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How to Follow Christ in the Face of Difficulty

May 5, 2014

When the going gets tough, what is your response?

The arrival of difficult circumstances should be no surprise to the Christian. The fact of the matter is that hardship is an unfortunate, yet unavoidable reality that every Christian must face in this life. Jesus, himself, spoke to his disciples about expecting trouble (John 16:33). Just take a look at our culture; the farther it moves away from biblical values, the more difficult the Christian experience will be, as we seek to follow Christ in devotion and obedience with all of our heart, mind and will.

So where do we find help to follow Christ when it’s simply not easy to do so? How do we remain faithful when challenges come our way, and our devotion to Christ is tested? Thankfully the Bible speaks clearly to this question. In Daniel chapter three, we meet three young men who make it in the face of difficulty. They endure! And they do so because they know and believe three crucial truths about God.

Truth #1: There Is Only One God Worthy of Worship

At this point in the story, God’s people have been conquered by the Babylonians. Much like Christians today, they find themselves living in a culture that wants nothing to do with God, and is often opposed to him. One day, things get serious. King Nebuchadnezzar builds an enormous golden statue and demands that all the people fall down to worship it. Anyone who resists will be thrown into the fiery furnace, to their peril.

What happens? Three men, out of the whole crowd, refuse to bow. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stand. Why? They know that there is only one God worthy of worship and their conviction leads to their courage. They stand because they are not ultimately concerned with Nebuchadnezzar’s judgment, and they are certainly not concerned with the judgment of the golden statue standing out in the field! The statue and the king are temporary, but God is eternal. It is God’s judgment they care about.

This world has many temporary things it urges us to bow down to. Popularity, money, pleasure: these are the great golden statues of our world today. But listen, as powerful as these things feel, they are temporary. When pressures threaten and difficulties come, remember that the only god worth serving is the true God – the God who will love you, provide for you, and satisfy you eternally.

Truth #2: God Is With His People in Times of Trouble

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to worship the statue, so Nebuchadnezzar furiously heats up the furnace seven times hotter than it needs to be, binds up the three men, and tosses them into the flames. Then something amazing happens:

“King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, ‘Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?’ They answered and said to the king, ‘True, O king.’ He answered and said, ‘But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.’” (Daniel 3:24)

This is stunning. It is in the fire of the furnace that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego experience greater closeness to God than they ever had before. And this is true for us also. Many of us have stories of God showing up in a special way when we were hurting, discouraged, confused, or afflicted. Trouble produces desperate dependence on God, and that can be a sweet thing.

Truth #3: God Delivers His People

So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego understand that God is the only God worthy of worship; that God is with his people in times of trouble; and lastly, they understand that God delivers his people.

The men come out of the furnace and:

“The satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads were not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them.” (v.27)

They passed through the fire unharmed! The hairs of their heads were not singed. And this is exactly what Christ promises his followers. Christ delivers his followers from a furnace that is much worse. In Matthew 13:41-42 Jesus describes the end of the world like this, “The Son of man will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and thrown them into the fiery furnace.” He is talking about hell.

Hell is a place of punishment for causes of sin and law-breakers. And that’s all of us. But, Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin and law-breaking. He entered the furnace of God’s wrath in our place. And all who trust in his work will be delivered so that not a hair of the head will perish. In Luke 21:16-17 Jesus says to his disciples, “You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake, but not a hair of your head will perish.”

What is Jesus saying? Didn’t he just say some of his followers would get killed? Yet, not a hair of the head will perish for those who trust Christ. How exactly does that work?

To quote J.C. Ryle:

“Whatever sufferings a disciple of Christ may go through, his best things can never be injured. His life is hid with Christ in God. His treasure in heaven can never be touched. His soul is beyond the reach of harm. Even his body shall be raised again, and made like his Savior’s glorious body at the last day… If we believe in Christ, let us rest in the comfortable thought that Christ has pledged his word that we shall not perish. We may lose much by serving Christ, but we will never lose our souls. The world may deprive a believer of property, friends, home, liberty, health, and life… But one thing the world cannot do to any believer. It cannot deprive him of his interest in Christ’s love.”

So whatever this world throws at you, it is true: in Christ, not a hair of your head will perish.

Christian, you will face trials. You will face difficulty. But you will come out on the other side of this life unharmed and untouched. Not a hair of your head will perish. In Christ, you will be healed, restored, and victorious.

God delivers his people. God will deliver you.

The Author
Brad Wetherell

Brad Wetherell serves as the pastor of The Orchard’s Itasca Campus. He is married to Kristen and they have one daughter. You can follow him on Twitter.

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