As much as I like giving people messages that are encouraging and uplifting, there are times when the Lord calls me to teach messages that are challenging and difficult. Some of these messages can even make some people defensive and angry. Does God sometimes expect His servants to deliver messages to others that might cause them to meet with harsh criticism and abuse? The answer is yes, and the life and ministry of the prophet Ezekiel is one such example.
Ezekiel was commissioned by God to preach truth to the people, and to challenge them to turn away from their sins. The Lord told him: "The people to whom I am sending you are obstinate and stubborn. Say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says.' And whether they listen or fail to listen - for they are a rebellious house - they will know that a prophet has been among them." (Ezekiel 2:4-5 NIV) God doesn't just call you and me to deliver His messages to those who will be receptive to them. No, He often assigns us to speak and teach His truth to those whom He knows in advance will refuse to listen. He wants those people to know that they have been warned. And you and I may be the only ones who will ever warn them. In a world of growing political correctness, and in the name of "tolerance," it has become unpopular and undesirable to say things to people that might offend them or wound their feelings. But Christians cannot afford to adopt this worldly mindset when the eternal welfare of others is at stake.
God went on to tell Ezekiel: "Do not fear them or their words. Do not be dismayed by their dark scowls, even though they are rebels. You must give them my messages whether they listen or not. But they won't listen, for they are completely rebellious! Listen to what I say to you. Do not join them in their rebellion." (Ezekiel 2:6-8 NLT) The Lord warns those who speak for Him - including you and me - not to fear the anger or abuse that will be heaped upon us as we confront those who are rebelling against God. He also warns us to follow Him in faithful obedience, so that our conduct will stand out in the midst of a rebellious generation.
Over and over, the Lord urges us to be prepared to speak truth to others, no matter how they respond. "Give them My messages. But [they] won't listen to you any more than they listen to Me! For the whole lot of them are hard-hearted and stubborn. But look, I have made you as obstinate and hard-hearted as they are. I have made your forehead as hard as the hardest rock! So don't be afraid of them or fear their angry looks, even though they are rebels." (Ezekiel 3:4, 7-9 NLT) In other words, God is going to equip us with everything we need to face those who would oppose our message, and to continue to speak the truth with confidence and boldness.
The Lord again stresses the importance of our own conduct. "Let all My words sink deep into your own heart first. Listen to them carefully for yourself. Then go to your people…and say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says!' Do this whether they listen to you or not." (Ezekiel 3:10-11 NLT) We must take to heart God's Word and truth for ourselves - letting them transform our own lives - before we can effectively help others to understand and apply the Gospel.
Jesus indicated that every Christian has a part to play in the Great Commission. (Mark 16:15) And Paul left us some powerful instructions that we are expected to take seriously while we are still here on earth. "Preach the Word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don't be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you." (2 Timothy 4:2-5 NLT)
God is calling you to challenge others to believe His truth, and to turn from their sins. How will you answer His call?
Prayer: Lord, forgive me for the times that I remained silent when You wanted me to speak about Your truth and Your righteousness. Make me sensitive and obedient to Your Spirit's leading, so that I will go where You want me to go, and say what You want me to say. Thank You that as I choose to follow Your lead, You will use me to touch and change lives for all eternity!
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