With Arianna Walker
Monday 7 August
Arianna Walker is the CEO of Mercy UK, a Christian mental health charity, specialising in helping Christians from all walks of life to live free and stay free. She is an international speaker, author and leader with 25 years’ experience in developing people, leading teams and coaching individuals – especially in the area of mental, emotional and spiritual well-being (https://www.mercyuk.org). Here the NH Media team brings you a summary of what Arianna had to say on Monday evening at New Horizon 2023.
I’ve loved being with you. Thank you for your welcome. I’ve felt very much at home and I’m sad to be going. One the first night we talked about how King David was a king in a cave long before he was a king in the castle. If we are going to have joy from the ashes, we need to be real about the ashes that we experience in our lives. Last night we talk about breakthrough – those miracles need to be accompanied with a walkthrough, with process. We spent time talking about the process God invites us into when we walk with Him.
Tonight I want us to look at another Old Testament story. Three young men have been commanded by the King to bow their knees and worship him. Being men of God, they refuse. The king decides that if they continue to refuse, they will be thrown into the furnace.
Reading from Daniel 3: 16 – 29
There are opportunities every day for us to bow our knees and submit to destructive forces in our lives. When fear gets in the way, when the circumstances we face become overwhelming, the easiest thing is to bow the knee. Is our worship dependent on the circumstances being what we want them to be and on God doing what we want Him to do for us?
But what happens when these men decide to stay standing, even when everything around them seemed to be telling them to kneel?
I heard a story of a baby girl who got meningitis and was rushed to hospital. The parents were praying because the doctors said she would not make it through the night. Miraculously she pulled through. She was sent home and the parents were so grateful. They were worshipping in the car on the way home and in the midst of that, the dad felt the Lord saying, “Would you have still worshipped if she had died?”
What if my prayer doesn’t get answered? What if the person I love doesn’t make it through?
Turn your “What ifs” into “Even Ifs”
“What if” equals fear. When we become overwhelmed with the “what ifs of our lives”, we are tempted to bow the knee. These three men turned their “what ifs” into “even if”.
So often I have come across the “what if” in my life and I have had to talk to myself and say, “Even if I fail, He does not fail me.” Even if I don’t get healed, He is still my saviour. Let us be those who turn our “what ifs” into “even ifs”.
I would love to tell you that the men were saved but things got worse. The fire was heated seven times hotter. The men were bound and thrown into the furnace. This was a real fire. It killed other people. Have you had those circumstances when you’ve done everything right but things seem to get worse? The fires that we face in life are real, so let’s be real about them. Let’s be authentic. But that doesn’t negate the power of what God is doing.
Circumstances can bind us up. It can feel like we can’t move. That sense of being trapped. Where is God when we feel like that when the fire is real and the fire is hot and we are unable to move freely? Where is He? In times like that, this story tells us that He is with us.
He will unbind you. He will supply the freedom we need to move around even in the difficult circumstances we face. Everything God is and has are available to us when He is with us.
We are not without resource when God is with us. We have access to His love, peace, joy, wisdom and provision.
Some of you in here, you need to stop being mad at God for not taking the fire away. You did everything you are supposed to do. Stop blaming him for the fire. It wasn’t God that built that furnace, it was the enemy. While you are blaming God for the fire, you will not be able to allow Him close enough so He can unbind you, so He can counteract the effects of the fire.
Joy from the Ashes comes from Him. We need to allow Him close enough so we can feel His comfort. To allow His hope to dispel despair. His presence In your furnace, counteracts the effects of the fire. His presence in the midst of the fire of life. He hasn’t promised a trouble free life. He has promised that we will meet Him in the fire. He will gives us the ability to move and talk in the midst of the fire. It is a connection with the Living God. His commitment is to keeping us safe not that everything in our life will be safe.
I remember when we were teaching our boys to ride a bike. I volunteered to take phots and my husband did all the running up and down the street. When we taught our youngest, he was terrified of falling. My husband was running alongside but I remember how my son was wobbling and suddenly he veered towards the ditch. As it crashed into the ditch, my husband swooped in and scooped our little boy up into his arms.
Just because your life is crashing into the ditch, doesn’t mean He has abandoned you. He is a good, good father. You can receive comfort in His arms.
Listen to God’s own words to us in Isaiah, “…so do not fear for I am with you, do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” These are God’s words. Do not bow your knee to despair. He will uphold you.
In John 20, we read that the disciples were petrified, with good reason. Their fire was that Jesus had been crucified. Now they were at real risk of persecution. Then we read that in John 20:19 when they were together with the doors locked for fear of the Jews… Jesus came among them and said, “Peace be with you.” If you want to know where God is and what His answer is – look at Jesus. His response is: “Peace be with you”.
Jesus doesn’t just give you peace, He is peace. He doesn’t just give you wisdom, He is wisdom. Jesus is enough.
When we go through fires in our lives with God by our sides it turns the furnace into a beacon, both made of fire but look at the difference in definition.
Furnace: A place or time of punishment affliction or great trial, a severe experience or discipline.
Beacon: bright light or fire that shines in the dark and is used as a signal to warn people against danger or to show them the way somewhere. Someone or something that encourages people and gives them an example to follow.
The furnace was turned to a beacon of hope
Suddenly the man who wanted everyone to worship Him was giving his worship to God. When people in our communities see our furnaces with God in the centre, they become a beacon of hope.
A few years ago, I did something called “Tough Mudder”. It is 19km with 28 obstacles that are designed to break you! They make you sign a waver. I did this because I’m the leader of a charity and I do things to raise the money. I remember standing at the starting line and there was a guy there giving us a pep talk.
More than any preacher what he said has stuck with me, “I want you to look to your left and to your right. These people are not your competitors they are your team mates. This is the rule of Tough Mudder… you go through then you help through. You need each other. Every obstacle has been designed so that you cannot do it alone.”
I was in a tiny tunnel on an incline. Just when I thought I was going to die, a hand was thrust to me and someone said, “Grab my hand.” He pulled me through, smiled and ran off. And just as I was about to run off to I remembered “go through then help through” so I turned around and thrust my hand in. A girl grabbed my hand and I pulled her out.
This is how we are supposed to be with each other. God is with us in our furnaces but He has also given us each other. I love that this gathering is a community right across denominations and expressions. I honour you and I celebrate that.
When our difficulties become a beacon of hope, it means we can help others. I want to encourage you that the things we go through and the difficulties we face are opportunities for God’s presence to be felt. He reaches out a hand to help us through and in turn we can do the same to others.
From the altar of my life, Christ be magnified in me. If it puts me in the fire, I will rejoice because you are there.
The furnaces we face, though they are real, with God – Emmanuel God with us – they become beacons of hope that our world desperately needs to see.