In 538 BC, the Persian emperor Cyrus issued a decree that God's people could return to Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon. Of the hundreds of thousands of Jews who had been exiled, only 50,000 returned. The rest were still enjoying life in Babylon, caught up in the empty distractions of the pagan lifestyle. Nevertheless, the 50,000 returned to Jerusalem to rebuild their faith.
Once the Jews returned to their homeland and began to rebuild the temple of God, they experienced massive resistance. After spending two years rebuilding the foundation of the temple, opposition from other tribes and nations led them to cease their efforts for another 16 years (see Ezra 4). The faithful remnant of Israel was doing the right work for the right reasons until discouragement brought their work to a halt.
No matter what opposition you are facing, do not lose your eternal focus.
Read Haggai 1-2. God responded to the Israelites' crisis with an urgent word through the prophet Haggai. These Israelites were tried and true—they had left a life of comfort and ease to dedicate themselves to God. But in the midst of their obedience, discouragement had stifled their momentum. To the faithful Israelites who had momentarily neglected their mission, God's repeated plea was, "Consider your ways!"
Sometimes it is when we begin to take God seriously and re-center our lives around Him that opposition comes. Satan will always tempt us to quit at the crucial time, but we cannot give up. Like the Israelites, we can choose whether we will be Israel's faithful remnant or Babylon's majority.
Jesus chose the hard road over the easy one, and it was not easy for Him to do. Before His arrest in Gethsemane, Jesus' prayer was, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will" (Matthew 26:39). Filled with anguish for the pain that was to come, Jesus surrendered His will to the Father's. To Jesus, the glory ahead was far greater than the trials before Him.
No matter what opposition you are facing, do not lose your eternal focus. Is discouragement stifling your spiritual momentum, or are you running the race of faith with endurance? Although there is a long road ahead, our precious Messiah is waiting for all of us at the finish line.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, increase my spiritual endurance. I pray that my faith would become even stronger so that when I face discouragement, I will not give up. I want to serve You with all of my strength. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart" (Hebrews 12:3).