In the trials and temptations of living in a fallen world, the sinful flesh of Christian believers wars against what is holy and God-pleasing. Living for Christ is a constant struggle.
But to die for Christ? Most of us have never felt the edge of a sword touch our neck or the barrel of a gun pointing at our face and threatened with death if we confess our faith in Christ.
We would like to think that we would boldly respond in the face of extreme persecution with a testimony of faith on our lips. But if you examined by track record, I am put to shame. If I am too meek to proclaim the message of the gospel with my neighbor, then how can I presume that I would have the courage to stand up for Christ in the face of death?
When I struggle daily to live for Christ, I can’t fathom what it would be like to die for Christ.
“I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.” (Hebrews 11:32-34)
Heroes of the faith – men and women who carried out God’s will and purpose – who delivered God’s message – and even willing to die for it.
Confronted with a fiery furnace these three men stood up for God. It must have been a terrifying scene. Flames so hot that it was consuming the soldiers who stood too close to the furnace.
How would I have responded if I were Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego?
When faced with the opportunities to live for Christ, I often find myself living for self. When called upon to serve Christ, I tend to look the other way. Love my neighbor? I don’t even know their names.
When the Lord provides opportunities to share the gospel with others, we have a tendency to cower in fear — afraid of what they might think or say something wrong. If I am afraid to proclaim the name of Christ to my neighbor – and risk embarrassment; or to my friend and risk their friendship; do I really think that I would refuse to bow down to an idol and risk the horrific and terrifying death of being thrown into a fiery furnace?
“In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11)
To die for Christ, we must first die to self. But trusting in what Christ has already done for us, we are crucified with Him (Gal. 2:20) and He now lives in us.
The perfect love of Christ drives out fear and guilt that prohibits us.
Each day requires a death. Each day, in this world full of distractions and temptations, comforts and sins, we are asked to bow down to idols. They may not be as crass as a ninety foot idol – nor are the consequences as real.
But are they?
Temporally speaking – we are placed in a position to die for Christ as many have had in the past.
Eternally speaking – we are placed in a position to die for Christ. The ruler of the world, the prince of darkness, is deceptively asking the same question of us, “Are you willing to bow down and worship me?
This is the same temptation Jesus endured. The devil was willing to give power and riches – if Jesus was willing to bow down to him. It’s not if a person chooses to jump down a fiery furnace – it’s a matter of when.
Every day, people are choosing to jump into a fiery furnace when they choose to fall before an idol and worship them. The flames of eternal death are just as hot and consuming.
What is easier? To die for Christ or to live in Christ?
What happened in the fiery furnace?
By stepping out in faith and into the furnace, the three men experienced the presence of Christ.
“He said, ‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:25)
When sharing God’s Word the same things happen. When we step out in faith to share our faith, we experience the presence of Christ.
By stepping out in faith, they declared their faith. And the world took notice.
I think that if you would have asked the heroes of faith, they would have confessed their fears and frailness. Unworthy. Unprepared. The knowledge of human limitations and sin is when ministry begins and arrogance ends.