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Opportunity Equals Opposition

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
November 1, 2023 12:00 am

Opportunity Equals Opposition

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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November 1, 2023 12:00 am

Listen to or read the full-length version here - https://wfth.me/3QuCWty   Where there is opportunity to advance the kingdom of God, there will surely be opposition. Jesus promised that when He said that all who desire to live Godly in this world will face persecution. Are you facing opposition today because of your faith? Take heart . . . it's a sign you're doing the right thing.

 

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God has spoken.

You cannot claim to worship God and worship other gods with Him. And so this is really, for the Israelites, a much deeper battle than turning somebody down who wants to volunteer to help them. It is a doctrinal battle. It involves compromise of theology and the leaders knew.

They had to say firmly, no. I wish the church today would learn this lesson. You don't ally yourself with people who do not know God to attempt to do the work of God.

Period. Where there's an opportunity to advance the kingdom of God, there will surely be opposition. Have you found that to be true? You had a new ministry opportunity and all of a sudden there were hindrances in your path. Jesus told us this would happen. He said that all who desire to live godly in this world will face persecution. Israel faced opposition during the time of Ezra and watching how they responded provides some important lessons for the church today. This is wisdom for the heart. Stephen Davey is calling today's lesson opportunity equals opposition. Let's get started. For the last several weeks, I have been meeting on Wednesday morning with two men in our fellowship who've recently accepted Christ as their savior.

In the last couple of months, we were reading through a great book and memorizing some scripture. These fellows are different from me. They're different from each other. One is a software writer and the other guy is an accountant, CPA.

It wasn't long though before we discovered that these two fellows had something in common. They both love, they both ride Harleys. And they've told me it is part of their mission to get me on one of those.

Apparently they don't know my wife. I guess as part of the manipulation here, one of the guys this past Wednesday brought this article to me written by a motorcycle riding pastor from New Jersey who writes, the Christian life is an adventure and challenge filled journey. It is very much like riding a motorcycle. A life of Christian faith has a lot in common with that experience of riding a motorcycle. They're both invigorating, full of surprises and people sometimes look at you kind of funny for doing it. You go against the grain, there are risks and you feel alive.

You have to maintain your machine and bring along the right equipment. Just like riding a motorcycle, you can sometimes get bugs in your teeth being a Christian. So far our study in the Little Book of Ezra has shown us a smooth journey for these people.

It's been a smooth ride. They have been held captives, they and their forefathers for 70 years. They've been paying the consequences for disobedience to God. And now Ezra opened his book as we studied with the miracle that God turned the heart of the king to make a proclamation that they could go back and begin to rebuild the temple and restore the worship system in their beloved city. And 50,000 people of faith signed on to this adventure and were willing to go in beginning this restoration process. And we studied in our last discussion how they poured the foundation of the temple and everything has been going so well and the celebration erupts and they begin to shout hallelujah to God and the shouting of hallelujah is heard across the land. Evidently the sound of their praising God reached the ears of their enemies. And for the first time we're about to see the Israelites experience bugs in their teeth.

The smooth ride is about over. Let's rejoin the study there and find out what happens in chapter 4 verse 1. Now when the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the people of the exile were building a temple to the Lord God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of father's households and said to them, let us build with you for we like you seek your God. And we have been sacrificing to him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us up here. Now stop, that sounds great, doesn't it? You've started a project and volunteer help just showed up and these people worship God too.

This is perfect. That's what you and I would initially think if Ezra had not let us in on the fact at the very beginning that these people were actually enemies of God. Verse 3. So Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the father's households of Israel said to them, you have nothing in common with us in building a house to our God, but we ourselves will together build to the Lord God of Israel as king Cyrus, the king of Persia has commanded us.

Now you need to understand that this offer to help was nothing less than the subtle threat of infiltration and it would have required, it would have involved an ungodly alliance. But wait a second, these Samaritans, who they were, they had bred with those pagans and adopted their pagan practices of worship. They said in verse 2, we seek your God and we have been sacrificing to your God too.

Oh, well, let me show you the real story of what they had been doing. Turn back, hold your finger here to 2 Kings chapter 17 verse 27. Then the king of Assyria commanded saying, take there one of the priests whom you carried away into exile and let him go and live there and let him teach the custom of the God of the land.

