By My Spirit, Says the Lord

Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Zephaniah 4:1-14 | May 23, 2021 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
May 23, 2021
By My Spirit, Says the Lord | Zephaniah 4:1-14
Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Our Father in heaven, we pray as we have just sung for the work of the Spirit to be evident among us. Send Your Spirit to be our illumination, send Your Spirit to be conviction of sin, send Your Spirit to give power from on high, power both for the preacher and for the hearer, for we are both weak and in need of Your help. We do not trust in ourselves, but in Your Word and in Your Spirit. Give us grace for all that You want to do to us and through us that we might believe and obey. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

You’ll notice in the bulletin that we’re deviating from the prescribed plan, since I laid down the prescription, I thought I could change it, and taking this week to move out of Genesis, and Lord willing we’ll be back at the end of August and jump right back in with Genesis chapter 20.

But given that this is Pentecost Sunday, I thought that it might be fitting to look at a text that talks about the Holy Spirit, and then also considering that this is a momentous Sunday for us, our first Sunday in more than a year gathering back in person in one service with the lifting of many restrictions, thought what would be a good passage to not only highlight the work of the Holy Spirit, but perhaps as we come out of the pandemic to be reminded, to reestablish what is our ministry as a church about. What are the marching orders? What are our commitments? What’s a kind of manifesto for us as we come together, hopefully with renewed energy and enthusiasm and vigor, to set about and to be the people of God and do the work that He’s given us to do in this place?

And so I thought we would turn to Zechariah chapter 4, which does all of those things and is, though somewhat obscure, you’ll recognize several famous verses in this chapter and it’s one of my favorite chapters in the whole Bible. So follow along as I read, Zechariah, that’s right before Malachi, or Malachi, the Italian prophet, right before the end of the Old Testament, into the New Testament, you have Zechariah, and we’re in chapter 4.

“And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep. And he said to me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.”

Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’” Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. “These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which range through the whole earth.””

“Then I said to him, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?” And a second time I answered and said to him, “What are these two branches of the olive trees, which are beside the two golden pipes from which the golden oil is poured out?” He said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” Then he said, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.””

In 586 B.C., the unthinkable happened. Jerusalem, the capital of Judah, God’s chosen city, fell to the Babylonians. And though there were signs that things were not going well, it still must have hit them with the force of a 9/11, to see their proud, great, leading city fall and to see it burned, and the temple destroyed, and most of the Jews then carried off in exile some 900 miles to the east to Babylon. It was a disaster of cataclysmic proportions.

Around 538 B.C., the Babylonians were then conquered by the Medo-Persian empire. Cyrus, king of the Medo-Persians, then issued a decree allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem. So new regime, new superpower, and new rules. And because he thought, Darius, or Cyrus, rather, thought happy subjects would be better subjects, he promised to even help finance the rebuilding of the temple. It’s not that they were such enlightened monarchs, but they figure we want you to be happy subjects, so return to your land, we’ll help you, we don’t really care what religion you have just as long as you’re good subjects.

Many of the Jews preferred to stay in Babylon. They had grown comfortable in Babylon, prosperous even. But by 536 about 50,000 Jews had returned to the Promised Land. Soon after they arrived back in Jerusalem, they laid the cornerstone for a new temple. That was going to be priority number one. They needed a temple, they needed a wall. They were harassed by their neighbors, opposed by some of their own people, and the work of rebuilding the temple, though begun when they arrived, literally never got off the ground, or at least for many years.

Ezra 4 says, “Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, made them afraid to build, and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus, king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius, king of Persia.”

So they had it in their mind to rebuild the temple, but they were opposed, and then they bribed some leading counselors, “no, no, no, you don’t want to do that, you’re never going to get that thing off the ground,” and they stopped. Nothing happened for 16 years.

Until 522 B.C., Darius became the ruler of the Medes and Persians and he reissued Cyrus’ decree for the temple in Jerusalem to be rebuilt. And still not much happened until God sent two prophets to the people. Ezra 6:14 says “and the elders of the Jews built the temple and prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, the son of Iddo.”

So until they got these prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, the work literally did not get off the ground. Haggai has four sermons which in essence give people a command to get up off their seats and go work on the temple. Zechariah, in 14 chapters, has fewer direct commands about the temple; instead, Zechariah receives eight visions, and these visions were meant to communicate to the people through the prophet of God’s power and authority to accomplish all that He commands, to fulfill all that He promised. So eight visions.

