But if not…

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For a long time I couldnt understand why God didnt get me out of prison. Id been faithful to Him for years. I went to all the chapel programs, sang in the choir, and attended Bible study regularly. I prayed every day, thanked God before every meal, and witnessed to all the men in my dormitory. I was a light in a dark place. But all my attempts to get out of prison were denied.

Why, Lord? Why? I asked. Don’t You love me?

Then one day while I was reading a story in the Bible about three Hebrew boys, God spoke to my heart. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had been kidnapped from their home and taken into captivity in Babylon. The king threatened to throw them into a ery furnace unless they bowed to the idol he had constructed. Yet even in the face of such a horrible death, they trusted God. They told the king,

“Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnance, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” –Dan. 3:17-18, NKJV, emphasis mineThese young men believed God could deliver them from the fiery furnance. But even if He didn’t, they were determined to be faithful to Him. They’d rather die in integrity than live in iniquity.

Perhaps the key to their willingness to sacri ce their lives for God can be found in three little words: but if not. -These three words do not ask how a loving God can treat us so unfairly or why He chooses not to intervene in our tragedies. Instead they reflect the attitude expressed in Ro. 11:34-35:

Who has known the mind of the Lord?  Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?The words but if not recognize that we are unable to advise God or to criticize His ways.

He alone possesses absolute wisdom. He is the just and merciful one. He is the power that sustains and rules, and we depend on Him completely in all things. He works out everything for His glory, and He deserves our praise–whether or not He frees us from difficult circumstances.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the re for worshiping God; Im in prison for breaking the law. In spite of how I got here, God is still able to deliver me if He wants. But He may choose not to. The question is, Will I respond to my situation the same way Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did? Will I trust God completely

and let Him use me for His purpose regardless of my circumstances?

God loves me. He sent His Son to endure an agonizing death on the cross to prove it. So no matter what my situation is, I can rejoice because Christ alone brings the victory, not my circumstances. His blood shed for my sins won the battle, and my eternal future is guaranteed. God promises that whatever happens to me, wherever I am, I can never be separated from His love (Ro. 8:35-39).

But if not . . . Adopting the attitude behind those words enables me to trust God without a guarantee of deliverance. And it allows me to look at my prison furnace diff erently. e crucible becomes a rening pot. The razor-wire fences that man designed to keep me in become the method God is using to help me nd the way outfrom death to eternal life. Now thats worthy of praise.

about the author

ROY A. BORGES is a chapel clerk and the author of Faith and Love behind Prison Fences (PublishAmerica). Someday he would like to travel the world telling churches about prison life.

Copyright © Discipleship Journal. Used by permission of Discipleship Journal. Copyright © Sept/Oct. 2006, Issue 155, The Navigators. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. www.navpress.com

1 thought on “But if not…”

  1. Thank God for Broher Roy’s understanding of God’s right to do anything he chooses and for sharing it. I’m blessed and encouraged by it.
    I don’t even know why and how I got here. But to God be the glory for it. I think it served a purpose. I was reading “The Message Bible”, turned the back cover page and saw a web address and felt like looking it up and by default found this blog.
    As a matter of fact I’m on a 21 day fasting because of an ugly situation in my family which I feel is a shame to God to not have delivered us from. But after reading this arthcle I had to ask God to forgive me for even ever questioning him. Now I stand with Roy, ane the three Hebrew boys, to say “I know that God can save me from this shame, ‘But Even If'”.
    Thank you. May God keep helpinh his people.


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