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Be Brave: When I'm Bullied to Bow

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 9/29/2019

When have you been bullied to bow? Maybe to someone, or something? When I was a teenager, a family built a tree house in a gigantic oak tree, just outside of town. Just about every kid in town enjoyed that treehouse. After a while, though, someone started shooting up the treehouse. One day I was down at the creek and stumbled across the kids responsible. When they saw me, they tried to swear me to secrecy, and for insurance, demanded I take a few shots. When they realized I wouldn’t bow to their demands, the expression on their faces changed. One of them pointed their shotgun at me and said, “Take the shot or be shot…”

What do they say? When you’re in danger there are three basic responses… There is fight, but of course I was outgunned! There is flight, but that’s no good, I’m slower than a box of bullets sitting on a shelf. I opted for number three… feign stupidity. I just stood there frozen, w/a dumb look on my face. I never shot the treehouse, and they never shot me! More often than not, situations call for a fourth response: faith. What if in reality we’re not really facing these situations alone? What if we understood how God stands with us, and never leaves our side? How might such knowledge transform us, and transform the danger we face?

I cannot imagine more intimidating circumstances, than those experienced by Daniel and his Jewish brethren. King Nebuchadnezzar lays siege to Jerusalem. He takes a bunch of Jewish teenagers’ hostage from among the royal family and nobility. Boys “without physical defect, good looking, suitable for instruction, knowledgeable, perceptive, capable physically and in every way to serve the king.” Boys with promising futures. And what does the King do?

He dictates what they will eat, and what they will drink. For three years he attempts to indoctrinate them. He tells them what to say, and think, and believe, and read, and sing, and do, and where to stand.) The king attempts to erase their identities giving them the Babylonian names Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego. In all likelihood, the King had these teens castrated and made eunuchs.

Things don’t get any better in Daniel 2. In Daniel 2:1 we learn the king is deeply troubled and cannot sleep. He’s escalating. He becomes this kind of desperate man, in the throws of an existential crisis, inconsolably afflicted with anxiety. He so frantically yearns for peace, that In Daniel 2:2 he threatens to tear every last wise man in Babylon “limb from limb” and “make their homes garbage dumps” if they didn’t (immediately) reveal his dream/and its interpretation!

In Chapter 1, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah trusted God to give them favor, to protect them, to preserve their integrity/very lives. In chapter 2, they pray to know the King’s dream, and its proper interpretation. The King’s M-O (method of operation) is fear/intimidation/bullying. Their M-O is faith, faith, faith—Trust God.

The book of Daniel gives us profound insight into King Nebuchadnezzar’s psychology. He’s being tormented by a dream he’s had. In the King’s dream there is this enormous statue, whose head is made of pure gold, whose chest/arms of silver, its stomach/thighs bronze, and its legs iron, its feet partly iron and partly clay. But then a rock suddenly strikes the clay feet of the statue, causing it to crumble/collapse. And from the very place the rock lay, the rock grows and becomes this great mountain, filling the whole earth, overshadowing everything else!

The point of the dream is that God is telling Nebuchadnezzar that not only will his kingdom fall, but kingdom after kingdom will fall, until one day the God of Heaven establishes a Kingdom that can never be destroyed, that will endure forever, the Kingdom of God. At first it seems King Nebuchadnezzar is humbled by his dream. In Daniel 2:47 he tells Daniel, “Your God is indeed the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries. . .”

But whatever spiritual insight he received, its quickly lost, because what does King Nebuchadnezzar do next? He essentially builds the statue from his dream, or better yet, his nightmare! Daniel 3:1-2 says, “King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue, ninety feet high and nine feet wide. He set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 King Nebuchadnezzar sent word to assemble the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the rulers of the provinces to attend the dedication of the statue King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.”

In Daniel 3:3-7, just about everyone bows down in worship before the statue. Just about everyone drinks the Kool-Aid, eats the King’s bologna sandwich, and bows to his fabricated image. Right on cue, like Pavlov’s dogs... when they hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, drum, and every kind of music, . . . they fall facedown and worship the gold statue King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.

A 90 Foot statue is no small statue. > How many MLB fans do we have in here? 90 feet is the distance between all the bases on a full-size baseball diamond. > How many corndog eating Illinois State Fairgoers do we have here? 90 feet is just a little bit taller than the 25-meter-high dive tower those crazy people were jumping off of last month!

Why would this crazy King turn around and build a 90-foot gold statue, especially after so vividly being warned in a dream, his kingdom would crumble and fall? Maybe you’ve heard of the “small man’s complex.” It refers to the tendency in men who feel small trying to feel big. They puff up their chest, they buy oversized cars, etc. After his dream, I think King Nebuchadnezzar was having a “small king’s complex.” He knew the truth that his kingdom was coming to nothing, so he overcompensates by building this goliath 90ft by 9 ft statue and demanding everyone worship Him.