In other words, those who remain behind, the poor were left, a priest was to go back. So one of the priests whom they had carried away into exile, that exile, by the way, that's about over here as we've begun studying, they're returned now from Samaria, came and lived at Bethel and taught them how they should fear the Lord. Verse 29, but every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the houses of the high places, which the people of Samaria had made, every nation in their cities in which they lived. And the men of Babylon made Sukhoth-Benneth, that's their God.

The men of Cuth made Nergal. The men of Hamath made Ashima and the Avites made Nebaz and Tartak and the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire to a Dremelech and an Amalek, the gods of the Sepharvaim. They also feared the Lord and appointed from among themselves priests of the high places who acted for them in the houses of the high places. They feared the Lord and served their own gods according to the custom of the nations from among whom they had been carried away into exile. They paid lip service to Yahweh. They feared, they acknowledged him, but he was just one of many gods.

Sure, we'll sacrifice to him like we'll sacrifice to all of the others. They showed some level of respect for God. They printed on their currency, in God we trust, and then turned and worshiped their currency. When they went to war, they acknowledged God and they talked publicly of offering him prayers.

But when war was over, God's name was not allowed to be mentioned. We resemble them, do we not? What of the modern church?

I see them here. Has it been infiltrated with a philosophy of life other than a radical commitment to Jesus Christ? Are we affected?

Infected? Well, let me give you a short list. They're in your notes. You just fill in the blanks if you care to. Here are some tests, some symptoms if the church has been affected or church people, I should say. Number one, anonymity is acceptable. In other words, you come to church and we'll leave you alone. You just clock in with us. We're happy you're here. We'd like to add your name to our membership.

That looks good. But we won't cause you or ask you or challenge you to repent or reform or grow or change. The motto of this infiltrated church is, as I've said before, if you'll attend, we won't offend.

Here's another one. membership is a one day a week event. It isn't a practice. It isn't a passion. It isn't a discipline. It isn't a lifestyle. It's one hour a week for God, which gives us the remaining 167 hours of the week for us.

Here's another one. The church is a building. The truth is far from it. Tomorrow, colonial will be in a thousand different places. The church will be somewhere other than here. This is simply where we gather.

This might be the base of operation. But this building is not the church. That's one of the problems I have with church signs. It implies that Colonial Baptist Church is a geographical location with brick and glass.

It isn't. You are the church. Here's another one. Somebody else can serve.

And another. Tipping on Sunday can replace stewardship. That is the systematic prayerful investment.

Here's another. Edification focuses on my needs rather than God's commands. You know, for the average Christian, the word edification refers to how they feel. If they feel good after this service, they will say, I was edified. That service really edified me. Ladies and gentlemen, edification has nothing to do with how you feel.

It has to do with how you live. In fact, the most edifying service could cause us all to weep and to mourn over our sin so that we all walk to our cars with our heads held low, overwhelmed with the evil that resides within us and the grace of God we depend upon. Hey, how was that service? It edified me. I get these magazines. You know, they send pastors. You wouldn't like them.

They're really boring usually, but sometimes I'll slip something in there that's good. Here's a little article got this past week. Franklin Roosevelt was really tired and weary of all the mindless chatter of White House receptions. And he was wondering if if anyone was really engaging in any real conversation. So at the next White House gathering, as he shook hands with all the dignitaries and guests who were filing by, he tried this experiment. He quietly said to each person, I murdered my grandmother this morning. And the people would smile back and say things like, how lovely.

And you're doing a great job. Only one person really heard him. It was a visiting foreign diplomat who responded back quietly. I'm sure she had it coming. Are we really listening?

One more. Experience matters more than theology. In other words, the Bible is a nice guideline, but don't take it so seriously. Listen up. Whatever you do, whatever you think, however you feel, that's good for you.

Whatever you experienced is right. Now let's go back. We've got to head back here to Ezra. You can almost hear the Samaritans, I think, implied in their words in verse two. Listen, Zerubbabel, just loosen up.

We're going to help you build. And what do you mean you have you have nothing in common with us? We have added Jehovah to our list of gods. Don't be so intolerant of our religion.

It works for us. But Zerubbabel and the other leaders, by the way, before we go any further, knew the truth. The one and only true and living God demands exclusive worship. You cannot worship him and other gods.

God had already said to them, thou shalt have no other gods before me, period. Maybe you've maybe you have heard about it. I've been reading in the newspapers about this fellow.

I think it's in Florida. Some wealthy financier who has financed these billboards that have messages. And at the end of a brief little message, it'll say God.

