Read Daniel (NLT)

Friendships make life enjoyable and difficult times bearable. Friendships are tested and strengthened by hardships. Such was the relationship between these young Jewish men deported to Babylon along with Daniel. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego help us think about the real meaning of friendship. As much as these friends meant to each other, they never allowed their friendship to usurp God's place in their lives -- not even in the face of death.

Together they silently defied King Nebuchadnezzar's order to fall down and worship the image of gold. They shared a courageous act, while others, eager to get rid of them, told the king that the three Jews were being disloyal. While this was not true, Nebuchadnezzar could not spare them without losing face.

This was the moment of truth. Death was about to end their friendship. A small compromise would have allowed them to live and go on enjoying each other, serving God and serving their people while in this foreign land. But they were wise enough to see that compromise would have poisoned the very conviction that bound them so closely -- each had a higher allegiance to God. So they did not hesitate to place their lives in the hands of God. The rest was victory!

When we leave God out of our most important relationships, we tend to expect those relationships to meet needs in us that only God can meet. Friends are helpful, but they cannot meet our deepest spiritual needs. Leaving God out of our relationships indicates how unimportant he really is in our own life. Our relationship with God should be important enough to touch our other relationships -- especially our closest friendships.

Strengths and accomplishments: 1) Stood with Daniel against eating food from the king's table 2) Shared a friendship that stood the tests of hardship, success, wealth, and possible death 3) Unwilling to compromise their convictions even in the face of death 4) Survived the blazing furnace.

Lessons from their lives: 1) There is great strength in friendship 2) It is important to stand with others with whom we share convictions 3) God can be trusted even when we can't predict the outcome

Vital statistics: Where: Babylon Occupations: King's servants and advisers Contemporaries: Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar

Key verses: "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, 'O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will recuse us from your power. Your Majesty. But even if he doesn't, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.' "(Daniel 3: 16-18) (NLT)

LORD, help us to remain true and faithful to You, even in times of trials and testing, in Jesus' name, amen.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois, 60189. All rights reserved.

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