June 30, 2002
I looked at my father and I said, “Dad, our chimney looks like the Washington Monument.” I was commenting about our chimney because our house had just burned to the ground. We had built a beautiful two- story home and we were six weeks away from moving in when we got a call that the house was on fire. We rushed to the address and sure enough, it had gone up in flames. Our chimney did look like the Washington Monument.
The flames were so intense, it was so hot, that when the builders actually rebuilt the home they had to dig up the foundation just to start the whole process over. When we finally moved into our brand new home, we were thrilled, but my parents were just a little bit paranoid about fires, as you can understand. They had this fire drill thing down for us. They bought this chain link ladder that my brother and I were to use to shimmy down from the second story to the first story in case of a fire. Then we were all supposed to meet at the basketball goal if we ever smelled smoke. Thankfully, a fire never hit us again, but we did have a plan, a fire drill so to speak, because they wanted to know that we understood what to do in case of a fire.
Well today I’m talking to you about a fire. I want to talk to you about being flameworthy. Because the Bible says from cover to cover that flames, that fires, will come your way and mine. They will come and what we need to do, those of us who have conviction, those of us who are life-long followers of Christ, what we need to do is we need to have a plan before the fire strikes.
Now last weekend I kicked off this series called Ignite and I talked about the importance of having conviction. I said that in today’s culture having conviction is kind of a rarity. Having conviction means to stand for something, to trust in something. And we said that true conviction comes from truth, because once our convictions are tethered to truth, then and only then, do we have true convictions. Well today as we talk about some more fires and how God allows fires, we are going to see what conviction really looks like. We will see how conviction can play out. So having said that, let’s jump right in to this whole talk called Flameworthy.
Now, before we get into it I want to explain the historical significance and bring us up to speed. 605 BC was the date, and King Nebuchadnezzar had taken over the throne. He was the man in Babylon. And one of the first things he did, King Nebuchadnezzar went to Jerusalem, captured the city, and brought back with him the best and the brightest. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were three of the best and the brightest. King Nebuchadnezzar trained them, he coached them, and he elevated them into top positions in his administration. So these guys were wealthy. They were prosperous. They were heavy hitters. They had it going on.
And that brings us to this “Flameworthy” talk, because we find in the book of Daniel, Chapter 3, Verse 1 that King Nebuchadnezzar went on an ego trip. His advisors talked to him and told him how great he was, so Nebuchadnezzar, check this out, decided to build a ninety-foot statue of himself. He placed the statue on the plain of Dura. Everyone could see this statue; it was a beautiful statue of King Nebuchadnezzar. A wood structure overlaid in gold. And then Nebuchadnezzar had this cool little thing going on. He said, “You know, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to set forth an edict. When the band starts playing,” Nebuchadnezzar said, “I want everyone to hit the deck. I want everyone to bow down and worship this 90 foot high and 9 foot wide statue of me.”
That was the deal. Then he added one caveat. He said, “If you don’t bow down, you’re going to become a crispy critter. We’re going to take you and throw you into the fiery furnace.” You know, just a little subtle pressure. Let’s check it out. Verse 1, “King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue 90 feet high and 9 feet wide and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.” Look at Verses 4 and 5. “A herald shouted, ‘Oh people of all nations (you might want circle that “all nations”) and languages, this is the king’s command. When the band strikes up you are to fall flat to the ground and to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue.’”
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, they had conviction, didn’t they? If we are fueled by the word of God, if we do what this Book tells us to do, what’s going to happen? We will have conviction. Conversely, if we go by the world’s system, we will have compromise. Sadly, this whole conviction thing has segued into compromise in our land.
Some palace plotters went to King Nebuchadnezzar and said, “Nebuchadnezzar, you know when the band plays, everybody is hitting the deck, everyone is bowing down except your boys, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They are not hitting the deck. King, what’s the deal? We need to make them crispy critters. I mean, I know you love them, King, but look at them; they’re standing up.”
