In many parts of the world today Christians are arrested, tortured or subjected to other forms of persecution because of their faith. This is nothing new. We can find examples in the Bible of the same persecution, and in all the years since.
In the western world, we may not be under threat of arrest, torture or death, but many Christians keep their faith secret for fear of what people will say or do.
In Daniel 3:8-27 we read the story of Daniel’s three friends in the fiery furnace. King Nebuchadnezzar had set up a huge golden image and commanded everyone to bow down to it, but Daniel’s friends would bow only to God.
Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now … if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:13-18)
They sound confident, but they may have been terrified. They speak boldly because they trust God – to save them or not. They are not arrogant or obnoxious, they just will not violate their consciences. They do not know what will happen, but they trust God anyway.
In the book of Job we read the story of God allowing Satan to attack a righteous man to test his faithfulness. Job is rich and has seven sons and three daughters. In the space of one day, he loses all his flocks and the house collapses on his children.
At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (Job 1: 20-22)
What a contrast between the confidence and boldness of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and Job’s grief! But Job’s reply is also a reply of strength because he retains both his integrity and his sense of God’s sovereignty – he worships.
You can see that there is more than one way to respond to persecution and hardship and still stay true to your faith. And we can take heart from the fact that God did not desert these people, even in their darkest hour.
In which areas would you find it most difficult to stand strong, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, or wait patiently, like Job? Would your pride be damaged by insult, shunning, or contempt? Do you shrink from physical pain? Do you cling to your possessions? Would their loss cause you great emotional distress?
Take a personal inventory of your vulnerability to opposition and rejection, and then pray for greater strength to stand firm in every area of your life.