Summary: The question isn’t whether we’re going to encounter opposition. The question is, how are we going to handle it when it comes. The remnant did exactly what they were supposed to do—almost. They stood strong in the face of opposition but they didn’t quit

1. How did the opposition respond to the remnant?

a. With distrust (1)

b. With deception (2)

2. How did the remnant respond to the opposition?

a. With discernment (3a)

b. With determination (3b)

c. With direction (3c)

It would be nice if everything in life was easy, wouldn’t it? It would be nice if there were only downhills with no uphills. If there were only mountaintops with no valleys. If there were only roses with no thorns. But that’s not the way things work in this world, is it? We are always going to be faced with opposition. I’m reminded of the story of the crusty old sea Captain who was piloting his boat one night during a bad storm. As he was trying to make port, it seemed to be making no headway. There was a brand-new, very nervous sailor on his very first cruise on board. He nervously asked the Captain, “Do you think we’ll make it OK?” The Captain replied, “Son this is a leaky old boat. Because it’s so leaky, the fact is, we may go down. And the boilers are old and not in very good shape. Because they’re in such bad shape, we just may go up. But in spite of all that, no matter if we go down or we go up, it doesn’t really matter. Because whatever happens, we are going to go on.” That old Captain had a way of facing opposition. He faced opposition head on. In our passage tonight, the remnant is facing some opposition. Once they had celebrated the laying of the temple foundation, they started to work on the temple itself. But just like anytime God’s people get to work, we’re going to experience opposition. And that’s what happened here. No sooner had the shouts of celebration begun to die down than the frustration of opposition started to crop up. See, the question isn’t whether we’re going to encounter opposition. The question is, how are we going to handle it when it comes. The remnant did exactly what they were supposed to do—well, almost. They stood strong in the face of opposition just like that old Captain did. Just like they were supposed to. But in spite of the fact that they stood strong in the face of opposition, they still didn’t get it all the way right. They stood strong just like they should have. They just forgot something. They almost got it right. What are we going to do when we face opposition? Are we going to get it almost right? Or are we going to really get it right? I want us to really get it right. So, in order for us to respond to opposition the right way, first we’re going to take a look at the opposition and then look at the remnant’s response. An ancient Chinese warrior named Sun Tzu once said that the key to victory in war is to know your enemy. So first, we’re going to look at the opposition. We’re going to look at how the opposition responded to the remnant. The first way the opposition responded to the remnant was with distrust. Look back at verse 1.

EZRA 4:1

Our opposition responds to us with distrust. Have you ever met somebody who is inherently suspicious? You know the kind of person I’m talking about. The one who thinks everything is part of some grand conspiracy. I’ll never forget—several years ago I was sitting in my Air Force recruiting office in Asheville, NC. I had only been in that job for a few weeks. I was sitting in my office one evening when the phone rang. I answered it, and on the other end of the line was this nice sounding lady. Or at least I thought she was. Until she got on the subject of black helicopters. And the airplanes that would fly over her house and drop chemicals to test them on her. When she got into UFO’s and alien abductions, I knew it was time to hang up the phone. There are a few people in this world who are like that. Those people go beyond suspicious into paranoia. That’s probably a nice way of saying “crazy”. But aside from the crazy people in the world, many people are suspicious of people who are different than them. That’s the way these people that verse 1 calls “adversaries” were. The attitude in their hearing about the building of the temple was one of suspicion. One of listening intently—almost like spying or eavesdropping on a suspicious character. They were keeping an eye on them. Think about it. The remnant was different. Here they were. They had just recently come in from Babylon. When they got to Jerusalem, the first thing they did was gather together in the middle of a big rubble pile. And then they got real noisy and excited over an altar and a slab. They were different people. And different people draw suspicion. Just like we do. When Christians live like we’re supposed to live, we’re different from the world. When other people get all worked up and worried and angry—Christians are supposed to be different than that. When people are rude and crude and fowl-mouthed—Christians are supposed to be different. When people gossip and backbite and tear each other apart—Christians are supposed to be different. And when we’re truly different, some people will view us with distrust. If you want to see a prime example of how our opposition responds to us with distrust today, turn on the political coverage sometime. Turn it on and see how evangelical Christians like us are viewed in this election. We are viewed as something strange. Something suspicious. Something to keep an eye on. Something to distrust. Just like the remnant’s adversaries viewed them. The first way our opposition responds to us is with distrust. The second way they respond to us is with deception. Look at verse 2.

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