Learned For The Lord 4 – Finding Faith In Fearful Times
Chan Gin Kai
There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask Him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to Him, but His great anger is against all who forsake him.” So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and He answered our prayer. (Ezra 8:21-23)
Just a paragraph before this passage (and explored in our last article), we saw how Ezra wasn’t afraid to rock the boat and how he pushed for the Levites to join their expedition. But in this passage, we learn that he felt ashamed to ask King Artaxerxes for a military escort. Why was that so?
Ezra had told Artaxerxes that God protects those who look to Him and punishes those who forsake Him. How could he boast about God’s protection and then ask for the king’s protection after that? He would be contradicting himself and making God sound unreliable. Why would Artaxerxes want to give permission for the expedition and resources to the Temple if God is portrayed as weak and untrustworthy?
So Ezra didn’t ask for military protection. But he felt genuinely afraid because they were bringing a lot of wealth with them on this journey.
Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests, namely, Sherebiah, Hashabiah and ten of their brothers, and I weighed out to them the offering of silver and gold and the articles that the king, his advisers, his officials and all Israel present there had donated for the house of our God. I weighed out to them 650 talents of silver, silver articles weighing 100 talents, 100 talents of gold, 20 bowls of gold valued at 1,000 darics, and two fine articles of polished bronze, as precious as gold. (Ezra 8:24-27)
That’s 22 tons of silver, 3.4 tons of silver articles, 3.4 tons of gold and 8.4kg of golden bowls. It was worth a few hundred million dollars!
They were going to take a long journey over a few months across dangerous places. With that much gold and silver, they were a magnet for bandits. If we’ve felt unsafe carrying a few thousand dollars and wearing expensive jewellery in foreign lands, guess how they felt carrying that much wealth?
They could be robbed and killed. Their fear was completely justified. And so Ezra proclaimed a fast. He turned everyone to God.
What do we do when we feel afraid? Does fear drive us towards God or away from God?
We fear losing our loved ones. Some feel insecure about their jobs or businesses. Some are afraid that their relationships may fail. Some worry about their health. Some fear not being able to find a life companion. Some feel stressed or scared by new responsibilities in life. And there are so many more things that can daunt or even terrify us at different points in life.
Do these difficult situations and fearful times cause us to question God? I’ve got to confess that I’ve not only questioned God, I’ve even blamed Him. Instead of drawing closer to God during tough times, I pushed Him away. This springs from two of my interlinked weaknesses – pride and a lack of trust in God.
The line between pride and confidence is razor thin. It’s far better to be confident than a scaredy-cat. It’s good to feel terrific and strong, believing that God has blessed us with abilities that we can use to glorify Him. But if we’re not watchful, this confidence can transform into pride and a virtue becomes a sin. This happens when our confidence is placed in ourselves instead of God. Our trust in God diminishes as our pride in ourselves increases. When we put God out of the picture and ourselves on a pedestal, we get more inward looking when things go wrong and blame God instead.
Ezra got everyone to fast and pray so that they could find faith in God. That’s what we need to do too. When the going gets tough, the spiritual gets praying. There is no one more reliable than God. He is the one we must turn to in our times of fear and doubt. We can put our faith in Him.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Psalm 91:2)
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Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. He serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry of the Central Christian Church. He describes himself as “just a sinner who wants to get right with God”.