They're black, totally black with white letters. Have any of you seen these? The one that really caught my attention that came back to me as I was studying is this the great little billboard that is off the highway that says, quote, What is it about thou shalt not that you don't understand? God.

Imagine the thousands of people driving to work seeing that billboard. God has spoken. You cannot claim to worship God and worship other gods with him. And so this is really, for the Israelites, a much deeper battle than turning somebody down who wants to volunteer to help them. It is a doctrinal battle. It involves compromise of theology.

And the leaders knew they had to say firmly. No, I wish the church today would learn this lesson. You don't ally yourself with people who do not know God to attempt to do the work of God.

Period. Eugene Peterson, in his paraphrase of New Testament scripture, takes that classic passage about unequal yokes, and he paraphrases it with powerful words. 1 Corinthians 6, 14 and 15. Don't become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That's not partnership. That's war.

Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the devil? Be careful in our ecumenical age. Be discerning. Now notice what the enemies do next.

Look at verse 4. That didn't work, so they're going to regroup and try another one. Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and frightened them from building and hired counselors against them to frustrate their counsel all the days of Cyrus, king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius, king of Persia. In other words, the building stopped.

And for some 15 years, it will stop. Zerubbabel and the leaders were successful against the threat of infiltration. Their doctrine was solid, but they gave in to the constant barrage of unjust accusation.

Let me put it another way. They could handle the doctrinal issues with victory. They could not handle the emotional issues with victory.

Have you discovered that the enemy usually attacks along those two lines, not only corporately, but personally? For some, impure doctrine is their weakness. They're never really into the word, and so they go from Christian fad to Christian fad. They're tossed about with every wind of doctrine. They're very vulnerable to false teachers, and they don't think critically. They don't think doctrinally. They don't think theologically. But for others, doctrine is solid, but their emotions are their downfall. They're unable to stand the pain of ridicule, rejection, misunderstanding, criticism of those outside who look at you and say, oh, you're one of those.

You need that crutch. That's good for you. And so they curl up and hide their Christian testimony now. It's a secret.

It's safer there. Either way, the building in your life stops. By the way, Nehemiah was wired that way. He was confronted and tempted, and this ungodly alliance issue was placed before him over and over again, and we don't even read that he prayed about it. Then they wrote an open letter accusing his character, and he went to his knees, and he said, oh, God, strengthen my hands. Well, what Ezra now gives us in verses 6 to 23 is not a chronological order of things. In fact, he jumps through 15 years. But what he does is sort of summarize for us 15 years of a defeated nation disabled by discouragement.

Discouragement is one of Satan's most powerful tools. But let's look. Verse 6, now in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. In other words, during the reign of Ahasuerus, who, by the way, married Esther, some letter was written. We're not given any details. We don't know what the letter said. We don't know what the results were.

We don't know what came of it. We know nothing, just the fact that a letter was written. Then he goes in verse 7 to a whole different time in their history, a different king. And in the days of Artaxerxes, Bishlum, Mithridath, Tabeel, and the rest of his colleagues wrote to Artaxerxes, king of Persia, and the text of the letter was written in Aramaic and translated from Aramaic. Now, here Ezra will give us that letter maybe because it summarizes all the other letters that have been flying about.

So he'll give us this one. So let's look down at verse 11 and read it. This is the copy of the letter which they sent to him. To King Artaxerxes, your servants, the men in the region beyond the river, and now let it be known to the king that the Jews who came up from you have come to us at Jerusalem. They are rebuilding the rebellious and evil city and are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. Now, in this letter, they're going to imply four reasons why the king had better stop the work, and that was the first one. Jerusalem is a bad city filled with rebellious people, okay? Verse 13. Now, let it be known to the king that if the city is rebuilt and the walls are finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or tax, and it will damage the revenue of the king.

Second reason to stop building, this city won't pay you taxes. You're about to lose money, verse 14. Now, because we are in the service of the palace and it is not fitting for us to see the king's dishonor, therefore, we have sent and informed the king, oh, reason number three, king, you're about to lose face. You're about to lose honor among the nations by allowing these rebellious people to refuse to pay you taxes. It's not going to look good for you, okay?

Verse 15. Let a search be made in the record books of your fathers, and you will discover in the record books and learn that the city is a rebellious city and damaging the kings and provinces, and they have incited revolt within it in past days. Therefore, the city was laid waste. We informed the king that if that city is rebuilt and the walls finished, as a result, you will have no possession in the province beyond the river.

