God’s Presence Sustains His People

The Gospel Project® for Adults   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  36:41
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The Gospel Project® for Adults
Leader Guide ESV, Unit 16, Session 1
© 2019 LifeWay Christian Resources
Permission granted to reproduce and distribute within the license agreement with purchaser.
Summary and Goal
Though leaders come and go, God remains.
This session extols God’s unlimited power and goodness while reminding us that our faith glorifies His name.
Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, along with Daniel, grew in their commitment to Yahweh despite their harsh surroundings (1:8-21).
After Daniel interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (2:31-45), these men oversaw Babylonian affairs under the names Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
When commanded to worship the king’s golden image, these faithful servants refused. Through their unwavering resolve, we learn that our God is always with us and that He glories in our faith.
Session Outline
++God’s people [Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah] have faith that He is all-powerful, sovereign, and good (Dan. 3:13-18).
++God’s presence is with His people at their time of greatest need (Dan. 3:24-27).
++God [shows His glory] through the faith of His people (Dan. 3:28-30).
Background Passage: Daniel 1–3
Session in a Sentence
God is present with His people and sustains them through trials so that He [might show His glory] through their faith.
Christ Connection
The same God who was all-powerful, faithful, and present with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah [Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego] in the flames will also deliver us through His Son, who is with us in the fiery trials of life and who saves us from the punishment for our sin.
Missional Application
Because we have confidence that God is with us, we can trust in God’s power as we embrace a countercultural lifestyle, regardless of what the short-term outcome may be.
Group Time
(DDG, p. 11)
For the author, the worst crisis he ever had, he says, “… was my son’s cancer diagnosis just two weeks shy of his fourth birthday. When the doctor said, “Leukemia,” my wife and I instantly froze in fear. In that moment, God seemed distant, and even uncaring. Little did we know, however, that the next three years would deepen our faith and broaden our awareness of God’s presence in our lives.”
Have you ever faced harsh realities in your life that left you feeling as if God were distant and uncaring?
(be prepared to give an answer of your own to jump-start the conversation)
second paragraph in the DDG (p. 11)
Sometimes God delivers His people out of their trials. After one hundred twenty-eight weeks of chemotherapy, the author’s son was cancer free and thriving. he said, “We praise the Lord for His gracious, healing touch that took our burden away. Even more importantly, however, we learned that God sustains us throughout our suffering regardless of its outcome. The lengthy duration of our family’s trial left us living in limbo for years before relief came. With no resolution in sight, God taught us that He is not only present when His people hurt but He is also enough. Having God in our lives is better than just having the results we desire.”
Though circumstances come and go, God remains. This session extols God’s unlimited power and goodness while reminding us that our faith glorifies His name.
Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, along with Daniel, grew in their commitment to Yahweh despite their harsh surroundings (1:8-21).
After Daniel interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (2:31-45), these men oversaw Babylonian affairs under the names Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
When commanded to worship the king’s golden image, these faithful servants refused. Through their unwavering resolve, we learn that our God is always with us and that He glories in our faith.

Point 1: God’s people have faith that He is all-powerful, sovereign, and good (Dan. 3:13-18)

Read: Ask a volunteer to read Daniel 3:13-18 (DDG p. 12).
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
16 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.”
DDG (p. 12)
Life in Babylon was difficult for God’s exiles. In that land, narcissistic Nebuchadnezzar erected a pagan statue to his unrivaled authority, and that idol served as a test of the loyalty of the king’s subjects. “Bow or burn,” he said. Obviously, no dedicated follower of Yahweh could obey this idolatrous edict, regardless of the cost.
Doubting the character and strength of God is at the root of every temptation and sin.
Every disobedient shortcut reveals our lack of assurance that the Lord can and will do what He promises.
In the garden of Eden, Satan questioned the motive behind God’s one food restriction and dismissed the Creator’s power to enforce His law. Because Adam and Eve lost confidence in their Maker’s goodness and authority, they succumbed to the serpent’s seduction (Gen. 3:1-7).
Our transgressions follow a similar pattern. On the other hand, when we understand and believe that God is powerful and good, we find the courage to trust Him despite life’s burdens, distractions, and enticements.
In what ways does our culture tempt us to compromise our faith?
(we are challenged to follow the lead of the culture instead of the truth of God’s Word; rejecting the ideals of the culture likely will result in ridicule and even rejection of you; it is considered taboo to share the gospel and to call out sin from a biblical perspective)
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image, communicating their profound faith in God’s sovereignty over and goodness in their lives. Though these men knew God could deliver them, their course of action was not dependent upon the certainty of what their Master chose to do. Foundational to their profound display of faith was the conviction that God is always working for the good of His children, even if it is not obvious how.
Affirming with words that God is powerful, sovereign, and good is not difficult, but living according to this belief can be.
Knowing God has a perfect plan will not necessarily lessen the pain or frustration we feel when hardships interrupt the rhythm of our lives.
The question at hand is not whether these incidents will arise but how we will respond when they do.

