So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.
There seems to be a general misunderstanding about following Christ in the world today. Follow Jesus and you will no longer have any problems, you will be happy, wealthy, and wise. Life becomes a breeze.
I’m here to tell you that isn’t 100% accurate. Yes, there is a fullness that comes from knowing and following Christ. There is a peace that is beyond all understanding in Christian life. There is a key phrase in that last sentence that we tend to breeze past: beyond all understanding.
The easiest way to read that sentence accurately is as such: You will have peace even when everything around seemingly is going to crap, because you know where your true hope is. You are rooted. You are consumed by Christ.
The Fire is a reality in life. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego followed God and were thrown into a LITERAL fire. For us today The Fire isn’t quite so dramatic, but burns nevertheless. Financial difficulty, marital strife, employment woes… all of these things are Fires that fall on the righteous and the unrighteous alike.
The question is what are you consumed by? Are you consumed by Christ, or are you consumed by The Fire? When King Nebuchadnezzar threw these boys into the fire, he looked into the fire and saw FOUR people, not three. Being rooted in the call of God consumes you to the point that nothing can touch you. You stand alone with Christ in the face of every trial.
I say all of this so I can tell you MY side of the story of our start. You’ve heard Katie’s beautiful three-part piece on saying yes, but I want you to hear what I’ve seen, and everything I’ve seen comes from the place of understanding The Fire and being unafraid.
Rewind a year. I’ve just married the woman of my dreams. I have a fantastic job as an executive level pastor at a great church. I’m doing all the things I love most, helping craft the message and vision of Christ through production and creative elements. I thought I had everything I could have ever asked for, and it was all for Jesus, not just some entertainment company.
But something kept gnawing at me. I would hear about human trafficking, homelessness, starving children. The words and life of Jesus would continually come back to me. His ministry was based on helping those in greatest need and a discontent began to grow inside of me.
How was MY life in a safe suburb of Minnesota, in a homogeneous community of Christians, insulated for the troubles of life and the world, how was MY life directly making the world better? How was my work at church easing the suffering of the people Jesus spent the majority of his time on earth with? When was the last time I had even come into contact with the lowliest on earth?
Don’t get me wrong; my church is doing AMAZING things around the world … it just seemed like I was 3 or 4 levels removed from the actual dirty work.
God wanted me to give it all away. He asked me if I would follow him. So February of 2013 God began stacking firewood in my path.
“Stephen, I want you to walk away from all of this and follow me.”
“To where God?”
“You don’t get to know where or when. You get to trust and obey, and know that I will be with you.”
…whoa. My brain exploded. So many fears, so many questions. What about money?
What about jobs? What about providing for my wife? What…how…where…?
“Will you follow me?”
A small word but with immeasurable implications. It is raw power and potential wrapped up in three letters.
Will you follow?
A small question but it can change your life. Adventure, trials, success, and failure promised in just three words.
God asked, “Will you follow?”
We said, “Yes.”
What was the very next thing to happen? Katie cut her hand and required a very expensive surgery.
I needed to get a colonoscopy for my Ulcerative Colitis, which we were finding out was getting more severe. Severe to the point that I had to have my colon removed on November 13th 2013.
I was in a car accident and the car was totaled.
Money started getting very tight.
It took a very long time to find a new job that seemed to line up with God’s plan or our lives.
We found out we were pregnant…unplanned.
A person without Jesus looks at these things and cries out “Why God?! Why me?! It is impossible to withstand these trials.”
Not so for those consumed by Christ and sitting in His Will. Katie and I saw the trials and kept reminding ourselves that we got to this place by saying Yes to God at every turn. God’s will is perfect, even when it doesn’t seem to make sense. We had peace, even when it didn’t seem to make sense. When our understanding told us to be afraid we had peace, because our peace was beyond our understanding.
At every turn, living day by day, we knew God would provide in His time and His way, and He has never failed us yet.
Sure we still have thousands of dollars of medical bills, but we are healthy and God is faithful. The resources come in when they are needed, and God holds the watch.
So here we sit. Missionaries to Thailand learning to be unshaken in the face of every storm, able to walk through fire because we are consumed by Christ. Every seeming calamity has been turned around for our favor, even the car wreck. Honestly it’s been the most fun we’ve ever had.
So when you look around your life and see The Fire, look to Christ. Be consumed by Him. His peace is bigger than your understanding. You have only one responsibility…
… to say yes.