Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Responses to opposition -- Biblical strategies (or, let's get the roller coaster going back up!)

There are some Biblical strategies for overcoming the devil's tactics -- some positive things we can do in spite of his opposition!
We can get the roller coaster going back up - and the devil will not win!

The first thing we need to do is to know the enemy. Starting in the Garden, the Bible shows us just how craftily the devil works to tempt and deceive us. It's important to know your enemy!
Be aware of his tricks:
Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. (II Corinthians 2:10-11)
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (II Corinthians 4:4)
Be aware of his cunning disguises:
 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. (II Corinthians 11:14-15)
Be aware that he is always looking around:
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (I Peter 5:8)
Be aware he wants to destroy:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; (John 10:10)
Knowing our enemy arms us to stand and fight when he attacks.
We know our enemy; we know his attacks are coming -- put on armor and resist!
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:10-11, 13)
No special amulets needed. No rabbits foot here. James tells us to submit, and to draw near to God:
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. (James 4:7-8a)
If God allows the devil to cause us trials, it's our part to submit to God -- we know that He can lift away those trials in a skinny minute! If He does, that's awesome. If He doesn't, there's a purpose. Rather than pulling away from God, and asking "Why?" we can draw near to Him, knowing and trusting that He cares for us. (I Peter 5:7-11)

In the face of the devil's opposition, it helps to remember that it's a lifelong battle. If we try to do anything significant for the Lord, the devil will hear about it. He will hear what we're building and he will stir up opposition.
If we give up, he wins. God's kingdom slows down.
If we persevere, he loses. God's kingdom advances.

The people in Ezra 4 endured eighteen years of delay. Our delays may be long, and hard, and even hurtful as well, just as theirs were. There will be false accusations, denied opportunities, slanderous lies, maybe even physical abuse to go along with the verbal stuff. It's all meant to hinder God's work. And as challenging as all of this can be, God's grace is sufficient to help us keep on keeping on.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (II Corinthians 12:9-10)
Praise the Lord!
We have a Redeemer Who understands.
Judas took a bribe and betrayed Jesus.
The Sanhedrin used their power and privilege to to come against Jesus and put Him through a mock trial. Then they petitioned Roman leadership for His crucifixion.
As He hung on the cross, it seemed the devil had won until . . .
Until His followers saw the empty tomb on the third day!
There is hope for us, too, no matter how long the delay seems to drag on. Yes, we have an enemy that wants to oppose us, delay us, and defeat us. But he is under the authority of our all-powerful Father.
Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. (I Peter 3:21b-22)
Jesus will complete the good work He started in us. He has promised.
Let's get that roller coaster going back up the hill!

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Responses to opposition - the blame game

This week we are studying the ways that believers respond to the opposition that the devil uses on us. He pulls out all the stops to prevent us from making progress on our relationship with God.
Sometimes we get distracted and go back to our old ways of doing things.

Sometimes we get discouraged and settle for second best. It might be that some of the Jewish people in Ezra 4 thought, "Yay, we are out of Babylon. Here we are in the old homeland. I guess if we can't have a temple we will just have to muddle along without one. But hey, it's not so bad, right?" But without the temple, they couldn't worship God as they should have. Not the way that He had laid out for them. They wouldn't have a spiritual "homeplace" or center of worship for their nation.
Nowadays, a new believer may try to make a new beginning with the Lord, but when the enemy attacks, they back off. They settle into "second best" in a spiritual sense -- it's not the vibrant, growing relationship that the Lord Jesus offers when we give ourselves wholeheartedly to Him. At best, it's mediocre. And the devil, meanwhile, is grinning at his own success.

