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Have any of you here done anything that scared you so much you thought you might have a I need new pants moment…. Or that your heart might stop…. Or that you might never survive???

A few years ago we went to The Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise baby!

We hit the theme parks, Sea world, Wet and Wild and Movie World.

Movie world has this one ride that scared the whatever out of me but that I knew I had to get my son to do.  I knew he wouldn’t do it unless I did.  So we made a deal.  I would hold a snake if he would ride the rollercoaster with me.

So we lined up for the Superman Escape Ride.  After waiting waiting waiting about 45 minutes it was our turn.  It is at this point that my son informs me that you accelerate from zero to 100 in 2 seconds.  Yes.  What the heck!  I confess at that moment I felt slightly faint and the room felt warmer and yeah….

Now the start of the roller coaster is pretty chill.  You slowly cruise round inside an underground subway system as it tells you the story of Metropolis… and then you sit…. In front of you is the light at the end of the tunnel and you sit there… waiting…  and then WHOOSH!

As we shot out now going 100km an hour my son and I had very different reactions.  I could not scream because I was too scared.  Nor could I shut my eyes.  However my son started with some noise then closed his eyes for the rest of his short life… I mean for the rest of the ride…

At the end I stumbled off the roller coaster, we laughed and high fived because we had survived!   My fearless 9 year old niece who also rode with us was like that was the best ride ever auntie Claire now can we go on the green lantern….  Like heck no!

It took courage for me to go on the superman escape.  And the reward of my courage was bragging rights and the thrill of the experience!

 

I want to introduce you to 3 people who lived life with incredible courage.

 

If you’ve got a bible app scroll to Daniel 3.  While you’re doing that let me give you a backstory.

So Shadrach, Meshach and Abendago are 3 friends and along with their mate Daniel.  They were born in Israel and when we read about them they’re teenagers and they were taken as captives from Israel to a place called Babylon where they were assimilated and retrained and kept there as prisoners of war.

 

Babylon is everything Israel is not.   In Israel they believe in God and live by a moral code.  In Babylon they don’t.  In fact the king set himself up as a god, had a massive gold statute of himself made and when the music played da da da dahhhh everyone had to bow down to the statue in worship.  This was not some optional extra or some freedom of choice thing, you HAD TO BOW DOWN or you’d be thrown in the crazy fiery furnace aka big bad fire.

This was the world they lived in AND in some degree it is the world we live in.

It takes courage to be a Christian. It takes courage to say I’m gonna live my life in a way that pleases God.  It takes courage to live differently in the way we do relationships, in the way we do friendships, in the way we do everything. It takes courage to believe and have faith when people around us, maybe even people in our own family says it’s not real and gives us all the other options on how to live our life.

Now you might not have a king with a huge ego causing problems in your life but your battle might be against insecurity, peer pressure, anxiety.  There might be stuff going on at home or school that is stressing you out or stuff that hasn’t worked out the way you wanted it to.  Life is stressful and busy and full on and people are messy and we are messy and you know what, that’s okay.  Let me encourage you – in case your mind is playing tricks on you – you matter, you are loved, you are important.  Your presence on earth makes a difference whether you see it or not.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abendego knew that God was real.  They believed in Him.  They prayed to Him, they lived their life for Him so this whole da da dah bow down to the gold statue was actually a problem.   They had to make a choice – would they just blend in and stay safe, or would they make a stand, literally, for their God.

The music played and they would not bow down.   They were brought before the king and again made their stand.

From verse 16 reads

“King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

25 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.”

Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

 

Now we can read stuff like that and forget that these are real people, with real lives and real emotions and real challenges.  They’re not just made up stories that belong in a fairy tales book – they’re real things that happened in real peoples lives.   Sometimes I wish that we saw more of the behind the scenes things of how the people felt and what they thought – often it’s a very black and white recount and I want to know whats going on between the lines.

Imagine the conversations that they had when the statue was built… so guys… what are we going to do?  Did they freak out?  Did they have an escape plan?  What were the behind the scenes decisions that got them to that point when they said you can throw us in the fire but we will not bow down!

You how I think it went… they’re sitting round over a mcds on a Friday night and Shadrach is pacing and knows the whole deal is not good and that they’re screwed… and Meshach is all fired up and we’ll blow the statue up and tear it down James Bond style (this is how my mind works) but then Abendego is calm, cool and collected and just reminds them that God is good, God is real, God is with them and that God will protect them.  He’s come through time and time again for them why would this be any different.  Guys, let’s trust God.  Whatever it takes.

