“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold–though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (1Peter 1:7 NLT)
They are not even remembered by their real names. But, most everyone is familiar with their story. They are not central characters in the book in which their story appears. But, the story of their heroism is essential to the book. The Christian faith is not built on their story. But, their story certainly bolsters the Christian’s faith. They are not remembered by their real names. But, they will never be forgotten.
Barely teenagers, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah had been abducted from their homeland and transplanted into a foreign country as captives of war. In short order, they were in a different culture, facing different pressures and temptations, and given different names. Their integrity, however, never differed – and that’s what made all the difference in their lives.
The change in their culture and in the way their culture identified them didn’t change the way they identified themselves. This is because of whom they identified with. They refused to let society dictate who they were going to be. They resolved to allow God and only God to define who they were.
Every resolution will be tested. It’s the fire of the testing that tests the mettle of our resolve. But, the fire of their testing was an actual fire – a very hot fire – a fiery furnace!
Barely thirty, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah stood bound before their king. He knew them as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He had once known them as trustworthy servants to whom he could entrust with affairs of state. Now, he knew them as rebels who refused to follow his order to bow before a golden statue and show allegiance to his god.
Their allegiance had already been pledged to another God – the true and living God – and they would bow to no other. Further, no other ruler would usurp His rule in their hearts. And, their hearts were undeterred by the threats of death from this earthly ruler judging them. You can’t scare a true believer with the threat of heaven.
Their God had never promised He would deliver them from the fire. They were simply confident that He could. Their God did promise to honor those who honored Him (1Sam. 2:30) and they were simply confident that He would. So, identifying with their God, they stood firm in their identity, refused to compromise their integrity, and stood on their resolve.
The king resolutely threw them into the fire.
However, the furnace left them unscathed. The only things that were burned were the ropes that had bound them. They were untouched by the fire.
But, the king’s heart was touched by the results of their faith. He saw a fourth person walking with them in the fire – one that looked like, “a son of the gods (Dan. 3:25).” Their uncompromised faith, though tested by fire, moved King Nebuchadnezzar to praise their God. He also issued a decree to protect their right to worship God (Dan. 3:28-29)*.
So, how do you want to be remembered? Do you want to be remembered as someone who always fit in, never made waves, and went along with the crowd? Then, you won’t be remembered. We are only remembered by what distinguishes us from the crowd. Let that distinguishing mark be the integrity of your uncompromising faith. Don’t let the culture define you. Stand firm in your identity as a child of the only true living God.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego may not be remembered by their real names, but the story of their real faith will never be forgotten. Let the same be true of you.