Here's another excellent devotional thought from my fellow WCS teacher/coach, Nathan Wagner.
At Harding University, students attend chapel every morning, Monday through Friday. I probably listened to about 300 chapel devotionals in my four years at Harding. Certainly, I listened at the time, and the messages are undoubtedly printed on my heart, but only a few have remained a vivid memory in my mind. The most important of those messages came from my freshman year, delivered by a senior student, Jason Ashlock. His devotional thought has greatly impacted who I am today, and it is a message I share with my own students on their first day in my class.
Thousands of years ago a king ran over a country, destroying the land and cities. He killed many people and enslaved others. Some of the brightest and youngest of the occupied society were swept away to serve the king. The king took these young men and tried to change their identities. He trained them in the ways of his culture. He made them eat different foods and worship different gods. He told them to forget their past. He did his best to brainwash the men into a new way of thinking. He even gave them new names in an attempt to eliminate their individuality. We know who four of those young men were: Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. What you probably don’t remember is that these four men had other names.
Shadrach’s Hebrew name was Hannaniah, which means “the Lord shows grace.” Every morning when he woke up, his mother and father reminded him of God’s grace when they spoke his name. The king changed his name to Shadrach, or “Command of Aku.”
Meshach was truly named Mishael, which mimics the question “Who is what God is?” The king perverted his name and twisted it to ask, “Who is what Aku is?” Instead of expressing awe at the power of God, Mishael was reminded time and again that Aku was great.
And Abednego’s given name was Azariah, or “the Lord helps.” Every time faced struggles or skinned his knee, Azariah was comforted by the knowledge that the Lord helps; however, the king tried to tell him that he was the servant of the foreign god Nebo.
The king tried his very best to strip them of their identity. He demeaned and belittled them. He told them they belonged to false gods. And finally he led them before a great statue and told them to bow down. But they refused. He told them they would be killed in a fiery furnace if they refused again. Despite this threat, they stood their ground, and when he had them prepared to be thrown into the fire, these three men—three men far from home, far from their parents, far from life they had treasured as children, far from the influence of a righteous people—these three men looked at the king and said, “ O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O King. But even if he 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.”
They knew where their identity lay--in God. I believe we all have the same identity because we were wonderfully created exactly how God intended. That knowledge should impact the way we treat and view others. We all have titles and nicknames—good and bad. Rumors circulate beyond our control and opinions are hard to change. But God doesn’t care. He calls us by name to Him, and he doesn’t let us from his grasp.
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