Peer pressure. What do you do when peer pressure begins to circle you like a tiger shark? What do you do when peer pressure begins to pull at you? What do you do when peer pressure gets so intense it becomes fear pressure? Do you cave in, to go to the place you shouldn’t go, to have the relationship you should not have, to do the stuff you should not do? What do you do? Do you stand and say, “Here are my convictions. I’m tethered to the truth. I believe what God says. I’m going to stand. I’m going to do the Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego thing.” Or, do you cower and do you bow down to your god on your plain of Dura?
We all have a plain of Dura out there. We all have statues in our lives. We either bow or not. Well, these people were jealous of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. These people were envious of them. And they went to King Nebuchadnezzar and talked trash to Nebuchadnezzar about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Why didn’t these people go directly to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? I’ll tell why they didn’t, because they were verbal flamethrowers.
Rise Above Verbal Flamethrowers
Now, that’s the first thing you must understand when you have conviction, because conviction equals combustion. When God allows the fires to come into your life and mine, rise above your verbal flamethrowers. Rise above them. You will have verbal flamethrowers; I will have verbal flamethrowers. Once you step out and lead, once you stand up, once you have conviction, people will slander you. People will rip you up. People will say things about you they shouldn’t say. There will be those palace plotters out there.
Now, I grew up as a pastor’s kid. I’m 41 years of age and I have grown up in an aquarium, people watching me 24-7. Now I’m a pastor, and there are people watching me. What I wear, what I don’t wear. What I drive, what I don’t drive. Where I live, where I don’t live. What I drink, what I don’t drink. “Wow, where did you go on vacation? Really? Incredible…” My whole life has been that way. And for the most part, 90% of people are positive, they’re incredible, visionary. But you’ve got that 10% who talk the smack. You’ve got that 10% who have evil intentions. You’ve got that 10% who will just say stuff and spread rumors and talk junk. You’ve got them too.
You know what I’ve learned to do? I’ve chased people down and I just beat the crud out of them. That’s what…No, I don’t! Some of you are going, “Yeah! You did that? I like that, man.” No, I don’t do that. By the grace of God I have learned an incredible lesson as I’ve studied the Bible throughout my life. I try to do, fueled by God’s mercy, what Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did.
Check them out. When King Nebuchadnezzar brought them in they didn’t say, “Oh, King Nebuchadnezzar, give me the names of these people. I mean these are rumors. I will chase them down. I’ll give them a piece of my mind…” Don’t do that. You waste your time when you mud sling. You waste your time when you get on their level. You waste your time when you try to become a verbal flamethrower back to verbal flamethrowers.
Every time someone is a verbal flamethrower in your life or mine, let me tell you something. Every time, those verbal flamethrowers are people who have been burned themselves. In other words, hurt people hurt people. Damaged people damage people. People who burn you are people that are charred. They need to be in the burn unit themselves.
So here’s what you do. You need to stand above the fray. Don’t mess around with it, you move with the movers. First of all you move with God, and you move with people who love you for who you are, not for what you have or what you have or have not done. That is what our boys, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, did as they stood up with conviction before King Nebuchadnezzar. So rise above your verbal flamethrowers. You can say that’s your first flameworthy fact.
Develop A Disposition Of Confidence
OK, let’s go to the second flameworthy fact. Develop a disposition of confidence. As they were standing there talking to Nebuchadnezzar, these guys were confident. They had conviction. They were standing up. Check out Verses 16 and 17. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied, “Oh Nebuchadnezzar, we’re not worried about what will happen to us.” Now, these guys were not planning then. They didn’t say, “Well, we better get our act together now, because the fire is coming, and we better get that chain link ladder, and drop it off the second story now, and now are we going to meet by the basketball goal or in the front yard…” No, no, no. They had the plan before the flames. They had the plan before the fire. And we must have the plan before the times of intensity in our lives.
