to face in heaven.  So I spent yesterday listening to music, a lot of the great hymns of the faith and some new favorites too.  I lifted my eyes towards heaven from whence comes my help.  It was no longer a time of fasting and pleading, but of looking towards the One who holds my heart in His hands, the One who saves me, who strengthens me, who comforts me. The Prince of Peace has come into this world and He offers something far better than the trappings of this world.  He is my hope.  I don't know why God said no once again.  He doesn't always keep us out of the fiery furnace, but I know He is right there in the midst of it with us.

Blessings dear friends,
(Peter closed his letter with these words, "My purpose in writing you is to encourage you and assure you that the grace of God is with you no matter what happens."  I pray I have accomplished the same thing.)

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