The 12th Man

12th Man

In the game of American football (I realize I just lost 85% of you), there is a phenomenon called the “12th man.” You see there are 11 men on the field of play during the game – not less, not more, always 11. The “12th man” is the radical fan in the stands who is on his or her feet cheering for their team no matter what the score or the circumstances on the field. When you are on the field of play, the energy from the fans in the stand can literally change the momentum of the game. That is why every football team wants and needs a great fan base. Those fans may never actually walk on the field of play, but their energy and support for their team makes a significant contribution. A contribution that makes the fan a part of what is happening on the field. Thus, they are called “the 12th man.”

Now, hold that thought and let’s take a quick look at the book of Daniel where three guys were in a fight for their life in a furnace. The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the faith that sustained them is absolutely mind blowing to me. In Daniel 3:17-18, we read, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he does not, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

This is another great example of courage, confidence and commission. They were resolute – no matter how God did or did not intervene, they were not going to give up and compromise. They certainly had faith that God would deliver them, but if God’s deliverance looked different than what they expected, it would have no bearing on their confidence, their courage or the commission God had given them. They would stand strong, with complete surrender and trust in the God they served. You and I have never (at least to my knowledge) stood in a burning furnace as a test of our faith and commitment to God. But we have faced financial difficulties, we have faced relational obstacles, we have faced the sting of sin and disappointment. And through it all, even when we feel alone, unworthy, dismayed or dejected, we are never alone. When those three guys stood in the furnace, “the 4th man” stood with them.

“Look! Nebuchadnezzar shouted. I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire. They are not even hurt by the flames! And the fourth looks like a divine being.” Daniel 3:25

When you face your “furnace,” when you need support, encouragement, strength and a shift in momentum, the same “4th man” who stood with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, will stand with you. I love what Lloyd Ogilvie said – “Our hope is not based on getting God to do what we want, but in wanting Him regardless of how events work out.”


  1. Melody Garrison says:

    Love this analogy Steve! I’ve been in the furnace many times and every single time the “4th man” showed up and plucked me out before I fried 🙂 I’m very thankful for Him and for you!

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