As I was studying the book of Ezra I came across something that really made a huge impact on me. Before I get to what it was, let me set the stage for what’s happening at this point in history. The people of the Lord are being held captive by the Persians. This came after the people of Judah once again had themselves a bad king who did evil in the sight of the Lord and the people followed along and fell into all of their bad ways again. So along comes King Nebuchadnezzar (these evil kings had such awesome names), who wrecks the place and takes God’s people captive and removes them from their homeland. It’s a really sad set of verses that this all plays out across, especially because if you’re reading the Bible in order you’re super invested in the land of Judah at this point. They get slaughtered, plundered, and ultimately enslaved.
2 Chronicles 36:19-20 And they burned the house of God and broke down the wall of Jerusalem and burned all its palaces with fire and destroyed all its precious vessels. 20 He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia,
I might blog more in depth soon about why this happened (they turned away from God, basically), but that’s not my focus this week. So moving forward, we see a new king taking over in Persia who actually is kind to the people of God. Eventually, a king of Persia not only allows the Jewish people to return to their homeland, but he gives them authority over certain things. Oh yeah, he also gives them a ton of riches to take with them.
So Ezra and hundreds of God’s people decide to set off for home. I’d imagine a group this size would travel in a caravan of sorts for what my studies suggested would be a 900 mile journey. That’s a long trek, especially for a giant group of people. Oh and let’s not forget, they’re carrying a huge load of gold and silver and other riches.
Okay, so we’re finally at the part of all of this that I wanted to blog about. Ezra gathers all of the people who are going, and as they prepare to set out we get these next two verses.
Ezra 8:21-22 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. 22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.”
There’s a word in here that just jumped off the page at me. Ashamed. The inclusion of that word really defines this whole passage. You see, Ezra turned to God with fasting and prayer seeking a safe journey. Why didn’t he just have soldiers protect them? He felt stupid about it, essentially. He’s been telling these people all about the might and power of his God, so now he faces a situation where he has a choice. I can damage that testimony and ask for help, or I can just live by my words and go uneasily forward in faith.
That phrase, “uneasily forward in faith”, might sound like an oxymoron to some of you out there. Do you have faith in God or don’t you? That’s the question you’re probably asking. And I get that, I do, but I’m just going to be super honest with you here. A lot, or even most, of what I’ve done for God since I rededicated my life to him in mid-2015 came from a place of uneasy faith. Even going to church in the first place was a shaky thing for me. Starting to play bass on the worship team, let me tell you, I was terrified. TERRIFIED. I trusted God to get me through it, I had faith that it was part of His plan for my life, but I was still terrified as I took those first few steps onto the stage. I nearly ran out of the building and never looked back the morning of my first time on bass.
My whole God journey over the past year and a half is full of stories like this. The first time I attended Friday night young adult church I pulled into the parking lot, had a massive panic attack, and started to leave. It’s only because someone spotted me that I stuck around. Even then, after I walked uneasily into the church I still almost bolted after a few minutes, but God brought an amazing person into the picture who talked with me and made me feel at ease.
I could go on and on with these stories. I know my faith is growing, and I now can happily tell you that there are times when I step into God situations and feel confident and self-assured. Those times are rare. Usually, my eyes are wide, my heart’s beating fast, my palms are sweaty, and I’m in a state of near panic on the inside. However, at those times, I move forward in faith, however shaky it may be at that moment, knowing that if God got me into this situation He’s surely going to equip me with what I need to get through it.
Want to hear something strange? I didn’t realize until I started writing this that I was holding onto some weird secret shame over this “shaky faith” as I’m calling it. I’m not always the guy confidently rushing into battle for God, at least not yet. Where I’m at in life is that I’ll go into the battle, but often times I’m gonna do that thing where I turn sideways and kind of turn my head away and I’m in a panic and I’m sort of hoping none of the enemies come my way. But I wade into more battles daily, and I’m a little less panicked with each one that passes.
Is that something to be ashamed of? I really don’t think so. As a matter of fact, there are multiple examples of shaky faith in the Bible and this week we’re going to look at one of them. Do I want to be super duper confident in all things God in my life? Yes. But I’m just not there yet, and that’s as honest as I can be. Sometimes I lack confidence. That’s actually something I said to my dear friend the other day about a ministry opportunity I hope to be stepping into soon. I told him that the only thing I felt like I needed to make it work was more confidence. But here’s where my uneasy faith works. I told him that I lack confidence right now, but I’m confident that in the moment I need it, God will grant me confidence. So I step forward, however uneasy I may be on that first step.
Just like Ezra, who sure seemed to like the sound of an armed escort, I stand here in life turning the only direction I have to turn. Towards God. So stick with me this week. We’re going to look at some shaky faith, share some more stories, and then I’ll finally finish this story about Ezra and show you what happened to them on their 900 mile journey with all that gold and silver.
PRAYER AND CLOSING
Father God, thank you for the faith you’re building in me day by day. God, I’m sorry for not always having full and absolute trust in the plan from step one. I wish that I could say that I did, but that just wouldn’t be honest. I ask that you please continue to grow my faith, to continue to build confidence in me. Strong and courageous. I want that to describe me. God, I look at what you’ve been able to do through and around me this past year and a half, and I can only imagine what more can be done if I gain more confidence and a steadier faith. But today I just thank you for still using me, thank you for still coming alive in my life on a regular basis. Thank you that you don’t call off the mission because my first steps are a little shaky sometimes, and thank you in advance for the days to come and the steady steps of faith that I know await me there. I want to fight for you and I want to live for you, God, and I want to do it standing tall and filled with confidence. I just speak that over my life right now and I ask you for it. I ask that you would grant it to everyone reading this right now, that you would just increase their boldness, multiply their faith, grow us and keep pulling us forward. We wanna usher in your kingdom, we wanna play a part in bringing people into a relationship with you. Thank you for your love, and thank you for all the amazing opportunities we get to serve you. There is nothing better than serving you, the most high king. I love you, Jesus, and I thank you so much for all that you’re doing in my life. I’m in a thrilling season of my life right now, and I know it’s just going to keep getting better. Thank you so much for it. In the precious name of Jesus I pray, amen.
Alright dearest friends, I’m sorry this is a late post. I love you guys so much, and I’m so excited for this week of blogs. God really took control as I wrote these and showed me some great stuff within my own experiences that I didn’t even realize had happened, so I’m excited to share all of that with you tomorrow. Make some time to read God’s word tomorrow, even if it’s just a few minutes. You’re going to be blessed by what you read.