The whole psychology of a bully is to try to appear larger than life, and perhaps even larger than God himself. The bully’s currency is fear. By fear, the bully hopes to exaggerate his true power and ability to harm you. By fear, the bully attempts to coopt your heart, mind, body, your very life, your soul... coopt your autonomy, your freedom. By fear, the bully induces you to fear man more than you fear God. By fear, the bully hopes you’ll jettison all faith & hope, and give into their schemes.

One of the hardest spiritual disciplines we have as believers is seeing through the charades of our bullies, and tormentors, and persecutors. (1) The King thinks himself so POWERFUL, but Daniel 1:2 says everything that happens is in the Lord’s hands. (2) The King thinks himself so WISE, he systematically bullies everyone into their worldview. But Daniel 2:21-23 says, “wisdom and power belong to God… he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who lack understanding… God who reveals the deep/hidden things, he knows what is in the darkness, light dwells in him…” (3) The King thinks himself so INDESTRUCTABLE—but God reveals his feet are made of clay and that his days are numbered.

On YouTube there is this obnoxious jokester who walks up to people with his chest puffed out, throws down his hands, and goes, “Psh…” The guy is so annoying. He’ll walk up to beefy guys in a gym and go, “Psh.” He’ll listen as some slick salesman gives their best pitch and go, “Psh.” He’ll walk up to a group of police officers with their shiny badges/guns and go, “Psh.” Even ordinary people don’t take kindly to being blown off—so how much more a King like Nebuchadnezzar?

In Daniel 3:8-12, “Some Chaldeans took the occasion to come forward and maliciously accuse the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “. . .There are some Jews you have appointed to manage the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men have ignored you, the king; they do not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” [Their blowing you off! Psh!]

Daniel 3:13-16, “In a furious rage Nebuchadnezzar gave orders to bring in Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. So, these men were brought before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar asked them, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is it true that you don’t serve my gods or worship the gold statue I have set up? 15 Now if you’re ready, when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, drum, and every kind of music, fall down and worship the statue I made. But if you don’t worship it, you will immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire—and who is the god who can rescue you from my power?”

Seriously king? Who can rescue you from my power? Haven’t you learned anything yet?

Keep in mind Daniel is out of the picture for the time being. He is in position of leadership, different than Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. In Daniel 3:16-18, the three men barely dignify the King’s question! “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. 17 If the God we serve exists, then he can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he can rescue us from the power of you, the king. 18 But even if he does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” [Psh!]

Let me pause a moment and talk about the nature of faith. (1) First, there is an intellectual/philosophical aspect to faith that says, “If the God of the Bible exists, nothing is too impossible for him…” He can rescue us from fire. Oh Mr. great and overcompensating king Neb, he can rescue us from the power of you!

Our whole intellectual/philosophical basis for faith is God’s word. Where did these three men get this notion that God could rescue them even from fire? In Isaiah 43:1-2 God says, “Now this is what the Lord says—the one who created you, Jacob, and the one who formed you, Israel—“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine. 2 I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.”

*If you never take time to know God’s word intimately, you’ll never know what great power, what great miracles, are available to you… you’ll never have a clear sense of what you can trust God for, of what he has done, or can do, or will certainly do!

(2) But there is a second, stubborn/experiential aspect to faith that says, “I believe, I trust God to rescue… but even if he doesn’t. . .even if things don’t play out the way we expect. . . even if we end up getting burned alive. . . we’re still not bowing” Not everything works out “experientially” the way we want. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve prayed for immediate physical healing for dearly loved brothers/sisters in Christ. Not everything works out the way we believe/ imagine/ hope/ pray. Still, we go on believing that all things work for the good of those who love God. Read Hebrews 11. The great hall of faith. Things didn’t always end so well “in the natural” for some of the greatest men/women of faith. Yet the hallmark of faith is walking by faith, not sight… trusting what’s unseen, being confident in God’s eternal promises.

Psh. These men weren’t going to be bullied out of their faith and the King knew it! Daniel 3:19-23, “19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He gave orders to heat the furnace seven times more than was customary, 20 and he commanded some of the best soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the furnace of blazing fire. 21 So these men, in their trousers, robes, head coverings, and other clothes, were tied up and thrown into the furnace of blazing fire. 22 Since the king’s command was so urgent and the furnace extremely hot, the raging flames killed those men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego up. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego fell, bound, into the furnace of blazing fire.”

If you grew up in the Church, going to Bible school, you already know what happens next. Daniel 3:24-27, “Then King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm. He said to his advisers, “Didn’t we throw three men, bound, into the fire?”

“Yes, of course, Your Majesty,” they replied to the king.

