Look, I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!

Daniel 3: 25

 

This is the moment of revelation when the truth of God’s might, protection, and total involvement with His people became starkly apparent to King Nebuchadnezzar. He sees the three young men that he had ordered to be tied up in ropes of power and oppression and then thrown into the furnace of utter despair and destruction, and their survival and their freedom was now visible to him. He also sees that where the king had ordered three men to be thrown into his fire of destruction and death, there were now four men walking about freely in its inferno. For they are not alone, and it was God who had revealed Himself standing there with the three men.

 

We all encounter fires and times when the heat gets awfully intense; sometimes the flames get stoked to the point where the heat reaches an intensity so great that it feels like we will be totally consumed by it. The walls of the furnace seem to close in on us and form a trap where there is no way out and that causes the heat to become magnified in its intensity. It gets hard to hold onto hope, and the smoke of fear and concern clouds vision. In these times it is completely natural for anxiety to become a rope that keeps getting pulled tighter until breathing becomes a challenge. Yet, Christ is always in the midst of the fire, the brightest flame in it all aspects of life is the glory of the Lord, and the wind of His Spirit will clear the smoke from our eyes. Then, His hands of love reach out to untie the ropes that are binding us.

 

Facing a fire is frightening, but being tossed into one is terror defined; yet, when we open our eyes and look around with a heart that is not so much seeking a way out as one that is open to the words of wisdom and peace that the Lord wants us to hear, freedom can be found. God wants us to see that He is there with us in all of these times. Christ has walked through every torturous event and condition that we could ever face, and He walks with us through all of ours. God has provided us with resources to call upon in these desperate days. His Word is the absolute source of wisdom, comfort, and guidance in the midst of the fire and during those days that follow when we are recovering from the damage that the flames may have caused to our bodies and minds. We can also turn to the fellowship of believers and lean into its collective strength, counsel, and encouragement, and the Spirit of Christ goes with us for every step of these journeys of faith. In Christ, we are free in the midst of the trial, we are given protection during its hard times, and we are assured that the Lord’s victory over sin and death is also ours to claim and to experience.

 

And now, Lord, for what do I wait?

My hope is in You.

Psalm 39: 7

 

This life is filled with times of waiting. We go through the years of our youth waiting for the opportunity to make our own way in the world; then, we go through our adult years with anticipation of the time when the dreams of our youth will actually be realized. Yet, frustration has a way of becoming our relentless partner in life as one desire after another is crushed under the weight of reality and as dreams and aspirations are pushed down by the heal of adversity. Sadly, tomorrow can stop being a promise; rather, it becomes a curse.

 

Still, hope asks for a basis, and its presence can signal a new dawn with its return of those youthful dreams and aspirations. When hope is formed from deep within as it is when it is based on a relationship with Christ, it can speak the language of encouragement to a battered mind and spark the exhausted heart to action. It is hope that helps me to remember that the Lord has promised that He always has answers, and it is hope that causes my eyes to continuously look for that first sliver of morning light that, because of Christ, I know will break through even the blackest of times. Just as the relentless oppression of sin met its answer on the torturous cross, hope in Christ leads to faith in the answers to life’s suffering that God provides.

 

As I consider the question regarding my waiting, the answer is nothing, for through and in Christ, God has given me everything that I could ever have dreamed, desired, or aspired after. Now He continues to answer each and every need that arises in life. Yet, I am waiting for everything; as, Christ has given us His promise of total victory over the evil that plagues this world and that attempts to destroy the joy of life. Hope points me to the fact that although the pain that I am experiencing is very real, it is also temporary, and hope reminds me that the Lord is the ruler of all and that He wants to fill my soul with the endless blessings of His presence.

 

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.

1 Timothy 6: 17

 

This verse seems to be rather straight forward at first. If you are someone who is blessed by an abundance of money and other financial resources, don’t become arrogant or proud because of them. For, from God’s perspective, they are not the things which will mark a life well lived. Easy and done; there is nothing else to say. Yet, my appreciation of Paul and the way that he thought and his expression of those thoughts all suggest that there has to be more for me to grasp from his statement. The word that Paul uses that is translated as rich, plousios, means exactly that; “abounding in material things”. However, it also means, “abundantly supplied as in virtues and eternal possessions”. I think that Paul is after the combination of these meanings and that he wants us to understand the tension that can exist between them.

 

He is clearly recognizing the fact that in almost every gathering of Christ’s body there are differences in the material wealth of the individuals, and these are often very great. Yet that wealth should not become the cause for any sense of superiority on the part of people, nor should it be something that those who have less should envy. It is a gift from God, and it is something that people can use as God directs their hearts. In fact, it would seem that the diversity of wealth in and among the body of Christ is one of the ways that God intends for His distribution of gifts and talents to be expressed. God provides each of us with tangible gifts that are intended to be used and expressed in and through His body for the glory of His name. Financial wealth, though not a spiritual gift, is still something that is a blessing from God as is the ability to hold that wealth with open hands and a giving heart.

 

This last idea applies to all of us. The ability to recognize the source of the provision of all of the things that we need to sustain and to enjoy life is a gift from God. He is the One who provides for us. There is nothing that we require that does not come from God and out of His design and plan. Each of us needs to realize that all of the wealth that we have belongs to the Lord and that we can trust God with the use of every penny and pound of it. God does not give to us in order to see us troubled or burdened. He is a Father who delights in our enjoyment of the gift. God wants us to live in the comfort of His abundance, and He is pleased when we are so comfortable in our trust of His provision that we readily give what we have to serve His will and desire.

I am the LORD your God,

who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.

Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.

Psalm 81: 10

 

I must confess that sometimes I need to be reminded of the fact that God is my God and that as such He cares about and for me in ways that are amazing and even miraculous. This is what God is doing for His people in the nation of Israel in this psalm. He is the sovereign king who is also the God of all creation; yet, this same exalted and all-powerful ruler self-describes as being like a mother bird that places the food into the gaping mouths of its hatchlings. This picture brings to mind a very intimate scene of care and provision on the one hand and of willing acceptance and trust on the other.

 

If only we humans were as ready and willing to trust God as does the young bird. Instead we often refuse the nourishment that the Lord brings to us. We question the quality and the value of it, and we clamp shut our mouths and proclaim that we will acquire our own supply of food from sources that we can control. Yet, we are starving to death. Our voices are no longer filled with songs of joyous praise, and the process of simple survival depletes the strength of our hearts. It would be easy to look around me and point to others and say that this is a description of them, but I am truly looking into my own mirror. The starving image is my own.

 

So, Lord, how do want me to respond? What do you desire from me? As you remind Israel in the psalm, Lord, you are my savior. You came after me when I was lost and condemned to death, and you delivered me into the freedom of a new land of dwelling in your kingdom come now and for eternity. Now your promise to care for and to provide for my needs is something that I can trust absolutely and enjoy fully. Thus, you desire for me to have faith, trust in the goodness of all that you provide, and open my mouth wide to take in the love, truth, and direction that your gracious heart pours out for the sake of my strength, health, and growth.