Today while reading the account of the three Hebrew children in Daniel 3 I noticed an encouraging detail that I had not seen before. The Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar had issued a decree that everyone in the nation, native and foreigner, must worship a large image that he had erected. This decree only affected the Jews, because they worshipped only Jehovah God. The other nations worshipped many gods, so bowing to the image would not affect their worship.
Certain Jews - Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego - had been promoted to high ranking positions in the government due to their integrity and diligence. These men honored God, were rewarded by Him, and were given a place of influence in a pagan society. Likewise, God blesses His people in our present day and grants some of His servants places of authority to do much good in our world. Back in the 1990s there were certain Christians in Hollywood who were given places of influence and were able to promote family friendly programming on Friday nights on the ABC television network. Sometimes Christians are given government positions and are able to stem the tide of evil that endeavors to envelope a nation. Other times God grants His servants the ability to make plenty of money so that they can fund the work of the church in carrying out its mission.
In today's reading, we see that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were primarily affected by this decree. They had been faithful to God and had demonstrated integrity in their jobs in the Babylonian government. While there were likely many people pleased with these young men there were those who were jealous and who desired to destroy them. These envious people reported the young men to the King which resulted in the King calling them to appear before him and to be interrogated. These godly young men expressed that God was able to deliver them, but that if he chose not to do so they still would not bow down. What glorious loyalty and commitment to the Lord God Jehovah!!!
Persecution, trials, and threatenings are the lot of all of those who endeavor to follow Christ. Many times believers are tempted to cry out, "Why me?!!!!" when they suffer for Christ. From a human vantage point this question is understandable, but we need to look at the example of these young men. They were faithful to the Lord. They had taken a stand for God earlier and had been vindicated and blessed with great success. (See Daniel 1.) Sometimes God comes through with great deliverance, and other times we have to suffer. Sometimes God delivers us, but we have to go through frightening circumstances and face lonely moments in the process. However, we are never alone if we are serving Christ (Hebrews 13:5)
It would have be easy to understand if the young men had begun to question why they must suffer so much after being faithful to God. When we suffer today many people ask this question. However, God is always at work in our lives (Romans 8:28). He is working for our good and for the advancement of His glorious kingdom. As I was reading Daniel 3 I began to see that while the young men were being threatened and persecuted the other Jews in the land were not suffering as targets of the King's wrath. The King was too busy being occupied with punishing Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. One thought that has encouraged me when I am suffering is that if I am the target of the enemies wrath it often allows others to go free.
If you have read the rest of chapter three you know that God miraculously delivered the young men. He preserved them while they were in the fiery furnace. He does the same today by often delivering His people through the fire instead of from the fiery trial. Because of their faithful testimony and the powerful deliverance that God provided, the King proclaimed religious freedom for the Hebrews which resulted in protecting them from succumbing to idolatry. King Nebuchadnezzar issued a proclamation that Jehovah God was the supreme God of all and that all who endeavor to hinder the worship of Jehovah would be severely punished. This proclamation was an encouragement to the Hebrews in the land to pursue the worship of God, and it caused the citizens of Babylon to acknowledge the greatness of Jehovah God.
So the next time you are being persecuted for the sake of the gospel don't ask "Why me?" Instead thank God for the opportunity to honor Him by suffering for His sake and watch Him advance His glorious kingdom by either working a great deliverance, allowing you to honor him by being a martyr, or by demonstrating the greatness of His power and grace by sustaining you in the midst of the trial.