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Sometimes setbacks are a sign to up our game

roadblocksChristians are living in a time when persecution worldwide is being unleashed to try to hinder our progress for the glory of God through the gospel and we’re getting it externally (the world and Satan) as well as internally (the church and our flesh). But when we know that we know God wants us to accomplish something that isn’t for selfish gain to puff ourselves up like a televangelist, we shouldn’t let any opposition turn us away from our goal even if things get real ugly.

This is the type of situation Israel faced when it was time for their Babylonian captivity to come to an end. Even before they went into captivity, God gave disobedient Israel this sure word of prophecy by Jeremiah–

10 For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. 12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. 13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. 14 And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord… Jeremiah 29

After that 70 years, Cyrus king of Persia issued the decree that Jews could return to their homeland to rebuild, in fulfillment of God’s prophecy. He even gave them government funds to help them out. Nevertheless, once they returned, non-Jewish people in power in that region mounted stiff opposition to try to cause the Jews to cease and desist from building the temple.

The Jews continued building anyway until the Jew-haters lied to King Artaxerxes and told him the Jews were ruining everything and trying to take away his funds and power. You know, the same thing they say about Jews and Christians today. Artaxerxes believed them and ordered the work on the temple to stop. And it stopped for 16 years because the Jews got discouraged enough to believe the king’s orders were a sign God wanted them to stop (Haggai 1:2).

But the Jews already had God’s sure word from Jeremiah above to prove their weak assumptions wrong. So the Lord waited and waited to see if they would have enough gumption, self-motivation, and backbone to fight back and move forward despite opposition. But they didn’t. So he sent Haggai and Zechariah to light a fire under them (Ezra 5:1) after 16 years. Then they didn’t stop or look back and even got support from a new Persian king.

This should be a lesson to us Christians that when we have a sure word from God like Matthew 28:19 or Acts 5:29 like Israel had, we have no excuse to submit to setbacks. Just as God did not expect the Jews to kowtow in cowardice to the opposing word of a pagan king to stop his work, he doesn’t expect us to crouch in fear before any president, prime minister, judge, mayor, legislator, lawyer, professor, administrator, activist or anyone else who seems to have power. When we face stiff opposition to sharing the gospel in any format or forum, a victory from our opposition just means it’s time for us to dig in our heels, pray for godly wisdom, and up our game for the next battle.

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