King Cyrus of Persia decides to send a remnant of Israel (mostly Judah and Benjamin) back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple of the Lord. That’s what the book of Ezra’s about.
Enemies of Israel don’t want them to build. They worry about the power the people will have if they rebuild the temple and their city:
Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. Ezra 4: 4-5
The attempts to discourage Israel from building the temple, then the city and its wall continue through the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. I have a personal interest in seeing how they respond – how they don’t give in to the discouragement and keep going.
I am not unaware that the deep discouragement I’ve felt the past few days – while it has its roots in earthly events – also reflects spiritual realities, as revealed in several verses:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5: 6-8
And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world…. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. Revelation 12: 9-10
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12
I rarely want to blame the devil for stuff. Too many people give him too much credit – instead of owning their own sin and failures.
However, there are a couple of situations where I think the principalities and powers are likely to array their powers: when a person wants to grow spiritually and when the church is carrying out the great commission.
I’ve tried to devote this year to pursuing a deeper relationship with Jesus (partly through daily blogging my way through the One Year Bible) and I lead an evangelism ministry where we’re watching a movement start of young Christian women who desire to share the Gospel.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I feel like I’m being devoured and accused. I feel helpless in the face of this overwhelming discouragement – this deep sense of not being “good enough.”
But I know that something far greater is arrayed on my behalf against the principalities and powers that seek to prevent me from completing my tasks of spiritual growth and leading this movement.
Maybe this makes me sound more important than I am! But whenever any Christian puts his or her relationship with God at top priority, whenever any Christian shares the Gospel, those principalities aren’t happy.
Frankly, I wondered when I would “feel” the attacks. I’ve definitely been aware of spiritual warfare via my husband’s death, many illnesses and deaths on the part of our staff and their families, disunity among leaders, loss of seven staff in a month, and disappointments when our plans went awry.
But for some reason, I feel more discouraged – more like a failure – than I have before, discouraged as a leader, a woman, a mother, a friend, a Christian…
I’m thinking when the Israelites listened to the discouraging talk of their accusers, they looked at that temple and thought “There’s no way we can complete this job.”
They wanted to give up. I want to give up. But I can’t. I won’t.
Three truths give me hope right now:
- God’s grace is sufficient for me, for his power is perfected in weakness… When I am weak, then I am strong. (from 2 Corinthians 12: 9-11)
- “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4
- “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” Romans 8: 27, 34
Briefly, I am encouraged by these truths:
- I am weak – but He is strong. And He’s especially strong when I am weak.
- Greater is He who lives in me than the one who accuses me
- The Holy Spirit and Jesus both pray for me when I don’t know how to pray.
Dear Lord: You know how to lift me from this “slough of despond.” Thank you that your work in me and through the ministry will not be stopped by my current discouragement. Pray what you need to pray for me. Do what you need to do in me. Give me strength. Protect me. Lift me eyes and lift me up. Thank you. Amen.