Scripture: Ezra 8:21 Then I (the prophet Ezra) proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might deny ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our possessions (to Jerusalem). 22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and cavalry to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king that the hand of our God is gracious to all who seek him, but his power and his wrath are against all who forsake him. 23 So we fasted and petitioned our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.
Observation: Ezra was leading a large group of Israelites from captivity in Babylon back to Jerusalem. It was a long journey – on foot – and they carried with them lots of valuables, things that robbers and thieves would covet. The king offered soldiers and calvary to help provide safety on the journey, but Ezra refused. The people would trust in the protection of God over human protection. It was a bold move. That said, Ezra was obviously nervous. He was a man of faith, but he wasn’t stupid. Logic suggested he should accept military protection, but faith would not allow it. Fortunately, God provided for a safe journey.
Application: Man, I get this. Having faith doesn’t mean there is necessarily a lack of fear or nervousness in our actions. What faith does is propel us to act despite our fears. To put it another way, faith requires us to trust God when our human mind screams “NO!”.
One of the aspects of Lent I most appreciate is the commitment many people make to “give up something” for Lent. Historically this has meant fasting something we value such as a particular food or drink, video games, TV, social media, whatever. (I remember one year a group of us guys gave up ESPN SportsCenter for Lent. Not easy for a sports fan). The point of this exercise is to refocus greater attention toward God and our walk of faith in Jesus Christ.
I was talking with a couple recently who decided to take the plunge and begin tithing their income as an act of devotion to the Lord. Most people find it difficult to give to God 10% – at least at first. Most of the time peoples’ budgets tell them they don’t have the extra money to raise their giving in this way. I can look like a financial death wish. But God always seems to come through in unexpected ways. I trust this will be true for the couple if question as it has for so many others.
In another case I was talking with a church leader who has been faithful in reading and reflecting on scripture each day as I do here. Setting aside the time, when it did not appear she had the time to give, was a huge act of faith. She’s now going a step further by making her reflections public, to share them with more than me and a few others. I know the Lord will bless her as she steps out in faith – as it blesses those who read her reflections.
Here’s a question for you: Where is God challenging you to take a step of faith? What is the fear that’s keeping you from it? What would it look like for you to feel the fear, but do it anyway?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, give us grace to overcome our fears and move toward the blessings of faith. Amen.