Last Sunday I was asked to speak on the historical books (Joshua through Esther) in the worship service [view the sermon]. With so much material to cover, in so little time, I had to skip many important ideas.
Ezra & Nehemiah Faced Obstacles
One that did not make the “sermon cut” comes from the lives of Nehemiah and Ezra. Both men lived during the time that the nation of Israel was returning to their promised land. Both men were called by God to help restore the covenant between God and His people. In order to accomplish this covenant renewal, there were a few obstacles.
The most notable of those obstacles were that (1) the city of Jerusalem was demolished and there was no refuge for weary travelers coming to worship the Lord and (2) there was no temple … it had been destroyed. Nehemiah is charged with the first task while Ezra is responsible for the second.
Not surprisingly, however, these men face enormous challenges. They both seriously lack human and financial resources. They both have people who pour cold water on all their ideas, visions, goals and dreams. They both also have enemies … there are many who do not want to see a restored nation.
So the question becomes, what to do about all these challenges? Give up? View these obstacles as a series of “closed doors” and decide it is not the will of God after all? Beg God for His blessing and work as hard as you can?
Ezra and Nehemiah did the latter. They recognized that they were completely dependent on the Lord to provide for them, protect them from their enemies, strengthen them for the task, and bless them to see it brought to completion … but they also planned, worked, led, and poured their life into the task that they believed God wanted them to do.
You Face Obstacles
I think we give up too easily sometimes. We see an obstacle and it looks large in our eyes … maybe even daunting. Yet, what God wants us to do is trust Him through it.
- Some parents have very estranged relationships with their children because they see the obstacles of repentance and forgiveness as too large.
- Some folks do not work at their ministry because they are afraid that their spouse and children will suffer. While we always want biblical balance, there is great value in showing your spouse and children that you live for the cause of Christ.
- Some folks give up on a ministry because someone did not like it. While we want to learn from our critics, we do not want to be controlled by them. Learn a lesson and try again.
Ezra and Nehemiah looked at their task – helping to establish covenant renewal between God and his people – and refused to let the enemies, the nay sayers, the cold water pourers, or the resource constraints deter them from their task.
What is it that God is calling you to do? Are there tasks that you have let slide because the obstacles are too great? Consider the potential blessing that you may be missing out on.