Ezra 4-7, Psalm 47
I'm in the middle of a busy day and night on call in the hospital. One of the patients that I took over for had been in the hospital already for 24 hours. Her labor progressed slowly and I delivered her at around 3 am this morning. I didn't realize that she was a Christian until her last contraction and during the aftermath. The birth was difficult and the NICU team had to be called. The baby eventually did fine though was brought to the NICU for observation. I realized she was a Christian when she openly called on the name of Jesus just before giving birth. When the baby was struggling initially she immediately began condemning herself for this and that. I reassured her and repeated Romans 8:1 to her, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." When they took the baby to NICU and as I finished my repair, I asked her if she wanted to pray, which she gladly accepted. In that prayer I reminded her that God was in charge while that child was growing in the womb, while she was delivering, while in the NICU, and will continue to be so throughout her life. I reminded her that she and her husband were stewards and that myself and the medical team were merely vessels to be used by Him. I concluded with Philippians 4:6-7, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with Thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." This is one of the many things that I love about my job. Though tired and in the middle of the night I had the opportunity to experience fellowship with a sister in Christ and minister to her and encourage her.
Condemnation is a very effective tool of our enemy. The enemies of those who returned to build the temple launched an all out campaign to derail them and their initial attempts worked as we read the king's answer in Ezra 4:17-23, and the result in 4:24, "Thus the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem ceased, and it was discontinued until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia." Attacked by their enemies and openly condemned for what they were doing they allowed themselves to be beaten down rather than to seek God, the One who is able to destroy the condemnation of their enemies. We read when God's prophets arrived on the scene, how things changed in Ezra 5:1-2, "Then the prophet Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. So Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadek rose up and began to build the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them, helping them." You have to love the prophets, not only did they speak forth the word of God to end their feelings of condemnation, but they rolled up their sleeves and started working. It was said that Pastor Chuck Smith besides being the pastor of Calvary Costa Mesa and the founder of the Calvary Movement would often be mistaken by those who didn't know him as the the custodian, the gardener, etc. because besides speaking forth God's Word, there was no work that was beneath him. Notice their renewed confidence as they refused to cease in their building and responded in Ezra 5:11, saying, "And thus they returned us an answer, saying: "We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago,...".
Like those in Judah, condemnation destroys us. It robs us of our joy, it stops us from continuing our work for the Lord, it causes us to question our own faith. Condemnation reminds us of our flaws and failures and causes us to question whether God really forgives us. Satan knows this and it's therefore one of his main tools in his arsenal. He knows that the work of God ceases when we feel the effects of accusation and when we become disheartened. Though the Holy Spirit convicts us, He never condemns us, only Satan chooses to do that. As opposed to condemnation which attempts to stop us from moving forward in our walk with God, the Holy Spirit convicts us to motivate us and help move us forward through our various trials as we move forward obediently following God's call on our lives. If and when we feel beaten down, may we all remember the beautiful promise of Romans 8:1 and experience the joy that God so desires for our lives.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: