Pressure is one of the driving forces in life. We all face pressures every day, on every side- family pressure, work pressure, financial pressure, health, relationships, deadlines and expectations… and we are compelled to act to release that pressure. Or sometimes that pressure continues to build and build until we explode or we cannot face the pressure and we become anxious and depressed. Sound familiar? The driving force behind pressure is not the expectations that are put upon us, but the fear of failing to meet those expectations. And fear? Fear will cause you to overreact to pressure and make the wrong choice, every time.
The enemy wants to keep you living in pressure so that you never experience the peace of God. That is why Paul’s advice was to worship, pray and stay close to the Lord. (Philippians 4:4-7) Simply put: If you’re living in fear, you are not living in faith. That doesn’t mean that you won’t experience fear- we all do! But the Lord has shown me in my own life this powerful truth: How you respond to the fear and the pressures you’re facing proves the true location and source of your faith and allegiance.
The world will put its pressures on you to force you to bow. The Lord puts His peace on you as you bow in worship. The choice is yours.
In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were put under tremendous pressure, facing a very public life or death decision- to bow before an idol at the king’s command or stand before the Lord and face the king’s wrath. And these three young men weren’t just random people in a corner of the kingdom, they were men whom the king had, “set over the affairs of the province of Babylon.” (Daniel 3:12) Everyone was watching because they were well-known, and well-respected and everyone knew they served the Lord. And now what? Pressure. Everyone is watching and you have a choice to make- to bow your knee to the pressure that other people put on you or stand boldly for the Lord?
What do you do when someone says something in front of you that mocks God’s Word? Or denies it? What do you do when a gay relative invites you to their wedding? What do you do when your children defy your authority? What do you do when you’ve done something wrong and could get caught? What do you do when you’ve had a moral failure? What do you do when someone tells a dirty joke or a TV show crosses the line? What do you do when the world says churches can’t meet together, but the Word of God says to? What do you do when your teenager faces an unwanted pregnancy? These are the things that pressure us all! And we all have a choice…
King Nebuchadnezzar turned the pressure up even more and said this to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: “Is it true that you do not serve my god? … and who is the god that would deliver you from MY hand?” (Daniel 3:14-15) Nebuchadnezzar saw himself as God and was going to take their very lives with his power. And many times the pressure and fear makes us feel like our very lives would be destroyed too… They had a choice to make, and so do each of us.
Thought for today
In the book of Acts, Stephen, a man of great faith and love for the Lord, stood before the Sanhedrin, as Jesus once had, and spoke bold words of truth about the trap of religion that ensnared them. Not every trial is as black and white as bowing before a literal false god! Sometimes, you’ll be faced with the choice to bow emotionally to someone or socially or even in your faith, as Stephen was faced with. “You stiff-necked people!” he cried out. “Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered Him.” (Acts 7:51-52) The result? Stoned to death.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego put it this way: “O king, we have no need to answer you…we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 4:16,18) The refusal to justify your actions is a powerful, strong response, but the pressure to bow will be just as powerful and strong, the heat perhaps even more intense. The result? Tossed into the furnace.
There is a cost to serving the Lord and a penalty for refusing to bow to anyone except for Him. “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated Me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.” (John 15:18-19) But no matter how hard the choice is- you still have one. The world will put its pressures on you to force you to bow. The Lord puts His peace on you as you bow in worship. The choice is yours.
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