Let's Make a Deal

If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”
Daniel 3:17-18
Have you ever tried to make a deal with God? "If you save me from this horrible situation, I'll serve you in the future." Or "If you'll deliver my loved one from this illness, I'll give up this destructive habit." If this is something in your own personal history, know that you're not alone; it's a common reaction to some of the problems of being human.

As a pastor, I've talked to several people who gave up on God when the bargain didn't work out: God did not fulfill the request made in extremis, and so the person in need stopped believing that God cared, or often that God even existed.

The Bible addresses this very situation many times, but in the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, it's quite explicit. When forced to choose between a fiery furnace and worshiping any entity other than their God, they make it clear: We hope to be delivered from the fire. But even if we're not, we will not serve any other God.

We probably remember this story because, in fact, God did deliver them. But the real point was that their faithfulness did not depend upon God's answer to their prayer. 

Perhaps the story is not quite as overtly miraculous, but centuries later, in the earliest days of Christianity, the Apostles Peter and John were threatened with punishment if they didn't quit talking about Jesus. Their response was, We cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard [Acts 4:20]. Our faithfulness to God, therefore, should not depend on any deal that we might have made with the Divine in the present moment, but on who we know God to have been in creation, in ancient Israel, in the Person of Jesus Christ, and in the life of the church through the ages.
Prayer after thinking about today's devotion:
Help me to proclaim not any deals I have made with you, my God, but Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, that others might know not my greatness, but his love.
After your own thanksgivings & petitions, close with the Lord's Prayer.

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