This morning I was reading the account of the fiery furnace in Daniel 3. Many are familiar with the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refusing to fall down and worship the golden image of Nebuchadnezzar. (on a side note, I always wondered where Daniel was and if he bowed down). Their refusal to obey the order and command led to their being bound and thrown into a fire, a fire that was heated seven times hotter than usual. They were thrown in, and within minutes, the king to his amazement said that he saw four men in the fire—one looking like “a son of the gods.” Upon seeing this, Nebuchadnezzar called the three men out. As they walked out there was not even a hint or trace on their bodies that suggested they had just walked out of a molten hot furnace. Nebuchadnezzar responded to this event saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way. Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon” (Daniel 3:28-30).
Here in this story, as well as narratives throughout Scripture, there is this running theme of God’s glory in the life of his people, suffering, and promotion. In other words, there is a theme that surfaces where those who publicly live for God and his glory amidst an opposing world will suffer—experiencing hardship, trial, and [sometimes] even persecution—but through endurance and faithfulness in their suffering they will be promoted. Within the biblical narrative, this promotion can either be seen in this life, or the life to come.
Another example of this theme can be seen in the life of Joseph. Joseph for thirteen years, even though he was faithful, endured suffering, mistreatment, and betrayal. But in his faithfulness, and his desire to make God known, was promoted to the second highest position in Egypt. Jesus is another example. Jesus glorified God by living a sinless life and by being the perfect sacrifice that would bear the sins of the world; but, who also endured suffering—coming in the form of rejection, betrayal, torture, crucifixion, and death. Yet, the Bible clearly informs us that God, because of Jesus’ act of faithfulness, sacrifice, and suffering, promoted Jesus by bestowing on him the “name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:9-10). We also read elsewhere that God, as a result of Jesus’ faithfulness and finished work, “seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:20).
This theme of God’s glory, suffering, and promotion is clearly visible. Yet, the incredible impetus of this theme is that it is not just applied to select individuals, but to God’s people overall. Paul attests, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18). Peter exclaims, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Ptr 5:10-11). Furthermore, John in revealing the final picture quips, “No longer will there by anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev 22:3-5). Therefore, for all children of God, there is a glorious promotion coming. Although we may have to endure many trials and bouts with suffering in the here and now, there is coming an eternal promotion, where we become co-heirs and co-regents with Christ.
What do we take away from Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, as well as from this running theme of God’s glory, suffering, and promotion? I think Jesus sums it up well when he states, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b). Therefore, no matter how faithful we strive to be, no matter how much we attempt to live for the glory of God and make him known, there will be trials, tribulation, heartache, pain, possibly persecution, betrayal, hurt, and suffering. However, when these unpleasant, unfortunate, but glorious showers flood our life, let us remember to be faithful in them honoring the Lord as a fragrant aroma amid the stench of a fallen world—for Jesus has overcome the world and promises us an eternal promotion. Moreover, Peter clearly reveals the principles of suffering this way when he writes,”But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s suffering, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name” (1 Ptr 4:14-16).
Believers, promotion is coming. Whether it comes in this life is up to our heavenly Father. Know that a promotion beyond our wildest dreams lays just beyond the horizon in the new world, in the new city. May the glory of God, his grace, mercy, and loving-kindness sustain us in the midst of our sufferings and trials that we experience in the here and now.