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  • Writer's pictureSue Bowles

Fires, Furnaces, and Faithfulness

I’ve been thinking a LOT about God’s faithfulness lately. But I think I’m being taken to a new level – a deeper level. It goes like this: 1) God is faithful. 2) Even when I don’t understand it or like it. 3) Even when it makes absolutely no human sense. 4) Even when it seems like my prayers are bouncing off the ceiling or I don’t know what to pray anymore. 5) Even when I don’t see Him working and in fact it looks like He’s answering every prayer with ‘no.’ 6) It’s at the very moment of desperation that His faithfulness is on FULL display and nothing less is acceptable, even if that means momentary pain.

God has me in a place right now where I HAVE to rely on Him. He has given a peace, which, at times, makes me look insane to others. And then I go toe-to-toe with fear. And all that faith looks like shreds of a tapestry He’s trying to weave. And then I get back on the faith-train again. He’s given me different pictures in my head during this time…images of faithfulness. The Red Sea seems to be on the big screen of my mind lately. But now other ‘previews’ are showing up too.

Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednigo. Paul in prison. Moses and the Red Sea. What on earth do all these people have in common? God’s faithfulness displayed through their circumstances.

“All” Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednigo had to do to save their own necks was disown God. Just bow a knee. Recant. Say ‘oops, I was wrong.’ And what did they decide instead? The fiery furnace. Now think about it. A furnace in your house heats HOW hot? A kiln is HOW hot? And they had a life-sized one big enough to fit 3 adults with a little extra wood as well. And they CHOSE to go there! WHY?! Because they KNEW God was faithful. They KNEW that even if they ended up dieing God would be glorified and THAT was their primary concern, not personal comfort.

Paul was in prison. And we’re not talking ‘brick cell with a bed and a toilet’ prison. We’re talking a damp, dungy, and dark depths of the earth prison where daylight didn’t penetrate and there was basically no escape. And no running water to flush the non-existent toilet. Just one big area with a wet dirt floor, chained, thereby minimizing movement (and you think you’re stiff getting out of bed in the morning after sleeping on a mattress!), and your human bodily functions basically covering the area in which you stand. And what happens? He’s praising God and singing. And overnight the chains fall off! WHY?! Because He KNEW God was faithful. He KNEW that even if he ended up there the rest of his life that God would be glorified, and THAT was his primary concern.

Moses and the Red Sea. Think of the pressure THAT man must have felt. He had an entire tribe – multiple generations – follow him from enslavement to ‘freedom.’ Only problem was ‘freedom’ was on the other side of this really big body of water and swimming in those robes just didn’t seem to be the best of ideas. And what did God tell him to do? Touch the water. ‘Yeah. Right. This little piece of wood is going to make a huge sea magically part and give us dry land to walk on? Really now, God….let’s reconsider this. I mean, I have an image to uphold. These people think I’m going to lead them to freedom and instead You’ve led us to a barrier…one I can’t cross!’ But what did Moses do? He gave God the benefit of the doubt and touched the water. WHY?! Because He KNEW God was faithful. He KNEW that even if the Egyptians caught up to them and killed them that somehow God would be glorified, and THAT was his primary concern.

Nice stories, right? Easy to read. Not easy to live. God’s taking me to the edge these days. I get GREAT encouragement from thinking about the pressure Moses was under. His choice was obey, die, or return to slavery and lose all credibility. He KNEW God would show up. Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednigo KNEW God would show up. Paul KNEW God would show up.

But did you notice the detail? Each situation was a little different. God had to let Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednigo be IN the blazing furnace to get the most glory. God had to have Paul IN prison chains to get the most glory. God had to let Moses get all the way to the point of no turning back to get the most glory. The same way He had let Jesus die so He would get the most glory.

To me that’s comforting! God may let me have to endure some very unpleasant stuff. He may have to let me endure great hardship and separation, severe doubt and absolute desperation. And you know what…it’s at that exact point – WHEN HE WILL GET THE MOST GLORY – that God likes to show up. And He does. EVERY time. Because He IS faithful!

Faithfulness doesn’t mean He’ll always answer a ‘God, would you relieve me of this trial?’ prayer. Sometimes it means ‘No, I’ll let you endure what you think is unbearable because I need you there so I get the most glory.’ Sometimes He stokes the fire really hot. Sometimes He lets the water seem too deep. And sometimes He puts us in chains so we can’t get out of a situation. That’s not easy to hear. Harder to live. Yet WONDERFUL when that ‘glory’ moment comes! “YOU ARE FAITHFUL GOD FOREVER. LET FAITH ARISE!”

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