Opposition

When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build…” 

Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They bribed officials to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia. At the beginning of the reign of Xerxes, they lodged an accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem.

Ezra 4:1-2, 4-6

A large group of the people of God returned from exile to Jerusalem in order to rebuild the Temple. They were released to do so by an order from the king of Persia, King Cyrus. This was all orchestrated by the Lord.

…in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia…

Ezra 1:1

But once they started making sacrifices to the Lord and rebuilding the Temple, opposition came. Whenever we are called by God to accomplish His plans, there will be opposition. This is especially true when we are building something new or rebuilding something that should have always been. And notice the strategies of the opposition. Opposition to the Lord’s work usually goes through these same stages.

First, there’s the attempt to join the work in order to derail the work. This “friendly” and soft approach is often how opposition first arrives on the scene. If we invite the wrong people to give their input into the work we know we are called to do, it will get side-tracked, watered down, and compromised.

Secondly, there is an attempt to discourage through fear. This next wave of opposition is a series of people who are “concerned” about where this might lead. Fear is the main theme. Worst case scenario after worst case scenario gets listed as reasons why the work should stop. The attempt is to spread fear in such a way that people start getting discouraged and want to bail out.

If those two tactics don’t work, the next strategy of opposition intensifies into manipulation and accusation. The opposition starts recruiting people to their side with various forms of emotional bribery, manipulation, and false accusations about the ones leading the work of the Lord. (We read about how Absalom did this to King David in 2 Samuel 15:1-12). Lies about the leaders and character assassinations are the bread and butter of this stage of opposition.

Finally, if none of this stops the work of the Lord, the next move is making threats, including the threat of physical violence (see Nehemiah 4:11). While these threats are often empty, they can still cause a lot of pain and a lot of division.

For those who are called to step out in faith to accomplish a work of God, opposition will come. And the enemy isn’t creative enough to change his tactics. It usually looks something like the above strategies. The hard part is that many times this kind of opposition will come from people close to us. So it’s important that we face this opposition with love and grace for those who come against what God is doing. They think they are being helpful and wise even as they fight against what God is clearly doing.

I am reminded of times where I was the one pushing against and opposing a work of God. I thought I was being righteous and theologically sound. I thought I was in the right. I thought I was doing the right thing and warning against disaster. I didn’t realize until years later that I was actually fighting a work of the Lord. I didn’t realize until years later that I was the opposition; I was a puppet of the enemy. And when I came to realize my folly, I spent months in repentance for it. It was painful to realize how wrong I was. It was painful to come to an awareness of my own false accusations against those leaders God was using to lead a work of the Lord.

So when we do face opposition, we need to show grace. We need to show love. But we shouldn’t let opposition discourage us or stop us from what we’ve been called to do. God has called us to accomplish His work. It’s not our plan; it’s His plan. And we shouldn’t stop for any reason.

Pregnant

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

Matthew 1:18-19

We know that Mary and Joseph would have received ridicule for being pregnant out of wedlock. This would have been a total scandal. And it is easy enough to read this passage and think that it has little to do with us. Yet, God continues to impregnate His people through the Holy Spirit with unbelievable promises. And He often does this in ways that cause a scandal.

When God gives us a promise, there is often a “conception-gestation-birthing” process that we have to walk through in order to get to the fulfillment of the promise. This process can be awkward and embarrassing. It causes a disruption in our life and in the lives of those closest to us. This disruption often causes conflict and misunderstanding.

During these trying times, we are often faced with the decision that Joseph faced. Will we divorce ourselves from this promise, uncertain as we are of its origin and its fulfillment? Or will we see it through regardless of the disruption that occurs? Our answer to this question is everything! It is the difference between a promise aborted and a promise fulfilled.

In order to stick it out and give God our unconditional “Yes,” we will most likely need an encounter with Him–some sort of confirming revelation or experience–that gives us enough confidence and boldness to move forward. For Joseph, an angel appears to him in a dream and told him to marry Mary and name the baby Jesus. The angel confirmed that, “what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20).

Often the level of encounter we have with the Lord confirming His promise to us is equal to the level of opposition we’ll face to see it through to its fulfillment. I want to encourage you today that if the Lord has given you a promise or a word over your life, see it through to completion. Handle opposition with grace and humility, but don’t let it abort the promise.

You may face skepticism, ridicule, condemning words, rejection, and all sorts of opposition. The reason for this is multifaceted. Opposition comes because: 1) people naturally don’t like change, 2) the enemy doesn’t want that promise to come to fruition and 3) the testing will purify you and get you ready to steward the promise when it comes.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2-4