Learning from Enemies

John D. Barry

Ezra 3:1–4:24; 1 John 3:11–18; Psalm 106:16–29

If a new venture is really worth pursuing, it will probably be opposed. Some people will refuse to get on board, and others will intentionally get in the way. While these people may be trying protect their own interests, it’s more likely that they don’t like change—even if it’s for the better.

God’s work among His people is not that different from innovation; after all, He is the Author of all good ideas since all ideas come from His creation. And just like new ventures, God’s work is often rejected. The difference between new ventures and God’s work, though, is that all people who oppose God’s work are opposing Him, their Creator; they’re choosing to put their own interests before His interests, which are only for good.

Jeshua and Zerubbabel faced this type of opposition in the book of Ezra. After they had restored worship in Jerusalem, they began to organize the effort to lay the foundation of the temple—the place where God’s people were meant to worship. Then, the unexpected happened: Enemies arrived and began to cause trouble (Ezra 3:1–4:5). We often view such people as hateful, but in reality they were acting in their own interests. These enemies likely didn’t realize the land they claimed as their own had been stolen from God’s people in the first place; they probably thought they were protecting what was rightfully theirs (compare Ezra 4:6–16; see 2 Kgs 24–25).

This is often the case in our lives as well: We think we’re doing what’s legally or morally right, but we may actually be opposing God’s work. Sometimes trying to act rightly can lead us to do the wrong thing. Rather than insisting on what seems or feels right, we must pause to pray about it. We must ask God what He is really doing. And if God is working through someone else, we need to step out of the way. He is innovating—are we willing to innovate with Him?

In what ways is God innovating around you? How does He want to use you in this process? In what areas should you step aside to let His work happen?

This article was originally posted in Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan.

John D. Barry is the CEO and founder of Jesus’ Economy, a nonprofit dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. To empower the extreme poor, Jesus’ Economy also has an online fair trade shop. John is also the general editor of Faithlife Study Bible and the former editor-in-chief of Bible Study Magazine. Learn more about John’s work with Jesus’ Economy at www.jesuseconomy.org.