- The Washington Times - Monday, June 24, 2002

The following are excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Stan Beall at First Baptist Church of Laurel:
One of the great mysteries of our faith, I believe, is that God does not always rescue us immediately from every danger. I don't know about you, but my life experiences are not quite like the three friends of Daniel. I've often said that God doesn't always rescue His faithful. Why does He pick some and not others? I'm not sure. That's one of the great mysteries of our faith. At times, even the most faithful and religious and God-living people ask themselves, "Where is God in the midst of all this suffering?"
God doesn't always rescue His people immediately, and the Hebrew people of the olden days knew this. They were not starry-eyed optimists all the time, seeing life through rose-colored glasses. They knew what hurt was; they knew what it was to suffer. They were people with hurts and fears just like yours and mine. An example of this is Daniel's three friends' predicament.
They were told [in Daniel 3:15] that if they didn't worship Nebuchadnezzar's new god, they would be killed. And this was no Sunday school picnic. Their lives were at stake.
In verse 16, they answered the threat of death this way: "O king, we have no need to answer you in this matter." Basically, that means, "Our lives have already said what our answer is to your question."
"And if it be so, our God, whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the burning, fiery furnace."
And v. 18 says, "But if not, if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your god, or worship the golden image you have set up."
But if not. If not. These are the most important words in all of this experience: "If not." These are some of the most profound words in the whole Old Testament. The men said to the king, "God is able to deliver us, if He chooses. But even if He chooses not to rescue us, we still choose Him and death over your gods."
Please don't miss the wonderful theology here, the truth to the mystery of all of this. The three Hebrews, like Jesus, who would live much later, believed in a God who, despite all appearances, could be counted on. That's the testimony of the three Hebrews. Their testimony is that God has proven Himself in past performance, and we're going to stick with Him no matter what the outcome.
Do you and I really count on God? Do we often really believe that He is there? Or most of the time do we see Him sitting there, sort of putting things in order and putting things in place, but we sort of figure Him to be in His world and we in ours and He doesn't mix with us?
So often we just write off this entire statement when we're in a predicament. "If God if not." Here's the testimony of these trustworthy friends of Daniel. First of all, God is able to deliver. He has the capability. Secondly, they said that God may choose not to deliver us. It's up to Him. He's the decision-maker, not us. God will be given our loyalty no matter what the case.
And here's the great clue of faith right here: We're going to stick with Him no matter what He decides. Our faith upon Him is not dependent on our rescue. It's not an either/or thing. My prayer this morning is that every follower of the one true God in this place will make this testimony their testimony. We must develop such a faith as this to face the 21st century and all that will be thrown at us. We must develop such a faith as this so that we would say no to the new gods of our world, and there are many, and people are worshipping them. We must remain loyal to God no matter what the heat, no matter what the predicament, no matter what the danger.
Next week: a sermon by the Rev. Rory Conley at St. Aloysius Catholic Church in Leonardtown, Md.




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