“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.'” (ESV – Read the chapter)
“But if not.” These are three of the most powerful words in all of the Old Testament. They carry the power of unshakeable faithfulness. They herald the potency of eternal life. These three men had perfect confidence in their Lord to save them from the destruction that sat before them in some kind of miraculous way. But if not; but if He didn’t; but if He decided that their deaths in this moment would ring a louder note for the kingdom than their lives, they were still going to stick with Him.
Do you have a “but if not” faith? Are you willing to stand for God even if He does not seem to stand for you in the way you would most prefer? Are you willing to trust that He is going to accomplish His good plans for this world through you even if that happens in a way that is least convenient for you personally? Are you willing to stick with Him in the face of danger? Harder yet, are you willing to stick with Him in the face of “unanswered” prayers for a very ill friend or family member? Will you stay by His side whether He delivers you from the situation you are in or not?
Answering any one of those questions in the negative doesn’t mean you aren’t really a follower of Jesus. It does mean you still have some growing to do in your faith, though. Developing a “but if not” faith isn’t easy, but it absolutely should be our goal. And listen: Even if you’ve failed before, God can still use you; He can still grow this kind of faith in you.
Consider Peter. After Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, even after having been with Him directly for three years, he still didn’t have a “but if not” faith and denied Him to save his own skin. Yet, he was restored and given the chance to grow more fully into his faith. He did, and the results were incredible.
If you have had some opportunities to exercise a “but if not” faith in the past and failed, know well that God’s not done with you yet. If you will let Him, He will restore you and keep working in you to bring you to that point. Your impact-making ability for the kingdom is not in any ways done.
If you want to have this kind of faith it takes one thing. Just one. It takes getting your heart and mind fully wrapped around the fact that God knows better than you do what He is planning in any given situation. He knows better and is absolutely going to accomplish His good plans in the end regardless of how it may seem in the moment. When you become convinced of that truth–convincing which takes lots of time in the Scripture and practice depending wholly on Him in small situations before you face a “but if not” moment–you will hold strong when the real test comes. Practice like you want to perform in the final and you’ll be fine. And when you do, people will tell your tale for a long, long time, and it will be a tale that leads others to follow you in faithfulness. That’s something worth striving to have.