Faith that Overcomes Obstacles
February 4-5, 2023
Overcoming obstacles, that is the theme of this study because Israel now is going to be facing some very difficult times. If you remember the story, God has called them to go back. It's the story of the great restoring of Israel after they had been defeated by Babylon, the city was destroyed, the temple, the house of God burned, and then the people are carried away into exile those 70 years. Even during those 70 years, God gave them hope. God wanted them to have hope because He had for them a great calling and purpose.
He sent word to them, even while they're in that 70 years of exile, He encouraged them through the Prophet Jeremiah by sending them a promise that they can hold on to, that God would restore them. We read it last week, but it bears again repeating, Jeremiah 29:10-11, 14, "Thus says, Jehovah the Lord, when those 70 years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you, I will fulfill my good word to you to bring you back to this place." Here is that famous verse, "For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare," which means good.
"I have a plan in mind for you, for your welfare and not for calamity," He says. "To give you a future, to give you a hope." He says in verse 14, "I will restore your fortunes, and I will gather you from all the nations when I sent you," declares the Lord. There is that and promise to hold onto. After the 70 years were completed, Cyrus, who is king of Persia, who defeated Babylon, now, he is the king. He sent a proclamation calling all the Jews that lived in his kingdom to return to rebuild Jerusalem and the holy temple. They have a purpose, they have a calling, go back and build.
God's purpose and God's calling is to build. Even so, God is the one who gives meaning and purpose, and calling to your life. That's true. Even though God is the one who gives that calling and that purpose, there still will be opposition to that purpose in your life. There will be trouble, there will be difficulty, and that's what this message is about, overcoming obstacles. Jesus said the same. He said the same with a promise. Notice John 16:33, "These things I have spoken to you so that in Me, you may have peace." He's talking about peace in the midst of trouble, obstacles, difficulties.
"In the world, you will have tribulation, but take courage, man." Now, that's a word for faith, "Take courage, man, I have overcome the world." See, there are principles for overcoming obstacles. Troubles and trials are a fact of life, but defeat is not. You do not have to be defeated. Trials and difficulties are certainly and can be discouraging, but they must not shipwreck your faith. See, God wants to equip you in advance, and that's what this message is about, equipping you in advance so that you can be victorious and overcome the obstacles that will be against you.
Whenever you move in God's purpose, there will be spiritual attacks. There will be spiritual warfare, there will be opposition that comes against you. That's the story. In Chapter 2, it gives the list of names of those leaders returning, and the Jews with them. In Chapter 3, they begin the work. They're coming back now to Jerusalem, and they're beginning the work of laying the foundation for the temple. After they've just finished the foundation, and that's all they did, but that was so important for them, they paused for celebration and worship.
It was so exciting for them. The singers sang, the musicians played. The rejoicing was loud that they could hear it a great distance away. They're just so excited. They're building, finally building, and they're shouting and singing, but it says that there were also those in the ground who were weeping. They wept because they remembered the temple. "Oh, this is not what we had. One day we had the glory of Solomon's temple," and they're weeping. It broke their heart to think about all that they had lost. It says the weeping was so loud and the rejoicing was so loud you couldn't distinguish one from another.
Now, this is understandable, this weeping. If we can understand it, if you made terrible errors in judgment, and that cost you dearly, you can certainly look back and be discouraged when you think about all that was lost because of what you did. If you stay discouraged, if you stay beaten down, it will keep you from God's purpose. It will keep you from fulfilling God's calling in your life to build again, to rebuild this thing. See, they had lost everything, but it's time to rebuild. If you keep looking back, if you keep thinking back about everything you lost, then it will keep you from what God wants to do now.
Let me give you a great verse. Philippians 3:13-14. "One thing I do," Paul writes, "forgetting what lies behind." You want to talk about some past, Paul certainly had some past. He had some things he wasn't very proud of, pretty much ashamed of some of the things he did. "One thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on." That's right. That's the key to rebuilding, "Press on toward that goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus." See, God sent word to those there in Jerusalem who were so discouraged.
"This is nothing like what we had before. Oh, it's such a sad thing. Oh, we've lost so much." God sent some prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, to strengthen and encourage them. God said through the prophets, "You remember the former glory? There is a glory yet to come that will make even the former glory seem as though it we're nothing." Let me give you the verse because it's just such a great word. Haggai Chapter 2. You got to read the whole chapter, but Chapter 2, these verses where God says through the prophet, "Who was left among you who saw the temple in its former glory, and how do you see it now?