You’ve got a plain of Dura. You’ve got a statue. You’ve got peer pressure circling you. Think about it. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego could have just said, “Well, you know, I’m not really worshipping Nebuchadnezzar, but I’ll just go ahead and bow down because everyone else is doing it. I mean, down deep you know, Lord, I love you, but I’ll just go ahead and bow down.” Or you know they could have made a number of excuses like, “Well, you know, we are leaders here in Babylon and people are looking to us, and you know we didn’t want to cause a riot or something like that.” Or they could have said, “You know, it’s just this one time we’ll bow down. What’s one time mean? One time, surely can’t mess us up. One time…”
Talk to Adam and Eve about one time. Talk to Esau about one time eating the pottage. Talk to biblical body builder Samson about one time. You realize many of us are just one sin away from starting a domino effect in our lives that can keep us from God’s best? Don’t play with that. You stand by God’s grace. You have conviction and you have confidence. Verses 16 and 17: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied, “Oh Nebuchadnezzar, we’re not worried about what will happen to us. If we’re thrown into the flaming furnace, our God,” I love that, our God, “our God is able to deliver us.” They had a personal relationship with the Lord and he was “our God.” They did it together as a team.
That’s why Christianity is not an individualized thing. That’s why we have small groups here. We have small groups for fellowship, for Bible study, for community. We also have them as units to help others through fires, through the flames. If we are thrown into the flaming furnace our God is able to deliver us. And he will deliver us out of your hand.
Now, notice something. They had faith. But if you think about it, everybody has faith. The most hardened atheist or agnostic here has faith. It’s the object of the faith that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had down cold. The object of their faith and the object of my faith is truth. They were dealing way back then, way, way, way back then, they were dealing with a very modern-day thing. They were dealing with being politically correct. Well, political correctness would say, “I have got to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar. I mean, if I don’t, the fiery furnace…”
What is so sad and sick about our culture is that years ago the word “tolerance” meant respect. Well, a lot of people in our culture, especially the secular media, they have twisted the term and now the term doesn’t even mean what it meant originally. Now, our media says, “You know what tolerance means? Tolerance means acceptance,” watch this now, “and approval.” You don’t just respect them, now you have to accept them and approve of them. Approve of lesbianism. Approve of homosexuality. Approve of abortion. If I stand up and say, “It’s wrong,” wow, I’m the bigot now? Wow, I’m the fundamentalist now? Wow, I’m this or that now. That is a lie, friends. That’s relativism. You can have faith, but you can have faith in the wrong thing. Just because you have faith in something does not make that thing right or wrong. Just because you have faith in something does not make it true or false. Something is either true or it’s false. Yet sadly, the monster of our day is tolerance. These days tolerance is the only absolute and it’s sad.
Well, they stared political correctness right in the face. And they said, “Well, we love everybody.” Just like we do at Fellowship Church; we build bridges to everybody just like we should, just like the Bible says. We love you. I don’t care what you’re involved in, whoever you are, black, green, orange, homosexual whatever. We love you, but we draw lines in the sand. We don’t want to confuse, because many people do, acceptance with approval. We accept you but we do not approve of a sinful lifestyle. We love you but we don’t accept and really don’t approve, I should say, of the way you’re living. I’ll talk more about homosexuality because people ask me about it all the time. But we have got to have confidence as we face these difficult times, as we face these flames.
Now, I’m going to share with you something else. God never promises us that he will keep us out of the flames. You hear that? God never promises us in the Bible he will keep us out of our fiery furnace. It’s not in there friends. It’s not in there. He does promise though that he will get in the furnace with us. OK, he doesn’t promise that he will keep us out, but he does promise “I will get in the furnace with you.”
Don’t Allow Your Circumstance To Cause You To Compromise
Let’s go to the next one. The next flameworthy fact. Don’t allow your circumstance to cause you to compromise. Now do you ever get into a situation where your circumstances might cause you to compromise? Like the people you are hanging out with or just the peer pressure that then segues into fear pressure? Do you ever get that?
