The Back Page – But If Not

The Back Page

But If Not

We all wish God would answer our prayers with a “Yes!” Whether for a job, relief from pain,
recovery of health, or finances, when we cry out to God, we hope he answers the way we ask. The same
when we seek God’s blessing on our church and its ministries. Here at Second Cape we want to know the
Lord and make him known. We wish our worship and work to be well-received.
Often God does answer in positive ways. But not always. Daniel’s three friends faced a crisis—they
had to choose between worshiping a golden image or being burned. The way Hananiah, Mishael, and
Azariah reacted to their crisis provides a pattern for when we face one of our own:
1) They committed to do what was right, regardless of consequences. Idolatry is always
wrong; they refused to bow.
2) They feared God more than man, and said so. They served the king well while they could,
but when he stepped outside of his sphere of authority they responded, “We have no need to
answer you in this matter.”
3) They never doubted that God could save them.
4) Since the king had pitted himself against God (“who is the god that will deliver you out of
my hands?”), they believed that God would save them.
5) But we never know for sure how God will answer. God is God. They did not allow their
faith to become presumption. So they added a terse “But if not (א֔ל ן֣ ָ הְֵו “,(we will not worship your
image anyway.
What maturity! Will we commit ourselves to practice truth despite any consequences of doing so?
Will we trust God’s ability and good-will, without presuming that we know how he will answer, or that
we can demand our own way? Will we seek his deliverance, “but if not” trust him anyway?
Chet Bitterman, a missionary in Columbia, was captured by revolutionaries in 1981. They demanded
that SIL leave their land. Christians around the world prayed for his release, many believing that God
would miraculously intervene. But Chet was executed.
Jesus prayed, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me. But if not,
your will be done.”

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