Confession time: I cant see in the dark.  Legit.  My husband can totally scare me by walking down our hallway in the dark because until he’s about 2 arm lengths away I just cant see him… I know something is there but I cant see what it is…  I remember this one time I went with a bunch of friends out to this amazing beach in the middle of nowhere – we had a bonfire, marshmallows, someone had their guitar and it was awesome.  Until we had to go home and I realized that the path to the beach was through some bushwhacked bush and that in places on both sides of the path there was a sheer drop to the rocks below.  I was already reading the headlines in my head and wishing I’d eaten way more carrots as a kid.  So we got about halfway through the bush when I literally froze.  I couldn’t see in front of me and it was pre everyone has a torch on their phone and I was stuck.  Of course I tried to be staunch about it – you know I’m just enjoying the bush air and listening for birds…. But on the inside I was freaking out because I couldn’t see where to put my next step and was fearing for my life….

This was that moment for Shadrach and his friends.   While Shadrach is worst case scenario thinking and Meshach is suiting up, Abendego is grabbing ahold of the one thing he knows is sure – and yall know I’m taking liberties there….

For me in that darkness the person in in front of me realized that I was no longer following and that in fact I was “having a moment” – they grabbed my hand and walked me out in safety.   They led the way.  They had eaten their carrots and they could see the clear way ahead of them.

Shadrach and his friends grabbed ahold of the truth that God is real and that He is with them, that He is with us.

Right now in the stress at home and when your mates are pressuring you to do x y z, when youre dealing with your own negative spiral of thoughts and battling fear and insecurity this is when you need to know that God is for real and that He loves you.

Right now, God is with you.

Right now in that darkness God has his hand out for you.

He will never let you go, He will never abandon you.

The greatest truth also is that God is worthy of believing in and living for.  God is so awesome and amazing and knowing Him changes your life.   He is the God who created the universe and breathed out the stars but knows each one of our name and our dreams and how many hairs we have on head.  Becoming a Christian is the best decision you will make in this life and for ever.   Shadrach and his friends knew this – that God was greater than any whatever they faced.

One of my favourite promises in the bible is Psalm 119:105 Your Word is a lamp to my feet.

Sometimes I want it to be a lighthouse for my whole life – show me the whole map – from A to Z and every letter in between.  But God says He will show us the next step – like a lamp on our feet with enough light to show just in front of us.

We’ve read the end of the story for Shardrach and his friends because we can turn the page or scroll down… but they were real people living their real lives.  They didn’t know that in that moment that they were thrown in the fire that something incredible happened – they would have an encounter with – and I don’t want to get too technical or theological here – they would have an encounter with Jesus like before Jesus was born and on earth – so like a mega way cool supernatural experience.

When we’re in the fire God is RIGHT THERE with us.  In the darkness God shines the light and glows in the dark.

John 1: 5 says that Jesus is the light and that The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not understand it or overpower it or appropriate it or absorb it or overcome it.

Darkness only happens when the light leaves.  It only happens when someone blows out the match or hits the switch.  Darkness can’t come in and make that change.  Darkness is not the boss of me.  So turn the light on.

Here’s something else… the light you turn on might not be for yourself.  Jesus is the light of the world but He says tag you’re it.

Matthew 5:14-16 says You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

We have an incredible opportunity to light to our friends and our family.  We have an incredible opportunity by the way we live our lives and the words we say – not just about Jesus – but by encouraging people, but not speaking trash – to turn the light on for people in the dark.

When we make a stand others see and take strength and courage from us.

So what does all this mean for you on Monday morning?

Like I said you might not have the da da dah moment or some giant gold statue in the courtyard at school but we are are going to face moments in our lives that require courage, especially as Christians.

Shadrach and his friends made their choice behind closed doors and made a resolution that when push came to shove they would stand for God.  They knew God was greater and that living for Him was worth it.  Right here in this moment we can make that decision on how we’re going to respond and react to that situation when we’re with our friends, or at work, or in class.  When the pressure comes to do something we know might not be a right choice if we’ve made that decision that its okay to not blend in and bow down we might feel freaked, but we also have a well of courage on the inside to stand.  When we’ve made that choice on the inside it gives us the resolve to stand.

We are called to stand out, to be different to shine like stars in the sky.