Okay. Sit down and shut up. I’m going to tell you a little story.
Once upon a time, there was a man called King Nebuchadnezzar but everyone called him King Neby because saying his really long name sounds like you sneezed while making up a word…and you have a cold. (Actually, if you called him King Neby to his face, you would get your face chopped off, but that’s beside the point.)
Anyway, King Neby was the leader of this huge Babylonian empire. A little known fact is that Justin Bieber’s song “Baby (ft. Ludacris)” is actually a cover of an ancient hymn written by Babylonian monks after Neby lost the empire (“Baby, baby, baby, oh (x2), Thought you’d always be mine, mine”).
Anyway, the Babylonian empire had conquered the Jewish people and so they were enslaved, but there were a handful of them that had risen to power in King Neby’s court. Daniel (who hung out with lions) and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, (the brothers (?) formerly known as Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah). Now, these righteous (literally righteous, not California righteous) dudes had already told King Neby that they didn’t want to eat his fancy food because it had been sacrificed to idols. They performed a little experiment where they ate only water and vegetables (woot, woot!) and all of the rest of Neby’s guys ate like Kings (literally). At the end of the experiment, the Jewish men were stronger and better looking than the other guys and so King Neby allowed them to be simple eaters (they were the early inspiration for Food, Inc.).
Anyway, King Neby made this giant gold statue and set it up in a field and then told everyone in his kingdom to come and bow down to it. When I say it like that, it sounds really lame, but I don’t know. I wasn’t there. Maybe it was cool. If this had happened today, it would probably be like, “King Neby built a skyscraper made out of gold and he tweeted all his followers to come (early to find parking) and worship the skyscraper. Then he invited the local high school band and then they started playing their music, everyone fell down and told the building how great it was and how much they loved it.” Nope. Not cool. Weird.
Anyway, Neby also said, “Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a……BLAZING FURNACE!!!” and then he swished his magician’s cape and his assistants threw those balls that make fire onto the stage. (Okay, it doesn’t say that in there but it doesn’t not say that either. King Neby, if you didn’t do that, then you have alot to learn about showmanship, my friend.)
Well, guess who didn’t show up? Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego…and Daniel but it sounds like he’s left out of this little tiff, so we’re not going to discuss him. Some of Neby’s advisors noticed that the three amigos weren’t there and they went and tattled. Really, guys? How old are we? Five? Maybe. They might have been five. I don’t know much about Babylonian advisors. All I know is that I had an advisor in college who told me that, as a Spanish major in her first semester of college, I should take ancient Greek. So I did. I took ancient Greek four days a week and my professor was a scary German man who called you by your last name and made you want to faint when he looked at you. The only vocabulary I can remember from that class is ho autorgos and ho agros, which means the farmer and the field respectively. I don’t know that we ever got away from agricultural based vocabulary. All I know is that I daily wanted to punch myself and my advisor in the face. And he wasn’t five. He was like fifty. So he should have known better.
Anyway, at hearing this news, King Neby got crazy mad and probably threw a chair or something. It sounds like his anger rivals that of Tyra Banks when one of her girls throws her chance at being America’s Next Top Model away. If you take anything away from this story, please, “King Nebuchadnezzar = Tyra Banks”. King Neby might have thrown a high heel. We’ll never know… He summoned the three amigos so he could give them the third degree (pun intended). (Incidentally, I’m going to start use the word “summon” more often. When I call my coworker because my computer isn’t working, I’m going to summon her to my office immediately. She’ll probably just hang up the phone, but then she’d just be insubordinate so I can still feel fancy.)
When King Neby asked the three amigos if they were refusing to worship the skyscraper (lame). He reiterated his threat that they would be thrown into the blazing furnace and if he didn’t throw fire balls when he said it this time, then King Neby certainly lacked a certain panache (def: French word that carries the connotation of a flamboyant manner and reckless courage).
Here’s what the three amigos said, (as an aside, it doesn’t mention exactly how they said this all together. Perhaps they had a huddle and Abednego spoke for the group or maybe they had a group cheer prepared, complete with arm motions. We’ll never know.)
“King Neby, dude, If you throw us into the furnace, the God that we serve can save us. But, even if He doesn’t save us, we’re never going to worship your skyscraper.”
Wait a minute. That’s not the end, dumb dumb. What happens? Do they go into the fire? Do they die or do they live?
We’ll never know.
Unless we kept reading in Daniel 3. And then we would know.
When I read that story as a kid, their full response always got glossed over. Sure, I might have heard the “either/or” part of their answer but what got lodged in my brain was, “Screw you, King Neby! We’re going into the fire and coming out ALIVE!” and then they rushed into the fire like an offensive line and had a tea party amongst the flames.
But the “either/or” part of their statement seems pretty important to me. We always hail the three amigos as being BOLD, BRAVE, STANDING UP FOR WHAT THEY BELIEVE IN. And that’s true- they were all of those things, but they were all of those things before they even set foot in the furnace.
What they didn’t say was, “We know we’re going into the fire but God will save us and if He doesn’t, then this hasn’t been a successful last stand.”
They said, “We know we’re going into the fire and whatever happens, whether we walk out alive or you spread our ashes over your vegetable garden, God is God and He’s worth serving.”
Dang. I don’t hear much of that attitude today. When people “step out in boldness” today, they’re usually saying, “I’m going to do this and this is going to happen because God loves me and told me to do it!” and then when it doesn’t happen, everyone rolls their eyes and thinks that God misspoke or someone didn’t have their listening ears on and we never talk about it again.
We practice a results based boldness, where success or failure is determined by whether the original objective was met.
I’m sorry. Are we all in the army? Because that sounds like army talk to me. Okay. Or American talk. The American dream isn’t “Try really hard, appreciate the journey, and fail”. The American dream is “Try really hard and succeed!”
The American dream is silly for a lot of reasons but feeling like a failure because “things didn’t turn out exactly as I had planned” is probably one of the craziest.
When do our plans ever turn out as we had hoped? Almost never. So why do we continue with this inane notion that, in order to be bold, we have to make sure we can succeed first?
The three amigo’s boldness didn’t stem from them knowing that God would rescue them from the blazing furnace. No. It was much bigger than that. Their boldness came from them knowing that God is God, whatever the result.
Here’s the thing. God doesn’t promise victory in everything. Sometimes you might feel led to apply for that job…and you might not get it. Sometimes you might step out in boldness and say, “I’m going to adopt THAT SPECIFIC KID” and it doesn’t happen. Or you might say, “I’m going to marry that ONE DIRECTION MEMBER” and, well, you knew that wasn’t going to happen.
Sometimes, you step into the furnace and you get to stick your tongue out at your haters from inside the flames. Sometimes, you step into the furnace and your face gets toasted off before you can even register what is happening while your haters laugh and sip a mojito.
And that’s okay. You’re not a failure. God has not abandoned you. This time, He might have wanted you to have a toasty face because He needed you to learn something or because that was how the story ended with His name and character being glorified.
At the end of the day, God is who He says He is and that is reason enough for boldness.