Another response to the devil's opposition is to employ the blame game. When the whisper campaign and accusations started up, and when the bribed officials started causing trouble and roadblocks, some of the people may have grumbled. They may have blamed their leaders, Zerubbabel and Jeshua for their leadership in the plan to rebuild the temple. After all, none of the surrounding tribes got upset about their coming back and building the altar, and offering was when they started building the temple that the trouble began. "Why did our leaders get us into this? Maybe it wasn't God's will?"
They didn't have Paul's admonition to look toward:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)
We do have to remember that we are opposed by, and we are working against, the unseen forces of wickedness.
Are things going "wrong" at church?
Are things going "haywire" in our relationships with other believers?
It's easy to grumble against other Christians and against our leaders. What should we do instead? Working together is number one:
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Praying together is number two:
 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (II Chronicles 7:14)
Moving ahead with what the Lord wants done in His Kingdom is number three!
Two are better than one,    because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down,    one can help the other up. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10a)
If we don't the body of Christ can be fractured into angry groups -- each blaming the other for problems that are actually coming from the devil!
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. (I Corinthians 1:10)
Realizing that God's timetable doesn't coincide with our timetable is number four:
For the revelation awaits an appointed time;    it speaks of the end
    and will not prove false.Though it linger, wait for it;    it will certainly come    and will not delay. (Habakkuk 2:3)
The people focused on building their own beautiful homes, and sixteen years after the foundation had been laid, there'd been no more progress on the temple. There's a fine line between waiting on the Lord and spiritual laziness. We can earnestly seek His will and we can trust and wait for Him. That's good. But if we believe He has given us something to do, and then we run into trouble? We can't assume that if the Lord is in it, we won't have setbacks or frustrations. Remember? Unrelenting opposition!
I find it inspiring when this happens to read of other Christians and the wonderful work they've done for Jesus. Reading the story of Gladys Alward and the struggles she overcame can give us perspective and strength. She stood less than five feet tall, but she was a giant of faith -- she dealt with the Chinese government, with local opposition, with being wounded in her flight to save orphans from the Japanese, and with threats against her life by the Chinese government. Undeterred when they denied her access to the mainland, she set up an orphanage in Taiwan, and many hundreds of people were led to Christ by her efforts.
Yes, the enemy will vigorously oppose our every attempt at spiritual advance, and at reaching others for Christ. So far, we've seen some negative ways to respond to his attacks.
Let's be inspired by the likes of Gladys Alward, and let's study some positive ways to respond!
Join me tomorrow, won't you?

Monday, July 29, 2019

Responses to opposition - paneled houses

No image today.
No picture.
Did you know that you can find any kind of picture of a "devil" that you want to?
You can find little ones, big ones, ones that look cute.
Purple ones, red, emojis.
Ones that do look purely evil.
Others that look fairly innocuous.
But then we know that he can assume any guise that he wants to. He can look any way that he wishes. He can use lots of tools to discourage us, to make us afraid, to hinder us and to steer us away from our walk with God.
By now, you'd think he would get the idea.
God's plans can't be stopped.
We believers can be stopped for a little while. If we are not bolstered and shielded by the Spirit. We can zoom down to the bottom of the roller coaster and sit there, all mopey-like.

Have you responded to the enemy's attacks like that?
I know I have done it before.
That's not the way we SHOULD respond, though, is it?
It's awfully tempting to just give up. To go back to our old way of life . . . over in Haggai, the prophet tells us that many of the Jewish people got distracted with building their own homes.
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’”Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” (Haggai 1:2-4)
They needed shelter, right? Wasn't that part of taking good care of their families? Apparently they not only put up shelters, they put up fancy houses! "Paneled" in that time period meant something different than what we might think. Let's look at some verses together.
Solomon used "panels" in the sumptuous Temple he built, and in his own palace:
So he built the temple and finished it, and he paneled the temple with beams and boards of cedar. (I Kings 6:9)
Then he made a hall for the throne, the Hall of Judgment, where he might judge; and it was paneled with cedar from floor to ceiling. (I Kings 7:7)
So, I think we can safely say that they got distracted. The temple was not finished, and they built luxury homes and condominiums for themselves. (Obviously, there is nothing wrong with living in a nice home, but neglecting God's priorities to pursue our own is where the problem lies.)