This, in chapter 4, which I’ve just read, is the fifth of those visions. And the main point of the vision is not hard to understand. We’ll get to the imagery in just a moment and understand what’s going on, but the main point should be fairly simple.

Look at verse 9: “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.”

You remember the little saying, which I’ve said a number of times before just to cement in your mind, “The temple is in rub-able, we’re in troub-able, get here on the doub-able, send for Zerubbabel.” That’s how you can remember when you read Zerubbabel, okay, he’s the guy with the troub-able, get here on the doub-able, to rebuild the temple which is in rub-able.

So he’s the governor of Judea, and what we read in verse 9, he’s going to lay the cornerstone, lay the foundation, and his hands shall complete it. In other words, in our lifetime you are going to see this temple be rebuilt, and when it is rebuilt under the leadership of Zerubbabel, then you will know, Zechariah says, that the LORD has sent me to you.

This must have seemed like an impossible task. They had been languishing in not only disrepair but nothing for decades, and this is a massive building project. This is much more involved than say a bathroom tower. This involves, without all of our modern technology, quite an ordeal to rebuild the temple, and God says it’s going to happen, believe it, and it’s not based on the might or the power of Zerubbabel or any of you, but it is upon the power of My Spirit.

In other words, the central theme in Zechariah chapter 4 is this: The God who makes the promise will also supply the power. The God who makes the promise will also supply the power. That’s the big idea. That’s what the vision of the lamps and the candles and the olive trees are about. That’s the big idea.

Now what does this have to say to us as Christians? Or what might this say to us as a church? How can this chapter, somewhat obscure, tucked away in the minor prophets, what can it say to us on this great Sunday? This regathering Sunday, this Pentecost Sunday. Well, I see here in Zechariah chapter 4 a vision not only for Israel’s future but a vision for our future. Let me suggest from this chapter four commitments, four commitments that we ought to make as a church, now in the weeks and months and for however long the Lord will be gracious to give us a lampstand and a light here in this place. Four commitments. Think of it as an almost post-COVID 2021 and beyond manifesto.

Here’s the first commitment: We will not trust in our own might or power. We will not trust in our own might or power.

Zechariah sees a vision of a golden lampstand. Look at verse 2. A lampstand all of gold with a bowl on top, and the translation is debated, but her the ESV puts it “with seven lips on each of the lamps.” So picture a tall lamp, the Hebrew word here is menorah, so it’s probably that seven-pronged lamp you’ve seen in books before, the golden lampstand that would have been in the temple or the tabernacle before.

So you have a menorah, a tall, golden lampstand, which has seven lamps on it. And then, if this translation of some difficult Hebrew is correct, on each of them there are seven lips. So picture seven times seven, 49, good biblical number, sevens and sevens, seven lamps each with seven lips, so 49 little flames burning on this golden lampstand. So that’s what he sees, this golden lampstand, 49 little flames.

And then to either side of the golden lampstand, there is an olive tree. Now, we think of olives as something you have on your pizza or you order “please don’t put those on my pizza,” you have, you cook with olive oil. Of course, they did, too, but oil was the, this was the oil for the lamps, this is how you kept things lit. You used the oil from the olive tree.

So what is this picture about which he sees? And then we have more an explanation in verses 11 and 12. So he asks, “What are these olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?” He has to ask a third time, and beside them, now we get a little more of a description, there are two golden pipes from which golden oil is poured out.

So it’s hard to visualize this picture, but this contraption seems to be you have this golden lampstand, remember, which has a bowl on the top of it, so that’s the receptacle for capturing the oil, which then flows down to light these seven lamps and the seven lips on each of these lamps.

And how do you provide the oil, the fuel, for this flame? Well, there are two olive trees constantly overflowing with oil into the lamp, down in these golden pipes, captured in the bowl as a kind of funnel. So you have to get in your mind’s eye how significant this is. This would be like a vision of your car and on either side is an oil rig, or on either side is a gas station that actually has gas. We’ve just learned how important this is, that you actually have fuel in your car and what a precious thing it is and you can run out of it, and it can be in short supply.

