Our minister writes a weekly column for the local newspaper. This column appeared last Wednesday.
“Need to know” is a phrase used by governments and businesses to compartmentalize sensitive information. Those who “need to know” have access to the information, but others are excluded because they don’t “need to know.”
The Apostle Paul didn’t use that phrase, but he understood the concept. Paul believed that there are some facts about walking with God that believers needed to know and understand. When Paul talked about those facts, he said, I “don’t want you to be ignorant…” or “don’t want you to be uninformed.”
For example, in Romans 11:25(NIV), Paul writes about the future of the Jewish people: “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in…”
In 1 Corinthians 12:1, Paul began a discussion of miraculous spiritual gifts with the Corinthian church and wrote, “Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.”
1 Thessalonians 4:13 speaks about believers who die before the return of Christ. Paul wrote, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” Paul went on to say that believers who die are “with Jesus.” Good to know!
Can I use Ezra’s story to share with you some facts that everyone who becomes a Christian needs to know, information that might be especially relevant to any believer who decides to tackle a new ministry?
In Ezra’s day, the Israelite people returned home to Israel after their time of slavery in Babylon. They knew they were going to have to rebuild the land of Israel, because the Babylonian army had been very destructive. It was also obvious that life would be pretty inconvenient during the rebuilding process – more like roughing it on a camping trip than propping their feet up in a beautiful home. The returnees knew that, if they were going to be successful in relocating, they would have to find a place to settle, construct shelters, and then find jobs or start businesses to put some money in their pockets.
They may not have understood how hard that was going to be! Perhaps they assumed that everything would fall into place and that the process of rebuilding would be easy and straight-forward. After all, God Himself was the One orchestrating their return.
Well, if that’s what they thought, the returning exiles quickly learned better. They immediately faced opposition from people who had taken over the land during the exiles’ absence, people who didn’t want to lose their homes to the returning exiles. The exiles also had to deal with corrupt Persian government officials, officials who wanted to maintain their influence instead of yielding to properly appointed Jewish officials. Some of these corrupt officials told lies about the Jews and mocked and criticized their work, creating doubt and discouragement. As a result, some of the Israelites became tentative and hesitant, and the work faltered. They weren’t prepared for trouble.
So here’s what you need to know: If you decide to become a believer or if, as a committed believer, you decide to become more active in ministry serving the Lord: Trouble will come!
The Devil doesn’t want you to succeed, and he will use the people around you, perhaps even your own friends and family, to discourage your effort. You may be criticized, and there will be those who predict failure. They will say that you are crawling out on a limb, and that it’s liable to be sawed off. Simply stated, you are trying to do something for God, but that doesn’t mean He will protect from every setback, eliminate every obstacle or smooth every path. In fact, God sometimes allows the struggle because we grow stronger in the effort and because our tenacity becomes a witness and example for others.
Here’s something else you need to know: The difficulties shouldn’t discourage you; they prove that you’re on the right path. Charles Spurgeon, the great preacher of yesteryear said, “Satan never kicks a dead horse.”
Mahatma Gandhi wasn’t a Christian, but he considered Jesus his example for facing opposition. Gandhi said, “First they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Expect trouble; don’t quit. You’ll win in the end!