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Tested By Fire

Life gives us many tests. The Bible also talks of tests we must face personally in our own lives.

2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test?

As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 13:5, test yourselves and examine your faith.

2 Corinthians 3:13
his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work.

He also says in 1 Corinthians 3:13 that fire will test the quality of each man's work. We need to understand that God's Word tests us. The book of Daniel is about a young man who has been held in captivity and is living in Babylon under the king Nebuchadnezzar. Certainly Daniel is the hero of the book of Daniel but we are not going to talk about Daniel today. Instead we are going to talk about his three friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

1. The Blink Test

Daniel 3:12-18
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,
14 and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up?
15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?"
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."

What we see happening here is Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego standing in opposition to the king. The king is trying to apply pressure to make them give in. This is the first test that we are going to look at today and its called the Blink Test. Many children play the game of of a staring contest. The first one who blinks is out of the game and the other one wins. Now, this is what happens in the world.

We take a stand for God and Satan tries to stare us down. We take a stand in the world and Satan tries to get us to back down. Very often in our spiritual lives we get into a staring contest with Satan. Satan is trying to get us to blink but we must stand firm and not give in. How do we do when Satan tries to get us to back down? Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were being challenged by the king of the land.

The king said he would throw them into the blazing furnace unless they bowed down and worshipped his god. Yet, these ordinary Christians, these ordinary men of God did not give in. We need to be willing to stand our ground and stare down Satan. No matter what comes our way we must stand firm. Even when we are threatened and challenged by the world we need to stand firm.

Especially in v18 they say something that's very profound. Although they hope that God will rescue them from the fire, they say even if God doesn't rescue them, they would never give in to the king. Does our faith depend upon God working things out the way we think He should? Is our faith strong only when things happen our way at work, at school, in relationships or are we willing to stare down temptation no matter what happens? Have we blinked, do we give in to the pressure?

2. The Vision Test

Daniel 3:19-25
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.
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."

This is the second test. The Vision Test. The first test dealt with our eyes but the second test deals with everybody else's eyes. It's not what we see but what others see about us. When King Nebuchadnezzar looked into the furnace what did he see? Did he see three men bound up and burning in the fire? No, he did not. He saw three men unbound and walking in the fire. Then he saw a fourth person and he said that fourth person looks like a son of the gods. King Nebuchadnezzar saw something and it made him think about God.

The second test - the Vision test - is what people see when they see us. In this story it was just three men who got a whole nation to see God. It's not about the numbers but it is about what people see when they see our life. Do people see Jesus in us today? When we go through trouble and difficulty and hardship, is that when Christ comes out in us? Let us make our light shine and let people see Jesus in our lives. It is the most powerful testimony we can give.

3. The Smell Test

Daniel 3:26-27
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.

Not only did they pass the Blink test and the Vision test but they also passed the Smell test. As they came out of the fire, their clothes were not burnt, their hair was not singed and, the Bible says, they did not even smell like smoke. That's a hard thing to do. Here's the point we need to read into this verse in terms of the Smell test. God expects us to pass through this world not only by not being burnt up by the world but in fact there should not even be a scent of the world in our lives. It's not good enough just not to get burnt up and survive the fire but we must come true and not even smell like smoke.

This is very similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 5 in the sermon on the mount. Jesus said it's not good enough to not murder but we should not even hate. Jesus said it's not good enough not to commit adultery but we should not even to lust at a woman. Jesus said it's not good enough to not retaliate in anger but we should actually turn the other cheek. And for us disciples, it's not good enough to just come to church on Sunday but in fact we need to be committed to all the activities of the church, Christ's body. In the religious world we say it's not good enough to just believe in Jesus but we need to be ready to do what he says in his Word.

Are we getting by with the minimum. Are we saying, 'I'm okay because I didn't get burned by the fire'? In fact we come out smelling like smoke. It's time for us to raise our level of expectation. It's time for us to purify our lives and be strong in the Lord. It's time for us to be open and honest about what's going on in our hearts and not just try to cover things up. In the world we have ways of covering up smell. We pass out breath mints to one another. We put on deodorants in the morning. Those are all good things in terms of our hygiene but we shouldn't do that in terms of covering our lives. Are we hiding and trying to cover it up instead of getting honest and passing the smell test?

It is inspiring to read about our brothers Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Not necessarily great leaders of their day in the church but men who were wholly and completely committed to God. They passed the Blink test, they passed the Vision test, they passed the Smell test. Consequently, these ordinary, average men of God affected a King and a whole kingdom.

Daniel 3:28
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.

These men were tested by fire and they passed the test. Let us stand firm in our faith and be ready for the test of fire.