25 He exclaimed, “Look! I see four men, not tied, walking around in the fire unharmed; and the fourth looks like a son of the gods!”

In Isaiah 43:1-2 God never promised his people they would not have to walk through fire—no, he promised that he’d walk with us through fire, and the fire wouldn’t burn us. In Psalm 23, God never promised that we will never face physical death—no, he promised that though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death he’d be with us! He comforts us. We’d dwell in the house of the Lord forever. I’d further add, God never promised a Nebuchadnezzar, bully-free life. What he’s promised is that he will be with us always to the end of the age. He’s promised that though the flames might refine us, they’ll never consume us. What will it be? Fight, Flight, Freeze, or Faith?

Daniel 3:26-27, “Nebuchadnezzar then approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire and called: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you servants of the Most High God—come out!” So, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire. 27 When the satraps, prefects, governors, and the king’s advisers gathered around, they saw that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men: not a hair of their heads was singed, their robes were unaffected, and there was no smell of fire on them.”

Daniel 3:28-30, “28 Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel and rescued his servants who trusted in him. They violated the king’s command and risked their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I issue a decree that anyone of any people, nation, or language who says anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego will be torn limb from limb and his house made a garbage dump. For there is no other god who is able to deliver like this.” 30 Then the king rewarded Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.”

Who is this God who is able to deliver? Just now were going to celebrate communion. Our worship team is going to come out and sing a song called “through the fire. . .” We don’t want you to sing, but just listen, make the lyrics your meditation and prayer, let’s be reminded what it means that God promises to be with us through whatever happens, good or bad. He is faithful. He is trustworthy. He is good. . .

Scripture Verses

Daniel 3, Isaiah 43:1-2, Hebrews 11

Worship Playlist

Worship Playlist

The Lion And The Lamb
by Brenton Brown, Brian Johnson, and Leeland Mooring
as recorded by Bethel

Faithful To The End
by Brian Johnson, Hannah McClure, Joel Taylor, and Paul McClure
as recorded by Bethel

Bigger Than I Thought
by Allen Swoope, Natalie Sims, and Sean Curran
as recorded by Passion

Another In The Fire
by Chris Davenport and Joel Houston
as recorded by United

This I Believe
by Ben Fielding and Matt Crocker
as recorded by Hillsong

Study Questions

1. In Daniel 2 the king saw an image utterly destroyed. What motivated the king to turn around and build a gold image anyway? Why do we so often fail to apply the spiritual truths we learn to every day life?

2. Consider the scene in Daniel 3:1-6. People imagine they are autonomous, self-willed human beings. What does Jesus teach us about the overwhelming power of peer pressure in Matthew 7:13-14?

3. Read Romans 12:1-3. What are some everyday ways you feel pressure to conform to the world? How often do you feel isolated and alone in obeying God?

4. Consider Daniel 3:6. How do the powerful attempt to bully the masses into conformity? What are the true costs of non-conformity? Have you ever paid a price for choosing a narrow path?

5. Read Daniel 3:15-18. Daniel and his friends are given an ultimatum. What is their response?

6. Years earlier King David wrote Psalm 66:10-12. How might have Daniel's intimate knowledge of Scripture prepared him for this moment? Why is it important for us to deeply know God's word today?

7. Consider Daniel 3:3. Would this chapter have greater or lesser power if Daniel and his friends died? Take a moment and read Romans 8:18-38. How does hope encourage us to endure?

8. Notice Daniel 3:25. How has God made himself present during the fiery trials in our life? What affect does this have on people hostile to God? What if Daniel would have bowed instead?


1. Read Daniel 3:1. What did the king have built? How tall was it? What was it made of?

2. Read Daniel 3:6. What would happen to anyone who did not bow?

3. The king was mad that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not bow to his statue. And he began to bully them and threatened them to throw them in the furnace. What was their response? Read Daniel 3:16-18.

4. They were thrown into the furnace. Read Daniel 3:24-25. What did the King see? Who was the fourth person?

5. Read Daniel 3:27. How were they when they came out of the furnace?

CHALLENGE: Write down 10 things you like about yourself. Put it somewhere that you will easily find it. The next time you are hurt by mean words, read through the list. Remember God loves you and you are beautifully and wonderfully made. Psalm 39:14

Apply It!


Lakeside Bookshelf

Below are some books to complement our Be Brave sermon series through the book of Daniel. Stop by the bookshelf in the lobby to browse or purchase.

The Daniel Dilemma: How to Stand Firm & Love Well in a Culture of Compromise by Chris Hodges

The Daniel Prayer: Prayer That Moves Heaven and Changes Nations by Anne Graham Lotz

A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today's World by John Stonestreet & Brett Kunkle

Downloads & Resources