I. Spiritual Advance will be Opposed
Does it not seem to you as nothing in comparison? But take courage, Zerubbabel, declares the Lord, for I am with you. I will shake the nations, I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts, and the latter glory of this house will be greater than the former glory, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place, I will give peace." There is that prophetic word. You're thinking about the past. God is thinking about the glory yet to come. Oh, it's far greater than you have understood ever before. God sends word to encourage them, and there are principles for overcoming opposition.
Let's read, we're in Ezra 4, beginning in verse 1, "Now, when the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the people of the exile were building a temple to the Lord God of Israel, when they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of the father's households, and they said to them, let's do this together. Let us build with you, for we, like you, seek your God." Now, these, by the way, are what later were known as Samaritans. These are the people living just north of them. If you remember the story, Assyria had defeated the north, carried those people away, and then brought another people to take their place, and they intermingled with them. They somewhat followed God. That's why they say, "Let's do this together. Let's build with you. We, like you, seek your God, and we have been sacrificing to Him since the days of Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, who brought us up here, but Zerubbabel," who is the Jewish governor, he would've been king except he has no throne, "and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the father's households of Israel said to them, you have nothing in common with us in building a house to our God." No, "But we ourselves will together build to the Lord God of Israel as King Cyrus, the king of Persia has commanded us.
No, you will not work with us. No." The people of the land didn't like that answer, and so they discouraged the people of Judah. They frightened them from building. In fact, so much so that they had to strap on weapons. They were in fear of being attacked so much was their fright. Then they hired counselors against them to frustrate their counsel all the days of Cyrus, king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius, king of Persia. Now, in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation. In fact, they're against them.
They're opposing them so much that they write a legal letter of accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. All right. Now, these are the verses I want us to look at to consider the life lessons and applications for us today starting with this, spiritual advance will be opposed. Right away, you get a sense of the danger here when Ezra refers to these people as enemies, and their opposition is clever, it's deceptive, and it's powerful. They are against them. This is a ploy, they are against them. They are against these Jews. By the way, there are a lot of people in the world today that are against Jews.
See, the enemy knows very well the significance of the temple of God there in Jerusalem and will resist it at every turn. He doesn't want worship of God happening there. He doesn't want Israel to have spiritual revival. I submit to you that the devil is anti-Semitic. Anybody agree with me? Of course, he's anti-Semitic. He's against Israel, and there are many who agree with him. See, the enemy-- Now, let's look at it personally. For you are the temple of God now. The Scripture says you are the temple of the living God now, and every spiritual advance in your life will also be opposed by the enemy.
See, God doesn't want worship happening in your life. He doesn't want spiritual increase to be happening in your life. He doesn't want the rebuilding of the work of God in your life. He's going to oppose you and resist you at every turn. Think of this, God is doing something beautiful in this church. God is doing something beautiful. God is doing something amazing. God is doing something in your life. There is a hunger for more of God. There is a hunger for more of God's glory. There is a hunger for more of God's word and for spiritual revival.
There is spiritual increase, and you can be sure that the enemy will resist it in your life. See, in other words, to be forewarned means that you can be prepared. There are spiritual principles for overcoming obstacles. Let's look, from this perspective, beware of the compromise of cooperation. Notice, verse 2, "They approached Zerubbabel, the governor, and said, come, let's do it together. Let's build with you, for we, like you, seek your God." You can imagine how tempting this might be. They didn't exactly have an overabundance of workers.
A. Beware of the compromise of cooperation
They were only maybe I think 46,000 who came total back. This is a fraction in what they were. They didn't have a lot of workers. This was very tempting, you might think, but this is a very clever attempt of the enemy to bring compromise. See, if the enemy is offering to help you, you can be sure that it will not end well, and so they have a decision to make. "Let us work together. Why don't we help you?" There are key points in your life, key decisions that will turn the course of your life. This is one of those key decisions. This would not have ended well if Zerubbabel had agreed to let them work together.