Ultimately, our view of God sets the tone for our hope in every crisis, our strength in every temptation, and our courage against all hostilities.

The profound conviction that God was working for their good prevented Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah [Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego] from despairing even as death taunted them. It will do the same for us.
Biblical faith is the resting, or trusting, in Christ alone for salvation (John 3:16-21). More than being simply a mental agreement of historical facts,
Fill in the blanks: DDG (p. 12)
Faith: Genuine faith begins with a recognition and confession of the truth of the gospel(1 John 4:13-16), followed by a receiving of Christ as Lord and Savior of one’s life (John 1:10-13). Biblical faith is not blind faith.

Point 2: God’s presence is with His people at their time of greatest need (Dan. 3:24-27)

Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah [Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego] refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image, provoking his fierce wrath. After ordering the heat of his furnace increased, the impulsive dictator had the three Hebrew men tied up and tossed into the fire. Even the Babylonian guards carrying out the king’s command died from the excessive heat (3:19-23). The death of God’s faithful servants seemed certain as they fell into the inferno.
Read Daniel 3:24-27 (DDG p. 13).
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them.
The first paragraph in the DDG (p. 13)
God powerfully brought these men out of their plight. When the Lord carries us through our adversities, whether by miraculous or ordinary means, His presence with us is undeniable.
The records and experiences of God’s presence through trials remind us that never will we experience the coming storm of God’s judgment. Because of Christ’s sacrificial work on the cross, the fires of God’s wrath will never consume us.
All scenarios do not have the same conclusion found here.
Sometimes God heals and preserves;
sometimes suffering remains for a lifetime, whether long or short.
He may seem distant, and even negligent, in the present. Yet whether we sense His presence with us or not, God has said that never will He abandon or forsake His children (Heb. 13:5).
Hebrews 13:5 (NASB95)
5 ... for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”
In God’s omniscience, He knows whether or not relief from suffering is our greatest need, and God is committed to giving us what we need to bring us closer to Him. The Lord’s hand may not be apparent to us now, but He is always working for our good (Rom. 8:28), and we understand that God will make all things new one day.
How has God’s presence changed your outlook on trials, even when your circumstances remained the same?
(be prepared to give an answer of your own to jump-start the conversation)
The second paragraph in the DDG (p. 13)
The presence of a fourth man in the fire is a vivid reminder that God is present to comfort us on our most difficult days (see Isa. 43:1-3; 2 Cor. 1:3-5). Before the Lord delivered these men out of the fire, He chose to be with them in the fire.
God does not always remove our troubles, but He remains active in them nonetheless. He refuses to forsake us when the path of difficulty is His chosen course for our lives. Had these three Jewish heroes remained in the fire to perish on that day, God would have stayed with them until the end.
Voices from Church History
“Rest assured, there will not be a saint then who will regret having suffered for Christ or borne reproach for His name’s sake; but there will be thousands who would give worlds, were they theirs to give, if they had been but more faithful and devoted while in this scene of testing.” 1 –H. A. Ironside (1876-1951)
· Our Savior will minister to us while the world around us is falling apart. Not only does He bear our burdens for us (Matt. 11:28), He also promises that no tribulation or trial can separate us from His love (Rom. 8:35-39).
Romans 8:35–39 NASB95
35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written, For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
He gives us peace that surpasses understanding when we call out to Him in prayer (Phil. 4:6-7).
Philippians 4:6–7 NASB95
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
When the pain is so deep that we cannot express it with words, the Holy Spirit offers groanings to the Father on our behalf as He intercedes for us according to the will of God (Rom. 8:26-27).
Romans 8:26–27 NASB95
26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
We are never defenseless to the changing circumstances of a fallen world because of God’s enduring presence.
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were joined in the fire by a fourth individual, who had the appearance of a divine being like a son of the gods, who was either a Christophany (a physical appearance of Christ before his incarnation) or an angel (see v. 28). In either case, this is a physical demonstration of God’s presence with believers in their distress, a graphic fulfillment of the Lord’s promise in Isaiah 43:2.
Isaiah 43:2 NASB95
2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.
The Lord promised his presence with his people, ensuring that their trials and difficulties would not utterly overwhelm them.” 2

Point 3: God [shows His glory] through the faith of His people (Dan. 3:28-30).

