Two stories from Scripture have been on my heart. First, there’s the story of Paul and Silas in prison (Acts 16). They were stripped, severely flogged, and thrown into prison. The jailers put them in the innermost cell (dungeon) and fastened their feet in the stocks. Their circumstances were deplorable. Yet, Acts 16:25 says, “About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” We go on to read that there was an earthquake, the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. Sometimes, we get so focused on the miraculous deliverance from prison that we miss the miracle that, even after having been stripped, flogged, and thrown in prison, these two men were praying and singing hymns aloud in jail. The other story is the one about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. In Daniel 3, King Nebuchadnezzar ordered everyone to fall down and worship the image of gold that he’d set up. Those who don’t will be thrown into a blazing furnace. Of course, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego won’t do it, and King Nebuchadnezzar is livid. The three men say, “King 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 deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” We go on to read that they were thrown into the furnace and miraculously preserved.
Sometimes, we get so focused on their miraculous deliverance from the fiery furnace that we miss the miracle that took place as they stood before King Nebuchadnezzar. Read it again: “The God we serve is able to deliver us… but even if he does not, we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold.” I see some common threads in these two stories. Do you see them? In both stories, they displayed unwavering faith in the face of unfavorable (to say the least!) circumstances, they didn’t allow uncertainty of outcome to diminish the certainty of their faith, and they did the right thing, simply because it was the right thing to do. May we all have such faith in the face of today’s trials!
The times in which we live are testing our faith in many ways. Let’s look back to these stories—and many others in Scripture—to draw hope, strength, and encouragement. I’ll leave you with the first verse of a hymn authored by Harry Emerson Fosdick in 1930 (about a year into the Great Depression):
God of grace and God of glory,
On Thy people pour Thy power.
Crown Thine ancient church’s story,
Bring her bud to glorious flower.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the facing of this hour,
For the facing of this hour.
Love you all,