Picture this. You’re living life as a refugee, completely under the authority of a self-worshiping totalitarian dictator. He’s completely certain he deserves all the honor and worship all of his subjects can muster and…

you’re completely certain he doesn’t.

You and a few of your fellow captives in this totalitarian regime blatantly refuse to even put yourselves in a posture where it would appear that you will give any glory to this despot. He knows. And he’s not happy.

Does this story sound familiar?

Enter the guards, stage left, who will escort you to a ridiculously hot furnace and… you guessed it… toss you in to certain doom.

You’re with me now, right? The Hebrew dudes with the crazy names — Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego — were tossed into a fire for refusing to worship the Babylonian King.

And we all know the part we get really excited about — the part where the king looks in and sees four guys walking around in the furnace, instead of just three, and “one of them looks like the Son of God.” We read this, or we hear the story, and we take joy and comfort in the fact that we know, love and serve a God that comes to us in places of utter despair, the God that joins us in the furnace, the God that comes near no matter the trial.

And yes!! Yes! That is good, good news — absolutely worth celebrating!

But it is not the end of the story.  {Read the story here if you’d like to enjoy it more fully!}

Do you know what happens next? Nebuchadnezzar does this complete 180 and suddenly you hear these words coming out of the mouth of the guy that seemed like an insane totalitarian despot just moments ago:

“Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this.”

One minute those guys are trusting, willing to die, perhaps praying God will save the day and they will not be thrown in the furnace. Moments later, they’ve endured the trial and an entire empire — one of the largest empires known to have ever existed on our planet — is about to hear the story of the One True God who can deliver His people from furnaces and deserves the worship of all of mankind.

Let’s step away from this amazing story for just a moment to ask a question. Why did God create us? Surely He is perfectly wise and good and holy and all-knowing and all-powerful and all-present — so what was the big idea when it came to creating some people in His own image?

Over the centuries theologians have pondered this question and basically come to just a couple of simple conclusions. With no intention of oversimplifying the gloriously complex and amazing possibilities of a Creator who infinitely exceeds our capabilities for understanding, the conclusions we’ve drawn are these two:

Man was created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. (As the Westminster Catechism puts it.) Others might say we were created to enjoy His grace and extend His glory. (David Platt, Radical)

What if that is the case? And what does it mean for us to find our way through this world full of joys and storms and sunsets and fiery furnaces — clinging to a belief that we are not only here to enjoy the Grace, but also to extend the Glory?

One of my favorite verses a dear college roommate introduced me to was this one:

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” {2 Peter 3:9}

How does it feel when you’re clinging to God, hoping He will make something possible, or heal something or open some door or fulfill something that truly seems like a promise straight out of His Word and into your heart — and it just doesn’t happen?

Kind of like the Lord is slack, right? Like when Mary saw Jesus after her brother Lazarus died and she just lays it all out there honest and upset, “If you had been here, he would not have died.” She knows God’s power and she says — I counted on You to show up. I called for You to show up. You knew this was going to happen. Not awesome.

Do you remember what Jesus said when He heard Lazarus was sick — just a few verses before all this shook out? “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” {see John 11} The Scripture goes on to explain: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.”

He loved them — and so He stayed away two more days. And we look at that and it’s easy — without knowing the whole story to say, “Slack. That just seems kinda slack.”

But when the story unfolds? It is so incredibly glorious. How much more joy do you think Mary and Martha experienced in life with their brother every day for the rest of their lives after those four days without him? And how much joy would they have had in being part of the story of one of the most miraculous experiences to happen to all of mankind? Through this, they enjoyed the Grace and extended the Glory.

Crazy amazing stuff. In the modern version of this story, everyone is tweeting #LazarusRises and taking selfies at his house and by the tomb where he lay dead for four days. Mary starts a blog and has billions of followers as she testifies continuously about the glorious goodness of Jesus who showed up — in His perfect timing.

Now here’s where all this ties together with a nice little bow that could be hard to tie for some of us: Contentment can only happen when we trust that there is more to life than just enjoying God’s grace and goodness. There has to be the part where we are a part of extending His glory.

Because if we think God’s only job is to make us happy? We will not be happy.

But what if we believe that He is not slack concerning His promises? That He works and wills and moves in mysterious ways because He is not willing for anyone to die without Him, He is longing for everyone to find Him and join the joy of enjoying His grace and extending His glory?

That means your pain and mine, our fiery furnaces and uphill battles and incredible struggles — can have a purpose so far beyond our capacity for understanding that we will just have to put up our hands and say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him!”

“I have tasted His goodness and I know that even if I never taste it again this side of heaven, still — I am confident that He is good and unfathomably wise and deserving of glory.”

It’s that one word we talked about last week, that sums up all of contentment: Trust.

Dr. Seuss might say:
I can be content here, or there,
I can be content anywhere.
I can live on trust and prayer
God is on the throne up there.

I can be content in June,
up a tree or on the moon.
Mine is not a story of doom,
God is on the throne up there.

In the fire’s burning glare
Through the waters lacking air,
Threatened in a Lion’s layer,
God is on the throne up there.

I can be content, it’s true!
I can be and so can you!
Trust, it’s what we have to do:
God is on the throne up there.

This is the hope we have, friends, that we are part of a double-purposed story.

We can trust He will allow us to enjoy His grace. We can trust we will have the privilege of being part of extending the glory. Whether it’s the baby peeing on the bathroom floor or the Doctor’s Report that makes it seem like the world just starting crashing in around you — know that there is always more to the story than what you see.

It can still be good. And it can still be glorious.



More encouragement for the journey of enjoying the Grace and extending the Glory… {Recent Favorites}

Radical by David Platt

Daring to Hope by Katie Davis Majors

Come Be My Light (the writings of Mother Teresa)