Summary: Preached in 1989. Sometimes opposition is deeply destructive and isolating; the only answer is through prayer, for ultimately integrity is given by the risen Christ.
Opposition comes in all shapes and sizes. Opposition: feeling that somebody is out to stop you -- it takes many different forms.
Sometimes it is just outright, straightforward, political campaigning. Sometimes folks choose up sides and define the issues and go after each other, and that‘s all right. Most of us can handle this reasonably well. We just agree to disagree and go about lining up others who can agree with us, and let the rest go on about their business. This kind of opposition is not too tough. It’s at least honest and above board, and it has a live and let live quality about it.
Sort of like the Catholic priest and the Baptist preacher who got to arguing one day about their different ways of worship. Said the Catholic priest to the Baptist preacher, "The trouble with you is, you just won’t accept the way we worship.” Said the Baptist preacher to the Catholic priest, "Oh, I accept it all right. Live and let live. You worship God in your way, and I’ll worship Him in His way."
Sometimes opposition is just plain old disagreement, and that’s all right. That’s not hard to handle.
But then sometimes opposition is a built-in part of the human condition. Sometimes we get resistance from other people, and it seems that there is no other reason than that they simply want to be stubborn, they just want to be contrary. If you say this carpet is red, they will say it’s green. If you think that today is a nice day, they will tell you how uncomfortable it is. If you think we should turn left, they will insist on turning right.
If you read the funny papers, you’ll know that this is the kind of opposition game that Blondie and Dagwood play on each other. Blondie holds up two dresses and asks Dagwood, "Do you like the yellow one or the blue one?" And Dagwood says, "I like the yellow one." So Blondie says, "Good! Then I’ll take the blue one." But after that Dagwood looks out at the reader and says, "I like the blue one too, but if I’d said so, she would have taken the yellow one."
Sometimes opposition is just the perverse side of human nature. We don’t want to be governed by anybody else, we don’t want to be taken over by somebody else, so we just oppose. We just stake out a place to be different. Like the three-year-old boy who came in from the yard, slammed the screen door, and before Grandma could say anything at all, just blurted out, "Grandma, I won’t!" Just plain old stubborn opposition.
But beyond and deeper than both of these there is what I’m calling destructive opposition. Destructive opposition. The situation in which it feels like someone is out to get you, out to thwart you, out to stop you from being whatever you want to be, out to prevent you from doing whatever you feel you need to do. Destructive opposition is usually much more subtle than ordinary honest disagreement; destructive opposition goes behind the scenes and uses innuendoes and maybe even lies. Destructive opposition attacks your integrity, destructive opposition questions your credibility. And you find yourself trying to argue some position or take some action, but you find out that there is someone who is out just to destroy you. Not so much to change your mind or to get something done, but to stop you, destroy you, oppose you. Destructive opposition has this highly personal twist to it.
What can you do about destructive opposition? How do you handle it when you discover that someone opposes you, not so much because they think you are making a mistake, but really because they do not trust you, they do not like you, and are out to vilify and even destroy? What can you do then?
The Bible is full of folks who had to endure such opposition. But one such person jumps to the front today. In fact, this individual is going to help us with both of the messages that I plan to bring on prayer and victory. Prayer and victory: that already suggests the outcome of my argument both this week and next -- that in seasons of distress and grief, our souls will often find relief and oft escape the tempter’s snare, by this return, sweet hour of prayer. Prayer and victory.
Now the person we’re going to look at is King Hezekiah of Judah, living in the eighth century before Christ. King Hezekiah will help us think today about opposition, prayer and victory. And next week he will help us work with feelings, prayer and victory.
Now when Hezekiah acceded to the throne of the little Kingdom of Judah in 715 BC, he undertook to undo a lot of the mess his father Ahaz had done. Ahaz had appeased the huge empire of Assyria and had paid tribute to them; he had allowed the worship of Assyrian gods and had even placed an Assyrian altar in the temple in Jerusalem. That was an incredible concession to the power of King Sargon and the Assyrian empire. It would be rather like our saying, “Well, every Sunday when we come here to worship, right up here next to the Bible we will place a copy of the Communist Manifesto.” It lets the enemy right inside the gates. That ‘s what Ahaz had done.