But if Not . . .

The Big Question
Christians are called “believers” for a very good reason. We believe that an infinitely great and powerful God exists, and that He loves to respond positively to finite human beings who diligently seek to connect with Him.

We also believe that He loves people and wants us to talk to Him in prayer and ask for things that we need, while confidently looking forward to a positive answer.

So what happens when God does not live up to our expectations? We have all experienced this let down. Here’s what I focus on so that discouragement won’t stop my prayers.

Truths to Remember
We know that God can do anything. He has, however, voluntarily limited Himself in some areas. For instance: He cannot save someone who refuses to believe. He gave us a free will to choose or reject and He cannot take that away. This frustrates us when we pray for loved ones to repent and turn to God. He can, of course, bring about circumstances in people’s lives that are so hard they will want to turn to God. Or in some cases, His goodness brings people to repentance.

God is infinitely wise, and sometimes His ways of doing things are so convoluted He can’t explain them to ordinary humans like us. So we’re left to simply trust that He knows what He is doing. The old patriarch Job, suffering horribly through no fault of his own, showed he had that kind of faith when he said, “I’ll keep trusting God even if He kills me.” (Job 13:15)

The Story
About 2,500 years ago, in what is now Iraq, a powerful emperor set up a gigantic golden statue of himself. At the statue’s unveiling several thousand government officials had gathered in front of the statue. The emperor commanded them all to fall down and worship his golden statue the moment the band began to play. The penalty for non-compliance was to be immediately burned alive in a huge fire pit. So naturally, everyone bowed down to worship—all except three God-worshiping Jews who remained standing.

Since they had earlier proved their value to the emperor, he wanted to give them another chance. “When the band begins to play,” he said, “and you fall down to worship my statue, you will live.  But if you don’t, I will order you to be thrown immediately into my fire pit.”

They replied, “Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us into the fire pit, the God we serve can certainly rescue us from your roaring fire. We expect He will, but if not, we still wouldn’t worship the gold statue you set up.”

FieryThe emperor was furious and ordered the fire to be fueled hotter than ever, to tie up the three Jews and throw them into the roaring inferno. The fire was so hot it instantly killed the soldiers who threw them into the raging flames.

The watching emperor was astounded and shouted to his officials, “What’s this? I saw three men bound hand and foot thrown into the fire, but now I see four men walking around in the fire completely unharmed. And the fourth one looks like a son of the gods!”

He then called to the three Jews to come out of the fire. When they climbed out, they were instantly surrounded by officials who saw that the inferno had not even singed their hair or scorched their clothes. The story gets even better, but read it for yourself in Daniel 3.

A Personal Question
I love the line, “We expect He will rescue us, but if not . . .” Like Job, these three Jews had fixed their mind on the ultimate power, wisdom and love of God, and committed themselves to trust God, come what may.

“I expect God to give me what I pray for, but if not, I will continue to trust Him.” During what times in your life have you found it hard to say this?