Anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson states that “The human species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories.”
Here’s a great story to learn from.
It’s a story about a crisis and the process and steps we need to take in order to come out the other side with positive change.
In 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, attacked and conquered Judah.
Following his victory, Nebuchadnezzar ordered that the best and brightest young men of Judah be deported to Babylon.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were among this group.
The three years of training in Babylon was really an attempt to brainwash the Jewish captives.
Even the names of the young men were changed. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s original names were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
Their Jewish names honored the Lord, but their new names honored the gods of the Babylonians.
In this story, King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue ninety feet tall and nine feet wide and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon and sent for all the high officers, governors, advisers and judges to come and see the statue the king had set up.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and other young Jewish men in who were in training were also invited.
Then the King had a herald shout out, “People of all races, nations and languages, listen to the king’s command! When you hear the music start up, bow to the ground to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue and anyone who refuses to obey will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”
This is what I would call a “Crisis”
We all have them.
Maybe the crisis is an addiction that is threatening to break-up and destroy an important relationship.
Maybe the crisis is your anger that is threatening your marriage.
Maybe the crisis is lack of employment that is threatening bankruptcy
Crisis, we all have them.
A crisis at work and you are the leader in charge of navigating your team through it.
A crisis at home, with your kids, and you need something to change.
A crisis with your health and you need to make some personal habit changes.
For the three boys, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, their crisis was, “If we don’t compromise our values, there is going to be some severe pain! Death.”
Crisis: They are around every corner and there is never a great time to have one.
Henry Kissinger once joked, “There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.”
There are personal kinds of crisis, but there is also the global crisis of injustice that we must face.
19,000 children die everyday of preventable diseases. And they die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world.
Most girls who are sex trafficked in this country have come out of the foster system.
Over 1 billion people lack access to clean water
Human nature, when it comes to crisis is we tend to either want instant, painless, comfortable change or if we feel the change is going to be too difficult, we become frozen in fear or we live in denial of how bad the crisis is, and we ignore it.
Dante Alighieri challenges us when he says, “The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.” Dante Alighieri
The good news is the Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity.
In a crisis, we must be honest and aware of the danger—but we must also recognize the opportunity.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were fully aware of the danger of this crisis, but they also understood the opportunity for God to be honored in this crisis.
They told the king in a very respectful way that they would not bow down and they would not try to defend themselves and if they were thrown into the blazing furnace, God could save them, but even if he didn’t they would never serve his Gods or worship the gold statue he had set up.
One of the most important things someone must have during a crisis is a deep conviction of what the right thing to do is.
Nothing significant, nothing great, nothing righteous, nothing important is ever done without a deep rooted, selfless, courageous conviction.
There were others who understood the crisis, but did not have the conviction to stay standing and risk the blazing furnace.
The crisis in your life and the crisis’ around you, do you have a deep conviction to change them?
There is a prayer I pray often, “God break my heart for the things that break your heart.”
Is there an urgency? Is there a deep seeded conviction?
BUT a deep conviction in and of itself will not bring CHANGE. That conviction has to lead to a…
Thomas Carlyle stated, “Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into commitment.”
Saying we need to do something about a crisis and actually doing something about it means we must move from conviction to a deep, long term commitment to do it.
Your marriage may be in a crisis and you are convicted to do something about it, but that conviction must lead to a long term commitment to work on it.
Your addiction may be your crisis and you are convicted to do something about it but that conviction must lead to a long term commitment to work on it.
The three boys conviction led to a powerful commitment that “Even if God doesn’t save us, we want to make it clear, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”
When conviction turns into a commitment, then it will cost us something and that is why we are afraid of committing.
I love what Ken Blanchard says, “There’s a difference between interest and commitment. When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient. When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses – only results.”
Most Christians live between the line of conviction and commitment. We understand what needs to happen but are afraid to commit. Why? Because we know it will cost us something. We are more interested than committed.
Living with conviction but without commitment is a miserable place to set up house.
There is a cost to ending poverty. (It will cost you your cash)
There is a cost to fighting injustice. (It will cost you some courage)
There is a cost to working on your marriage (It will cost you some time)
There is a cost to overcoming anger (It will cost you your pride)
There is a cost to overcoming an addiction (It will cost you some short term pleasure and accountability)
There is a cost to sponsoring a child in Africa. (It will cost you a few cups of coffee or an upgrade on your iphone)
There is a cost to surrendering your life to God (It will cost you your will)
There is always a cost to making a commitment that leads to significant change and that cost leads to consequences
You might lose friends.
You might miss out on temporary pleasures.
You might be unpopular.
You might have to simplify your life.
You might risk looking a fool.
You might risk failure.
For the three Jewish boys the potential consequence was literal death.
But as Criss Jami says, “If you build the guts to do something, anything, then you better save enough to face the consequences.”
THE REST OF THE STORY:
The boys don’t bow.
The king gives them another chance.
They still don’t bow.
They get thrown into the blazing furnace.
An angel joins them in the fire.
They don’t get burned.
The king sees all of this and orders them to come back out.
They come out and don’t even smell like smoke.
And this CRISIS that exposed these three boys CONVICTION which led to a courageous COMMITMENT where they counted the COST and were willing to suffer the CONSEQUENCES created a miraculous CHANGE that not even Shadrach, Meshach or Abednego could ever had imagined.
Because of this process the 3 boys were willing to go through, the king does a 180.
The king goes from telling everyone that they must worship his statue to no matter what race, nation or language they must now worship and bow down to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and if they don’t he will have them torn limb from limb and their houses will be turned into heaps of rubble. (The king has discovered the real God, but has some work to do with understanding grace and how to work with people.)
The point is, it’s only when we are willing, in a CRISIS, to go through this process of CONVICTION, COMMITMENT, COST and CONSEQUENCES that real CHANGE can happen.
We actually have very little control of change.
But we do have control over the process.
We can’t even imagine the changes that God will do if we are willing to go through the process of change.
All of us, in one area of our life are facing a crisis of some kind and the question is: “Are we willing to go through the process of change to get to the other side?”
Think about the adrenaline rush and new found faith of the boys who could never have imagined the change but were willing to be faithful through the process no matter how difficult got.
The Babylonians could change their names, but they couldn’t change their hearts.
Think about the other ones who understood the crisis, had a conviction but didn’t commit. They bowed and they lived but didn’t experience the miracle. They were interested but not committed
That’s why Margaret Mead once wrote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Are you willing to be faithful to the process?
You see, at the beginning of creation there was a CRISIS, sin had separated us from God, but God had a deep CONVICTION that he so loved the world that he made a COMMITMENT to send his one and only son and the COST was the torture and death of his one and only son and the CONSEQUENCES were that for two days, Satan thought he had won, but CHANGE happened on that third day, when his one and only Son rose from the dead, defeated death once and for all, covered our sin with his blood, took our punishment for our rebellion and now his mercy and Grace rules and we are born again into eternal life!