So this is like seeing a vision of a car that’s got the gas tank on both sides, every time you pull up to that, which side is this on? I’ve only done this a thousand times in my life and I still can’t remember. Well, both sides, and there’s plugged right in a limitless supply of fuel. That’s the picture. These olive trees are constantly pouring forth their golden oil through the golden pipes into the bowl receptacle, down into the seven lamps, off the seven lips, so that there will never be a shortage of fuel for this flame. That’s the picture.

And that’s the imagery which leads to the famous declaration in verse 6: “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.”

In other words, how is this seemingly impossible task going to be completed? Well, there is an unlimited supply of Spirit-given power. This lamp will never be snuffed out because you don’t have to go back in, hour by hour, day by day, and refill the trays and pour some more out. It is constantly being poured into from the golden olive trees, down the golden pipes, into the bowl so that it will never go out.

The promise, in other words, yes, I will build My temple. I will build it in the very days of Zerubbabel, and though this may seem like an impossible task, do not rely upon your own might. Do not rely upon your own power. But rely upon My Spirit and I will provide all that you need for this great promise to be fulfilled.

We absolutely need this truth engraven on our hearts if we’re going to have the right kind of ministry in this church and go about it in the right way. We will not trust in our might or our power.

How do people get saved? Now you, many of you, know the right answer to that theologically, but oftentimes are practice is somewhat lagging behind our theology. How are you saved? How were you saved? Perhaps you’re here this morning, you don’t really know Jesus, you haven’t really been born again. How will you be saved?

Not by our might. Not by a lifetime of trying. Not by accumulating enough good deeds to some outweigh your bad deeds. You will not be ushered in to an eternal kingdom by your might or by our power, but only by the Spirit working through the Word. God is the only one who can make light shine in our darkness. He’s the only one who can give new life to the dead. He’s the only one who can justify. He’s the only one to quicken the heart, renew the mind. Jesus said unless the Father draws him, no one can come to Me.

We are born again not by blood or the will of the flesh or the will of man, but of God. In other words, not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD. That’s how we’re saved.

How will you overcome temptation and sin in your life? How do we become worshipers instead of consumers? How do we raise our children to be faithful disciples? How do we evangelize campuses and neighborhoods? How do we share the Gospel with those who do not know Jesus? We must have it cemented in our minds, engraven on our hearts, it’s not by our might, it’s not by our power, but it’s by His Spirit.

We have so many gifts in this church. We have so many people who are good at a lot of things, and they have resources some of them, they have important jobs some of them, they have degrees some of you. We have a group of lots of impressive people, and with that comes a profound danger that we would think that it is dependent upon our might, our ingenuity, our organization, our strength, and though we would know that’s wrong theologically, we could live as if it’s true practically, and it’s not.

We all know we’re supposed to rely on the Lord, not on our own strength, hopefully we would affirm that. But if we truly are not trusting in our might or our power, then let us attempt to do things that only God can do. It’s possible to make an idol of safety and caution. It’s possible that when we think about a dream, a great plan, something that God wants to accomplish, yes, there’s a way to be proud and think that we’re going to do whatever we want to do, but there’s also a way to be so restrained that we only attempt to do the things that we kind of already figure that we know how to do.

Are we doing the things in ministry, your personal ministry with your family, your school, wherever you’re doing ministry, and are we as a church about the things that are only going to work if God by His Spirit shows up? Or are we saying we kind of know how to do this. We’ve got certain skills and we know how to organize things and we kind of know how things work.

What are the things that require God alone? What are the tall mountains in your life that look impossible to scale, perhaps sharing your faith? Maybe a relational strain that you’re saying this could never be healed. Maybe it’s family devotions. Maybe it’s giving of tithes and offerings.

Are you in your own Christian walk, are we as a church, doing and praying and attempting anything such that if it were to happen we could only conclude, “God did that. God did that. There’s no other.” Yes, we’ll see in just a moment, He uses us. But there’s no other way that this person could have been saved, no other way that we could have seen this sort of great work, no other way that we would see the Muslim world come to Christ, no other way we would see a breakthrough in this neighbor, except that God did it.