Reason number four, you will lose power. Across on the other banks of the Euphrates, you won't be able to control anything, okay? Now, what do you think any king would say after reading that he's about to lose money, honor, and power?

That's no problem. Taxes are too high anyhow. I'm in the mood to give away some real estate. It's time to give back to the people. No, they reserve those kinds of things for election year, not a chance. Especially for a king here, if you look back in verse 7, you notice that right in the middle of his name is the word tax. I'm still smarting from April 15th. I guess it's coming out here. Well, our tax ixies searches the archives to validate this letter, and guess what?

He had plenty of evidence. Verse 24 summarizes it all. Then work on the house of God in Jerusalem ceased, and it was stopped until the second year of the reign of Darius, king of Persia.

The king ordered the work to cease. In fact, it's likely from what we read in Nehemiah chapter 1 that the Persians came along and actually tore down what they had accomplished up to this point. It was going so well, and it all turned bad. And now for 15 years, climb into this text and you can almost feel their despair and their discouragement.

They are disabled by all that has happened. Well, what can we learn from Zerubbabel's excitement and then discouragement? Three things quickly.

Number one, advancement attracts attention. You move one inch in your spiritual walk forward and somebody will take note. It's kind of like making a commitment. Lord, develop in my life patience. Younger Christians pray that. Because what happens?

An event occurs that requires what? Patience. Hey, that believer just made a commitment. Now we pull out the ammunition.

Number two, opposition should be our expectation. Paul wrote to his young son in the faith these words, they who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. You could translate it will suffer harassment. And what I like about that verse is he does not say to Timothy, those who live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be harassed. No, those who desire to live a godly life. In other words, you might not have even gotten to the godly point. You just desire it. Lord, I want to live a godly life. That alone is enough to produce from the enemy, the world, even our own flesh harassment.

Just make a commitment. It should be expected. And so often we are sidetracked because we didn't expect it. Take it from believers thousands of years ago here in this text who were harassed and threatened and falsely accused.

And I want you to don't miss it. It worked. It worked.

The building stopped. Third, failure is guaranteed without God. What's going to happen 15 years after this event, its initial accusation that will encourage discouraged, defeated, disabled is a rubable. The leader who with great excitement and faith led the people back 50,000 excited people who were months earlier celebrating and shouting praise God. And now laid low.

What will cause them to pick their tools up again and return to building? Well, it would be the preaching of a faithful prophet named Zachariah. And his message, by the way, is rarely viewed from the historical context. You know that verse that I'm going to tell you in a moment.

But here's the context. And this is what causes a rubable, even though the king didn't say, okay, you can start building again, to begin building again. And those discouraged people to regather and clean the rust off their tools and to begin walking again after God.

What would it be? Zachariah came and he delivered a message. And the verse says this. This is the word of the Lord to the rubable saying, not by might nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord.

Isn't that good? What a gracious God. Zachariah, go tell discouraged the rubable. It isn't by his might.

Go tell those defeated people. It isn't by their power. Anything built for the kingdom of God is not built by the power of man. But by my spirit, says the Lord.

Hudson Taylor summarized it this way. He said, advancement in the Christian life is not a striving to have faith, but a looking off to the faithful one. I like the way Paul instructed Timothy again when he said, Timothy, even when we are faithless, he is faithful.

And he said to the Thessalonian believers, the one who called you will bring it to pass. So when you've been brought, and maybe today you have been brought to a standstill and defeated and discouraged, I challenge you to, even when you're in a standstill, to still stand. And you do that when you realize standing for Christ, growing, advancing, building, it is not by your might, not by your power, but by his spirit, says the Lord. What a helpful reminder today that when it comes to serving God, we may face opposition and hardship.

But God calls us to faithfulness, even when we're opposed. Today's lesson is called Opportunity Equals Opposition. And if you missed part of it, you can listen to the entire lesson on our website or on our smartphone app. You'll find our website at wisdomonline.org. And you'll find the Wisdom International app in either the iTunes or the Google Play stores. That app is a discipleship resource that will help you grow in your faith. In the menu along the bottom is a tab that says Bible. That gives you access to the complete text of the Bible. And as you're reading along, you can watch the video or listen to the audio of all Stephen's lessons through the Bible. Download that today, then join us back here next time for more wisdom for the heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-01 00:21:59 / 2023-11-01 00:32:03 / 10

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