“Team Up…Never Give Up!”

For over a decade our good friend and Master Karate Instructor, K.C., has been using this phrase as a source of encouragement and strength for all those on their journey to black belt.  Having been in the martial arts for 36 years, I can tell you that journey is both long and hard, regardless of your age and ability.  The obstacles and challenges on the road to black belt can be a source of disappointment and discouragement, which causes some to give up.

The “Team up . . . Never give up” philosophy asserts that if you team up with others who are on the same journey, you are more likely to reach your intended destination.  It worked for me and our two oldest children, Brock and Jenna, and it is currently working for 9-year-old Katie and 8-year-old Zack, who are on their way to earning their black belts.

What is true in the world of martial arts is also true in every area of life, including your faith.  It was certainly true for three young Jewish men who were in captivity in Babylon during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar.

God had given the pagan king victory over His chosen people Israel as judgment for their continued idolatry and disobedience.  God never abandoned His people though; during their captivity in a foreign land, God protected and provided for His people. One of the ways He did this was to strengthen their unity through community.  In other words, they were to “Team up and never give up,” regardless of the cost or circumstance.

Nebuchadnezzar, no doubt thinking himself a very spiritual man, issued a decree that everyone was to bow down and worship a 90-foot tall gold statue.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused.  They decided to team up and never give up as it related to the most important area in both life and death: their relationship with the one true and living God.  Let’s peer behind the curtain of their commitment.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. ”

Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.”  (Daniel 3:16-28)

So . . . where in your life right now do you need to team up and never give up?  Maybe you need to team up with your spouse to overcome difficulties in your marriage or challenges raising your children.  Perhaps you need to team up at the office with some coworkers to meet the deadline of a current project.  Maybe you need to team up with some friends at school who can be study partners on your way to academic excellence.  Possibly you need to team up with others in your church to accomplish a ministry project.

I could go on, but I think you get the point.  When God saved you from our sin as an individual, He saved you to community, which presupposes the need to always and in every way, “Team up and never give up,” regardless of the cost or circumstance.  Along the way you will reach many more of your goals and God will get all the glory!

This is the Gospel.  This is grace for your race.  NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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