You see verse 7, “Who are you, O great mountain?” I think the mountain here is a metaphor for obstacles facing God’s people in rebuilding the temple, and they had many obstacles: Hostile authorities, spiritual lethargy, economic difficulties. And if you think about it, those are the very same obstacles we face today. You might have hostile authorities, a culture opposed to you just like they were to them. Oftentimes it’s not the hostilities from outsiders, it’s our own spiritual lethargy that prevents us from doing God’s work. Economic difficulties, perhaps. These are the same obstacles God’s people face today.

Yes, it seems like a long time ago, different people in a different place, but human nature’s the same. The sort of obstacles are the same. And God said to them, “Who are you, O great mountain? All that is arrayed against you in the building of this temple, the great Rocky Mountains will be laid flat like the plains of Nebraska. I will make a way.”

We will not trust in our might or our power.

Here’s our second commitment I hope we will make: We will trust the Spirit working through God’s appointed means. We will not trust in our power and might, we will trust the Spirit working through God’s appointed means.

God makes big promises in this chapter. The temple will be rebuilt. You just think about our smallish, Capital Campaign. It’s still costs a good deal of money, still need to have people come and work and construct. You think of all that they had in their mind. Oh, the temple, really? Where are we going to get the money for that? Where are we going to get permission to do that? Where are we going to get the workers to do that? Where are we going to have the know-how to do that?

This is a big promise, and God says the Spirit will do it. But that doesn’t mean that the Spirit was going to drop down out of heaven a second temple: “Everybody, Spirit delivery today. Move out of the way. God’s delivering the temple. Excellent. Here it comes.” No, that’s not how the temple would be rebuilt. God was going to use His people to accomplish His Spirit-empowered work.

So go back to what we saw in verse 4 and verse 11 and verse 12. Three times Zechariah asks, “Well, what are these, my Lord?” and the angel’s playing a little hard to get, “Well, don’t you know what these are?” “I don’t. What are they?” “You know.” “I really don’t know.”

Three times he asks, “What are these?” and then when he gives an answer, it doesn’t completely unravel the mystery. He finally says, after asking three times, “What are the two olive trees?” Verse 14, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” And you can see a footnote in the ESV, the Hebrew says literally, “These are two sons of new oil,” or anointed ones.

So who are these two sons of new oil? Well, there are two different theories, both of which could be correct, and neither of which change the overall message of the chapter, but one option is to see that the two anointed ones are Haggai and Zechariah. Remember I read earlier from Ezra 6:4 that the people built the temple and they prospered, they finally got the work off the ground, under the prophesying of Haggai and Zechariah, so you could make the case that these two sons of new oil, the ones while will see that the work is brought to completion, are these two prophets who get the people going with God’s Word.

Now one of the difficulties with that is to think that God is telling Zechariah in a very obscure way that he is, in fact, one of these olive trees, and it doesn’t seem to ever click with Zechariah, if that’s the message to be communicated.

So that’s the minority opinion. Most commentators argue that the two anointed ones are Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor, and that makes good sense with the context. You can look just at the heading in chapter 3, “A Vision of Joshua, the High Priest.” He’s the subject in chapter 3. We’ve already seen the subject in chapter 4 is Zerubbabel, so the high priest and the governor, these would have been the two essential leaders over the people and God is saying, “How will this Spirit-empowered work come to fruition? It will do so because of these men that I have appointed and anointed.”

In other words, God uses means. This is a really striking image. You have the two trees, pouring in limitless supply of oil. Yeah, God, you hooked up the car to two oil rigs, we’re never going to lose, thank you for your power.

But God also communicates those trees, as it were, are actually people. God is supplying this Spirit’s power through His Spirit-anointed men, and I think we could say by extension on Pentecost Sunday, by Spirit-anointed and empowered and filled men and women. God uses means to build up the household of faith.

So never forget when we talk about God doing the work, relying on God’s power, that doesn’t encourage us to a kind of passivity. Are you attending to the means of grace in your life? To the Word, to prayer, to the sacraments? So good to see so many of you here and some may still have good reason not to come back, but we hope that unless there are providentially-hindering circumstances that people would be here, in person, gathering for corporate worship, because we need to attend to these means of grace.

If you’re here and you feel stuck in your faith, you feel bored, uninspired, as yourself the question, “Am I faithfully attending to the Word and to the sacraments and prayer?”

And consider, because either Haggai and Zechariah or Joshua and Zerubbabel are these two trees providing the fuel for the flame, consider how God might be calling you and equipping you to be the fuel for His flame. Might it be through your giving? Through your praying? Through your speaking? Through evangelism?

