Week of Monday, May 3 ­– Saturday, May 8
Faithful to the Finish – Man as a Defender

Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” —Daniel 3:14-18 ESV

The horrific images are burned into my mind.  No doubt you saw them too. On a beach near Tripoli in 2015, 21 Coptic Christians in orange jumpsuits were beheaded by black-clad ISIS terrorists for refusing to deny Christ. The title of the ISIS group’s video was: “A Message signed with blood to the nation of the cross.”  What an unforgettable moment?!

Yet their martyrdom did not put an end to the spread of their message of the Gospel. In fact, it has caused many to reflect on the truth of the Gospel and the value of perseverance for the sake of the Gospel even now, six years after their deaths. In a 2017 article, family members of many of the men who were killed shared their pride in the endurance of their deceased loved ones. One wife said that her husband “kept the faith, and was martyred in the name of Christ. His faith was very strong [as were] all the Christians.” Another family member said: “I’m very happy that my brother is in heaven with Jesus now. I loved my brother when he was alive on the earth, but now I love him more than before. He was martyred in the name of Jesus Christ.”[1]

Daniel 3 gives the account of three Hebrew exiles who faced death if they refused to deny the God of Israel. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (forced pagan names for their Hebrew given names: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah) told King Nebuchadnezzar that they knew that God was able to save them, but even if He did not save them, they would never deny Him and worship false gods. They would not bend, bow, or break under unbelievable pressure. They were examples of what it means to “stand courageous.”

You remember the rest of that story, right? When they refused to bow before the Babylonian idol and reject the true and living God, these men were given a death sentence. In a rage, Nebuchadnezzar had the fire in that furnace stoked seven times as hot, to the point that it even melted the mighty men who threw the three Hebrews into that oven. Yet to his astonishment, Nebuchadnezzar saw them unsinged, untouched by the flames, walking around. And he saw something else: a fourth figure with them, who was “like a son of the gods” (v. 25). The three Hebrews came out and didn’t even smell like smoke! A humbled Nebuchadnezzar proclaimed: “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him…,” promising to execute anyone who spoke against their God and adding: “for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way” (v. 28-29).

 We may view the faith of these men and the Coptic Christians as extraordinary and something that only a few can aspire to reach. However, Christ has called all of His followers to confess the truth about Him faithfully, no matter the consequences (Matt. 10:28). You may never face death for your loyalty to Jesus Christ, but you will have opportunities each and every day to defend the faith and rise up against the wicked. Will you do it? Will you let God use your faithful perseverance in the midst of the difficulties you face to spur others on to greater faith and recognize your God as the true God? Will you be faithful to the finish? Now is the time for you to contemplate what you will do when your turn comes to stand. Christians are being persecuted and even killed all over the world. But many, maybe even most, are standing true to the gospel. Decide now what you are going to do because surely that day is coming.
  • Be honest. How do you think you would have responded if you were one of these three men in Daniel 3 or one of the 21 Coptic Christians?
  • What is a situation or relationship in your life where God is calling you to defend the faith? How might you take a step toward greater faithfulness in that situation?
  • Ask God to keep you loyal and faithful to Him, no matter the cost. Pray that you would be a person He would use to spur others on to greater faith as you stand courageous.
   [1] “21 Coptic Christians Beheaded by ISIS Honored for Refusing to Deny Christ,” The Christian Post, February 16, 2017, accessed March 23, 2021, https://www.christianpost.com/news/21-coptic-christians-beheaded-by-isis-honored-refusing-deny-christ-175128/.