Have you ever thought about all of the products on the market today, and how many of them promise to speed up things? Faster dinner, faster (or no need for) ironing clothes, faster cleaning and dusting, and the list goes on and on. You would think that the marketing people thought we were busy or something. (Grin)
Here's the interesting thing . . . you don't often see video games that say we can play them in no time flat. Big screen televisions don't promise that we'll spend less time watching. Golf clubs don't promise the fastest eighteen holes we've ever played . . . .
We want to save time on the things we find tedious.
Ready for the application? Got your bandaids at the ready?
Do we enjoy spending our personal time with God in the same way that we look forward to a good movie, or dinner with friends, or one of our hobbies?
Think about that for a heartbeat or two....
Are our lives so busy that we find ourselves looking for ways to cut corners? To squeeze Him into our tight schedule the way we do a microwave dinner? Has serving Him or having a daily quiet time with Him become tedious?
It's a question of priorities. We see the remnant that returned struggling with this same issue. Their priorities had slowly shifted. They began well -- in spite of starting from scratch, they had tackled one of their most important spiritual tasks -- they made sure they began "rightly" and put up the altar and made sacrifices. When the opposition came, the entire operation came to a standstill. Their enthusiasm waned. Over time, they paid more attention to their own personal needs than the needs of worshiping God in His temple.
I can just see them as they went to Omar's Emporium, the Home Depot of the day, and shopped for cedar paneling, luxurious rugs, and fancy furniture. . . .
Here's what the Lord thought of that:
Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord.“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.  (Haggai 1:5-9)
Haggai was telling the people just what the Lord told him to say; the building of the house of the Lord was much more than just the physical building. It was the focal point of the spiritual life of the people.
Now, what would Haggai be telling us, if he were speaking to us today?
We were probably pretty enthusiastic when we trusted Jesus for our salvation, right? Like the people when they established the altar. We were excited and started down the pathway. But what about now? Are we still building?
Have we gotten sidetracked? Distracted? Maybe discouraged?
Do we have time to look at the television or the internet, but no time for reading our Bible?
Do we find excuses to skip church, because someone has criticized or disappointed us?
Can we "get lost" in our hobbies, but only find a minute or two for devotions?
Well, pilgrim, you're not alone.
Many believers struggle with this.
They give up on their spiritual goals and go back to their old way of life.

If this is a picture of what we are going through, let's get on our knees and ask God to rekindle His excitement in our hearts. To set us on fire to glorify Him and make a difference in this world. To stop building our own "paneled houses" and get to work building for Him!

Friday, July 26, 2019

Friday slowdown

We've ended this week at the bottom of the hill with the Jewish people in Jerusalem. Let's cheer up with a great song!

Why You ever chose me
Has always been a mystery
All my life I've been told I belong at the end of the line
With all the other Not-Quites
With all the Never-Get-It-Rignts
But it turns out we're the ones You've been looking for all this time

'Cause I'm just a nobody
Trying to tell everybody
All about Somebody who saved my soul
Ever since You rescued me
You gave my heart a song to sing
I'm living for the world to see
Nobody but Jesus
I'm living for the world to see
Nobody but Jesus

Moses had stage fright
And David brought a rock to a sword fight
You picked 12 outsiders nobody would've chosen
And You changed the world
Well, the moral of the story is
Everybody's got a purpose
So when I hear that devil start talking to me, saying
"Who do you think you are"
I say...

I'm just a nobody
Trying to tell everybody
All about Somebody who saved my soul
Ever since You rescued me
You gave my heart a song to sing
I'm living for the world to see
Nobody but Jesus
I'm living for the world to see
Nobody but Jesus

So let me go down down down in history
As another blood-bought faithful member of the family
And if they all forget my name, well, that's fine with me
I'm living for the world to see
Nobody but Jesus

So let me go down down down in history (go down in a history)
As another blood-bought faithful member of the family (it's all I ever wanna be)
And if they all forget my name, well, that's fine with me
I'm living for the world to see
Nobody but Jesus

'Cause I'm just a nobody
Trying to tell everybody
All about Somebody who saved my soul
Ever since You rescued me
You gave my heart a song to sing
I'm living for the world to see
Nobody but Jesus
I'm living for the world to see
Nobody but Jesus
I'm living for the world to see
Nobody but Jesus

Thursday, July 25, 2019

They used tactics like today's . . .