Michael Green’s book Evangelism in the Early Church, it’s a generation or two old by now, but it’s still a wonderful look at how evangelism took place in the early Church, and he describes how evangelism was not just something that one group of people did, or one special class of people, but everyone in a multitude of ways was engaged in it.

He writes: “We have seen that house meetings of various sorts and personal conversations between individuals played a very prominent part it the progress of the Gospel in ancient times. The hospitality, even the decoration of their homes, their chance conversations indoors or in the open air, visiting, open air preaching, addresses in church, addresses in the synagogue, arguments in the market place and the philosophical school, personal testimonies, letter writing, the explanation of Scripture. All of these were used to further the supreme aim which these early Christians cherished of making Christ known to others, through many different ways. Some in public teaching, others with the decorations of their homes, which gave witness to Christ, others by bringing people in and sharing a meal and speaking to them of Jesus. Pray to God that He would raise up new sons and daughters of new oil and consider how you might be the answer to someone else’s prayer, providing fuel for the flame. We do not trust in ourselves, but we trust the Spirit and He will work through us.”

Here’s the third commitment: We will give thanks to God for any and every success. We will give thanks to God for any and every success.

So as I said at the very beginning of this service, we ought to just pause for a moment. We are in May 2021. Praise God it is not May 2020. We gathered this Sunday, I think it was the week before Memorial Day weekend, we gathered for the first time and we had an outdoor service, and then the courts in North Carolina ruled and we were able to come and meet inside with social distancing and masks and we did that, and then we added a second service. Won’t rehearse all of what’s taken place in the last year, and you’re all tired of hearing how unprecedented the times are. We’d all like some very precedented items ahead.

We had many funerals in the past year. Few from COVID, others through old age, illness, some tragic experiences. We’ve lost a few people, I’m sure, maybe they’ve gone off to other places, moved away. Maybe some people have gone and will get used to livestream and not come back, though we are praying that is not the case. We’ve also gained new people. We’ve had, by God’s grace, full membership classes. We’ve had new children born. We’ve had some people reborn. We were able to finish the year strong with our giving. The Lord has been gracious to us.

Very few of us, when everything seemed to shut down in the middle of March, at that point thought well, we won’t be together in person in one service for over a year. You would be very prescient if you came to that conclusion early on. But it has been these 14 or 15 months, and now we are here.

We have been given so much. We have been given a beautiful place in which to worship. We have been given many gifts and resources and people and friends and opportunities. What is your response if you have a house or an apartment? Or you have a place to live? If you have clothes? Yes, thank you, you all have clothes. You have food. Many of you have a job. In fact, there’s many places looking for people to work a job. What do you say to give thanks in response to all of these blessings? Well, I love what we read in verse 7: “He shall bring for the forward the top stone.”

So picture he’s looking into the future. The top stone, the temple is completed, and what do they cry out at the completion of the temple? What could be more fitting? “Grace, grace.” It’s all of grace. They didn’t cry out, “We built this, we did it. This is mine.”

Those birds in Finding Nemo when the fish are up on the dock, remember, “mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, mine.” Is that what we sound like? Just birds or little children, “On, no, that’s mine, that’s mine, that’s mine, that’s mine. I did it, I did it.”

Or are we crying out “grace.” The testimonies that we’ve had here for the last couple of months, though, yes, they’re along the lines of our Capital Campaign, we’re not pretending that’s not the case, but much more important than giving money to a building is to hear these stories of people who are giving testimony to God’s grace in their lives. What is your default mindset? Grumbling? Or grace? Do you find yourself complaining about what you deserve, or do you find your heart shouting out, crying about all of the things you didn’t deserve that have come to you only by grace.

Let this precious word “grace” be the resounding refrain, this week and every week, in our worship, in our services, in our fellowship, in our life together, and the people say in their hearts and out loud, “grace, grace.” Any favor, any blessing, any success, we will say, “God, this is Your favor, this is Your grace upon on us. To go alone be the glory.”

And here’s a final commitment: We will not despise the days of small things. We will not despite the days of small things.

You’ve heard me say before Zechariah 4:10. It’s one of my life verses: “For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.”