Read Daniel 3:28-30 (DDG p. 14).
28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
The first paragraph in the DDG (p. 14)
When Nebuchadnezzar observed the miraculous result of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s ironclad commitment to Yahweh, even to death, he could not ignore the majestic power and beauty of the true God. His decree gave testimony to the strength of Israel’s God, even though Babylon’s king remained thoroughly pagan. This incident underscores the profound witness the faith of God’s people can have on those around them. Our lives should always communicate that Christ is strong, good, and holy.
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus not only defined the nature of good works from God’s perspective, He also revealed an end goal of our obedience: that unbelievers would see our good works and glorify our Father who is heaven (Matt. 5:16).
In a similar way, the unwavering faith of a believer who is suffering also reveals the glory of God to those outside of the faith. The moment following Christ becomes costly, non-Christians will take notice.
· Every trial we face is a battleground for proving that our Savior is glorious both because of what He has done and because of who He is. Faithfulness to the Lord in the midst of struggle boldly declares that our relationship with Christ is a treasure without equal. No earthly frustration, even the threat of death, should dismantle our belief that Christ is the only reward we need.
When have you witnessed God’s glory revealed through the faithful suffering of others?
(be prepared to give an answer of your own to jump-start the conversation)
The second paragraph in the DDG (p. 14)
The salvation of these men from the fire further amplified the worship of the true God. In their day, Gentiles from every people, nation, and language were to refrain from dishonoring Yahweh, who delivered His people like no false deity could. But one day, and even now, the nations will gather around the eternal throne of Jesus and take great joy in glorifying God’s sacrificial Lamb for the salvation He provided through the cross (Rev. 7:9-10).
· Just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego prospered for trusting in God’s provision, so too will all believers who gather with their Savior in the new Jerusalem, having been saved from the fire of His judgment (Rev. 21:7; 22:1-5).
One day our faith will become sight at Jesus’ second coming, but we should have no less enthusiasm for glorifying Christ today for the salvation He provides now. In fact, our joy for lifting up the Savior in our words and actions supports our efforts in sharing the gospel. We should not underestimate the persuasive power of a changed life as it points others to Christ. Those who reject our gospel cannot deny its impact when a person truly passes from death to life, from the drudgery of sin to the joy of obedience. Our acts of faith reveal the Lord’s glory so that others might see it and promote it as well. God’s grace for sinners as revealed in the person and work of Christ, borne out in the life of a believer, unveils His glory like nothing else (John 1:14).
What are some ways our faith in Jesus can result in praise to God among the nations?
(we are willing to risk sharing the gospel with others so they may believe in Jesus; faith in the midst of difficult times shows others the supremacy of Christ in our lives; believing in Christ compels us to give and go that the nations may hear the gospel and believe; our faith gives opportunity for God to display His glory in our faithful endurance and His miraculous provision)
My Mission
Explain: The salvation of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego vividly illustrates God’s presence with us as we endure life’s trials. The Lord is not distant to or calloused by our pain. He comforts, sustains, and guides us through the worst possible scenarios. As the world becomes increasingly wicked, we must be willing to face the consequences for holy living without hesitation. As long as the Lord is with us, whom should we fear (Ps. 27:1)? Regardless of the outcomes produced by our earthly troubles, we know that the fire of God’s judgment will never touch us because of the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross. So we can endure temporary heartaches in the life of faith while on mission for the gospel of Christ knowing that God will one day make all things new through His Son. When sin no longer hinders us, we will enjoy God’s presence more fully even as we reign over all that He created (2 Tim. 2:12). Unsinged by the smoky conditions of our past, the future glory revealed in us will make every sacrifice worthwhile.
DDG (p. 15)
Because we have confidence that God is with us, we trust in God’s power as we embrace a countercultural lifestyle, regardless of what the immediate outcome may be.
· How do you need to live by faith in God, trusting that He will work for your good and not your harm?
· What are some ways your group/church can live a countercultural lifestyle for the sake of the gospel?
· What circumstances in your life, either past or present, can you use to point others to Christ?
Voices from the Church
“God has different purposes for His own, and He shows Himself strong and gains glory in different ways throughout each of our lifetimes. And if He allows suffering in our lives, He does for very specific, very important reasons, and He does not do so lightly!” 3 –Joni Eareckson Tada
Close in prayer:
Additional Commentary
Point 1: God’s people have faith that He is all-powerful, sovereign, and good (Dan. 3:13-18).
