The Christian response to bosses and authority should be to submit, obey, and follow, right? That is what I thought too and I struggled for a long time because I got so busy building someone else’s dream that I forgot about my own identity.
I was going through a really tough season where I was struggling with my identity – who am I, what do I want to achieve, what are my goals? It was during this time that our pastor, Anand Mahadevan, started a series in church titled Identity Formation. The series was based on the book of Daniel in keeping with the context of the modern-day workplace.
The talk was based on Daniel 3:14-27 where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. As a consequence of their refusal, as per the official edict, they were thrown into a pit of blazing fire. He ordered the furnace to be heated seven times stronger than usual before throwing the three men into it. Yet, they were untouched by the fire.
The big idea in this talk was that like Nebuchadnezzar, a tyrant boss, many people may demand that we serve their dreams, and if we are not strong enough in Christ, our fears will enslave us to their dreams. Ultimately it will be our fears and not their demands that enslave us to their dreams.
Using the passage, the talk addressed three facets –
1.The hell of this world: In the modern-day context, the hell of this world is essentially our worst fears – lack of security, a demotion, public humiliation if I cannot live up to the dreams others place before me (the Nebuchadnezzars of our lives could be our boss, spouse, parent, or family member). If I am not strong in Christ, the hell of this world (my worst fears) will shape my identity. This was like a wake up call. I was allowing my fears of losing the ones I love and being a “nobody” shape my identity and forcing me to worship someone else’s dream. It was true – my inability to stand strong in Christ had led me to live according to my fears.
2. The real hell: The real hell compared to my worst fears is the real hell created by a holy and just God – a place where He pours out the fire of His righteous furious wrath – a place Jesus entered to save us. I think I was (and am currently guilty too) living everyday being shaped by my fears instead of being conscious of the real hell already overpowered by Christ.
3.How Christ saves us from both: In the passage, Nebuchadnezzar sees a fourth person in the furnace of fire who is believed to be the pre-incarnate Christ. One would assume that Christ literally saved them from the fire after they entered the furnace. But when they chose not to bow down to the gold image of Nebuchadnezzar, they were saved even before they were thrown in. This part of the talk, blew my mind. These were prisoners of war facing off against one of the most powerful men on the earth at the time – because they trusted their God more than they feared another man’s dreams. Why was I so afraid of trusting God? What was holding me back? I realised that only a deep trust in Jesus Christ can displace my heart’s deepest fears. That Christ, through God’s word and the community He has placed me in, will shape the core of who I am so that I too have the strength when I am faced with another person’s dreams to stand up in boldness and say, “No, I will not bow down to any other God.” Jesus, who entered the furnace of God’s wrath absorbed the righteous anger that should have consumed me. He saves me from eternal condemnation in the real hell and His resurrected self gives me the strength to face the hell of this world.
After hearing the talk, I slowly started making the moves required to get out of serving another person’s dream. I left a role I felt I had taken up because I was afraid. I would not have been able to do this without hearing this talk, which exposed my heart and the mistakes I was making in allowing my fears to control me.
I am still on a journey where I am learning to grow in Jesus and learning to respond to what He is calling me to be. I am still learning to let go of my fears and hold on to Jesus, who alone can give me the strength to face my fears, which are honestly so insignificant in the grand scheme of what He endured on the cross for me, but still a challenge in my day to day existence. But, He’s still working on me, shaping me and leading me to grow every day.
You can check out the talk on “their dreams” here.