July 20

Ezra 4-7, Psalm 46

So many make a commitment to God only to slow down or stop in following through with that commitment because of difficulties or distractions.  Many believe once they have made that decision to read through the Bible, regularly attend church, serve faithfully, tithe regularly that God would bless them immediately because of this decision.  When hardships rather than perceived blessings result, if not grounded and prepared for this, people get derailed and disillusioned.  The prosperity gospel along with their preachers promote the lie that God through the Holy Spirit is a power to be used by the believer to accomplish what he wills rather than the truth which is the direct opposite which is we are vessels or clay in the hand of God to be used by our Creator to accomplish His will.  

We read in the opening chapters of Ezra that approximately 2.5% of the Jewish people in captivity set out in faith to rebuild the Temple.  Their commitment in taking this 900 mile journey is obvious.  They start out with ambition and excitement.  But soon afterwards the difficulties arise.  Those already living in the land created problems for the Jewish people.  We read in Ezra 4:4-5, "Then the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah.  They troubled them in building, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose...".  They went on to petition the new King of Persia by misrepresenting the Jewish people as to their motives in building the Temple.  In Ezra 4:12, we read in this letter, "Let it now be known to the king that, if this city is built and the walls completed, they will not pay tax, tribute, or custom, and the king's treasury will be diminished."  In Ezra 4:24 we see that their efforts worked and the work on the Temple ceased.  We read in Haggai (One of the prophets during this time) rebuking the people of Judah for this in Haggai 1:4, "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?"

When we are living our own life and doing our own thing, the enemies of God don't really care or notice us.  When we step out in faith, the enemy to our walk,Satan, along with his followers, will take notice and seek to derail us through accusation, discouragement, and condemnation. Along with our flesh and the world these three enemies to our walk can be quite effective in causing us to backslide in our commitment.  But if we keep our focus on Him and His Word we can grow and mature through these difficulties rather than weaken as the men of Judah did.  James encourages the brethren in his letter by saying in James 1:2-4, "...count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."  Paul teaches us in Philippians 3:13-14, "...forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."  Paul modeled what he wrote, consistently moving forward for Christ despite tremendous persecution.  We read in Acts 14:19-20, that despite being dragged out of Lystra and stoned by the people who only stopped because they thought he was dead, that Paul rose up and went right back into the city.  This is the commitment all of us should desire.  We should not be surprised by the trials, for in them we will mature if we draw near to God.  What revival could take place in our land if we persevered in the face of hardship and moved forward in our commitment to serve and glorify our God.

Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley:

Marj Lancaster