Daniel: A Man of Irresistible Influence
Three Pictures of Devotion
“I will meet you in the furnace”
Pastor Jack Warren
July 16/18, 2004
I would like to talk to you about the subject of Devotion. Devotion is actually a term that originated as a religious word connected to divine works or service. It has grown in its use through history to refer to being devoted to a person, a cause, or a pursuit. When I think of devotion, I think of outstanding people in history like the mathematical genius Albert Einstein, a devoted mathematician whose theories formed the foundation for much of our math and science. I thought of Michelangelo who lived on scaffolding from 1508 to 1512 with his hand above his head as he painted th4e Sistine Chapel ceiling. I think of Thomas Edison, who said genius was 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. That sounds like sermon preparation. I think of Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and my dog Abbey. I think of our dog because I often define terms by their opposite meaning. A do is supposed to be man’s best friend, devoted to it master, staying by his side, facing intruders with tenacity, totally potty trained. I have a dog that daily reminds me of what lack of devotion looks like―it begs, it thinks we should bow down and worship it. It’s not a picture of devotion.
I want us during our time together to get a clear picture of what it means to be truly devoted to God. Let me invite you to turn to Daniel 3, where we are going to see 3 different pictures of devotion. Last week we looked at Daniel 2 when Daniel found himself in the deep end of life. He stepped out in faith and trusted God for miraculous insight into Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. God faithfully gave Daniel insight and Daniel did what no other man could do. As a result, Nebuchadnezzar spoke highly of Daniel’s God and promoted Daniel and his 3 friends.
In chapter 3, we see how quickly one can move from devotion to God to devotion to oneself. Let’s look at Daniel 3. Follow along as I read Daniel 3:1-7. Here we have the situation described for us. Nebuchadnezzar has built this 90 ft. image and this image is a representation of himself. He is commanding everyone in his kingdom to bow down and worship it. This is our first picture of devotion. This is a picture of devotion to yourself. Now Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were committed Hebrew men. They knew not to worship an image and not to have any false gods. Nebuchadnezzar, on the other hand, was devoted to himself. He wanted power. He wanted to impress people. He was demanding, controlling, and domineering. His Purpose Driven Life theme was “It’s all about me”. When you first read this, you initially think this guy is crazy. How incredibly arrogant can a person Get? Well, how arrogant can we get? Words like controlling, demanding, domineering aren’t foreign to the way we live. It’s rather easy to migrate to self worship without the 90 ft. statue. That hits me a little too close to home.
Let’s keep going. The story gets good. Next we see the crisis. Let’s pick it up in verse 8. Here we see a jealous people serving as informants who would love to get these foreign guys demoted. We see the second picture of devotion here. It’s a picture of devotion to other gods. For those under Nebuchadnezzar’s rule, it was devotion to Nebuchadnezzar’s 90 ft. image.
I haven’t seen many people bowing to 90 ft. statues today―except for the Steve McPherson statue. 90 ft. statues have now migrated to square footage in houses, horse power in cars, digits in salaries, titles, saving accounts, and retirement funds and relationships. There is nothing wrong with houses, cars, salaries, and savings, and relationships, but when we put our hope, our joy, our contentment in those things, and those things take us away from devotion to God, we are bowing down. God passionately wants our devotion but as Scripture says, we often devote ourselves to the creation rater than the Creator. Serving people can even become our god. If you find yourself consumed with the business of life and not communing with God himself, as yourself, “To what am I devoted?”
Let’s keep moving. We pick up the confrontation in verse 13. Read 13-18 (Read). Here we have the core of the story. Notice verse 15. God has to love hearing a person say, “What God can deliver you?” You would think Nebuchadnezzar would be smarter than this. He has seen and experienced God’s power through Daniel’s interpretations and dream revelations. He should have been familiar with history, when Pharaoh said similar words to Moses, and God showed up through plagues. Goliath also said those words to David, and God showed up in a sling. If you are ever tempted to say “God can’t do that” or God can’t change my co-worker or my boss or my neighbor―remember this story.
In verses 16-18 we see the picture of devotion to God. They know God will meet them. It may be through death, but they truly trust in God’s deliverance.
Now, if I’m counseling them, let me tell you what I could see happening. They get Shadrach to call the office, and they tell Barb that they want to meet with Jack to get some wisdom on how to respond to this dilemma. They meet with me, share their story and say either we bow down or we are toast―burned toast. God promoted us to a place of influence in this kingdom and if we are gone, God loses out on that influence. Our friends will be discouraged, afraid, and God’s testimony might decline. At this point I say, “God know your heart. He is concerned about your attitude much more than your actions. You can bow down and not worship it. Not need to be legalistic here. Aren’t you glad they didn’t call me?
What if they had bowed?
- I wouldn’t be talking about them today.
- We probably wouldn’t know their names.
- God’s name would not have been lifted up that day.
- His power would not have been seen.
- People would not have been inspired as we are about to see.
You see, devotion inspires devotion. Last week, I saw Juanita and Oscar McGinnis. Juanita has served on our church staff as an assistant for years and her husband has served on the hospitality team and in Kidzone for 400 years. Juanita has been struggling with cancer over the last several months, but she and Oscar are devoted. She still is helping with our Stephen’s Ministry. She is in the Deep End and God presence is there with her. That inspires me.
Let’s look at the conclusion of our story. Read Daniel 3:19-30. We aren’t told the exact identity of this 4th man, but most commentators believe it was the visible presence of Christ himself. What we certainly know is that God showed up. He met them in the furnace. If they had bowed down to the image, they would have missed this supernatural encounter.
When I observe people going through furnace experience, I am amazed at the peace. They experience the presence of God. They experience the reality of Psalm 23 that says “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear not evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me”.
The ironic thing about a life that is devoted to God is that it is the most satisfying life. We are most satisfied, when we devote ourselves to God. When you put yourself aside and your things aside, you experience deep satisfaction.
Matthew 5:6 says it this way….
Matthew 6:33 says…
So, we have seen 3 pictures of devotion: devotion to yourself, to other things and to God. The big question is―how do you move toward this unwavering devotion to God? Let me help you be ready from my journal.
You would think I would have figured this devotion thing out after 15 years of ministry. What I want you to hear is that devotion to God is not a program. We have programs that will help you move in that direction, but devotion is a heart and soul commitment. You can devote yourself to programs, to really good thing,s and miss devotion to God.
Let me encourage you to get honest with God. If you need to confess your devotion to other things, go for it. Tell him you want to give it all to him. All of your ambitions hopes and dreams. They are his. Love God with all of your heart and soul. Write it down. Journaling has been an incredible thing for me this summer.
Sometimes we think of the Christian life as trusting God for changed lives and them we go our own way be ourselves or our things. We must remember that God longs for our devotion and he wants us to daily love him with all of our heart and soul.
So, if you’re hear saying, “Yes, I want to be devoted to God”, let me ask you to do a few things.
- Confess your devotion to other things.
- Express your desire to be devotional to him.
- Ask God daily to show you what being devoted looks like in your life.
- Start each day by giving your day to him.