Able to Save
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego survived a close encounter with martyrdom. Because they defied the ruling authority, they were scheduled to be thrown into a furnace. But trusting God to honor their faithfulness, they vowed fidelity—even if it cost them their lives. While we know the end of the story (they lived), they had no certainty that they would survive the raging blaze of Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace when they stood up for God. And though they were certain of God’s power and willingness to protect them, they didn’t demand that he save them.
Now consider this story that occurred centuries later: A judge summoned Perpetua, age 26, and commanded her to deny God or face certain death. Perpetua, with a newborn infant, faced a dilemma. North African Christians under Roman rule in A.D. 200 ran the risk of being put to death for openly acknowledging their faith. As her father looked on, urging her to save herself for her child cradled in his arms, still she would not do as she was commanded and sacrifice to idols.
Perpetua held fast in her conviction and faith in the living God. When the wild bull that was released to attack her and another believer failed to kill them, the Romans sent in the gladiators. A terrified young man approached her and made several ineffectual stabs. In a final act of mercy, she steered his sword into the lethal blow and died.
Many Christians face persecution today. At some point many more may have to make the choice to denounce God or risk everything they hold dear, including their lives. And many face such choices now, though with less threatening consequences: We may be ostracized from our families or passed over for promotions. We may be treated unjustly or misunderstood.
Have you ever thought about what you would do if you were faced with dire persecution? Are you willing to risk everything because you are convinced that loving God is worth whatever sacrifices you face? When faced with the choice to remain faithful or cave in to fear, think of the three young men in Babylon and Perpetua in North Africa who counted their own lives as nothing compared to the grace they had been given.
- What kind of persecution do you face for being a Christian? How do you deal with it?
- What would it be like to face dire persecution like so many people around the world today?
- What lessons have you learned from Perpetua and Daniel’s three friends?
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 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.
Unbelievers stumbling; believers rejoicing
‘As it is written, Behold I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.’ Romans 9:33
Suggested Further Reading: 1 Peter 2:4–8
Who are they who shall never be ashamed? The answer is general and special. The text says, ‘Whosoever believeth’—that is, any man who ever lived, or ever shall live, who believes in Christ, shall never be ashamed. Whether he has been a gross sinner or a moralist; whether he is learned or illiterate; whether he is a prince or a beggar, it matters not—‘Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.’ Though you may very seldom come to the house of God, yet if you believe in Christ today you shall never be ashamed of him. You who have sat in God’s house for years, and feel yourselves guilty of having rejected Christ, yet if now you trust him you shall not be ashamed. But there is a speciality; it is ‘Whosoever believeth.’ Others shall be ashamed. There must be a real and hearty believing; there must be a simple confidence in the person and work of Jesus: wherever this is, there shall be no shame. One says, ‘But I have such a little faith; I am afraid I shall be confounded.’ No; you come in under the ‘Whosoever’—‘Whosoever believeth,’ though his faith be never so little, ‘shall never be ashamed.’ Another says, ‘But I have so many doubts.’ Still, dear heart, since you believe you shall not be ashamed; all your doubtings and your fearings shall never damn you, for your faith will prevail. ‘But,’ says another, ‘my corruption is so strong; I have come today lamenting because of my imperfections; they have obtained the mastery of my faith, and I have fallen during the week.’ Yes, soul, all fallen as you are, yet if you believe you shall never be ashamed.
For meditation: Whosoever trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ shall not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:15–16), shall not abide in darkness (John 12:46), shall receive forgiveness of sins (Acts 10:43) and shall not be ashamed (Romans 10:11). The opposite will be true of whosoever does not trust in him. Which ‘whosoever’ are you?
Sermon no. 571
22 May (1864)