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But if not…

By Nell Goddard / August 20, 2014

Picture the scene. You’re in a foreign land, but God has blessed you with a position of power – indeed, you are chief minister of the province in which you are an alien. The law and ruler of this land don’t agree with your religion, but since you arrived, you have been allowed to worship your God in private. But now things have changed, and the King has decreed that you must worship an idol which he has built out of gold. You know that it is forbidden by God to worship idols (Exodus 20:3-6), but the King has said that if you do not bow down and worship this created thing, you will be killed.

What would you do?

Read Daniel 3
I don’t know about you, but this story overwhelms me every time I read it. These men are told in no uncertain terms that if they disobey the King, they will die. No room for bargaining or mercy, they will just be killed. And all they have to do to save their lives is bow down to a gold figurine, an idol. But still they refuse to bow down and worship that which man has created, proclaiming instead that their God is the only one worthy of worship and honour, and He will remain so even if He does not rescue them.

That’s the bit that challenges me. ‘but if not’, they say. But if not. Even if God doesn’t do what we want Him to do, still we will proclaim no other God but Him. Still will He be King over our lives, and Lord of our hearts. Even if we lose our lives for refusing to worship a man-made idol, it will be to the glory of God, and therefore it will be worth it.

This is such a challenge to us. How often do we spend our time worshipping God when things go right? Or say that we’ll give God the glory if something works out? This passage presents us with a life changing definition of worship, as something that could lead us even into death. Is this how you see worship in the light of your everyday reality? I know that’s not always the case for me.

This passage presents us with a life changing definition of worship, as something that could lead us even into death.

For some of our brothers and sisters across the world, however, such choices – deny or die – are an everyday reality. In Mosul, Iraq, Christians were recently told to leave, convert to Islam, or be killed. In North Korea, the entire population are required to worship pictures of the ‘dear leader’ every single day, and those who refuse are executed or sent to labour camps to be worked to death. In Islamic-majority countries, those who convert to Christianity are considered apostates, and viewed as deserving of death unless they immediately recant their beliefs and return to Islam. But in all these situations, there are many hundreds of thousands who choose to declare God as good and Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour no matter what.

In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are ultimately saved from death by God’s miraculous intervention. And what a cause for celebration when that happens today! What joy and praise is there among the body of Christ when Christians are delivered from the hands of the enemy and their lives are spared. Often, however, Christians pay the ultimate price for their faith, and die at the hands of those who oppose them. And although we will mourn and grieve for the loss of a member of our family, we must not forget that, in the end, even if we and those we love pay the ultimate price, God is still good, and He has delivered us from the greatest evil of all – that of death, and has given us the greatest gift of all – eternal life in Him.

The Author
Nell is a student, blogger, feminist and introvert who likes to talk. On a good day she's also a theologian. Nell's been interning with us at Open Doors Youth over the summer, so we've been chuffed to have her on the team!

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