PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
What a story! It’s a page from Scripture revealing God’s willingness to deliver from a fiery tempest! We need a citation like this because God’s people constantly need rescuing from difficulty. Sometimes Christians need relief from the verbal attacks of others. You’re being maligned or wrongly accused. At other times people need rescuing from unclean habits, impure thoughts, mental oppression, or from emotional heaviness. There are times when we need deliverance from stress, unnatural attachments, or bitterness, or unforgiveness.
The Good News is this: 1 Peter 2:9 says, “the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials.” Notice those notice four words: “The Lord knows how.” Nothing puzzles God from rescuing His people: “The Lord knows how”! It means Jesus is in the liberating business and it’s why 1 John 3:8 says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”
Do you realize the entire human race is seeking deliverance from something? That’s why pharmacies are crammed with antidepressants and pain relievers. It’s why there’s such a demand for psychologists, psychiatrists, and sociologists. People are trying to escape problems, pressure, and pain. And people need help whether they’re saints or sinners. There are tests, temptations, accusations, illnesses, and storms that everyone encounters. We contend with forces at every point. But the Good News is, there’s a clear “Theology of Deliverance” that permeates Scripture. For example:
- Genesis, the Bible’s first book, reveals that God delivers the earth from darkness and chaos.
- Exodus shows God’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage.
- Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy reveal God’s release from sin.
- The twelve historical books, Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Esther, Nehemiah, and Ruth, reveal how God rescues His people from their enemies.
- The Poetical books of Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon, disclose how God frees Believers from affliction, derision, and distress.
- The seventeen books of the Prophets divulge the wondrous mercy of God to deliver His people from backsliding.
And in the New Testament His deliverance continues.
- The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John exhibit the Lord’s deliverance from sickness and pain.
- Acts pours out the Spirit and we’re freed from a complacent lifestyle.
- The twenty-one books of John, Paul, Peter, and Jude reveal how Christ delivers from sin.
- And in the book of Revelation John pictures Christ rapturing His people and loosing them from every evil constraint.
Jesus is in the deliverance business and nothing is beyond His emancipating power!
- I love Psalm 3:8: “From the Lord comes deliverance.”
- Job 5:19 says: “From six calamities He will rescue you; in seven no harm will befall you.”
- Psalm 91:3 says: “Surely he will save you from the Fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.”
God knows how to deliver the oppressed. He’s an expert at deliverance!
- He delivered Moses from the Egyptians, Joshua from the Canaanites, and Samson from the Philistines. He’s an expert at deliverance!
- He delivered David from a giant, Elisha from a king, and Gideon from an army. He’s an expert at deliverance!
- He delivered Peter from the tempest, Paul from the storm, and Noah from the flood. He’s an expert at deliverance!
- He delivered the widow from oppression, Elijah from depression, and the demoniac from possession. He’s an expert at deliverance!
Simon Peter was right when he said, “the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials.”
Deliverance—the Heart of Christ’s Ministry
In my study of twentieth century church history I am persuaded the church manifested a clear expression of the heart of Christ’s ministry during the 1940’s and 1950’s with the “healing evangelists” and the “deliverance ministries.” I’m not being nostalgic because I can only relate to these ministries by study. I wasn’t personally associated with the movement. Here’s why I believe that: Jesus described His ministry in Luke 4:18 in terms of deliverance when He said: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, (19) to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
- That’s what Jesus commissioned the 12 Apostles to do. He commanded them to: “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, [and] drive out demons.”
- That what He commissioned the 70 Elders to do—heal the sick and deliver the oppressed.
- And then, before His ascension into Heaven, He broadened the scope to include every Believer when He said: “When you go lay hands on the sick, cast out devils, and set the captives free” (Matthew 28; Mark 16).
If Jesus were here in the flesh today, His ministry would be just as successful as it was 2000 years ago. That’s because sick bodies still need healing, troubled minds still need peace, and sinful souls still need forgiveness.
(Transition) For the next few minutes let’s revisit an incredible act of deliverance that occurred in Daniel 3 when a Babylonian king attempted to incinerate three Hebrew Believers.
The Hebrews in the Fiery Furnace
It wasn’t like Babylon lacked graven images because idols pervaded the land. Yet at Nebuchadnezzar’s command, an additional image was erected—one that soared ninety feet into the air. After its construction, Nebuchadnezzar decreed that the nation venerate it. Music would sound and anyone refusing to bow would be burned. When the instruments sounded everyone, from the least to the greatest, fell and worshiped. That is, almost everyone. And Nebuchadnezzar was quickly apprised. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were immediately summoned before this monarch where he opened His monologue in disbelief. He couldn’t imagine insolence from three officials. Turn to Daniel 3 and let’s read.