For I submit that once they got their foot in the door that they would have then pre-empted worship, they would've pre-empted honor to Jehovah. The next thing you know, the whole thing would be spiraling out of control. You can see the result of the spiritual compromise in the history of Israel in the north, the Northern Kingdom. From the beginning to the end, you see spiritual compromise and it did not go well for them. Spiritual compromise never ends well. Anybody agree with me? The enemy wants you to compromise, but it never ends well.
From the very beginning of the Northern Kingdom, Jeroboam was the king, he didn't want people going to Jerusalem to worship. He created a new religion made on golden calves there for the people to worship, "These are your gods, O, Israel, who brought you out of Egypt, worship them." From that strategy, we can see something because he even imitated the Jewish feasts. See, this is the strategy of the enemy today. There are many false religions that have been created by imitating the authentic faith of Jesus, the authentic faith of the church.
See, in other words, if a counterfeit there is going to create a counterfeit $100 bill, you can be sure that it will look amazingly like that which is authentic. That is the nature of spiritual warfare today. Let me give you a great verse in the New Testament, Galatians 1:7-8, "There are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the Gospel of Christ." I'll tell you what, that's happening right now today. There are many who want to distort the Gospel of Christ. Then he adds, "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a Gospel that's contrary to what we have preached to you, let him be anathema, let him be accursed."
That's a very strong word. Spiritual compromise. Here's another example. This is toward the end of the kingdom there in the north. I mentioned Assyrians defeated Israel, displaced them, and then moved another people to take their place. These people, they knew nothing about the God of Israel, so the king of Assyria instructed that a prophet of God be brought in to teach these people how to honor God. The result was nothing short of disaster because you cannot mix the two together. That's what they sought to do. They didn't want to let go of what they had before.
B. Beware of that which is partly true
They wanted to mix the two together. I tell you, you cannot mix them and have anything that is spiritually of any power. You cannot mix the two together. Spiritual compromise always ends badly. It was true then, and it's true today. Here's the word that the prophet spoke about that. 2 Kings 17, "To this day, they do according to their earlier customs. They do not fear the Lord, nor do they walk in his statues." While these people respected the Lord, they also served their own idols. They wanted both. While they respected the Lord, they also served their own idols, their children likewise, and their grandchildren, as their fathers did so they do to this day. That spiritual compromise would not end well. In fact, Paul writes it this way, 2 Corinthians 6, "What fellowship has light with darkness? What harmony has Christ with Belial? What has a believer in common with an unbeliever, and what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God," just as God said, "I will dwell in them, I will dwell amongst them and walk among them. I will be their God, they shall be my people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate." God is saying the same to us today, "Come out and be separate unto the Lord for spiritual compromise is a scheme of the enemy." Then there's this, out of this story, beware of that which is partly true. See, the danger of the words of these enemies is that they were partly true. They did worship God. Problem is that they didn't worship God alone.
They wanted both. Now, there is today even very similar things. The politically correct thing today, is pressure to co-exist saying, "After all, we serve the same God. After all, don't we serve the same God?" I submit that we do not. I respect the fact that people can choose to worship any God in any manner they choose, but I cannot be pressured into a compromise of cooperation with them. I learned this lesson many years ago. The church was very, very young, and I was invited to a prayer breakfast hosted by the governor of Oregon. I forget the governor, his name now. He was a doctor. What was his name?
Kit, yes, thank you. He was the governor in those days, and he invited us to a prayer breakfast. Now, I suppose I should not have been surprised that he invited leaders from every imaginable religion and some that I doubt that could be called a religion at all. I sat there growing more and more and more uncomfortable. Then at one point, they brought up some kind of Shaman or something or other, and we were all supposed to take communion with Mother Earth. I decided, "I don't belong here. This is not the place that I need to be."
I was very happy that I was given a seat in the back of the room because I was able to stand up and leave and I came back. I got to tell you, I came back. I walked in the doors of the church, and then, "Oh, praise God, I'm home." We're supposed to pray together? I cannot pray with anyone who is praying to a different God. I cannot pray to any but the one who sent His Son to die on the cross for my sins. Amen. Let's give the Lord praise. Absolutely. Let me add this. This current woke society is pressuring believers in Jesus Christ to compromise.
