Posted by Tim Hughes on 10 June 2014

 

I love the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. The Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar set in place a new law. Erecting an image of gold, 99 feet high and nine feet wide, the command was issued that when the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and other kinds of music was heard, all must fall down and worship the golden image. Whoever refused to do so would immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace to die.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego made their stand and refused to bow the knee. Defiant before the king they declared, ‘If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’ (Daniel 3:7-18)
Incensed with rage, Nebuchadnezzar ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than usual. The furnace became so hot that even the men who threw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in were killed. As Nebuchadnezzar sat down to watch the death of these three men, he saw a sight that startled him. Rising to his feet he asked his advisors,
‘Weren’t there three that we tied up and threw into the fire? . . . Look! I see four men walking around the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’ (Daniel 3: 24-35)
Approaching the furnace Nebuchadnezzar called out, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!’
To everyone’s bewilderment Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego walked free unharmed – there was not even the smell of burning on them. Stirred by this miracle, Nebuchadnezzar praised their God. In the face of death these three men chose to worship. At great cost to themselves they chose to honour God. Remarkably, God intervened and rescued them from certain death. As a result His name was glorified. And it would have been equally glorified if they had died for their faith, as they were clearly prepared to do.
Graham Staines, an Australian missionary, spent 34 years working amongst the lepers in India, educating the young, and spreading the good news of the gospel. One day in January 1999, Graham and his two young sons were working amongst the poorest of the poor in a local village. With nowhere to sleep, they found shelter in their station wagon. During the night, Hindu extremists surrounded the van and chained the handles of the doors shut. They set the station wagon on fire and fled.
Echoes of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. What would God do? Would He rescue them from the fiery furnace and glorify His name? When the fire finally cooled, rescuers found the charred body of Graham Staines with his arms wrapped around the bodies of his sons. Through all his many years of faithful service Graham Staines had only endeavoured to serve the poor and help those in need. Left behind to mourn were Graham’s wife and daughter, Gladys and Esther. The Indian media descended on Gladys’s doorstep to capture her reaction. Her response was quoted in every newspaper across India, a nation of one billion people, the following morning:
‘I have only one message for the people of India. I am not bitter neither am I angry. But I have one great desire, that each citizen of this country should establish a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, who gave His life for their sins . . . let us burn hatred and spread the flame of Christ’s love.’
In that moment the gospel message was proclaimed throughout the nation. As Gladys chose to forgive, to honour God, to ultimately worship, God was glorified and a nation was profoundly impacted. John Piper writes, ‘God seldom calls us to an easier life, but always calls us to know more of him and drink more deeply of his sustaining grace.’
In every situation that comes our way, our role is to centre our lives around Christ, and allow Him to glorify His name in and through us. In every trial of life, every circumstance, through battles and blessings, it’s Christ in me the hope of glory. We’re not called to muster up superhuman strength.
God doesn’t leave us on our own to fight His corner. We’re called to surrender our lives to Him, holding nothing back, allowing access to all areas. He is the all-powerful God, mighty to act, the God who has the whole world in His hands. It’s as we say ‘Yes’ to Him, following His ways no matter the cost, that we will see God’s transforming resurrection power.
When Rick Hoyt was born in 1962, the umbilical cord coiled around his neck and cut off oxygen to his brain, leaving him a quadriplegic. His parents, Dick and Judy, were told that there would be no hope for their child’s development. Despite being told that Rick would be ‘a vegetable all his life’, his parents were determined to raise him as normally as possible. As he was unable to speak, a group of engineers built Rick a specially designed interactive computer that allowed him to communicate his thoughts by using the slight head movements that he could manage.
At the age of 15, Rick told his father that he wanted to participate in a five-mile benefit run for a local lacrosse player who had been paralysed in an accident. Out of love for his son, Dick, who had never previously done any long-distance running, agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair. They finished next to last, but were elated with their achievement. Overwhelmed by the experience, Rick managed to communicate to his parents that for the first time in his life, competing in that race, ‘he just didn’t feel disabled’. Spurred on by this revelation, father and son, ‘Team Hoyt’, began entering more races.
After four years of marathons they attempted their first triathlon – the combination of 42.2 kilometres of running, 180 kilometres of cycling and 3.8 kilometres of swimming. To date they have raced in 64 marathons, with a personal best of 2:40:47; 78 half marathons; 206 triathlons; and they once trekked 6,011 kilometres across America.
This achievement becomes all the more staggering when you consider that when Dick runs he is pushing Rick in his wheelchair; when Dick cycles, Rick is in a special designed seat attached to the front of the bike; and when Dick swims, he is pulling Rick in a heavy stabilised boat that is attached to his waist. Watching film footage of ‘Team Hoyt’ competing together is phenomenally moving. Driven by love for his son, and a desire to see him fulfilled, Dick has gone to unimaginable lengths to make him feel alive. In every race it is the father, Dick, who does all the work; giving every gram of strength for the sake of his son. Rick cannot offer any physical support – in fact he only makes more work for his father. However, witnessing Dick’s affirmation for his son, and watching Rick’s face as he crosses the line, you would think that the son had won the race single-handed.
The story of Dick and Rick Hoyt is a powerful reminder of our Father’s love and commitment towards us – the Father who gave everything that we might know life in all its fullness. Holding nothing back, the Father delights in us, sings over us, chases after us, cares deeply about us, and sent His only Son to die for us. And what is our only possible response to this extravagant love? . . . To hold nothing back ourselves.

 

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