Now Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, their lives were on the line. Look at Verse 18. They’re still talking to King Nebuchadnezzar, “But even if He does not…” They’re saying, “Hey King, even if God does not deliver us, we want you to know O King that we will not serve your god or worship the image of gold that you’ve set up.”
Do you know God says about himself? God says, “I am a jealous God.” Do you know why he says that? It’s a great line of love. God is a jealous God because he knows if we follow any other god on our plain of Dura, we will be disappointed. And he does not want us to be frustrated. He does not want us to burn up energy, time, and effort chasing after other gods. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knew that. “But even if he does not.” Their faith was not based on God’s performance. I hope you understand that. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego didn’t say, “Okay, God, we’ll have faith in you. I mean we’re going to stand with conviction if you deliver us from the fiery furnace.” No, no, no. They said, “God, you’re God and because you’re God and we’re not, we follow you, we trust you, because you are God. Whether you deliver us or not.”
There’s a whole line of thinking out there these days, it’s very popular, called the Word of Faith message that’s very non-biblical. The Word of Faith says, “Yeah, you can take faith and you can use faith to make God do what you want him to do for you.” That does not hold biblical water. You see God is sovereign, meaning He does what He pleases and He is pleased with what He does. “But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the image of gold that you have set up.” Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had tolerated a name change, because Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego weren’t their real Hebrew names. They had tolerated living in a different culture. They had tolerated all the training and stuff, but when it came down to worshipping a false god…No, no, no, no, no, no! They drew the line in the sand brother. They drew a line in the sand. So don’t allow your circumstances to allow you to compromise.
Now, I love Verses 21 and 22. I’ll just read them. In fact I’ll paraphrase them. Here’s what they did. You can read it. They tied Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego up with ropes, strong men did. And then these strong men brought them over to the fiery furnace and dumped them into the fiery furnace. And the Bible says the fiery furnace was so hot that it killed the men dumping them in the fiery furnace! But I want you to say this phrase with me, “Ropes.” Let’s say it together, one, two, three, ropes. They were tied with ropes and then thrown into the fire.
What has you tied up right now? What has you tied up? Maybe you have a teenage son and you recently found out that this guy is doing drugs. Maybe you have a situation at work that is a moral dilemma for you. Maybe you have a problem in your family with a sister or a brother and it’s ripping you apart. Maybe you’re contemplating a move that will change everything in your life and you’re not sure. What has you tied up? Maybe a hurtful lifestyle, or maybe sin, or maybe you’re carrying around guilt and you feel like, we’ve all been there, that you’re tied up with ropes. You can’t really move. You’re limited. Well, I’ve got good news for you. God is going to allow a fiery furnace in your life and mine. He’s going to allow it. He’s controlling the temperature, he’s got his hands on the dial because he is going to do something cool.
Grasp God’s Hand As You’re Walking Through The Fire
Let’s jump out to another flameworthy fact. Grasp God’s hand as you’re walking through the fire. Daniel 3:24, “But suddenly as he was watching,” Now, he’s dumped them into the fiery furnace, “Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisors.” Or maybe he did the Jerry Lee Lewis thing, maybe he said (to the tune of great Balls of Fire)
Ba, Ba, Ba, Bam
You shake ‘my crown and you’re causing me shame
Ba, Ba, Ba, Bam
Your fire-walking’s driving me insane
Ba, Ba, Ba, Bam
Oh what a thrill
Ba, Ba, Ba, Bam
You guys for real
Goodness gracious great balls of fire!
Maybe he did that, I’m not sure. But, I woke some people up, “He’s singing. I’d better pay attention. He started singing…” What did he say? Nebuchadnezzar, he couldn’t believe it, the Bible says. The Bible says that he said, “Didn’t we throw three men into the furnace?” He saw another person in the furnace. And the Bible says that this person looked like a God. Or some translations say a son of a God.
