By Nathan C. Vance
September 23, 2017 is fast approaching. It is a day that some Christians are pointing to as astrology could align with the Bible, specifically Revelation 12. For those who hold this belief, this event would point toward the beginning of the end…of everything. September 23 is of great significance as this date in 2015 marked the beginning of a Jubilee and marked the beginning of the astrological event that many believe will be fulfilled this year. By September 23, we will have seen complete devastation caused by two more severe hurricanes in North and Central America. Whether or not these scholars are correct about this date, I think all would agree that something strange is happening on a massive scale.
In my last post, Learning from the Widow, I talked about the references in Luke chapter 21 as a sign of the times. My views haven’t changed. I still don’t know what an eclipse, 4 blood moons, multiple category 5 hurricanes on top of each other, earthquakes, tsunamis, wild fires, nuclear threats, the occupation and possible destruction of Damascus, and the possibility of Israel reuniting Jerusalem as its capital, mean. I can say with all certainty that this is a unique time in history. We absolutely have the means to destroy this planet in war. We have technology growing so rapidly that consumers struggle to keep up. Knowledge and access to knowledge is increasing at a rate exponential to what was even a decade ago. Stop and think that our cell phones are far superior to the home computers that many of us used at the turn of the century. And now, we are beginning to see the world shake. We may not know the day or the hour, but the Bible gives us clues, and it’s my belief that the season is upon us. This generation is different than any other in human history, and the signs are pointing to the fulfillment of prophecy. Wow, scary right?
Recently a thought keeps going through my mind that I know is from God. Focus on me! It seems that everything I read reveals this same concept, to look beyond what I can see with my five senses and focus on God. These same sentiments were echoed in my piece about the widow. For those of you that missed it, my point was that we are coming to a day where we have to be willing to trust God with our everything. He is my comfort in these crazy times! Too often, we try to do everything based on our goodness and our effort. I’m so guilty of this. I have always been extremely confident in my abilities, but fatherhood has given me new perspective; I can’t always be in control. I have to send my child to day care and pre-school and grandparents and I am powerless to protect him when I’m not with him. Because of him, I see how small I really am. I trust God with my son’s protection. And with that truth, I can now see that this world is so much bigger than me. Too often, I still question God rather than focus on him, but, little by little, I am starting to change.
I manage a hotel. During the solar eclipse, my guests, my staff, and I stood in unity in the parking lot. I looked around and everyone was in awe. What a majestic event. And, as I stared through my glasses into the sky, I noticed something. In that time and on that day, as we focused our attention on the sun, there was no disagreement, discord, or discontentment. No one wasted time propagandizing their agenda. The moment was bigger than all of that. For that time, we were all just human. Our differences and our problems seemed insignificant because there was something far greater to focus on. Even Twitter took a break from its overwhelming division & negativity. It was such a refreshing day!
What’s the point?
We spend so much time worrying about every aspect of life and we spend so little time focusing on the solution. In Zechariah 4:6-7 it says, “Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’”
So, I’m beginning to see clearly what God wants from me. He wants me to focus on him so he can go win the battle. He wants me to focus and trust him so that he can protect me. He wants me to focus on him so that he can prosper me. He wants me to get out of his way and realize that he is God and I am not. Easy right? If you’re like me, this is a wonderful teaching, but I need to see it applied before I’m willing or able to follow it.
I told you that everywhere I look and everything I read keeps pointing me to this same truth, right? So I wasn’t surprised when my wife came from a Bible study that dealt with the same thought. My Sister-in-law hosted the Bible study and their topic was from Daniel chapter 3. If you’re not familiar with this passage, I’ll quickly fill you in. Israel was in Babylonia captivity. The King of the land was Nebuchadnezzar. He made a golden likeness for himself and decreed that all in the kingdom fall and worship him when they heard the sound of the horn. Those who refused would be put to death in a fiery furnace. Three Israelites named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship any God other than the God of Israel. They were brought to Nebuchadnezzar who was furious and insisted they tell him why they wouldn’t worship his likeness and demanded they do so.
It would have been easy to lose sight of God and to begin to focus on their situation. They could have devised a plan of escape. They could have begged for mercy. They could have denied their God and obeyed the furious king. They could have done many things, but they refused the demands of the king and focused on God. In Daniel 3:17-18 it says, “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
That’s incredible faith. It’s faith that is only possible when we tune out everything else and focus in on God. It’s only possible when you have spent time in the word and in prayer; when the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob has become real to you. These Israelites didn’t know of God, they knew God!
The best example I have of this type of focus on God was Peter walking to Jesus on the water. He knew Jesus well and knew that with him, Peter could do anything. As long as Peter fixed his eyes on Jesus, he was able to do the impossible, to walk on water. As soon as he looked away, he was sunk. Peter’s God was bigger and more powerful than the water! The days that we are in and those still approaching will require us to have this type of faith, where we are so fixed on God, that we can face the incredible storms of life without looking away. That we can go forward boldly when there seems to be no place to go. That we can trust him with our everything in every circumstance.
So now the question is, did God keep the faithful Israelites from going into the furnace?
Well, why not?
He went into the fire with them and they were unharmed. The Bible says that a fourth man appeared in the furnace. His name is Jesus! Having seen this and been amazed, in verse 29 Nebuchadnezzar declared to all of Babylon that anyone who spoke against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would be torn limb from limb and their house left in ruin. Then he went on to give Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego promotions!
God could have easily spared them from the fire, but he had a larger purpose in mind. Because they focused on him rather than their circumstance God was able to show the world his power. And because of their faith they were promoted in a foreign land. They knew that the battle was the Lords! I can’t change my circumstances, I can’t walk on water, and I can’t survive a fire, but it’s not my might or power, but by the Holy Spirit says the Lord! The faith of the widow is possible when our focus is on God.