I. The great stories of the Bible never grow old
A. We tend to idealize the characters and forget that these are ordinary people, like you and I
B. People whose faith was tested and many triumphed over sin
C. After discussing many people who illustrated faith, the writer of Hebrews to stand firm in like manner - Hebrews 12:1-3
1. Faith to strengthen us - I Corinthians 16:13
2. Faith in the protection of God - Psalm 23:4
II. Our story of faith begins in Daniel 3:1-7
A. Nebuchadnezzar put up a statue on the plains of Dura.
1. It was a very large statue
a. 90 feet high (that is about the height of a nine story building or three and one half times taller than this building)
b. 9 feet wide (not quite as wide as the pews)
2. It was covered in gold. It would gleam in the hot sun, dazzling all who saw it.
B. At the dedication of the statue, dignitaries from around the empire were gathered, important men from all levels of the government.
C. A herald goes among the crowd and cries out that at the sound of an orchestra, everyone is expected to fall before the image and worship it.
1. As extra incentive, those failing to do so would be cast into a furnace to be burnt alive.
D. What would you do?
1. Worship of an idol was forbidden in the Law of Moses, but the nation of Israel had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.
2. As emperor, Nebuchadnezzar had the ability and power to demand anything he wanted.
3. Notice also the peer pressure. When the orchestra played, everyone did as the king commanded.
a. The thought of our peers is one of the greatest hindrances to faith. So many would rather not make waves, even though they disagree.
b. It was peer pressure that keep believing rulers from speaking out - John 12:42-43
c. It is why people only whispered Jesus’ name - John 7:13
d. And why people were afraid to state the obvious truth - John 9:22-23
4. Would you have caved in and been one of the thousands, or would you be willing to stick out? - Matthew 10:32-37
III. Their faith is declared - Daniel 3:8-18
A. Certain Chaldeans, men of the same nationality as the king, brought it to the kings attention that the Jewish men, namely Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had defied the king’s command.
1. Their refusal to bow was seen as defiance of the king and a disrespect for the king’s gods.
B. Here we see Nebuchadnezzar’s fairness
1. He doesn’t condemn the men solely on the word of those who brought the charges.
2. He even offers them a chance to prove themselves loyal by giving them a second chance.
C. Yet, notice the strength of these men’s faith
1. A repeat performance was not necessary.
2. The Hebrew says they had no need to make a carefully worded answer. They were quite willing to be blunt.
D. They had full confidence in God.
1. They believe God was able to rescue them. In other words that God had the power and ability to deliver them from harm.
2. What they did not know was if God would choose to save them or not.
a. They were not privy to the purpose of God.
b. Perhaps their death would serve some purpose.
c. If so they were prepared to die.
3. Even if it meant death, they would serve not the false gods of the king.
E. We are called to have the same faith
1. We must not be ashamed of our Lord - Luke 9:23-26
2. Notice the faith produced victory and endurance - Hebrews 11:32-40
IV. Their faith is tested - Daniel 3:19-23
A. A faith stated is useless unless it is demonstrated with action - James 2:14, 17-18
B. Nebuchadnezzar stopped smiling as the three men renounced his gods. In fact, he became absolutely furious.
C. He ordered the furnace to be heated to 7 times its normal temperature. He ordered his best warriors to tie up these men. There would be no escape.
1. They were trussed up fully clothed.
2. Clothing would aid the burning.
D. So great was the fury of the king, that the furnace was made extremely hot.
1. The men carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to the furnace, but the heat was so great that they perished
2. As Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego fell from their grasp, they fell into the center of the furnace, still tied.
E. God could have kept them from the flames, but God tests the righteous - Jeremiah 20:12
1. It is proof of our faith - I Peter 1:6-7
V. Their faith is rewarded - Daniel 3:24-30
A. Nebuchadnezzar was puzzled. He was astounded.
1. Wasn’t it three men who were cast into the fire? Yet four are seen
2. Weren’t they bound? Yet they are walking around.
3. The fourth appears to be a son of the gods, a messenger of the most high God.
B. The king, himself, approaches the furnace and calls for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to leave the furnace and appear before him.
C. The king and all the government officials watch as these men leave the flames.
1. There is no sign of their being in the furnace.
2. They are whole, not even the hairs on their head were singed. Their clothes were undamaged. They did not even smell of smoke!
D. The promise of God was fulfilled - Isaiah 43:1-7
1. God protects his own - Psalm 34:7-8
2. It is the same faith shown by the Apostles - II Corinthians 1:9-10
3. God promises the same for us - Hebrews 13:5-6
E. Nebuchadnezzar recognized that only the Most High God could do such a thing.
1. These men were right to put their trust in such a God.
2. God was right in overturning Nebuchadnezzar’s decree.
VI. God requires that we stand for him. It is what is meant by confessing him.
A. Confession is not merely mouthing platitudes about our belief that a man who lived 2,000 years ago was the Son of God. - Romans 10:8-11
B. It is the willingness to stand in the face of adversity and to show unwavering confidence in our God who can and does save us. - Romans 8:35-39