The concert was coming very soon and rehearsals were not going smoothly. I am in the choir and I was supposed to perform with about thirty-nine other singers. My prayers about the upcoming performance were simple; “Lord, help me to sing my part well; help me to make a solid contribution.” A few days before the concert, I bumped into the choir director and I wanted to pay her a compliment because I admire the work she does. It came out this way; “You are not afraid to stick your neck out.”
What will happen if the choir performance flops? I along with thirty-nine other singers will be ashamed. What will happen to the choir director if the choir performance flops? Well, that is a whole other level of shame, much beyond my “pay grade.”
I guess that is why my compliment came out the way it did. She is the director of a community choir; she is not paid to do her job. I am guessing here, but maybe she directs the choir because she feels our community needs a good choir. Maybe she just has a pure love of choir music. Maybe she has a gift of knowing how to direct singers, yes maybe she has a God-given talent for directing choirs.
Now her story seems to relate well to J.I. Packer’s third sign about knowing God: those who know God show great boldness for God. Packer refers to the story of Daniel and his friends and he says “they were men who stuck their necks out.” Even though my choir director would probably not place herself in the category of the Old Testament character Daniel, she is not afraid to take on difficult tasks. The music she picks for the choir is not easy and the risk of performing it poorly is very real. She takes good singers and makes them better singers, she instructs all of us how to sing the music, she demands that we perform the music up to a high standard.
Packer says of Daniel and his friends that they were not foolhardy. They knew what the risks were; they counted the cost. Then Packer says this; they acted anyhow, knowing that unless God miraculously intervened, the outcome would be very negative. However, they did not doubt. They knew God would intervene and He did.
King Nebuchadnezzar set up a golden image in the plain of Dura and commanded that all his officials bow down before it. All who failed to do so would be thrown into a blazing furnace. Certain officials informed the king that the three Jewish youths Hanania, Mishael, and Azaria, who bore the Babylonian names Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and whom the king had appointed to high office in Babylon, were refusing to worship the golden statue. The three were brought before Nebuchadnezzar, where they informed the king that their God would be with them. Nebuchadnezzar commanded that they be thrown into the fiery furnace, heated seven times hotter than normal, but when the king looked he saw four figures walking unharmed in the flames, the fourth “like a son of God.” Seeing this, Nebuchadnezzar brought the youths out of the flames and promoted them to high office, decreeing that anyone who spoke against their God should be torn limb from limb.
This story illustrates what Packer says about people who truly know God. People who know God are not afraid to make a stand; they know their position is correct and they are loyal to God. I was blessed this past year to be in the presence of a woman who literally seems to call God into the room when she prays. When she intercedes for others, I feel the power of God as she puts problems before the Lord and petitions God to help those in need. She has such strength. One day she got very emotional about a life situation that was very much unsettled. Here is what she said [I will never forget it]. She said “God says ‘I can’; God says ‘I will”; God says ‘I have’”.
He has already done it. She has that much faith. She knows God will act. God will bring the person she is praying for out of the fiery furnace.
Man can have doubts, but she chose to obey God. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knew other people would see their actions differently, in fact Daniel’s three friends were alone in a sea of people who were willing to bow down to the golden statue, but they did not care to go with the crowd. They accepted the challenge of their faith. They acted, knowing they would be put in the furnace.
God will act through you if you let Him. In fact, God is in constant pursuit of men and women who have hearts for Him, people who are not afraid of a challenge. Packer writes, “nothing in their recorded words suggest that Daniel and his three friends knew what was going to happen or, in the final analysis cared. It was clear to them as to what they personally had to do, and that was enough for them. By this test also we may measure our own knowledge of God.”
Showing great boldness…
A willingness to stick our necks out…