Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. Ezra 4:4 (NIV)
Today at the beginning of the church service, when the choir began to sing, some women sitting behind me talked over the music. They complained that choir wasn’t singing loud enough and that the piano was too loud. They noted that attendance in the congregation was down. What they were saying was all true, but it was not really something anyone needed to be saying out loud. Particularly at that time. I wanted to turn around a shush them, but refrained. I feared offending them. Yet, their comments made it hard for me to fully entering into worship. It made me think of how often, I have little voices in my head, real or imagined, that say, “You will never change. You can’t do it. You aren’t good enough.” I fight that spirit of discouragement so often. Sometimes, I beat it, but sometimes, at least for a while, it beats me. Providentially, the sermon included a reminder that Satan, that roaring lion who seeks to destroy us, puts people in strategic places in our lives to discourage and deter us from being obedient to God. We feel like things are going okay, and then, bam, a person will injure us or remind of past slights or hurts. Someone will speak negatively and like the flu, we catch the sorrow or fear as well. Interestingly, and again, providentially, the sermon was delivered by our Minister of Administration who has an amazing gift for organization, but does not at all feel comfortable speaking to large groups. He told us that he got the task of preaching this morning by default as the other more gifted preachers were out of town, but I know that God’s Hand was at work. When he got up to speak, his voice shook, he trembled and he could not remember some of his words, but then, before our eyes, an amazing transformation occurred. Like the caterpillar emerging from a cocoon as a butterfly, he stood up straight and delivered a strong, clear message aimed directly at each person in the room. You literally could see the Holy Spirit take over, and we all knew we were seeing an example of how God can use someone who chooses obedience over discouragement even when it was hard. The story that begins with the verse listed above tells how the people of Israel continued to rebuild the city even though they were discouraged. They trusted that God would fulfill the promises He had made to them and one day at a time, they walked in faith. It continues with Ezra 6 where they finished rebuilding the temple and celebrated “with joy.” The cure for discouragement? Don’t listen to the negative voices. Keep doing what God has called you to do without excuse. If you are obedient, the Holy Spirit will work through you. While you are at it, keep praising Him. You may not have seen his promises fulfilled as yet, but God also keeps His Word to His faithful.