Now that’s steadfast profession! And it’s a declaration God wants from Believers. He wants an unashamed, unwavering confession even if the whole nation renounces God. He’s looking for a boldness in Believers that’s willing to defy the world regardless of the consequences.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew the Scriptures. They understood God’s prohibition against idolatry. And they had no intention of violating that command. They didn’t have to convene and decide a course of action. They knew the second of the Ten Commandments prohibited bowing to graven images so that settled it! Their duty was to honor God even at the cost of death.
That’s the disposition God expects from us today when society pressures us to “Coexist” and bow before the gods of “political correctness.” When social values violate the principles of Scripture it’s not our prerogative to improvise in the name of “Tolerance.” “Thou shall not,” means, “Thou shall not!” And there’s often a “cross to bear” and a “price to pay.”
I’m convinced the reason the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego doesn’t appear in our behalf more often is because we haven’t “captured their convictions”! If you want to experience miracle-deliverance like these three men, you have to “claim their convictions” and dare Satan to push you in the fire! But this type of commitment has consequences. The Bible says the bold resolve of these three Hebrews against Nebuchadnezzar so angered him that “the visage of his face was changed” against them! That’s when he commanded his troops to heat the furnace seven times hotter than normal. The heat was so intense that Nebuchadnezzar’s strongest soldiers died as they bound and threw the Hebrews into the blaze.
Here they were, bound and hurled into the tempest, while this pyromaniac lectured on the consequences of insubordination. I can imagine the speech. Pointing to the flames he intoned: “Here’s what happens to rebellion in Babylon,” but his speech trailed off because there was movement within the flames. His plan was now melting! Nebuchadnezzar inquired of his counselors: “Weren’t there three men bound and thrown into the fire?” They answered, “Yes.” But I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the flames, and they have no hurt. And the fourth man looks like a son of the gods.”
That’s as close as a heathen king can come to identifying Christ; but that’s close enough! In one breath he asked, “Who is that god who can deliver you out of my hands?” and in the next breath he answered, “the Son of God has delivered you out of my hand.” Folks, Jesus is an expert at Deliverance! When you’re in the fire He can insulate you. When your back is pinned against that wall He can peel you off! When you’re at the end of your rope He has a safety net to cushion your fall. If you want God’s intervention or need the burden lifted, then make an intractable, irrevocable commitment to His Word. Because when you do, Christ will show up! He cannot deny Himself.
Why the Hebrews weren’t Overcome
Do you know why Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego weren’t consumed by these flames? Because you can’t be overcome by something if you don’t submit to it! They wouldn’t submit to the world system, so the world system couldn’t destroy them. And if you don’t conform to the world, it can’t dominate you.
Some of you may be thinking about the passage in Hebrews 11:37 that mentions those that “were stoned, sawed in two . . . killed with the sword . . . [and wandered] about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated.” Maybe you’re thinking these people were overcome by the world system. But they were not! Psalm 34:19 says: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him from them all.” That means even when we are delivered unto death and martyred, God is there to take us into His presence. When Stephen was stoned by the mob, Christ rose from the throne, rushed to his side, and ushered Stephen into heaven. So the world never overcomes Christians, even in death.
Some of you haven’t claimed your deliverance. You’ve been tormented with something you assumed was your “lot in life.” Perhaps it’s been a recurring temptation, an unshakable habit, volatile emotions, constant oppression, heaviness, unnatural attachments, stress, or whatever. Let me assure you that Christ doesn’t expect you to stay that way! He’s made a way of escape and He offers you peace and joy.
I want to close by noting another point about Christ and life’s problems. Jesus stays in trouble! You heard me right. Jesus stays “in trouble” so He can deliver you when you get in trouble. That’s what this story in Daniel 3 discloses: (1) Nebuchadnezzar threw three men in the fire; (2) When he peered into the fire, Nebuchadnezzar counted four men; and (3) when the men exited the flames, only three emerged; (4) That leaves One. But He’s not altogether unaccounted for. The Fourth Man—Jesus—remained in the fire, to walk with you in your time of trouble. And Christ is an expert at deliverance.