I'm not sure if this counts as Christianese, but I feel like it is. We don't even quote the start of the verse anymore. And if we’re being perfectly honest, most of us don’t even know where to find it in the Bible, let alone the context in which it was said. It's one of those scriptures that is so well known and so easily quoted that we forget to let it impact us. We forget to let it change us, to let it change how we do life and change how we walk with God. We forget that we're meant to live it and not just say it.
“It’s not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord of hosts”. In the new Living translation, it says “it’s not by force or by strength”.
I only began to appreciate this passage a couple of years ago as I stopped to read Zechariah 4 and read about a man with a task. These words were said to a man named Zerubbabel. Here was a man who had an overwhelming mission ahead of him. He was governor of a society impacted by exile and subjugation. A society that he would have had a right to lead as king, if not for the oppression by Babylon. There were many emotions, experiences, and both national and international politics at play, and Zerubbabel would have to navigate all of this as the governor. Now that seems like a hard enough task, but then on top of all of that he was also going to work to rebuild the temple of God. I can't say I know how he felt, but I think about all he had to achieve and I'm instantly tired. In fact, thinking about it makes my back hurt. I now want to rush through typing these words, so I can lie down and relax. To be fair, I always want to lie down and relax, but I can imagine that if I was in Zerubbabel’s shoes, the desire to nap and not think about my "to do list" would be even stronger.
Now despite my aching back, I’m still sat at my computer typing because I know that I want to write this blog post. And as much as I’m tempted to rush it, I’m taking my time to stop and think about what I’m typing because not only do I want to write this blog post, but I also want to make sure that it says what I need it to say. And if I was Zerubbabel facing his daunting task, I imagine that I might be able to push through the tiredness. However, as his task was infinitely more difficult that writing words on a page and posting it on the internet, I also imagine that he might get through the tiring overwhelm, only to be faced with questions. How do I do this? Where do I begin? How long will it take? Who will help me? Will they keep helping? And the questions would mount on and on as the logistics and the politics of it all would have to be worked out.
Like most of us that face an overwhelming task, I imagine that this is where our fight or flight instinct will truly kick in. This is where we realise the magnitude of what has to be achieved and we decide to knuckle down and get working or we decide that it just isn’t doable, and we give up. We might even sabotage ourselves by aiming for less. We tell ourselves it's too hard, we need to choose a smaller goal or tackle one thing at a time. Now as I write this, the motivational speaker in me is already crafting a speech about how not to give up, about choosing to fight instead of taking flight. As a side note, I think that would be the tagline of my imaginary event. Choosing to fight instead of taking flight. And I also imagine that most real-life motivational speakers would also tell us to fight. They’d look at Zerubbabel and remind him that he can do it. They might use scripture to bolster up his faith. They’d remind him that a combination of working hard and working smart will help him go the distance. They’d tell him that giving up is not an option and encourage him to develop a plan of action. And as much as he might have needed to do all those things, they’d still be wrong because they’d have forgotten his choices were not just fight or flight. There’s a third option. Trust.
I imagine that the words in Zechariah 4 spoke to the part of Zerubbabel that was working through his fight or flight instincts. And that very part of his soul was told to trust in the promise that he would celebrate the completion of what he had started. He was told to trust that there would be an outpouring of resources. He was told to trust that the Spirit of God would be with him through it all. And most importantly, he was told to trust that not only would God be with him, but God would actually do it by His Spirit. He would work out the logistics, He would raise up the helpers, He would manage the politics. He would show him where to start and how to finish.
Zerubbabel had a God ordained task ahead of him. This meant that even though he had a lot of work ahead of him. It would all be done. Not because of his hard work or his effort, but by the Spirit of God.
Recently I’ve found myself trying to work it all out by my own ability. Then I remember this scripture. I remember that all that is good in my life has been from God and He has always worked it out, so I stop and I have a good hour of trusting in God. But beyond the hour, I fall back into trying to do it all by my effort and intellect. I think the issue is that this knowledge used to sit in my spirit, but for some reason right now it’s sitting in my intellect, so this is my attempt to remind myself, to meditate and to pray as I write.
I’ll be honest and admit that this is more for me than it's for you, and at this point I’m still debating whether I should post this or not. Maybe this is just meant to be for me. Either way, whether you get to read this or not, I pray for you as I do for myself. I pray we'll know and believe that we can trust in God. We can rest in Him. I pray for knowledge, understanding, wisdom and revelation in God. I pray for knowledge, understanding, wisdom and revelation in the truth that He has not called us to live life and fulfil purpose just by our effort, skill, intellect, or any other benefit we think we have. I pray for knowledge, understanding, wisdom and revelation in the fact that it’s not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of God. I pray for all this in Jesus name. Amen.