Taken from a sermon preached by our Minister at the beginning of the year. In the previous magazine we considered the words 'be strong', at the beginning of the verse. We continue on this time to consider the call to work, and the encouragement of the Lord's accompanying presence and help.
“Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I [am] with you, saith the LORD of hosts:”
Strength was the urgent and pressing need of the day, for much work lay before them in building the temple, and their enemies were many and strong in might.
My dear brethren we need strength as we live here upon earth for a number reasons, however particularly consider how we need strength for the Glory of God; to worship Him and to serve Him in the work which He has called us to do. Let us pause at this moment in our lives and remind ourselves there is work to do!
The Minister of the Gospel, first of all, as being one called to that vital and important work, is to toil hard for the Master's sake. A Minister is described as a workman; in 2 Timothy 2 : 15 we read, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Further back in Ephesians 4 : 11 & 12 we read of the 'work'; “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” It is work, in which a Minister will be supported, but also in which he will know the weariness of the flesh; let us not underestimate the work.
Now there is much work to be done, particularly as we see in Acts 6: 4, The apostles declared, “ But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” In Mark 16 : 15, our Lord made plain they are to preach the the Gospel; He declared to the disciples “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” We see that the Ministers of the gospel must go, having a divine mandate, and as they go they must go preaching! Unashamedly they are to make known the law, sin, and it consequences. They must also must point sinners to Christ as the only Saviour and hope for them. George Whitefield encouraged ministers not to preach on just one day of the week, that being the Sabbath day, but on the other days of the week as well. Oh for such a day, when there would be a great interest and hunger for the word.
Dear brethren, pray that we might live to see great days in open air preaching, and that accompanying this, there would be a great awakening in this country! However, and this is so important, let us not forget there is still much to do, in these days of small things, for the Ministers of the gospel.
Although there is so little blessing seen in this country of England and there is much to discourage, the Ministers of the gospel are to be strong, and humbly be about their business, for the glory of God.
Moving on, consider secondly, all of God's children are to arise and serve the Lord. “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work:” Dear brethren, as those who have been saved by the sovereign grace of God, there is a work for you to do in this world, which must be your concern. The Lord has abundantly made plain in Scripture that He calls certain men to the ministry, and that work is for them and them alone to do, however, all believers belong to, and are servants of the most high. Therefore all of us should be toiling for the Master in some way.
Many an elderly saint has spent hours in the important work of prayer. A certain elderly lady who lived in Totton, on the edge of the New Forest, passed away. Next to her body was discovered a piece of paper that the Minister had given to her. Written upon it was a list of some unconverted young people. Previously, she had asked her Minister on a certain occasion, what could she do? What an important and vital work she faithfully continued to her dying day!
There are many things we can do. We are thankful for those who spend hours walking up and down the gardens paths delivering gospel tracts,those who spends hours on their knees in prayer, those who write letters to the prisons and to local schools.
My dear brethren, may I humbly exhort you to keep your selves in check; and ask yourselves, what am I doing for the Lord.
Sadly, a spirit of slumber can shroud the heart and the excuses come forth: I am too tired, others use that all too familiar line “I have not the time.” My dear brethren our lives are busy, there is much we must do by way necessity, but, and this is so important, let us not put to one side and neglect service for the King. In this modern age, here in the West, home improvements are high on the agenda amongst some, if not many of the Lord's people. Now it is not wrong to make some improvement from time to time, however, let me plead with you, be careful of how much time you spend on your properties each month. In Zerubbabel's day as we see in chapter 1 the people were concerned more about their own dwellings, rather than the house of God. It is not new thing.
Work for the Lord! Do not make excuses, be found serving the Lord. Now it can be tiring, and discouraging, but oh go and labour in the vineyard!
As we reflect this vital subject, consider the Lord whom we serve and then what Christ has done for us; does He not deserve our devotion, our time, our all! In 1 Chronicles 22 : 16, “ Arise therefore, and be doing,”
3rdly The Lord be with you.
“Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts:”
There was a great and important work standing before them, a work which was fiercely opposed and which would involve much toil. By way of encouragement, and to lay before them the wonderful truth, the Lord said, “I am with you.”
We are in need of the Lord's gracious presence and help, for left to ourselves, we can do nothing, We must earnestly pray and make our supplications unto Him, however, having said this be encouraged as you read this text, and take comfort, the Lord promises His gracious presence.
Remember again those words of our Lord to His disciples, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Lo I am with you, always.” When one is weary and discouraged, being assaulted by the evil one, and laughed at by the world, they can, and must, take comfort in their faithful and gracious Redeemer.
We are not alone, and further remember there is divine assistance awaiting us. In Isaiah 41 : 10, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”
We can be troubled like those disciples in the upper room, however, we are not like those who have no hope for we have the God of all comfort as our portion and who declares these wonderful and heart warming promises to our weary souls. Listen again to those words, “I am with thee,... I am thy God, I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”
Now, pause and consider, how amazing it is, that God, who is infinitely Holy, dwells with, and assists His people. We fail the Lord so often and sin against Him, yet He is our God and will never leave us or forsake us, dear brethren, does it not show to us the wonder and the glory of His grace and mercy. As you go forward in the service of King Jesus be encouraged.
How important is the work of evangelism. It was expressly commanded by our Lord not long before He left this world, and is a vital part of giving Him the glory, yet it is not an easy work, however take comfort, the Lord is with us. Oh dear brethren, rejoice, we have with us the friend that sticketh closer than a brother. Oh what mercy, oh what condescension; He goes with us! Be encouraged in Him, as you think of the work and those difficulties associated with it. In Romans 8 : 31 we read, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?”
Here is the Lord's message for us in these days. May this exaltation and encouragement find a resting place in our hearts, and let us with Divine enabling serve the Lord: As you do so, remember this wonderful truth, it is not in vain! In 1 Corinthians 15 : 58 the apostle writes, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”