Summary: Often we get discouraged because our labors for Christ seem fruitless or insignificant. We feel that we are too small or lack the resources to accomplish anything. Don't quit or give up. Understand that there is too small or insignificant to God.
Don't Discount Smallness
In the Old Testament book of Ezra, we read that Cyrus king of Persia makes the decree to rebuild the House of the Lord at Jerusalem. Cyrus sends out a call for any of the Jews who had been in exile yet remained faithful to God to go and to be a part of this construction project. In the books of Haggai, Ezra, and Nehemiah we learn that among those that God raised up Zerubbabel was chosen to lead the people in the rebuilding of the temple. Zerubbabel along with Joshua, the high priest, stood in the face of opposition and threats serving God faithfully. But that did not mean that they did not get discouraged in the face of the mountains of obstacles and naysayers before them. The prophet, Zechariah is given a vision and a message to deliver to Zerubbabel that God is in control and that he should not discount smallness.
I. We have been commissioned by God
A. In Haggai 2:23 God tells Zerubbabel that He has chosen him to serve God. That call would include his support in building the House of God. Zerubbabel is actually depicted in the opening verses of Zechariah 4 as one of two olive trees that continually provide oil for the golden lamp (a beautiful picture of Christ shining through His church) to be able to shine.
B. Like Zerubbabel we have been chosen by God to serve Him.
C. John 15:16 "You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you."
D. We are called by God to serve God within the Body Of Christ, the church.
E. 1 Peter 2:9 " But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light"
F. The light from the lamp stand would burn only as long as the only oil would flow to fuel it. If one of the olive trees failed to be steadfast in allowing the oil to flow through its branches to the lamp stand the lamp stand would go out. God's vision allowed for no interruption of oil being supplied. But through Zerubbabel and Joshua the oil would flow. Through adversity, through smallness, through opposition, through discouragement they would not quit nor be defeated the oil would flow and the light would shine forth.
G. What a picture for us! We have been called to shine forth the light of the gospel.
H. 2 Corinthians 4:6 "For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
I. The church's task, as His chosen people, is to be His lamp stand, shining forth with His glory and grace in the midst of a sin-darkened world. The light will shine within the church the Body of Christ as long as we stand allowing the oil of God's Spirit to flow through us. We must be faithful to stand in spite of adversity, smallness, opposition, discouragement or any other obstacle that the world or the devil may hurl at us ! We must yield ourselves as vessels that will not quit and will not fail to allow the oil of God's Spirit to freely flow through us to His body.
II. Obstacles like mountains will rise up and seek to discourage us.
A. The work was great and the opposition was leveled both from within and without. It was so great that the obstacles are called in Zechariah 4:7 a "great mountain"
B. When Sanballat and Tobiah heard that the Jews were going to rebuild the House of God they expressed contempt and mocked the Jews saying "What are these feeble (pathetic) Jews doing? Can they restore it by themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they ever finish it? Can they bring these burnt stones back to life from the mounds of rubble? Even if a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall." (Ezra 4:2-3 Paraphrased)
C. It took Zerubbabel two years to rebuild the foundation of the temple. As he started to build on the foundation, construction was delayed by the Samaritans and the Ammonites, enemies of Israel who made friendly overtures which merely masked their hidden resentment and animosity. The efforts of the opposition to the temple construction resulted in Persia withdrawing support for the project and halting the reconstruction for 17 years. As reconstruction resumed there were within the ranks of Israel older Jews who recalled the grandeur of the first temple and criticized and put down Zerubbabel’s work as a poor substitute for what once had been.