During the 6th Century BC, Babylon was a great empire. After each conquest, they would exile professionals from the conquered land to Babylon to subjugate them through assimilation. After a generation or two, the exiles would lose their own culture and belief. Daniel’s three friends, the exiles, didn’t. Let’s see what happened (Daniel 3).
The Babylonian king decreed that whenever music was played, everyone must bow to a 90-foot-tall gold image he had built. Anyone who refused would be executed.
The gold image had no name, symbolizing the king’s gods, representing his value in Babylon’s culture.
In many pluralistic societies—ours included—citizens could keep their belief in private. But, in public, they are expected to worship the “gods” of the society, assimilating to public culture by forcing everyone to privatize their faith.
For example, our business world is ruthless. To gold we bow. Haven’t Christians succumbed to the culture?
Daniel’s three friends received Babylon’s education and worked in Babylon’s government. But when asked to privatize their faith, they insisted God could and would protect them, but even if God didn’t, they still wouldn’t worship the gold image (v. 17-18).
In other words, they served God even if God didn’t follow their agenda.
The furious king threw them into a blazing furnace, but God was with them and protected them (v. 25).
Suffering is inevitable (Job 5:7). Fiery ordeal may not be abnormal (1 Peter 4:12). Even Christ, who lived a perfect life, suffered.
Our suffering is more unbearable when we don’t understand why we suffer.
If we believe bad things won’t happen to us because of our good work and effort, then when suffering hits, we either hate God, consider Him unfair, or hate ourselves for not good enough.
Christians shouldn’t see suffering as God’s punishment. Christ already took our punishment; He suffered in the ultimate furnace and was crucified on the cross.
Suffering can make us better, more like Christ. Suffering can help us understand who we are, improve our empathy, increase our wisdom about life, and strengthen our faith in God (1 Peter 1:7).
If we are in a little furnace, we must trust that God is with us, just as God was with Daniel’s three friends in the blazing fire (Isaiah 43:1-3).
There is no need to conform to the world. Accept suffering. Follow Christ.
Summarized from a Tim Keller sermon: