The Jews from Judah had been in captivity for 70 years in Babylon when the Babylonian Empire fell to the Medes and Persians. King Cyrus issued a decree allowing God’s people to return to the holy city of Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. The first temple, built by Solomon, had been destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian Army in 586 B.C.
After 70 years of captivity, the Jews returned in 536 B.C. with about 50,000 people. They were led by Zerubbabel the civil leader and Joshua the High Priest, who was the religious leader. Haggai and Zechariah, the prophets of God, were on the scene as well during that time. Upon their return to Jerusalem, an altar of sacrifice was built and the work of rebuilding the temple began.
It is always exciting and thrilling when God is doing a new work among his people. When Sue and I heard the call to come to Greeley 23 years ago to plant Calvary Chapel, we were so excited and knew that God wanted to do wonderful things. We laid the foundation by starting a Bible study in our home. After six months God led us to rent a very small storefront in downtown Greeley so we could start Sunday morning services. Our first sanctuary held 50 chairs and on the first Sunday Service we had about 30 people. I was so excited and thankful for this new venture of faith that God called us to.
When Zerubbabel saw the completion of the altar of sacrifice and that the foundation of the temple had been laid, I’m sure he was filled with great expectation that the work of building the temple would surely be completed soon. Instead, Zerubbabel and Joshua would see the work of building the temple come to a stop. The delay was not for a short period of time, but rather about 15 years. The enemies of the Jews were opposing the work of the temple and were intimidating the Jews. The work was hard as the city lay in ruins. Over time the people turned inwardly. They began to focus on building their own homes and no longer prioritized doing the work of the Lord.
I’m sure that Zerubbabel and Joshua were greatly discouraged during that time. They must have felt like failures, as though they had let God down. Year after year would pass with no results. The zeal and energy of the people were devoted to living the good life, building beautiful paneled houses, while God’s house lay in ruins. It was during that time of delay that the prophet Zechariah received a vision recorded in Zechariah chapter 4. A message was to be given to Zerubbabel by the angel saying, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands shall also finish it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you. For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the Lord which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.” (Zechariah 4:9-10)
The message to Zerubbabel was that the hands that laid the foundation of the temple would be the hands that finished it and the word of the Lord to you, Zerubbabel, is, “Not by might, nor by power but by My spirit,” says the Lord of host. The work will not be completed by your togetherness or intellect, or resourcefulness. It will be done by the Lord and then the Lord gave a very important word to Zerubbabel saying, “Don’t despise the day of small things.”
After our first Sunday morning service in Greeley, the next several weeks would bring only handfuls of people. At times there would only be fifteen to twenty people in attendance, and Wednesday night service would have even fewer. For many years we didn’t grow at all or grew very slowly. It was during those times that I would have seasons of discouragement. We would have visitors and they would not return. They would say they were going to attend church elsewhere. If everyone who visited Calvary Chapel Greeley had stayed, we would have a church of thousands. As a pastor you want to reach as many people as possible. As a teacher of God’s Word you want to see your community impacted with the gospel and the truth of scripture.
One of the worst things a pastor can do is begin to compare himself to other ministers, churches, or Bible teachers. There are always those who have more people or bigger buildings, who are very dynamic and popular with their teaching style, having great charisma. It was in 2000 that we bought our current facility and we were so excited. We thought it was the Crystal Cathedral with so much more room for our small congregation. Today we have three Sunday morning services and perhaps soon we’ll add a fourth weekend service. Our Wednesday night midweek service is well attended and many times is full, but it wasn’t always that way.
We can tend to think that our ministry is insignificant and unimportant to God. We can struggle with those things and get our eyes off the Lord’s calling in our lives and start to look outwardly instead of upward. I forget to be thankful for what He has done and the calling He’s placed on my life. I forget to be thankful for the people He has given me to serve and minister to. I begin to second guess that He’s called me to teach through the Bible, not just from the Bible. I have to be reminded that it is not by might nor by my power but by His spirit.
Wherever God has placed you in the ministry He’s given to you, always remember: it is important to Him. Your ministry may be raising your children in the ways of the Lord or discipling others. You may be working in the nursery or teaching young people. Paul, the apostle, wrote to the Corinthian church, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58) The promise of the Lord is that He will complete that work which He has begun in your life. When you begin to think what God is doing in your life is insignificant and unimportant, always remember, ”Do not despise the day of small things.”