Saturday, May 15, 2021

Whenever You Find Yourself In A P.I.T., Seek Jesus - Reflections On Daniel 3 And The Pressures Faced By Young People Today


    In the third chapter of Daniel we see three young men, 18 or so years of age, who are getting ready to endure the greatest test of faith anyone could experience. Before it is all said and done, the young men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abendego (their Babylonian names) will have themselves tossed into a fiery furnace by a tyrannical king by the name of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. It is clear from the start that before they were tossed into the fiery pit of the furnace, they already were exposed to a P.I.T of testing. 

    Every Christian, and especially young people who profess faith in Jesus Christ, will undergo a season or time of being in a P.I.T. In this post today, I want us to briefly look at this account in Daniel 3 to understand the importance of seeking Jesus in your P.I.T.

 1. What is meant by a P.I.T?

    Think with me of three elements that are experienced by anyone undergoing the temptation to renounce their faith in Christ or to seriously question it in light of prevailing skepiticism.

Pressure              Daniel 3:1-7

Intimidation        Daniel 3:8-12

Threatened          Daniel 3:13-15

    It is important to note that a "P.I.T" can be a God-designed test that helps you to see whether or your trust in God is real or fake. As the reader can see from the brief outline above, the Hebrew youths were tested from every conceivable angle. It is vital that when in a P.I.T, that the sufferer gets a hold on God's wisdom from His Word. Wisdom is that God-given ability that enables you to relate to God and others in a Godward direction. 

    So many times in young life, a child that makes a profession of faith will initially express eagerness about the Bible and the things of God. Such expressions can be genuine, but they can also derive from what we could call "an illumination of the soul". When a child becomes cognizant of such things as right and wrong at an early age, they are, in their little child-like way, awakening to what they are by God-given design - a moral being. Little children will then, especially when exposed to the Gospel, exhibit sudden insights - albeit passing ones. Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:2-5,

"And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me."

He then notes in Matthew 18:10-11 - 

    “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven. 11 [For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.]

    Jesus then says later in Matthew 19:13-15 - 

"Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 After laying His hands on them, He departed from there."

    All of these tell us that there is a special kind of God's common grace that accompanies children before they reach the point where they connect their sense of "right and wrong" to how such relates to God in the realm of "righteousness and unrighteousness". Such a common grace is a working of the Spirit that keeps that child tender and "safe". Such common grace, as indicated by Jesus, includes some level of angelic working wherein the child may have insights into the invisible realm which far exceeds their young, still developing minds. 

    I often will look at how children are in a service as an indicator as to gaining a sense of what God could possible be doing in the service. Sometimes too, the little ones will pick upon spiritual battle way before adults, which is why they may suddenly "act-up" in moments when a pressing point in the sermon is coming forth. I find it no accident that Paul himself places instructions on the family and child-rearing in the same context as that of the admonishments to "put on the full armor of God". 

    As the Gospel is explained to children, we yet may see them respond positively to its message. Of course, it is difficult to tell, at least outwardly, the difference between "a profession of faith under the common grace of illumination in the soul" versus "a profession of faith issuing forth from the saving grace wrought by the Holy Spirit in the heart". 

    Now I point all of this out to drive home how both the person, and occasionally family members or the church, can discern whether a child-hood profession of faith was real or fake - by the P.I.T. 

    Once a young child reaches adolescence and teenage years, the testing ground truly starts. The P.I.T is entered. Physical temptations, ideas, influences, friends, the will and personality all swirl about in the world of a young man and a young woman. Will they stay true to the one they professed as Savior and Lord at a Sunday School, a V.B.S, from a personal prayer they prayed with mom, dad, or grand-parents? Or, will the battle against the soul show them and everyone else that they had not combined their profession of belief with true faith? The chart below (Lifeway study from 2017, see link here: highlights important disciplines needing exercised by young people if they expect to weather the storms which will rage against them - inside and outside.

    I have seen first-hand a pattern that takes place when a young child grows into older childhood and into the teenage years which involves the Bible, prayer, church, musical influences and service. I have observed, too many times to count, how a young person that drifts away from reading their Bible, will soon find themselves ceasing to pray. Then, before they know it, they won't want to attend church. Once church attendance (or the desire thereof) has went cold, soon the person turns to other influences. Finally, any notion of serving others for Jesus' sake goes out the window, resulting in a self-centered individual. This predictable pattern not only afflicts the teenager, but often afflicts people wel into adulthood.  

2. How can a young person navigate the P.I.T? 

    For this next part of the post, I'll simply lay out five points with appropriate scriptures that provide guidance for anyone who is undergoing the P.I.T as described above.

* Know the God of the book.          Daniel 3:16

Luke 12:11-12 "When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

    I heard a person once say this: “the limit of your spiritual effectiveness among people will only go as far as you are willing to be affected by God in your pray-life.”

* Know to seek wisdom.                 Daniel 3:16

James 1:3-5 "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him." 

    Remember, wisdom is the God-given skill to relate to God and others which leads in a Godward direction.

* Know the Book of God.                Daniel 3:17

Romans 15:4 "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."

    I heard the late Adrian Rogers once note: “Two things are true, that no man can part, when dust is on your Bible, drought will result in your heart.” A practical tip here would be to read the Gospel of Mark, three minutes a day for two weeks, and you’ll read the entire book of Mark.

* Know to pray. (the more you pray on your knees, the more you know how to act on your feet).         Daniel 3:18

Romans 8:26-27 "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."

* Know that God is in control. Daniel 3:19
(not only over Your P.I.T of despair, but also in your P.I.T of despair). Daniel 3:19-25

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."

3. When a P.I.T turns into a permanent testimony.

    As much as a P.I.T can sound very negative and foreboding, understand that its end result can lead to either finding out that one's faith is genuine after-all or finding out that they need to trust in Jesus as Savior, Lord and Treasure. As a survivor of many such "P.I.Ts" (yes, there are numerous P.I.Ts strewn along the journey, small and large, see 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; 1 Peter 1:6-8), I can tell you first-hand how such seasons of testing showed me how awesome God is and how much in need of Him I still am. Such P.I.T's are used by God to purify faith; confirm faith; challenge a negligent faith; mobilize to aid others who are weak in faith (see Jude 1:20-23). One thing I learned years ago was this: it is better to walk with Jesus through the “Valley of the shadow of death” than to walk without Him on a mountain top (see Psalm 23; Psalm 73:24-25).  

    If the reader observes the closing part of this episode in Daniel 3:26-30, the three young men were still in a pagan culture. Even when you get through a "P.I.T", understand that greater tests will lie ahead. However, God demonstrates His glory through testing to produce a testimony. As a final thought, seek Jesus walk with Him through your P.I.T, we we are exhorted to do in Hebrews 12:1-3 - 

Hebrews 12:1-3 "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

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