II. Stand Firm in Your Faith
Isn't that true? There's tremendous pressure today in the woke culture pressuring believers in Jesus Christ to compromise. I am aware of churches that are compromising. We are hearing now of woke churches. I've come to the conclusion that when I come to the end of my life, that when I stand before the Lord, I'm not going to be giving an account of how woke I was. I'm going to be giving an account of what I did with His Son, Jesus Christ, and whether I led the church to stand firm in Jesus Christ. I will give an account of how I lead this church.
Now, let me just say, we are not going woke. I will awaken the soul to worship in the Lord Jesus Christ. That's what I want. Amen? Amen. Zerubbabel and the others said, "No, we have nothing in common. We have nothing in common in that we should build the house of the Lord together. We will do it ourselves." We stood firm, and there's the principle. Stand firm in your faith. These are days where there will be opposition but to stand firm in your faith. See now what happened next is important. When Zerubbabel and the leader stood firm, the attack of the enemy increased.
Oh, at first, they were being all nice. "Oh, let's work together." They're being all nice, and then as soon as they are rebuffed, as soon as they don't get their way, now they go on the attack. That is the nature of spiritual warfare. "So, the people of the land," verse 4, "discouraged the people of Judah. They frightened them from building. They hired counselors against them." Oh, and they did much more as we will read. Wrote letters accusing them. There, what a picture of spiritual attack. See, if the enemy can get you discouraged, if the enemy can get you frightened, you will soon come to the place where you want to quit.
A. Persevere against the accuser
See, that's the picture of spiritual defeat. When you come to the point where you want to give up and quit you need to be strengthened again because God wants you to stand firm, persevering and pressing forward. Stand firm in your faith. 1 Corinthians 16:13, "Be on the alert. Stand firm in your faith. Act like men. Be strong," Paul wrote. A great word. Then there's this, "Persevere. Stand firm, and then persevere against the accuser." The enemies of the Jews then wrote a letter of accusation against him to the new king of Persia, Ahasuerus.
Interestingly, the letter, the accusation contained truth. Later on in the chapter, verse 15, he writes in the letter, "Search the record books and you will see. Look it up. It's true. Look it up. It's right there, it's in the record. Look it up." This accusation, there's truth. He says, "Search the records. You will see that that city is a rebellious city damaging the kings and provinces. They have incited revolt. Therefore, that city was laid waste." It's true, and it was true. Israel had stood firm against kings and provinces in days past. They had revolted against the Babylonians who laid waste to the city. It's true.
What do you do when the accusation is true? The enemy is a liar, but there's many times when he does not need to lie because there's plenty against you. What do you do when it's true? This is a scheme of the enemy. He, in fact, is called the accuser of the brethren. Revelation 12:10, "The authority of his Christ has come for the accuser of the brethren has been thrown down. He who accuses them before our God, day and night." See, here's my point. The thing is, there is enough baggage in everyone's past to stand accused. In everyone's past, there's enough baggage, there's enough something that everyone can stand accused.
The enemy always has something he can use to accuse you, and he does not even have to lie, but here again, it's only partly true in the sense that the enemy deliberately leaves out the fact that Jesus paid for your sins, and He paid for them in full. Oh, he forgot that point. That is a very important point as a matter of fact. Yes, we all have sins. Yes, we all have a past. Yes, we all have things, but Jesus paid it all, and God says to you, "Now, arise and rebuild." That's what I want you to do. "Now, arise and rebuild." Amen. Sure, let's give the Lord praise.
For then we see this, help is on the way. See, when the king of Persia, notice this, what an interesting turn, when the King of Persia, Ahasuerus, receives this letter, he did look it up and it was true. He immediately issued a decree to make the men stop their work. The city must not be rebuilt. They stopped the work. It worked. What do you do when there are accusations against you, and they're true? Answer. What do you do when there's accusations against you, and they're true, and you're trying to rebuild your life? What do you do? You stand firm, and you wait for God to move in your behalf.
B. Help is on the way
Stand firm, and you wait for God to move in your behalf, for help is on the way. You press on believing that Jesus is your advocate. Let me give you a verse. You write this on your heart. 1 John 2:1, "I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin, but if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous." Now that's an amazing declaration right there. God surely declares, "I write these things to you that you may not sin," because sin is against you. Sin is like poison to the soul, but if anyone does sin, please know that you have an advocate.
