willis-breaking-chains_web.jpgFaith rescues during struggle, while it builds resolve, and following resolve we find an increase in resources.

Military service during the Vietnam War era underwent a change. Prior to the Sixties, men were forced to serve due to the draft system. All able-bodied “men” had to register for the U.S. draft. Black men made up a disproportionate number of the draft then. Some, like the world boxing champion Muhammad Ali, protested the draft system because they thought men should be able to choose to serve. Serving, many felt should be a matter of choice and, like Ali, many chose instead to go to jail or to flee to Canada.

Today partly because of the resolve of those protestors, we now have an all-volunteer Army made up of men and women. This advancement in society is due to a faith that rescued and a resolve which created greater resources for our military.  
One’s faith should be seen even before one’s struggle. For instance, before the fiery furnace faith rescued Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego just before being thrown into the fire, they spoke boldly to King Nebuchadnezzar, of their rescue: “But even if He (God) does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”  (Daniel 3:18) Here we can see their faith in God before they are sent to the furnace.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego showed faith during the king’s interrogation. They knew they had no need to say anything and that soon their deeds would speak louder than words. Faith has nothing do with ability or gifts; it has to do with courage and spiritual strength.

Often we are told by God in the scripture to “be strong” (Joshua 1:9; 1 Cor. 6:13). People’s weakness, their stupidity, forgetfulness, cowardice, vanity, corruptibility, tempt-ability are a greater danger than evil. For Christ was sent by God not only to make people “good” but also to make us strong.

Faith builds our resolve to fight.  When one commits to show faith in struggle one also shows trust in God. This commitment creates resolve in us to face the problem. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were all willing to face death for their faith, so they went singing hymns into the fire.  Once in the fire, an angel came to rescue them, as the king looked on. In Daniel (3:25) Nebuchadnezzar said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

Many scholars believe the inspiration behind Daniel Chapter 3 comes from the Prophet Isaiah (43:1-2), where he said, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; and the flames will not consume you.”  

After showing this type of faith even before our struggles begin, we can resolve like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to stand our ground in the midst of our own fiery furnaces then watch what happens. New resources soon follow.

First, the king himself in Daniel (3:28) praised God whom he witnessed in the form of an angel rescuing Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the furnace. Further on we read in Daniel (3:30), “The king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.” They were all promoted into leadership. Their faith had rescued them, their resolve comforted them and all this led them to greater resources.

When faith strengthens resolve and struggle settles in our spirits, greater resources soon follow. Such faith may result in difficult choices and decisions and that may even change our personal state from freedom to imprisonment, as it did in the case of Muhammad Ali. But God always sends an angel to our rescue. Ali’s faith and resolve led to greater resources. Once set free, he became just what God had told him he would and as he told us he would: “The Greatest” boxer in history.

The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door at 6001 NW Eighth Ave., Miami.  To contact the church, call 305-759-0373 or e-mail the pastor, pastor@churchoftheopendoormiami.org.