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  • James McNeil

Nicknames and boldness; how we can change the way future generations see us

I’d like to tell you a story. It’s one of my favorite stories to tell. It’s about three young men; Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. These three men were given a terrible choice to make. They could either disobey God (which would result in them living another day), or they could obey God and be executed. They chose to obey God. God’s word told them that they were to worship no one but Him. They refused to worship anything else, so the king ordered them executed.

By now the story should be looking very familiar. But even though the story looks familiar, the names most likely don’t. Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah are the Hebrew names (the original names) of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

I find it very interesting that we know this story about these three Hebrew men by their Babylonian names. They certainly didn’t choose the names. In the first chapter of the book of Daniel, it is revealed that the head eunuch chose the names for them. They certainly weren’t names of honor since these three (along with thousands others) were essentially prisoners. Since the three of them were to be sold as slaves, the names were essentially slave names.

What can this teach us today? Just like the head eunuch gave these three names, society gives us names every day. Sometimes the names are good. Dad, Mom, Buddy, Pal, and several others come to mind. Sometimes the names are not so good. Liar, Cheat, Divorcee, Politician come to mind there. Okay, I’m just kidding on that last one.

The point is, there is no evidence in scripture that these three young men (or any of them) had any choice in the names given them. But they are not remembered for their names. They are remembered for their courage. They are remembered for the fact that they had the courage to stand up to the king in the face of certain death, and in a miraculous act they were spared from the flames that killed the men in charge of putting them in.


These men demonstrated boldness in a way that we still talk about today when they stood up to the king’s boastful demands. But this wasn’t the first time they had demonstrated boldness. When they had first been brought to Babylon, the eunuch gave them their new names and gave them food. The food was considered unclean by the Jewish religion, so Daniel asked that they not be required to eat it. All four (Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) were given a diet of vegetables and water at their own request for ten days. After ten days, the head eunuch could examine them to see if they were still healthy after following God’s dietary requirements. At the end of the ten days, their chosen diet proved itself.

They were rewarded for their courage by being assigned to work with the king directly. They had instant access to the highest authority in the land. It would appear that they were on easy street. But their troubles were not over. It wasn’t long before Nebuchadnezzar had a statue built. This statue was huge, and all of the king’s officers were commanded to bow to it in worship when the horn sounded.

The three Hebrew boys had been rewarded for taking a stand one time. This time, however, the king had said that anyone not worshiping the statue would be thrown into a fiery furnace. What would they do?

They would stand firm on their beliefs. They refused to worship the statue, and they were brought before the king. When asked, they said that even if God did not save them from the furnace, they would not bow to the king’s statue.

They were thrown into the fiery furnace. They were not hurt. They even had a dancing partner while they were in the furnace. When King Nebuchadnezzar looked into the furnace, he saw a fourth man with them. Astounded, he said that the fourth man looked like “a son of the gods!” When they were allowed back out, King Nebuchadnezzar did something very rare; he changed his mind. Now, instead of the statue, everyone was to worship the God that these three Hebrew boys worshiped. Because they were bold, God was glorified.

These three young men were robbed of their homeland, their families, and even their names. But they made a choice, and we remember them for their boldness. We can do the same. We’re not faced with a “fiery furnace” for the crime of “disobeying the king,” but we are faced with difficult decisions every day. Do we stand up for what we know to be right, or do we follow along the crowd? Only you know that answer for you, but I will admit there are times I’ve not been as bold as I would like to be.

Choosing to live when life looks hopeless takes boldness. As a two-time suicide survivor, that is a lesson with which I am intimately acquainted today. But that boldness is worth it.

Choosing to help someone struggling when everyone around you looks the other way takes boldness. But I can also say that boldness is worth it.

Choosing to demonstrate love and acceptance to those different than you, especially when others are making fun of them, takes boldness, but once again it is worth it.

Overcoming suicide as a society will take boldness, but I believe once we do, we as a society will be remembered more for that one thing than for everything else we’ve done. Are you with me? Check out more blog posts like this one at jamesmcneilauthor.com today and pick up your own copy of Finding Your Personal Mission. While you’re there, check out a way to wear your motivation, including an amazing shirt that declares “Your Story Is Not Over Yet.”

I’ll see you there!


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