This week, our studies have been focused on the tricks and strategies that the devil will use against us. When we make a new beginning with God, when we attempt a fresh start, that is when the devil gets worried. (Grin) He will start first with subtle plans, and keep moving to more aggressive strategies as he needs to.
We've seen that the Jewish people who returned to the fallen city of Jerusalem started out with purpose and with vigor. They were full of enthusiasm and ready to work hard at this new beginning. And that was the signal for the devil to take notice -- and to work against them. Subtly at first, with local people offering to help..... to dilute their efforts because they only worshiped God as one of their many deities. Then, when the leaders rejected compromise, the devil stepped up his efforts with a whisper campaign to cause fear and discouragement. When this didn't have the desired effect, officials were bribed to cause problems and throw in obstacles in the Jews' pathway to a rebuilt Temple and city. (We've noted that all of this sounds remarkably similar to the strategies the devil uses against believers today!)

Gotta say, I still admire the fact that they kept on goin'. They must have still been working, because the devil pulled out all the stops! The people who wanted the work to stop decided to use sheer force -- government edicts and proclamations (like our laws today) to block the work. These tattletales deserved a special title, I think. Tattletale Supreme Club or something like that. They wrote a letter to the king and said, "hey, we're on your side!"....

               "under obligation to the king" or in some translations "eat the salt of the palace"

.....they said, "we are looking out for you, too"......

               "don't want to see the king dishonored"

......and appealed to his desire to have a peaceful kingdom....

               "city is rebellious and troublesome, .... history of sedition"

......and made him worry about his pocketbook, too (the royal treasury)....

               "no more tribute or taxes will be paid" was quite a letter, don't you think?
The king commanded his peeps to look in the record books, and he saw enough there to make him believe the half-truths that the letter writers had laid out. He issued a decree to stop the work.
And the work was stopped by force of arms:
As soon as the copy of the letter of King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum and Shimshai the secretary and their associates, they went immediately to the Jews in Jerusalem and compelled them by force to stop. (v 23)
So the devil had his way for a time. The work stopped for about sixteen years.
The enemy today works through judicial cases and government channels to enact laws that oppose Christianity and to prohibit Christians from living as we believe God tells us to live.
We have no-fault divorce laws that undermine the lifelong commitment of marriage. Couples can split up for any reason - not because of infidelity or abuse, but because we don't like the way they make the bed, leave their shoes lying around, or forget to buy our favorite flavor of coffee creamer.
We have laws that say mothers can kill unwanted children up to the point of birth, and in some states, after birth.
We have laws that say in spite of our faith telling us that same-sex marriage is not the right way to raise a family, we must honor them in every way that we honor heterosexual marriage.
We have lawmakers that want to oppose Israel instead of supporting them.
We have laws that regulate displays at Christmas.
We have laws about prayer in school and prayers in public meetings.
The list goes on and on and on.
And we need to be vigilant, because the devil will not give up in his opposition to our spiritual progress. If we are blessed to be able (with God's help) to deal Satan a setback, we must be aware that his opposition will be unrelenting. He will keep on countering whatever the Lord's people try to do in order to keep moving ahead spiritually.
You see, if he can get us to kick back, throw up our hands and give up, he has achieved his objective.
Yes, there are many wrong ways to respond to his attacks.
Sometimes we give in to the discouragement and stay at the bottom of the hill. We just sit in the roller coaster car and mope.
We'll talk more about this next time -- and we'll talk about climbing back up, too!

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Still with Ezra on the roller coaster?

Hope you are still with us on this roller coaster. We've been high at the top with a new beginning with God and the folks who journeyed back to Jerusalem.
We're headed down the hill now, unfortunately.
So far in this fourth chapter, we have met the nosy neighbors that I promised you. We've also met the tattletales.