Plumb line would be a long string and then a weight at the bottom of it. Today we would use a level. It’s a vertical line to square off the last corner of the temple. Again, this is a picture of Zerubbabel completing the work as he unfurls his plumb line and says, “There it is, men and women. The temple.”

On that day, the people who despise the days of small things will have their eyes finally opened. These are the people who stood back just as it happens in every group, they stood back and watched, “This’ll never happen. Nothing happened. What? Another lunch break? Look at the progress. It’s been a month. I can’t tell a difference. Nothing’s happening with this temple. Nothing’s happening. What’s the point? What a waste.”

But something was happening. Little by little, brick by brick, until finally Zerubbabel drops the plumb line and the people who had despised the days of small things realized that many, many days of small things can add up to one great thing.

It takes a lot of boring days, a lot of the same day over and over, in the Church, in preaching, in parenting, in your studies, in your quiet times, in your evangelism, in your workplace, in your life, a lot of days that don’t seem to be amounting to anything. We’re prone to radicalism without follow through. We want it right now! And sometimes we put the burden upon other people and we cry out to them, “Why aren’t you doing something about X?” whatever X is, whatever great societal ill, whatever great injustice. “Why aren’t you doing something about X?”

Well, we do need people to be stirred up that they may attempt great things for God. But often I want to say to people who cry out, “Why aren’t you doing anything about this massive thing that I want you to do something about?” I want to say, “But I am. You don’t see it, but I’m praying. I’m being shaped by the Word. I’m supporting my church, I’m discipling my children, I’m perhaps walking with a friend or a family member through a dark time. I’m trying to grow in godliness. I’m trying to love my neighbor. I’m praying for opportunities. I’m seeking to be a faithful presence in the workplace.” Days and weeks and months and years of small things.

You’ve heard me mention before the book by Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity, and it’s about the Christianization of Europe that took a millennium. Now, sadly, being undone and going to take new centuries, but he says the point cannot be sufficiently emphasized: “The conversion and Christianization of the countryside was a very slow business.”

When we look at history and we just hear about these great men and women of the faith and we get history in large swaths of generations and centuries, it all seems to go quickly. But of course, it didn’t. And Fletcher points out three things won the day over many, many centuries: Power, preaching, and persistence.

The power of this Spirit at work, the faithful preaching of the Gospel, and persistence that they just kept at it.

It’s the same idea in another book on early Church history called The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, a fermenting, working the yeast through the dough patiently, slow and steady wins the race.

You’ve heard all of the statistics before if you just read two pages a day, think of these massive books, you could read in a year and more in a lifetime. If you memorized even one verse of Scripture a week, think by the end of the year, 50 more verses you would have tucked away, to raise your children, to share your faith, to come to church, week after week, when there’s so much sameness.

You know when you most long for sameness? When you haven’t had it. We’ve all been wanting, can we just have some of our boring same normal life back? And it won’t take very long until you say, well, my life is so same and normal and boring.

You talk to people whose lives have been upset, not by a pandemic but by some great life catastrophe or illness, and all they want is, “Can I just have my old routine and my old normal life back?” There’s something very precious about the normal, the regular, the routine. Believe me, you may get tired of hearing your pastor’s sermons; I get tired of hearing them. I have to hear them wherever I go. Yes, it’s the same, and the same illustrations sometimes. You live with the same people. You have the same job. It’s a lot of sameness, but brothers and sisters, do not despise the days of small things.

It took a long time, but the temple was built. And on that day, the people rejoice. Jesus Himself, in Luke chapter 9, said, “Put your hand to the plow.” Let’s get going. Let’s keep going. And don’t look back. Jesus is with us. Jesus is calling us. Jesus has sent together with the Father His Spirit to empower us. Keep your hand to the plow, brothers and sisters, don’t look back. Jesus can do more than we can ask or imagine.

Let’s pray. Father in heaven, we give thanks. We say with the people at the completion of the temple, grace, grace to it. For You have done a work in our lives more magnificent than the temple. You’ve saved us. You’ve called us to a holy calling. You’ve given us new life in Christ. You’ve forgiven our sins. You’ve built us as a people into a holy temple, and so we say grace. Lord, we pray that You would keep working on us, with us, through us, that we would depend not upon ourselves, but upon Your Spirit, and keep our hand to the plow and give You all the glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.