Persevering Even When All Looks Lost

You ever get started on something you knew you were supposed to do and then it bogged down? Did you experience the frustration that accompanied getting stopped cold from finishing a task God had called you to? When this happens, everything inside of us is shouting, “No! This shouldn’t be happening! I know God is in this. Why am I stuck?” But sometimes that’s where we end up. That’s not to say God isn’t in it. God still is. It’s just that we have to look at working according to His timing and not our own. For instance:

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah and rebuild the house of the LORD, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem. Every survivor, at whatever place he may live, let the men of that place support him with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, together with a freewill offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.'” – Ezra 1:1-4, NASB

Cyrus, king of Persia, had heard God’s call to restore His temple. So Cyrus provided an edict that let the exiles from Judah go back to Jerusalem and do just that. It looked like every resource that would be needed would be provided. After all, Cyrus had opened up the the way to go. This was the head honcho. And he said go. Work was started. The foundation of the temple was put down. And everything looked good. But then enemies arose and stopped everything in its tracks:

Then the king sent an answer to Rehum the commander, to Shimshai the scribe, and to the rest of their colleagues who live in Samaria and in the rest of the provinces beyond the River: “Peace. And now the document which you sent to us has been translated and read before me. “A decree has been issued by me, and a search has been made and it has been discovered that that city has risen up against the kings in past days, that rebellion and revolt have been perpetrated in it, that mighty kings have ruled over Jerusalem, governing all the provinces beyond the River, and that tribute, custom and toll were paid to them. So, now issue a decree to make these men stop work, that this city may not be rebuilt until a decree is issued by me. Beware of being negligent in carrying out this matter; why should damage increase to the detriment of the kings?”

Then as soon as the copy of King Artaxerxes’ document was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe and their colleagues, they went in haste to Jerusalem to the Jews and stopped them by force of arms. Then work on the house of God in Jerusalem ceased, and it was stopped until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.
– Ezra 4:17-24, NASB

I can imagine that those who had so passionately returned to Jerusalem to rebuild God’s temple experienced the same frustration we do when we see things stall, yet we know we’re following God’s direction. How could this be? This was God’s temple, His house, and the enemies of God had succeeded in getting the work stopped. They had the king’s edict and with it in hand they stopped the work. It took the coming of a new king, Darius, before work was begun again. I can only imagine what those returnees must have felt, watching the days go by and seeing no further work being done to God’s temple. However, Darius received a letter indicating Cyrus had originally commissioned the work. Upon finding a record of this, he recommissioned the work to begin. And as a result, we find the following verse in Scripture:

This temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar; it was the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. – Ezra 6:15, NASB

The work that had been arranged by God had finally come to completion. There was a sizable delay, yes. But God’s work was ultimately fulfilled. This is an important lesson for us, too. When we don’t see immediate results we can become discouraged. When we’re striving to complete the work God has assigned us and we hit the stops, we can become frustrated. However, we need to remember that God will always prevail. Sometimes it means we’ll have to wait. Sometimes it means patiently trusting that the Lord will bring about that which He started. And that means leaning on Him when we don’t understand why we’re not making progress. There were hindrances for the rebuilding of God’s own house, as recorded by Ezra, so we should not be surprised when we see such things occur in our own lives. When those obstacles do come, we must seek to overcome them, but only with the Lord’s timing and direction.

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