Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Resistance to Revival (Part 3): The Tactic of Discouragement

The most prevalent tactic the enemies of revival take is discouragement. Such discouragers can come from within and from without. Notice this tactic at work in the text:
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 all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.

They actually hired counselors to do the work of bringing down their morale! The adversaries knew that Cyrus would not reverse his decision, so they went a more legal route. We should not understand these counselors to be like playground bullies taunting the Israelites as they tried to build the temple. They were not like the mockers of Noah’s day who laughed at his attempt to build a boat in a day where it had not yet rained. They were most likely legal experts who held up the building process in a number of ways. They could have stopped or delayed the trade with the governors of Lebanon where the Jews received their wood. They could have worked with the local governor to delay building permits for all we know. Whatever the case, the discouragers and legal adversaries of the Temple project held up it’s building for almost 20 years! The son of Cyrus was a lame leader who had no influence abroad, so they were successful during his reign to hold up the temple. It was not until Darius that they would be able to start the temple project again. This could have been a real blow to a newly excited church. If this revival was human in its origin, this set back regarding the temple could have really threatened to extinguish the fire of revival.

Resistance will come to us in the form of people who will discourage us or discouraging factors in general. It is a challenge to not be discouraged by life at times. Remember, we live in a cosmic conflict where sin still has a very real and lasting impact on us as individuals, as a church, and as a society. Discouragement as a form of resistance to our spiritual growth is not new, in fact it is to be expected.

I sometimes wonder if the Church in the U.S. will be facing a similar effort to discourage by some in our land. If the church is willing to be silent on such moral issues as abortion, embryonic stem cell research, homosexuality, gay marriage, etc., perhaps people will leave us alone. On the other hand, if the Church does what it's supposed to do- live differently before the world and speak out against such sin, we might well face legal opposition. For the church in Ezra's day such discouraging opposition caused a 20-year delay in building the temple, maybe for us it's the loss of tax exemption or worse yet- legal action against ministers who preach what God's Word says about some of the aforementioned sins.

Whatever happens, when revival comes, it cannot be stopped- even with opposition like we witness in Ezra. Revival is the sovereign work of God. Tactics as seen in Ezra's day are actually a means of God's strengthening His reviving work. Such trials have the effect of purifying the church, not squashing it.

1 comment:

Frontier Forest said...

Tony, almost every Moldavian pastor we visited had been imprisoned for the cause of Christ! The church there is strong because their leaders are strong! “They are steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” They will not be threatened nor will physical torture or even martyrdom detour them from preaching God’s Word in truth and living it through His love. Speaking about the 13 years of imprisonment in a horrible Soviet gulag, Pavel Khorev’s brave father, the man the church there calls, “The Conquering Hero” humbly stated, “It is a small price to pay! What an honor to suffer for Jesus!”