Daniel 3:16-18, Exodus 3:14
Sometimes we have to trust God to do incredible things in our lives. And often He comes through for us. But sometimes, we ask and we pray and we try to put all our faith in God stepping in for us...and it seems like he does nothing in response. That sick person we prayed for doesn't recover, our lost friend doesn't become a Christian, the provision we desperately needed doesn't come in time.
When we trust God and we see him come through for us in miraculous ways, it's easy to love him and worship him. And we find we can stretch our faith to believe God will do even greater things. But what do we do when our faith in God seems to achieve nothing? When our prayers seem unanswered, we're not rescued from disasters, we're banging on God's door and he doesn't even seem to have heard us.
Daniel and his friends had seen God work to protect them and bless them in several miraculous ways. When they were young men, they prayed that God would protect them from having to eat meat used in the worship of other gods. God gave them incredible strength and nourishment from eating a diet of just vegetables and water, in fact they became stronger than all those eating this 'idol meat'. Their strength and health led to them being given positions of power under the foreign king of the land they were in. Later, they escaped execution by this same king when God not only helped them to interpret the king's dream but before that God helped them to know what the dream was without the king ever telling them!!
They had plenty of experience of trusting God and must have felt pretty secure in their faith. But the challenges didn't stop for them. The king they served erected a huge gold statue and demanded that everyone in his kingdom including Daniel and his friends (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) worship it. But these four guys knew they couldn't worship anyone or anything other than God with a clear conscience.
For some reason, Daniel seems to have escaped trouble about this but his three friends were discovered refusing to worship the gold statue and they were hauled up before the king to explain themselves. They replied frankly to the king: 'If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from the king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, that we will not serve any other gods or worship the image of gold.'
Their faith is incredible, but what amazes me is not so much their trusting that God will act, as their trusting that God is still God even if he doesn't save them. See it's easy to say 'God is the only God I worship' when he comes through for us. If we knew for certain that we would always see the results of our hopes and prayers, it would be easy to keep our trust in God. But sometimes we don't get to see those results. What are we going to do then?
I know too many Christians who have been fully faithed up in God when life's been good and easy, but as soon as they hit a challenge, as soon as God hasn't given exactly what they hope for, they've struggled to trust him...many have turned their backs on God altogether.
See, if our trust is rooted in God doing good stuff for us, if our faith depends on seeing God act, then of course we're going to find ourselves shaken up as soon as something bad happens. To misunderstand God sometimes, to question him is ok...but to give up on trusting him because its too hard just isn't. I believe the key to a faith like Daniel and his mates is to understand the difference between trusting in what God does...and trusting WHO GOD IS.
If our faith is based on what God does, it will be strong and alive when we can see God answering our prayers, when our families turn to Christ, our friends get healed, disasters are miraculously averted and we are safe and well. But God doesn't always work in an easy, understandable way. Sometimes he allows bad stuff to happen, he allows people to get hurt, get sick and die. He doesn't force himself on people but allows people we love to go on living their lives as non-Christians. And if our faith is rooted in God doing stuff for us, we're not going to be able to trust him when it all goes pear-shaped.
Faith that's rooted on who God is doesn't fall apart when things don't go our way. This is the kind of faith that allows us to trust God when natural disasters and terrorist attacks wipe out thousands of lives. This is the kind of faith that allows us to be joyful in God when we have a truly rubbish day at school or work. This is the kind of faith that allows us to praise God at the funeral of a much loved friend. This is the kind of faith that shouts out in the darkest moments and the hardest seasons that God is still God. Because what matters is not what God does for us, but the fact that God is.
The name God gives himself in Exodus 3: 14 is the name I AM.
Not I did, I do or someday I will...but I AM.
GOD IS when you're fed up and confused. GOD IS when you've run out of money and you can't get a bus home. GOD IS when your friends mess you around and your family don't understand. GOD IS when the world is at war and you can trust no-one. GOD IS when the sick don't get healed, the lost don't get found, the blind don't see and the deaf don't hear. GOD IS when nothing else is. GOD IS.
Daniel's friends trusted that God would do good to them and act to save them. But their faith did not rely on what God does, it relied on who God is. So they were able to say: 'even if God does not [save us]. we will not serve any other gods.'
Don't judge God's trustworthiness on the things he does for it's true that he 'works in mysterious ways'. Learn to go beyond a flaky faith and trust not what God does but who GOD IS.
Go on, I dare you!The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
Director of Parish Mission Support
The Church Of England Birmingham
View all Life Files by Liz Dumain