But the tattletales aren't done yet.
In fact, they have upped their game.
Doubled down, as they say.
Let's keep reading and see what they are up to.....

Last time we studied, we saw some of the devil's strategies for throwing obstacles in the paths of new beginnings with God. In the lives of the remnant that returned to Jerusalem, and in our lives today, Satan HATES to see us make new commitments and new beginnings. He will be unrelenting in his opposition.
We saw that one of the first strategies he will use is to try to dilute our efforts and influence by getting us to compromise with the world.
Then, he will add in fear and discouragement. Next, he will use other people to start a campaign of mis-information . . . whispering behind our backs and then confronting us to our faces.

In the book of Ezra, the people of the land are trying to use their power and privilege to stop the rebuilding. You would hope that they would have realized that God's plans can't be stopped, but they didn't!

The next thing they tried was to keep the misinformation going -- by bribing officials to try to get them to stop the children of God.
They bribed officials to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia. (Ezra 4:5)
The Bible doesn't tell us much about this part. But I think we can fill in the blanks, don't you? I bet that it began with some manager-types, first level officials, who may have circulated among the Jewish people still in captivity. They spread half-truths and misinformation everywhere they could. They knew a campaign like that would grow and grow. (Hmm, sounds a bit like social media today, no?)

And then we have a copy of Rehum and Shimshai's letter to Artaxerxes in chapter 4. These tattletales had no problem making up stuff to tell him. They said things like "I bet when they get the building done, they will rebel against the king. That's why they didn't want help from anyone. They have secret plans!" Or this, that would strike fear in any ruler's heart: "They will stop paying taxes and be independent when they're done!"

And I bet that they may even have been some officials who were in the city of Jerusalem, as well. Perhaps the ruler wanted to know how things were going, so the fine print on their job description detailed a trip or two. They may have said things to the Jewish people like, "Your leaders are just out to build a kingdom for themselves. They're working all of you to death." Or, "Are you sure they are spending the construction money wisely? Not putting some in their own pockets?"

I think they got the rumor machine going big time. And of course, they had their bona fides....they claimed to be loyal to the king:
Now because we are in the service of the palace, and it is not fitting for us to see the king’s dishonor, therefore we have sent and informed the king, (V 14)
They told him to look in the record books and see that "evil" Israel had rebelled in the past. Well, that much is true: Israel had resisted tyrants who had forced them into servitude. But to smear the current building effort with this broad brush was unfair -- and untrue.  We even see in Jeremiah that the Lord told the prophet to encourage the Jews to pray on behalf of Babylon while they were there!

It's unfortunate, but we see the devil using the same trick to smear God's people today. He takes a partial truth and paints every believer with broad strokes to make us all look extreme or unstable. Satan also uses coalitions or groups of people to overwhelm the godly today. The letter in chapter four came from multiple people and parties who joined together against the Jews. Why? Just like today, Satan wants this thought to pop into human heads: "Everyone is against these people." After all, if so many people are against them, they must be the problem!
Today, Satan operates by appealing to popular opinion against believers. "Bible-believing Christians are the problem," we hear on social media. "They are narrow minded and intolerant," we hear on cable news outlets. "Why, they are trying to impose their views on everyone else!"  We hear that, too, from people who who think that if someone disagrees with them, it's hate speech. Oy vey.

Or this, too, "Well, we believe in God, but we are not old fashioned and intolerant." So they mouth the support of God while they support aborting babies and promoting homosexuality, and ignore the squashing of home Bible studies in authoritarian lands, as well as the murder of believers who will not turn from their faith.
By a tremendous force of numbers, the enemy hopes to overwhelm us. But if that doesn't work? Then the devil will use government edicts and sheer force to block God's work.
Unrelenting opposition.
Now it will be much less subtle.
We'll study more on this point tomorrow.....

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Verses that inspire

David said:
How sweet are your words to my taste,    sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:103)
God's Word is certainly sweet to us; it's a comfort when we have tears in our eyes; it's celebratory when we are praising Him!

