Week 33: Finding God’s Encouragement In Hard Times

by Rachel Morgan

When looking at this week’s readings, there was definitely a set of passages I was eager to read – dramatic, easy to read and easily applicable. Conversely there was also a set that I was much less familiar with that would take more concentration to work through and seemed harder to find simple applications (can you guess which is which?!).

Despite my initial hesitance, I was actually surprised at how quickly I got into Zechariah – it focuses on roughly the same time period we are studying in Morning Worship in Nehemiah, so there are lots of parts that overlap and link that make this a little easier to navigate.

The Lord speaks to Zechariah through visions that are echoed in Revelation (think lampstands and scrolls); after the call to repent in Chapter One, the rest of the readings this week are encouragements that God will be with the Israelites as long as they continue to follow His commands. One example that struck me particularly is in Chapter 4. Zerubbabel had been rebuilding the temple and knowing how much opposition they had been facing, I bet spirits would have been low. In my experience, God often seems to have a habit of speaking exactly when and what I need to hear, and this definitely feels like that kind of prophecy – Verse 9 – ‘The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it.’ What a boost from Zechariah this must have been!

There are many similar moments in Acts where the early church see miraculous answers to prayer. It is exciting seeing the way the church begins to flourish and grow and I am always challenged by their faith. However, similarly to the situation that Zechariah is speaking into, not everything is smooth sailing – the Annanias and Sapphira story is a sobering reminder to be honest in our dealings, and Stephen’s death must have shaken the community to the core – especially as it leads to widespread persecution.

Perseverance is hard by definition. When positive experiences are immediately followed by opposition or problems, it can be easy to give up, or assume we are doing something wrong. Sometimes we are called to simply trust and keep obeying, but sometimes God sends us encouragement through circumstances or people (see Acts 8 to see how the gospel spreads throughout Samaria).

Points to ponder:

  1. Remind yourself of times God has sent you encouragements when you most needed it. Thank him for those times.
  2. Have you ever knowingly been an encouragement to someone else? Would you like to be? Is there anyone who comes to mind when you ask God? Ask Him to give you a word or picture for them and keep them in mind this week as you pray.
  3. It is great to encourage each other with stories of how God is on the move – take time to reflect on how God has been at work in you recently and share stories with someone – it may encourage both of you!