Most theologians, and I believe, like they do, that this was one of the pre-incarnate appearances of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ had descended down the staircase of Heaven. He was in the flames. He was walking with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He was delivering them. He had them by the hand. I’ll say it once again. God never says you won’t go into the furnace, but God does say, “I will get in the furnace with you. I will hold your hand. I will help you.”
Now, let’s keep on reading. Look at Verse 25. “Well look,” Nebuchadnezzar shouted, “I see four men, unbound.” Unbound! As God allows the fire to come your way and mine, he cranks the heat up just enough to burn off that junk that’s messing you up and messing me up. And once he burns it off, then we’re free to walk around in the fire. That’s where we have real growth. That’s where we have real development. That’s where we become the kind of people God wants, because I’ve learned more in the fiery furnace than I have on the mountaintop. I don’t know about you, and maybe I’m the only one in here that says that, but that’s the way I feel. And that’s what God does; that’s what he does.
Realize That God Has A Promotion For You
Here’s another flameworthy fact. Realize that God has a promotion for you. They came out of the fiery furnace, the Bible says, and you couldn’t even smell smoke on their clothing, but the ropes were gone. Look at Verse 30. “Then the King gave promotions to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego so that they prospered greatly there in the province of Babylon.” Do you know why God allows fiery furnaces in your life and mine? For two reasons: 1) for our good 2) for his glory. 1) For our good 2) for his glory.
God has a promotion in store for you, and you, and you, and me whenever the fiery furnace comes. Sometimes it can be a greater and a deeper faith. Sometimes it can be a heightened awareness of the grace of God. Ultimately, it will be a promotion in Heaven.
You know what’s interesting? Those of us in the Christian community, we love to pray for other believers who are going through difficult times. Man, let’s pray for them because they are sick. Man, let’s pray for this person because he’s had a hard time with his job. Man, let’s pray for this family…” And we should pray for people who are going through adversity; we’re commanded to do so. That’s good. That’s part of the church. We have a prayer list that we go through every week on our staff as we pray for the sick, the hurting, or the dying. That’s a good thing. But, let’s also pray for the Christians who are being blessed. Let’s also pray for the Christians who are receiving a lot of money. Let’s also pray for the Christians around the world who have great leadership positions because the evil one is coming after these men and women and these men and women can do great things for God only when they are empowered by God. So we should pray for those in adversity and also those that are being blessed.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, man, they were being blessed. They were people, they were individuals, like many here, who had great positions of leadership, great influence. They had a sphere of people who were just watching them. And if you keep reading through their story and through their life, if you keep reading throughout the Old Testament, they were great examples. They were like beacons. They were like light in the midst of darkness and they gave the Jewish people a lot of octane to be the kind of people they should be. That’s what it means to be flameworthy.
Let me change gears for a second because I want to do a little drawing for you. Here are my pens over here. Now, I want to be very transparent for a second, “Ed’s Growth Chart.” For the last 12 years I have been the pastor here at Fellowship Church and I want to go ahead and graph for you my spiritual growth chart. I’ll just go ahead and just put it out there for you. I want to show you how I have grown spiritually. It won’t take me very long but I’ll go ahead and do it.
This is 1990, that’s when we started Fellowship and this is 2002, last time I checked. OK, wow, that’s my growth chart. Now, in my humble opinion I would say, it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out, I would say that my spiritual high points are right there. Wouldn’t you say so? That’s the way I would look at my growth chart. Just like that. Here’s my question, would God look at my spiritual growth chart the same way? I don’t think so. Here’s how I think God would look at it. (Flips the chart over.) I think God would look at it that way. You see, in God’s economy my low points would be his high points. My low points in my limited mentality would be, “Man, when I’m going through this fire, when the flames are hot, when I’m in the furnace and those ropes are being burned off…” To me that’s kind of a low point, but to God that is a high point. That’s a great thing to think about, isn’t it? A wonderful thing to think about.
I have just got to leave you one simple question. Are you flameworthy? Do you have a plan? Because if you do, you’re set for some phenomenal growth. If you don’t, it’s time to get one.