How do you know you genuinely believe in God? The answer is easier than you’d think: Look at how you respond to the big hairy audacious trials in your life.
The really big ones. The testing which seems unfair and your prayers are appear unheard by the God who can make a difference.
The Apostle James writes about it in the opening salvo of his book:
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
There are at least three scary parts about trials:
- You never know when the trial will come. “Why now?”
- You don’t know how long it will be. “When will this stop?!”
- Nor do you know how severe it will be. “Can’t get any worse…or can it?”
I’m thinking about three young men who must have scratched their heads, wondering how they ended up in a foreign kingdom. Their mettle was tested! The three had been kidnapped from their comfortable homeland, whisked away to a peculiar culture and given strange-sounding names: Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah became Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
Everything was different for the three. Even the food brought strange spicy smells wafting through their home, so they chose their own diet for health reasons. Daniel tells us they were exceptional in every way.
“Without physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude of every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand and qualified to serve in the kind’s palace.” (Dan. 1:4)
You remember. The trouble started when King Nebuchadnezzar had a very strange dream. Though threatened with death, their friend Daniel had properly described and interpreted the monarch’s dream.
Nebuchadnezzar then decided to build the image about which he’d dreamed: a 90-foot tall golden statue. Before it, everyone in the land was to bow down.
But these three good looking young men refused. And the story of their refusal is in Daniel Chapter 3 where those who hated the Jews were informants. They said to the king:
“But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”
“Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, ‘Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?’
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 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.’”
Even if. Now that’s the real test of faith.
“God will rescue us. But even if he doesn’t, we won’t worship a false God. That’s at the core of our belief system. One of the 10 commandments. Even if everyone else in the land complies, we can’t do that.”
Even if. Even if in every part of life.
Would you trust God even if you lost your job? …even if he takes your grandchild from you suddenly? …even if your husband walks out on you? Will you bake a cake that celebrates something which you believe is wrong, even if the government says so?
Where’s your line? Where’s your “even if” barrier? You see, that phrase, “even if” is the real test.
And this is where our Lord Jesus comes in!
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4