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Oppositions & Obstacles 3 – The Battle Within

Updated: Feb 24, 2020

Chan Gin Kai

Ezra 5:1-2

Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Joshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, supporting them. (Ezra 5:1-2)

It has been about 18 years since the Jews returned to Jerusalem. The opposition of the Samaritans had brought the Temple reconstruction to a halt. The people’s excitement in rebuilding the Temple has diminished.

So God sent two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, to preach to the people. The content of what they said can be found in the two Old Testament books that bear their names.

In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest: 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 1:1-4)

Our Goals Becomes Good Ideas

The Jews still believed in the idea of rebuilding the Temple. But the narrative has changed, “The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.” It was the right thing to do and they still wanted to do it, but maybe “not yet”. There’s no doubt they wanted to do what’s right, but they wanted to wait till circumstances got better.

Discouragements get to us sometimes, and we don’t even know it. We pick ourselves up each time we’re knocked down, and we soldier on. But each disappointment takes a little out of us. We still know what’s right in the eyes of God, and what’s good for ourselves. But we gradually lose the gleam in our eyes and we tire.

Our convictions hold strong, but our faith wavers. Our commitment remains, but our passion fades. Our cause, our quest, our goal becomes simply a good idea.

Let’s take the example of losing weight or getting a six-pack (the abs, not the beer). For some it remains a goal; for many it has become a good idea. How do we tell the difference between both groups? Both still want it, but one works on it, while the other talks about it. One keeps to a training regime and a nutrition plan, while the other does the occasional run and crash diet.

We want to grow in Christ. We want better knowledge of the Bible. We want to save the lost, strengthen the weak, help the poor, repent of our sins, have better relationships, and more. But is it a goal or just a good idea?

Here are a few questions to help us know where we really stand: Do we simply talk about it, or are we actively working on it? Do we have a plan we keep to, or do we simply hope that things happen? Do we have buddies that help us and keep us accountable? Do we feel a burning passion?

Have our godly goals become simply good ideas?

Our Wants Become Our Priorities

Instead of building the Temple in the face of opposition, the Jews have switched the focus to their own desires.

They had genuine needs when they first arrived back in Judah. They had to start life anew after uprooting themselves from Persia and moving back to the land of their ancestors. They had to rebuild houses, farm their lands, start schools, and more. They had many needs then, but rebuilding the Temple was their priority.

However, 18 years later, their priorities changed. They didn’t have to worry for their needs anymore, but now they’ve got many wants. A roof over their heads was no longer a concern, for they’ve got “paneled houses” now. These were houses with walls covered in cedar wood; such decoration was a sign of prosperity. It certainly wasn’t a need anymore; it was a want.

We can always meet a need, but we can never sate a want.

When our godly goals become just good ideas, our priorities change. Formerly important goals take a backseat, while trivial wants rise to the fore. We start thinking that our wants are needs. And because wants can never be fully satisfied, we are never happy.

As we pursue this elusive happiness our godly goals get pushed even further back. We bluff ourselves that we will pursue our godly goals again when our needs (wants in disguise) are met. And since the wants can never be met, we delay our godly goals even further. You get the drift... we descend into a vicious cycle of increasing self-centredness.

Very often, the biggest obstacles are within our hearts. It’s usually not the external oppositions that directly stop us; but the effect they have on our hearts that do it. As we fight the obstacles around us, let’s not forget the battle within.

Read more about 'Oppositions & Obstacles': Oppositions & Obstacles 1 - Thee Kinds Of Opposers

Oppositions & Obstacles 2 - Here's Three More

Oppositions & Obstacles 4 - God Is With Us

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. In church, he serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry. He describes himself as "just a sinner who wants to get right with God". Gin Kai joined the Central Christian Church in 1988.

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