Even those who aren’t trying to look at things with the eyes of faith would say the exact same thing. Those who are, even more-so, though, because we have a ruthless enemy and deceiver who wants to keep us entrenched in just enough doubt and fear that the first half of john 10.10 comes to fruition:
our dreams are stolen
our passion is killed
and the work of God in our lives [seems] all but destroyed.
But the second half of that verse gives great hope. Jesus stepped into the midst of the enemy’s schemes and said, “No.” Life flooded in, even through his death on a roman cross, like the unfolding of the dawn. gentle and sure. And not just life as it’s always been known–with the enemy having the upper hand as a their, murderer, and destroyer. No, Jesus brings abundant life. A life perhaps not free from the enemy’s schemes, but indeed a life free of their effects.
he cannot steal the dreams God has set in motion.
he cannot kill our zeal for God’s name to be glorified by them.
he cannot destroy the work of God because Jesus already said, “It is finished.” as He destroyed the enemy’s work.
These thoughts flooded my mind as a stared as the unmarked pages of Ezra 4, and saw the bolded words of adversarial warning and of orders to cease the work that the people of Israel had returned to do: to rebuild the temple. For 3 years they had been back, having raised up the altar of God anew and begun to lay the foundation of the temple.
And I feel those same bolded words over my own heart this morning, flashing like neon strobe lights.
Yet these were just not working exiles. They were worshipping exiles.
And so are we. As strangers and aliens in this world, we too must worship in the midst of adversity.
The tactics of our enemy are the same as the people of the land who rose against the people of God as they built:
false testimonies (lies and accusations)
force and power (warfare)
Above all else, the enemy of the people of God is a LIAR. All of his tactics stem from that false, deceptive nature. Faith grounded in the truth of God’s word and work is our defense. Discouragement and fear, then, are the quickest way to break down those walls of defense against his lies. He wants us to forget our calling as Christ followers. He wants it to feel impossible. He wants the surpassing worth of knowing Christ to be hidden by the loss it entails (see philippians 3). He wants to turn our calling that beckons, “anyone who doesn’t hate his own mother, father, brother, sister, friend…cannot be my disciple,” and convince us that losing any of those people would be unbearable. He fights for us to be afraid of everything, as if the bottom could fall out at any moment and destroy us.
And he’s partially right.
This calling is scary. It is hard. The bottom could and does fall out.
But last night at church the air was charged with hope, even as it inevitably was full of those very real and closely felt tactics, with our voices, singing,
“The Rock won’t move and His word is strong, the Rock won’t move and His love can’t be undone.”
“The Lord lives, and blessed be my Rock,
and exalted be my God, the Rock of my salvation…
He is a tower of salvation to His king,
and shows steadfast love to His anointed,
to David and his offspring forever.” (2 Samuel 22.47, 51)
The ultimate call within this worship, however, is seen in verse 3 of Ezra 4, and it overshadows the fear and opposition and questions that are thrown at the will of God in our lives…obedience. It involves sacrifice. It involves hard things. It may even involve an executive order from the authorities around us that command that the work of God has you doing must cease. It was decreed for the people here.
And what followed the decree to cease working was 14 years of waiting for the reversal. 14 years of limited worship, with only the altar and foundations laid before them. But it was enough. With the prophets urging them on (5.1), to renewed courage and strength and repentance and worships, God kept His people (psalm 121). He was not surprised by the delay. Rather, he leveraged it to continue to build up his people. He made it worth it. Worth-it waiting. Worth-it adversity.
And we know that in all things–good and bad–that God works them out for good on behalf of those who love him and who are called according to his purpose. All things. Premature birth. Surgeries. Anxiety. Heartbreak. Wanderings. Fear. Waiting. Pain. Unsureness. His hand is on each one. We are called to entrust these burdens to him and to instead lift up his burden–light and fit specifically to our shoulders–and walk in obedience to him alone. It is this that will usher in the abundant life promised to us. No matter what the circumstances–His purposes will not be thwarted. His ways will not be stopped. His promises will not be left unfulfilled. The Rock won’t move. He won’t move.