Every day, I claim my life as my own. I fight against forces that might try and influence me otherwise. I resist outside control on my life, and I am building towards my dreams and my goals. My life is a result of the choices I make, and I will influence myself towards the life I want.
That's what we often tell ourselves. That's very true for me on many days, if I'm being honest. I don't think of my life as belonging to God, as a gift from God, as the blessed opportunity to honor God. I think about my goals and what I want....
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego deliver one of the greatest lines in the entire Bible. Nebuchadnezzar is going to throw them into a fire, but they so thoroughly trust God that they are not afraid. Their lives belong to God, and their goal is not to maximize the time they have for themselves, but rather the amount of honor they give to God. And so they choose to honor God even though it is a virtual certainty that such an act will cut their lives very, very short in a very, very painful manner. I love the way they phrase this -- God is able to save them, but even if God doesn't, they're still not going to serve a false god. They refuse to betray their principals. They will not compromise their worship of the eternal God in exchange for an extended opportunity to work towards their goals. It's not worth it to them. Even if God doesn't save them, even if all that this means is a painful death for them, they're still ready to make the choice, because they have such a complete trust of God. They know that God is on the throne, that God dwells in the heights of heavens, and just because God doesn't choose to intervene in their situation, God is no less worthy of devotion and acclaim and worship.
We don't always understand why God doesn't intervene. For every story like this one where God dramatically intervenes, there are thousands of others where the miracle has not come, where the fire consumed, where the cancer didn't go away, where the disease didn't weaken, where the relationship remained broken, where the addiction didn't let go, where the children didn't come home, where the job didn't come through, where the pain didn't recede. These are heartbreaking situations, reminders of the brokenness in society and in our homes and in our bodies and in our relationships and in our lives. These are not evidence that God doesn't notice or care -- it's evidence that we don't see the full tapestry of grace that God is weaving, that we don't know the full story. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego -- they trusted in the God who sees the full story, who hung the stars in the sky and still cares for us individually. Because they trusted, they knew that God had knit them together in their mothers' wombs, and if God does that, this God will not abandon them, even if it seems like death is about to prevail. With a God like that on your side, why fear a king? What can Nebuchadnezzar do against such a God? Whose side would you rather bet on?
So once again, to whom does your life belong? And how does your life reflect that?