I always enjoy reading Ezra and Nehemiah, because I like to see something great being built for God. Whether it is a work on the mission field, a church plant here in the states, a bus route started and flourishing, or a family or Christian doing something great, seeing God use someone to build His kingdom is exciting. I like that we can be in on it too. God has given us all something to build for Him. It may be a short-term project, or a lifelong call, but God has a work for you to do!
It took 22 years for Ezra to finish building the temple. There were times where the work just stopped. They had extreme opposition. At times, it seemed the dream had died. But some way, somehow, they continued and saw the house of the Lord finished.
How can we follow through and see God do a great work in and through our lives? How can we be prosperous in our calling? We see some principles in the book of Ezra that we can apply as we build for the Lord.
First, we see that they prospered through opposition. From the very beginning, this “great work” had opposition. The enemy came in and questioned their work (Ezra 4:1). They tried to infiltrate the work (4:2). The enemies worked to weaken their hands (4:4). The enemies hired counselors against the work (4:5). They accused them to the authorities (4:6), and even took the names to report them. Nevertheless, they prospered! I’m reminded that anything worth building for the Lord will come with opposition. Jesus taught this, Paul reminded us of this, and Peter told us we shouldn’t be surprised:
1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
Whether it’s a bus route, a home, a building program, a missions endeavor, or making an impact in our city, opposition is a part of life, but we can prosper through it.
Next, they prospered through preaching. And their prospering led to them finishing this great work! Notice the verse below:
Ezra 6:14 And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.
It’s easy to get sidetracked, or even discouraged along life’s way. But these people were challenged, inspired, and got back on track because of preaching! I’m reminded of the importance of preaching. Do you want to finish the Lord’s work for you? Be at church every time the doors are open for service. Put the news app away, close the social media, turn off the shopping app, and listen to some good preaching. It will challenge. It will convict. It will inspire.
They also prospered through fasting and prayer. We simply cannot underestimate the necessity of prayer in our lives. If the Lord is going to use us to see a great work done, we must pray. And at times, we must be willing to fast. Books, illustrations, and stories are countless of great works that have been done in direct relation to prayer. Do you pray for the work(s) the Lord has given to you? Do you want to prosper? Make them a matter of prayer.
Ezra 8:23 So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us.
Further, they prospered through separation (Ezra 9:1). We see that Ezra and the people prospered because they were willing to separate. In fact, six times in the book of Ezra we see “separate” or “separated”. If we are going to be effective in the Lord’s work, we must be willing to separate. We must separate from the world and worldliness. We must also be willing to separate from things that pull our attention and affection away from that which is really important.
Finally, they prospered because they kept the vision before them. They should put up with the opposition when they remembered the vision. They should stand guard late at night when the vision was before them. They could endure when they kept the vision before them. The same is true for us. We can work, pray, and keep on building, if we keep the vision before us. My dad would often ask: What is the vision? I’d ask the same. What is it? A bus kid to be saved? My children to serve the Lord with their lives? Our church to make an impact? Let’s keep the vision before us as we seek to do a great work for the Lord.
Do we have an emotional relationship and yet move on quickly, or are we concentrated and stick it out through good times and bad?
Often it seems our circumstances pause the dream. and as dreamers we get discouraged.