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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Encouragement for All Pastors Who Are about to Be Thrown into a Blazing Furnace

Pastors are called to stand in the gap. They are called to holiness, doing what is right and facing persecution because they have allowed God to be the center of their hearts. They must be the first to give God glory in all that they do. They must be the ones who will be fired for their devotion, castigated for their values and named as evil because of their righteousness.

Often these attacks come from within their churches. There will always be religious people who are bothered by purity that exists beyond rituals. They will play politics in order to undermine the work of the pastor. They will attack the pastor and his family in order to destroy his ministry. They will get in the way of what he believes God is doing. They seek his surrender from doing things which they dislike. They do not care what God really wants and have not asked.

I am not in this situation today but I have been. I know how these beaten down, beaten up pastors feel. If you are one of these pastors I would ask you to look at a passage of scripture with me. I am writing this as one who has realized what I had to do, didn't like going through it but glad that I did when I got to the other side.

Daniel 3 tells the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who refused to call something or someone god who was not God. They did not bow to the golden image of Nebuchadnezzar when the music played. Here's how it went:

They were accused as being unfaithful when they were purely faithful.

Daniel 3:12-13 (NIV) 12 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, O king. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up." 13 Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king,

Astorlogers came forward to point out to the king that these men were not doing what was publically accepted as the right thing to do. There is no mention whether anyone could worship God. The command was to bow to the image of gold that the king had set up any time music was heard. In other words, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego  could continue to worship their own God as long as they also worshipped theirs.

Pastor, many people will allow you to carry on with church as long as you pay homage to the things they want to worship. They ask you to bow down to a family or way of worship or a stained glass window or anything they have decided is valuable. They ask for this worship in addition to your worship of God. As far as they are concerned you can do what you wish as long as you do what they wish. They have already compromised their faith; why shouldn't you compromise yours?

But you can't. You must be obedient to the Lord alone. You must stand firm and not allow any erosion of your faith.

Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego responded with a full acknowledgment of the penalties for their faithfulness.

Daniel 3:16-18 (NIV) 16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 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 your hand, O king. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

Their faith knew that God could save them from the blazing furnace but they also realized that He may not. That did not change their decision. They continued to refuse to the bowing down to a golden image.

Pastor, you may be fired. God does not necessarily remove you from the blazing furnace. He sometimes allows the ones coming after you a temporary victory.

Years ago a pastor friend of mine welcomed an African American family into the church he was serving. The church leaders fired him right away and took his furniture from the parsonage and moved it to the sidewalk that night. I am sure that it looked very bad at that moment but God has had the victory. That pastor has been incredibly blessed by God in the past thirty or so years. I don't think his former church can say the same.

Shadrach, Meschah and Abednego were thrown into the fire. Nebuchadnezzar made sure that the fire was seven times hotter than normal. Surely, it must have looked like this was their end. But God had other plans.

Daniel 3:19-23 (NIV) 19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king's command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.

Pastor, we sometimes say that God will rescue us from the blazing fire but that is not always the case. He, instead, uses the fire to bring glory to himself. You just may be put in a position which will appear unconquerable. Take heart. Just when faithless people say its over, God is not finished yet!

There were four in the fire even though only three had been tossed in. Even Nebuchadnezzar could tell the difference. He could see that One was not like the others. He could also see that they were walking in the flames rather than being burned by them.

Daniel 3:24-25 (NIV) 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, "Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?" They replied, "Certainly, O king." 25 He said, "Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods."

Pastor, God will never allow you to be place in the blazing furnace alone. He will go in with you. He will give you a means of standing up though the pressures against you demand that you be crushed. I know He will. He has done so for me.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were taken out of the furnace to the glory of God.

Daniel 3:26-30 (NIV) 26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!" So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them. 28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, "Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king's command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way." 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.   

God gave Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego a promotion for their faithfulness.

Pastor, God has a supply that will meet your need. He will supply it through your faithfulness rather than because of your faithfulness. Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego would never have received their promotion if they had simply gone along with the king's command while also worshiping God. They took a stand which put them in the right place to receive the promotion.

Pastor, there is no shame in asking God for strength to do what you must do to bring purity to your church. There is no shame in being thrown into a fire. (In your case it maybe why they call it being "fired.") But never forget that God is with you. He will allow you to walk where you should be crushed. He will give you blessing where you should be cursed. He will promote you when you should be devastated. Stand the gap. Keep up the good work. Let your heart be His alone.

(Please forward, copy and or send this to any pastor who is going through a difficult time. I am sure you pastor knows all the things I have written but sometimes we need to hear them again. Also, tell your pastor that you will stand with him. It will make all the difference in the world.)

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