This article was adapted from the The Gospel Project for Adults, Winter 2016–17, in a session titled, “God Sustains Us Through Adversity.” The Gospel Project takes adults, students, and kids on a chronological, Christ-centered journey through the storyline of Scripture. Preview one month free at gospelproject.com.
Read Ezra 4:1-7.
The exiles had returned to their homeland, but this was only the beginning of the rebuilding process. As they obeyed God in restoring the temple, they faced opposition and adversity. By choosing to listen to God’s Word and not the opposition, they were able to complete the work God called them to and celebrate His work through them. As God’s people today, we are called to remain faithful to the task God has laid before us and to trust Him to transform hearts and lives, no matter what adversity we encounter.
The adversaries of the Jews banded together to oppose the people and prevent them from building the temple. It is important to note that these “enemies” may have first offered their help with good intentions. Their statement “for we also worship your God” was true, but their worship was in addition to the false gods in their pantheon. In other words, they claimed to worship God alongside all the false gods of the region.
The Jews’ exclusive claim to constructing the temple was a declaration that the Lord alone was God and no other “god” would be worshiped within this new structure (Ezra 4:3). This is the same exclusive claim that Christians make when we declare, “Christ is Lord!” (Rom. 10:9; Phil. 2:11).
In a society where tolerance and openness are seen as absolute values, Christians face the ever-present danger of compromise. We are pressured to minimize the differences between Christianity and other faiths, as if all religious beliefs are basically the same. But this jumbled thinking within society provides an opportunity for us Christians to do two things simultaneously: 1) uphold clear, biblical teaching, and 2) demonstrate our love for those we believe to be in error.
When the Israelites stood for the purity of their religion, they provoked outright opposition from their adversaries (Ezra 4:4-7). Notice the ripple effect as the personal discouragement and fear escalated to systemic oppression—community leaders were bribed into frustrating the work on the temple.
When enduring trials of various kinds, God’s people must hold two ideas in tension: 1) this world in its present state is not our ultimate home (1 Pet. 2:11), and 2) we are ambassadors of peace in this world. The guarantee that Christ will ultimately reverse the brokenness of the fall (Gen. 3; Rev. 21:1-2) is not a “green light” to disengage from the world. As Christ’s ambassadors, we must faithfully bear witness to God’s kingdom.
Believers can rest on the truth that God will see His plan come to fruition. He will sustain His people during times of adversity.
What’s more, we know we have a God who did not exclude Himself from facing opposition and adversity. Christ faced temptation and opposition as He obeyed the Father in all things.
Now, through Christ’s example and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to obey
God no matter what circumstances or trials we face. God calls believers to continue in obedience despite the words of our opponents and to trust Him to change the hearts and minds of those who oppose Him and our faith.