I've listened to the recording again in the last several days, trying to imagine the scene, and also what we were thinking and feeling during the service. As always, I'm most intrigued by verses the preacher highlighted in his message, namely, Ephesians 3:20-21:
"Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end, Amen."
Frances and I took this passage as the life verse for our marriage and family. Interestingly, however, this commitment came a good while after the service in which our pastor focused on the Apostle Paul's statement. When we found the tape so many years later, we were surprised and blessed to discover the emphasis on the verses. We hadn't recalled the preacher's message when we later determined that the Ephesians passage would serve as our guiding light. So, discovering that he had highlighted the verses on the very night we began to realize God's will for our life together gave us chill bumps and yet another confirmation of the shared path to which He called us.
I share this for the purpose of emphasizing the wonderful promise and assurance of God's provision, as declared by Paul. Our Lord is not merely able to accomplish what we perceive our needs to involve. His capacity rather extends "exceeding, abundantly above" our very capacity to "ask or think." The pastor's message mentioned the experience of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, the Hebrew names of those young men better known as the Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo. These servants of God experienced a fiery furnace because they wouldn't compromise their faith and devotion to Him (Daniel 3). Rather than deliver them from the flames, their Heavenly Father delivered these trusting young men in the flames. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself met them therein, thus accomplishing an "exceeding abundantly above" revelation of grace far beyond anything mere deliverance from could have provided.
We might well remember and affirm the Lord's working in the young mens' lives had He doused the flames, and we might benefit by the encouragement of God's mighty ability to deliver. However, a far greater illumination and promise blesses us in the truth that our Lord often purposes to meet us in our trials. When He does this, we can be sure that He determines a blessedness far beyond our imaginings. Indeed, right now we all likely have challenges for which the only answer seems extrication. That's as far as our asking and thinking can go. Our Heavenly Father, however, knows His ability to bless us in far greater measure than delivering us from our trial. His imaginings, as it were, extend to "exceeding, abundantly above" because they require a far greater display of wisdom and power as God delivers us in our trial. "In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them" (Isaiah 63:9).
The experience of such presence and grace requires our confidence that such Truth is, in fact, true. The story of the young men's fiery trial appears in Scripture to meet us in those furnaces of life where "the angel of His presence" awaits with an exceedingly abundant deliverance. By faith, we will know our Lord no less - and perhaps even more - than did our brethren of old. Long ago, on a night when two paths converged into one, our Heavenly Father began to show us that He is that present, that able, that willing, and that loving. Never has He disappointed us. And never will He.
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."