Yesterday church was CRAZY!... Well, not really, just the production/set-up/running sermon/tear down was among the most hectic and hysterical I have experienced yet. The best line of the morning that still has me laughing is "we're like a bunch of 5th graders.." which was then followed by my response of "yeah, 5th graders in a museum!.. 'wow, what does THIS do?!...'" Haha, we really were struggling and had several curve balls thrown at us in a very short amount of time, and due to the wonderful natures of the people on the team with me we were able to laugh through the stress. Thankfully I do not think anyone in the service really noticed... But, we sure did!
All that being said, the sermon itself was amazing and really gave me a whole lot to think about... The sermon was another in our current "IF" series, talking about the various passages in the bible that are huge if passages. This week they focused on Daniel 3:16-18:
"Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, 'O Nebuchadnezzar,
we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.'”
First.. can I point out that until this weekend I thought his name was pronounced A-ben-dego, not A-bed-nego.. How do we so often/prominently reverse the n and d?!
Ok, so on to the actual portions of the passage and message that jumped out to me, I love how they say that IF it is so, God is ABLE to deliver... then they go on to say EVEN IF NOT.. they will still not bow and worship.
One of the interesting things pointed out is that they did not justify a way in which they could possibly comply outwardly without inwardly complying. Meaning, none of them said "well, we can bow down, but inwardly worship our own God..." or "it doesn't really mean anything cause he's crazy anyway..." or my personal favorite, "I should choose my battles carefully so I can have a greater impact later..." Nope. None of these excuses were made, they stood their ground, and faced some pretty serious consequences for it... The thing I love the most about this is that they tell the crack-head (I do not know if he really was, but her certainly was crazy) that they refuse to bow and worship anyone but the God of the universe, that he is perfectly able to save them from the flames... But, my favorite part is the faith that is unmovable when they say "...even if He does not..." they will still not worship the idol.
Heather went on to explain that so often we only want to proclaim the good things, and focus on our "if He does" faith. But, it is the "if He does not" faith that is more difficult. Because God is able, but he may not... She pointed to Hebrews 11, and explained that we all love the first 35(a) verses, but do not really want to focus on the last few verses in the chapter that explain how some people suffered and died terrible deaths on behalf of Christ, but even still they worshiped. They lived in the "if not" faith believing that the ultimate purpose of God is good, even if he does not deliver them from their troubles. Sometimes God delivers us through our problems instead of from them..
What a powerful thought... While God is able, if He does not choose to deliver us from our problems, do we have the faith to believe His ultimate purpose is good, and He will deliver us through (even if that means into death)?
One of the points she made was that often we want to tell others it's "going to be ok" when in reality we have no idea if it is going to be ok... The last few verses of Hebrews 11 list several instances where it was not ok for some people who followed Christ. Although it might seem a little backwards, I find it totally refreshing to hear that sometimes it is not ok because God's plan is not always to keep us or remove us from pain, but to walk us through the entire thing... There are a few areas in my life that I am praying the "if" prayer, but also praying through the "if not," then I will still worship my Lord and Savior.. Near the end of her sermon she talked about how we have to continue to pray until God has answered our prayer, said no or until we feel a peace about it that indicates He has answered the prayer, but that it has not happened yet; at which point we need to transition into praising Him.
How powerful. How difficult.