Oh, this is such an important thing because so many people have it wrong. They think that when a person blows it, when a person sins or whatever, they're convinced that God is so angry with them that God pushes them back. That God rebuffs them, "Be gone, I have nothing to do with thee. You have blown it again. Separate yourself from me, for you have sinned and you have failed again." Many people are convinced that God is angry and is looking for ways to get even with them. I'm reading here in the Bible that says, "I'm writing these things that you may not sin, but if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous."
This I know. If Jesus Christ is your advocate, then help is on the way. Now, He's going to send to them-- First, help is on the way. First, one thing He's going to do, He's going to send to them prophets to strengthen them, to bring a word to them, to speak words of life to them. God will do the same. God will move by His word. He began to speak words of life. He will use His word to speak forth life. He will strengthen you. First, he sends the prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, prophesying in the name of the God of Israel and encouraged them to build.
"They told us not to build." "Build. Stand up, build." Ezra 5:2, "Then Zerubbabel and Jeshua arose and began to build the house of God, which was in Jerusalem." It is been, they stopped the work for I think it was like 15 or 16 years. That's how long they stood discouraged. "They arose and began to build the house of God, which is in Jerusalem." The prophets of God were right there with them, supporting them. Help is on the way. First thing God is going to do is speak life, speak right into your soul. Speak life, speak His word. He also is at work in your behalf in ways you cannot see.
See, faith believes that if God is for you, then He is moving in your behalf. Help is on the way. What happened next was interesting. They began to build. Tatnai, the governor of the province sent a letter to Darius now, who is now the king of Persia, asking that a search be conducted and if these people have authority to build the house of God. Interestingly, he did not tell them to stop. He sent a letter asking, do these people have permission. Ezra 5:5, "But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop them until a report should come from Darius."
The king issued the decree, and a search was made. What he found was that decree from Cyrus all those years before. He wrote a letter back to Tatnai, the governor. I got to tell you, this is one of the most amazing letters you will ever read. This is nothing short of amazing. You got to listen. Okay, I'm going to read to you some of this letter. I'm telling you in advance, this is amazing. It's a declaration that God is a very present help in times of trouble. Listen to this letter, Ezra 6 in the verses there. "Now, therefore Tatnai, governor of the province, keep away from there.
Leave this work on the house of God alone. Moreover, I issue a decree of what you are to do for these people." Listen to this. "The full cost of this is to be paid out of the royal treasury and from the taxes from your province." I don't know about you, but I'm loving this right here. "You're going to raise some taxes and you're going to pay for it. This, without delay. I don't want any more delays. I want this done. Whatever else is needed, you will give it to him, and you will do it daily, and you will do it without fail." That's my God right there.
Amen? Amen. I love that part of this story because everything is against them. Everything is against them. God was for them, and they changed everything. Everything was against them, but God was for them. That changed everything. See, to believe that God works in such a way is to look and to watch. I can tell you stories, oh, the stories of how God has rescued and saved and has been miraculous. I could stand here for literally hours telling you how God has rescued and saved in my life. It is nothing short of miraculous. Anybody else have stories like that?
Yes, let's give the Lord praise. Absolutely, because that letter right there is, that's the way my God works. Help is on the way. He works in ways you cannot see. You have an advocate with the Father. He gives to His beloved even while he sleeps. Let's pray. Father, we are so amazed at how you move at your word, how you reveal yourself, how you show yourself strong, how you are very present help in times of trouble. How you work in ways we cannot see. How you strengthen us by speaking words of life into our very soul. Church, how many would say to the Lord today, "I know that we have much against us, I know that there's much against me, but I will stand firm.
I know in whom I have believed, and I am convinced, I'm persuaded He will keep that which I have committed to Him until that day. I know my God, and I will stand firm. I will not compromise. I will stand firm. I believe help is on the way." Church, how many would just say that to the Lord? Would you just raise your hand to the Lord and declare it? You can raise both hands to the Lord. Just say it to the Lord by raising your hand, "I will stand firm. There is no compromise in me. I will stand firm." Father, thank you so much for revealing to us that help is on the way, that we can stand firm in these days of great opposition.
That you will strengthen us with your great word and send your Holy Spirit in power. Send that help that's on the way. We honor you and thank you in Jesus' name, and everyone said-- Can we give the Lord praise, and glory, and honor? Amen? Amen.