Published October 18, 2011

Paul's Epistle...
"But If Not..."

How strong is your faith? Is it strong enough to survive any "tests of faith" that may come upon you?

I got to thinking about this recently when three words jumped out at me – out of context – from something I was listening to in the car. The words were, "but if not..."

My mind immediately went to the story where those words are used in Daniel 3 where Daniel's friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, refused king Nebuchadnezzar's commands to bow down to the 90-foot tall golden statue he had made of himself. He had commanded everyone to worship the image – but these three refused because of their strong belief in God.

This put Nebuchadnezzar into a "rage and fury" (Daniel 3:13). He tried to give them a second chance, but, knowing it would mean the death penalty, they still refused. They told the king, "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king" (v. 17). They knew God could deliver them, if He chose to do so.

But then they said something that illustrated an even deeper faith: "But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will be worship the gold image which you have set up" (v. 18).

They were saying, in effect, that God could indeed deliver them. He could, indeed, answer their prayers to escape certain death. But they also made it clear that if God had something else in mind for them – including death – that would be just fine with them. Their faith was strong enough to know that whatever God wanted for them would be best – and would be what, ultimately, God wanted.

Well, you know how the story came out. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego survived the fire without even the smell of smoke, although the "mighty men of valor" who threw them in were consumed by the flames. God chose not only to save Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego through the fire but also to provide a powerful witness to the king. Nebuchadnezzar had, in effect, boasted that there was no god who could save them. But now – as an eyewitness to God's saving power – he publicly recognized these three as "servants of the Most High God" (v. 26).

Do you have a "but if not" kind of faith?

The Akins have a song called "What If God Says No"* that illustrates this:

One year ago today she got the call
That stopped her life.
And ever since that moment,
He prayed God would heal his wife.
She got weaker by the minute
In that hospital bed.
And she could see that he was mad at God
So she took his hand and said...

What if God says no?
It doesn't mean He loves us less
It just means He knows what's best.
What if God says no?
It's enough we have His grace...
So don't let go of your faith
[Even if] God says no....

Oswald Chambers, author of the well-known book "My Utmost For His Highest" wrote, "Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time." He also wrote, "Faith for my deliverance is not faith in God. Faith means, whether I am visibly delivered or not, I still stick to my belief that God is love. There are some things only learned in a fiery furnace."

So, consider... Is your faith strong enough to be a "but if not" kind of faith? When you pray, when you ask God for something, can you honestly say, "But if not..." – and be satisfied with that? Perhaps God has something even better in mind for you.

Remember: "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).

- Paul

*"What If God Says No," by Nick Akin and David Akin, Chris White Music BMI (excerpt)

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