Safety on Our Minds
November 16, 2017 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
When Erin and I committed to spend one year teaching at Cameroon Baptist Theological Seminary, some of our family members questioned the wisdom of subjecting our children to the risks of living in Africa for that extended period of time. Our five boys ranged in ages from one year old up to nine years old. We had to be immunized for all kinds of diseases, uncommon in America. The nearest hospital to our home was a three hour car ride on an extremely bumpy road. The water was unsafe to drink. All meat had to be soaked in bleach water to kill any potential parasites. All of our clothing had to be ironed to kill eggs and larva of bugs, which would love the opportunity to burrow into our skin. Yes, that included the cloth diapers for our one year old.
Was it safe to bring our children into this environment?
Safety is an American ideal. We have vast resources to keep us safe from all sorts of risks. And if we have the resources available, it would be considered foolish not to avail ourselves of these resources. In fact, it is illegal in some instances not to use safety measures (i.e. seatbelt laws).
I’m all in favor of wisely pursuing safety. Scripture, however, never proposes safety as our chief goal. While not compromising a wise pursuit of safety, we cannot allow fears of potential risks to drive our ultimate decisions.
The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3 is one of the most beloved stories in the Bible for children’s ministry. The response of these three friends to the imposing Nebuchadnezzar gives us a beautiful example of affirming God’s power and sovereignty, while not compromising conviction for the sake of safety. Consider their words in Daniel 3:16-18:
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 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. 18 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." (ESV)
Three things to highlight from their response:
- They affirm the power and ability of God to keep them “safe.” These three men knew their God. They grew up hearing the stories of God’s powerful deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. God parted the Red Sea; he can certainly “part” the flames of this furnace. At the end of the day, all of our efforts to secure our safety are in God’s hands, not ours. Seat belts certainly save lives in auto accidents, but they are not 100% full-proof. We do not put our faith in seat belts (we use them!); we trust in the God who is able to do all things.
- They affirm the freedom of God. Notice the three words at the beginning of verse 18… “But if not…” While God is able to protect us from every harm, he is free to do as he pleases. Our physical safety in this life is not God’s primary goal. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego understood this and believed it.
- They do not compromise the ultimate goal of serving God alone for the secondary goal of safety. Their last statement to Nebuchadnezzar emphasizes their commitment to “have no other gods before” Yahweh. There are greater motivations than safety that must drive our ultimate decisions.
As safety becomes a central concern for our nation, let’s be faithful like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to our ultimate commitment to our God. I’m not advocating for us to foolishly throw off safety measures; I believe Scripture calls us to be cautious in making an idol of safety.
Dale Ralph Davis, in his commentary on Daniel, points us to God’s mysterious working through dangers and harms, “He does not always shield you from all distresses and dangers, but it is in the loneliness, in the betrayal, in the loss that the Fourth Man comes and walks with you. He has the knack of both exposing you to, yet keeping you through, waters and rivers and fire (cf. Is. 43:2-3)” (page 57). Our safety is not God’s ultimate goal; he aims for our ever-increasing trust and delight in him.