And if not, He is still good

Some of Lindsey’s teammates from school volleyball were really great mentors to her in ways that far exceed sports. They were encouraging. They were upperclassmen who gave her perspective when she was overwhelmed with being a freshman at a new school. They were young women of faith, who in their short time on that planet, have learned something about the character of God in a struggle.

The title I’ve placed at the top of this page is one such example. It’s a verse one teammate holds close to her and shares freely. It’s taken from the story of the fiery furnace in Daniel 3. The short version of the story is this: King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon has ordered an enormous gold statue built in his honor. Every time music was played, all the people were ordered to bow down and worship the statue. Everyone was compliant, with the exception of three Jews who were serving in high positions in the Babylonian province. The King was furious and called them in, told them they needed to bow down or they were going to get tossed in a blazing furnace. From Daniel 3:16: “The three men replied, ‘Your majesty, we don’t need to defend ourselves. The God we worship can save us from you and your flaming furnace. But even if he doesn’t, we still won’t worship your gods and the gold statue you have set up.'” They get tossed into the furnace but the crazy part is, the fire does not consume them. And to the surprise of the king (who had cranked the heat up 7 times higher than normal), there appears to be a fourth “man” keeping them company in there. The story ends with the men being released, Yahweh glorified, and the three Jewish men being elevated to higher positions in Babylon.

This story is not a prosperity gospel. Those men had no way of knowing what God was going to do. They could have very well been burnt to a crisp and received their salvation in heaven. The real tension in this story is not will they or won’t they get consumed by fire. The real tension is inside us. It is staring in the face of a circumstance and being able to say: Even if this is not what I wanted or asked for, God is still good.

I’ve been learning to pray out of this posture. In Romans 8:28, Paul says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” And later in verse 31: “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God us for us, who can be against us?” Once again, this isn’t prosperity gospel. Paul did not die of old age in an assisted living facility surrounded by his family. He was repeatedly imprisoned and historians believe he died by beheading. He wasn’t dishing on the best path to a fat and happy American life, he was talking about having your will and desires so aligned with the goodness of God, that no matter what happens your joy is complete.

In his book, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? Philip Yancey says, “By bringing us into the presence of God, and giving us a glimpse of the view from above, prayer radically changes how we experience life. Faith during affliction matters more than healing from affliction. Submitting to God’s will is preferable to a rescue from crucifixion. Humility counts more than deliverance from a thorn in the flesh.” My prayers now are for outcomes that bring Him glory and that are for my good, and I try not to put any qualifiers on what “my good” might be. That aligns my thinking and my faith with His purpose and so I know that, regardless of how it plays out, He is good.

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