An especially sweet verse stuck with me this week as I studied:
 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)
This is the passage where Moses is being encouraged by God. He is confirming to Moses that He will go with him and with Israel. It's only with His presence that we can move forward with confidence; it's His presence that assures us we will be able to truly rest.

We're not just talking about sleep here, although it's important to know that He is with us in the "night watches." We're talking about waiting patiently for what the Lord has for us. Being at ease and restful because we know that when we put our trust in Him, He will do what He promises to do.

God is with us every step of the way. This is the kind of relationship that we have when we are close to God. That's why it was written of Moses:
The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. (Exodus 33:11a)
We cannot be close to God unless we are obedient. Unless we are patiently trusting Him to do all that He has promised. But when we do that, His presence makes each day sweet.
"I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:15)
The promise that God made to Jacob is the same one that He extends to us today. He is with us. Immanuel! Praise Him!

Monday, July 22, 2019

That roller coaster is still going down

Last week we noted that once a new beginning of any kind in our spiritual lives is made, we should expect the opposition from the devil to start.
I promised you some new characters in our story. And we have met them. They were members of the Compromisers Club. Did you know they also had founding memberships in the Tattletales United Club, too?
Let's dive in!

Just like we see happening in our world today, the people in the land were using their power and privilege to stop something they didn't like.
First they started a "whisper" campaign; talk went around that was designed to discourage the Jewish remnant. Next, they bribed officials; they employed fear tactics; and then they went for the big guns -- they lobbied the king to stop the building project.
Hmmmmm. Looks a LOT like today, I believe!
Let's look at the Word:
Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. (Ezra 4:4)
The devil often uses the tool in his kit called "discouragement." We don't know specifically how the locals did this. But I'm betting it was both vocal and a whispered effort. To their faces, they probably smiled at the people of Israel and said, "Awww, kids, why are you working so hard? And you won't let us help, either. You know, if you build this back, it might just get torn down again!"
Behind their backs, they may have been telling all the surrounding tribes that "thousands of people are going to be flocking to the city of Jerusalem for all of those feasts and worship times they have! Surely you understand what that is going to much traffic! All of the problems that come with increased population! They need to build somewhere else, or not build at all."
I'm guessing that if it were our world, today, there would be a vigorous Twitter campaign, and many would post opposition on their other social media platforms of choice. Not to mention groups that would protest outside the city hall about environmental impact.

Satan loves to use his tool of discouragement. It's one of the least strenuous efforts that he employs. Human nature being what it is, he can simply start the whispers and talk and then walk away. He whispers to us (or he uses someone else who says this to us) "you know, you're working SO hard. What you are doing won't make any difference in this world. Definitely won't affect anything in eternity!"
Or, "those people don't appreciate your efforts. Why bother with that?"
Or, "why are you trying so hard to make changes? Just quit and enjoy yourself. You worry too much."
He tries to discourage individuals. He tries to discourage pastors. Anytime that he sees someone working hard to make a difference, and to bring glory to God; anytime he sees someone making a new beginning with God -- that's his signal to pounce.

And there is another tool in his kit; it's secured to the belt, right next to discouragement. It's called "fear." It says they set out to "make them afraid to go on building." (v 4)  When we are discouraged, fear has an opening to creep in. And boy, oh boy, can fear take over and run our lives! Many a believer has wrestled with thoughts like these:

               "What if they tattletale to my boss?"
               "Wonder if I will lose my job?"
                "How many people have they told that lie to?"
                "Will my friends and church members believe them, or me?"
                "I'm so tired of trying. What does the future hold for me?"

The people in the land were unhappy with being rejected. They tried every way they knew how to thwart the building efforts.

Have we made a new beginning with God? Has someone that we know made a new start?

We must be prepared for the fact that Satan's attempts to stop us will be unrelenting. That he will use discouragement and fear as his "first round" of obstacles. That he will then ramp up the opposition. We will see this when we study again tomorrow. . . .