“The Bible depicts Nebuchadnezzar as the evil king that destroyed Jerusalem and God’s temple; but this position is mitigated somewhat by the conviction that he, and Babylon, were God’s chosen instruments of punishment on a wayward Judah (Jer. 25:9). In the Book of Daniel, we find a more human Nebuchadnezzar playing the role of pagan despot, stubborn in his own power, but helpless before the God of Israel, and somewhat repentant in response. Daniel’s Nebuchadnezzar serves as an example and a warning to all men of power—appropriate for all times, including today.” 4
“The three Jews knew very well that bowing down to the image would break the first two of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:3-6), and they remain unshaken in their resolve to obey the Lord alone. Their response sounds quite defiant: ‘we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter’ (3:16-17). But read properly, it becomes evident that they are replying to Nebuchadnezzar’s question. In effect they are saying that they do not need to verbally defend God. Nebuchadnezzar has questioned God’s power, and God is capable of answering even this daunting challenging. But even if God chooses not to rescue his people, they will trust him alone and not worship the Babylonian gods, the statue or anything it represents (3:18). This statement is not evidence of a lack of faith in their God’s power to save them. Rather it shows submission to God’s sovereignty by allowing for the fact that God in his mysterious wisdom may choose not to rescue them. This is a risk they are willing to take. They would rather obey God and lose their lives than obey human orders that are contrary to God’s.” 5
Point 2: God’s presence is with His people at their time of greatest need (Dan. 3:24-27).
“The flames from the superheated furnace killed the men who took the three Jews to it, but Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not killed. Instead, when Nebuchadnezzar peered into the furnace, he saw them walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed. And he also saw a fourth person who looked ‘like a son of the gods’ (Dan. 3:25). It is not difficult to know who that fourth person was. He was Jesus Christ in a preincarnate form—perhaps the form he had when he appeared to Abraham before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah or in which he wrestled with Jacob beside the brook Jabbok.” 6
“What impressed Nebuchadnezzar most of all was that now the three Jews had been joined by a fourth man, and this one looked like ‘a son of the gods.’ Porteous and the majority of Jewish scholars have identified this person as an angel … However, the expression ‘a son of the gods’ ascribes deity to the being, since an offspring of the gods partakes of the divine nature … The NRSV’s ‘the appearance of a god’ seems to capture the idea well, for the king believed that he had seen no less than a god in the flames with the three Hebrews … The translation of the NIV and most modern versions is to be preferred, since Nebuchadnezzar was polytheistic and had no conception of the Christian Trinity. Thus the pagan king only meant that the fourth figure in the fire was divine. From the Christian perspective, we know that the preincarnate Christ did appear to individuals in the Old Testament. Most likely the fourth man in the fire was the angel of the Lord, God himself in the person of his Son Jesus Christ, a view held by many expositors. It is certainly true that when believers go through fiery trials Christ is with them. The three Hebrews experienced literally the promise, ‘When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze’ (Isa. 43:2).” 7
Point 3: God’s glory is made known through the faith of His people (Dan. 3:28-30).
“Nebuchadnezzar was awestruck as he called out to Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, addressing them as servants of the Most High God (3:26). He had encountered this God as a ‘revealer of mysteries’ before (2:47), but now he encountered him as a deliverer (3:28-29). Unfortunately Nebuchadnezzar did not embrace this God for himself. He merely declared that this God was unique in being able to save his servants and forbade any insults to him on pain of death. The three Hebrew lads had earned the king’s respect and he promoted them (3:30). Interestingly, after the miracle they neither reprimanded the king nor bragged about their faith, as many would do today. It was the Lord’s battle to start with, and the Lord’s opponent, Nebuchadnezzar, had admitted defeat. What more could be said? We hear nothing more of these men in the rest of the book.” 8
“Nebuchadnezzar’s decree served to legitimize Jewish monotheism, but it did not eliminate polytheism. Despite receiving revelation through a miraculous deliverance, Nebuchadnezzar failed to acknowledge the exclusivity of the God of the Hebrews.” 9
1. H. A. Ironside, Daniel: An Ironside Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1920, reprint 2005), 35.
2. Iain M. Duguid and Paul D. Wegner, “Daniel,” in ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 1592, n. 3:24-25.
3. Joni Eareckson Tada, A Place of Healing (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2010), 70.
4. Daniel C. Browning Jr., “Babylon’s King,” Biblical Illustrator (Winter 2016-17): 78.
5. Angukali Rotokha, “Daniel,” in South Asia Bible Commentary, gen. ed. Brian Wintle (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 1094.
6. James Montgomery Boice, Daniel: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008) [Wordsearch].
7. Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, vol. 18 in The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2003) [Wordsearch].
8. Tokunboh Adeyemo, “Daniel,” in Africa Bible Commentary, gen. ed. Tokunboh Adeyemo (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 1022.
9. Stefana Dan Laing, “Daniel,” in The Study Bible for Women (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2014), 1118, n. 3:29-30.
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