One of the first stories in the Bible that you’re taught as a kid is Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego In the fiery furnace. The king had built a statue that was 90 feet tall and expected everyone to bow to it on command. These three men were in high government positions because their friend, and fellow captive, Daniel had been able to tell the king what his dream was and meant. When they didn’t bow, it was obvious because they were in the public eye. The king demanded they bow, but they refused to his face. They would rather honor God and suffer the consequences of death than to dishonor God and live. The king heated the furnace even hotter than normal and had them thrown into it. That’s when he noticed there were four men walking around in it. In Daniel 3:25, the king said, “Look! I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!” (NLT)
One the first things they noticed was that the three were unbound. I think that’s important because they would have tied them up with something that wasn’t combustible. There are times in life that we go through things that we feel like we’re bound by. It feels like we will never get free and the chains hinder our progress. Even when nothing else seems to be able to set you free, God can. These gentlemen could not set themselves free by their own power, and neither can we. It takes trusting in God and putting ourselves in His hands to find freedom from the things that bind us. One word from Him and the things that have bound you for years will fall. Your freedom is in Him.
The next thing they noticed is that there was a fourth guy in the fire. I’ve noticed that when we walk through the fiery trials of life, they reveal Jesus. You are not walking through your difficult times alone. He’s always with you, but we see Him more clearly in those moments. He shows up and walks through those times with you. No matter how bad things seem, keep moving and praying. The three Hebrew men didn’t sit down in the fire and wait to be called out. They were actively moving and it caught the attention of others. You’re ability to not quit during the most fiery trial will inspire others who will go through those times in the future. Your most difficult times become your greatest testimony. Don’t quit. God is up to something and is right there with you in those moments.
Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash
Have you ever felt you were obligated to do something you didn’t want to do? For me, when those situations occur, it always happens when something better is going on and I have to pass on it in order to do something I felt obligated to do. That causes frustration, disappointment, and a bad attitude. I spend the whole time thinking of what I could have done instead of being stuck doing what I felt obligated to do. It’s very disappointing to say the least.
Have you ever felt that way spiritually? Have you felt obligated to do something you knew wasn’t right or that God didn’t approve of? We all have at one time or another because we’ve all failed God. In every situation or temptation, we have a choice. We can do what God wants or what our sinful nature wants. Many times we choose what our sinful nature wants while knowing what God wants. After a while, we can begin to think we can’t beat the sin, so we give in to it every time.
James 4:17 says, “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it” (NLT). When we do what’s wrong when we know what’s right, we have the same emotions we do when we do something out of obligation over desire. In Romans 7, Paul talks about the struggle of wanting to do what’s right, but not being able to. When that happens, we realize we are a slave to sin and feel obligated to do what it wants instead of what God wants. In those moments, we can feel frustrated and disappointed in ourselves.
Coming out of that chapter of failure to do what God wants, I like what Paul reminds us of in Romans 8. He said, “Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.” You and I don’t have to have those feelings of disappointment. We don’t have to feel like we let God and ourselves down. We are not obligated to sin just because that’s what our mind and body wants. We can choose to do what God wants and forego the guilt and disappointment that comes from doing what’s wrong.
We don’t have to be slaves to our sinful nature. Christ has set us free from the law that binds us to go against God. He has placed His Spirit within us to bring the freedom to choose what God wants us to do. Once you accept Jesus as your savior, you are no longer obligated to do what you used to. You are no longer a slave to sin. You have been set free to live a Spirit-led life free from your obligation to sin. If you’re struggling still with slavery to sin, pray that God would give you a Spirit-led mind so you’ll be set free from slavery to sin and do what God wants.
I’m working out of town this week so I thought it would be fun to watch the World Series in a group environment. I left my hotel and went to Buffalo Wild Wings knowing they would have the game. When the hostess was starting to seat me, I requested a seat where I could see the game. She replied, “What game?” I let her know I was referring to the World Series. She went and asked her manager about it and he informed me they would have it on a TV or two, but wouldn’t be playing the sound. I looked at him puzzled and he replied, “This is a football town. People don’t care about baseball.”
I thought it was strange that he just declared the whole city as a football town. Then I started to think how many times I label myself as something. I’m not good at that. I can’t learn that because I’m not good at math. I have OCD. I’m quirky. I’m an introvert. I don’t do well around other people. Whatever the label, we put them on ourselves and give ourselves an excuse not to do something. We’ve said things about ourselves so much that we can’t see any other options. We believe it so it’s true.
God does not define you by your limitations or labels. When He looks at you, He doesn’t see what you can’t do. He looks at who He created you to be. He sees the potential to rise above the labels you’ve anchored yourself with and desires that you cut free of them. The limitations you have in your life are self imposed. I know people who have physical disabilities who don’t allow themselves to be defined by them. They accomplish more than people without disabilities because that’s not how they see themselves.
If you allow the label you place on yourself, you will never be able to do what you dream of. You will never reach the potential of all that God created you to be. When He made you, He didn’t call you fat, stupid, lazy, disabled, impaired, OCD, tired or anything else negative. When He made you, according to Psalm 139, He said you were “fearfully and wonderfully made.” It goes on to say, “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!” If God thinks about you that much about you and they are precious thoughts, then it’s time you changed how you thought about yourself too.
Are you smarter than God? Do you somehow know things about yourself that He doesn’t? It’s time to have the mind of Christ and see yourself in the same light that He does. Quit looking at what you think are liabilities and see how He can use those for His glory. Quit giving yourself excuses not to try something or to follow His will by labeling yourself with negative things. You are more than your self imposed limitations. When you get that, truly get that, you will be free and you will open the door for God to use you like never before.