If – Not
An axiom of the Christian life is that Christians are not immune from disaster.
I have always been opposed to the “name it, claim it” Gospel that some have preached. The idea that faith is linked to earthly comfort and a disease free body is simply unbiblical. For sure Christians stand in the path of God’s blessings. But the blessings of God come in multiple shapes and sizes. Sometimes God’s blessings are financial or health related, and sometimes they are not. The point of the Christian life is this: Eternal life is more than enough and everything else is extra.
Faith in God and worship of God should never be contingent upon the blessing of God. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the Book of Daniel and the story of the fiery furnace. Three Jewish men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, are men of great prominence in Babylon. But the twisted King Nebuchadnezzar has built a 90 foot gold statute and is demanding everyone in the kingdom to bow and worship before it or face death in his fiery furnace. I loved this story as a kid. It was one of my favorites. You may know the story too. The three men refuse to bow and are cast into the furnace. But rather than dying in the flames, a fourth person (who I believe to be Jesus) appears and rescues them. They exit unscathed and King Nebuchadnezzar proclaims the God of the Jews to truly be the Most High God. It’s a great story!
But buried in the drama of the story is a great truth for all followers of Jesus. As the three men defy King Nebuchadnezzar’s orders to bow and worship the statue, they boldly proclaim that they know that God is able to deliver them. But then they say something very curious. Look at Daniel 3:18 when you have the chance, but in summation, the men tell the king that even IF God does NOT deliver them, they still will not worship the statue. They will remain faithful to God no matter the outcome. This is important. This is BIG. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, have embedded the “if / not” clause into their lives. I know too many people who live by an “if / then” clause. “God, if you heal my wife of my cancer, then I will worship you.” Or, “God if you help me find that new job, then I will trust in you.” The Christian life is never lived by “if / then.” It is always lived according to “if / not.” This is why Job, who had lost everything of earthly value to him – children, home, health – was able to say, “He (God) knows the way that I take that when He has tested me I shall come forth as gold.” This Job boldly declared that, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust him.” How is this possible? Job was an “if / not” man. So were these three friends in Daniel 3. Are you?
This life promises nothing except deliverance and eternal life for those who follow Jesus. And that followship is an “if / not” affair.