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What an unprecedented Easter we have this year. For the first time in my 43 years, more than 80% of the world cannot attend church to celebrate the crucifixion and resurrection. We are forced to worship at home, and online.
In the count-down to the end of the initial lockdown which was meant to end on 16 April, I was preparing every day to exit the lock-down stronger and more focused than I entered it. Each day has been focused on growing myself, and my businesses.
I have spent hours encouraging others struggling with the lockdown. This also encouraged me, and helped me to remain focused on what needs to be done now, and once the lockdown ends.
So yes, I was shocked, and angry when the extension was announced. I was angry because I need a new Macbook and could not go out to buy one. I was angry because I enjoy sitting at Starbucks while working so I can enjoy overpriced coffee (that's not even that good anyway). Yet a few minutes' drive from me, people in the poorest neighbourhoods of our country are already suffering and will need to face an extra 14 days of not earning a salary. Thousands of households will ration a week's - already rationed food - for even longer.
That made my frustrations and anger seem so pathetic.
Steven Furtick in his Easter message said: "Unmet expectation is the starting point of resurrection."
My expectation was to do so much on and after the 16th of April yet now I must release that unmet expectation, and leave it in God's hands.
The simple fact that the lockdown was extended nearly derailed me, despite expecting that it would be extended.
But God gave me a purpose. A purpose I have strayed from countless times throughout my life. With gentle nudges and the most ferocious kicks under my backside, He has constantly pulled me back.
When God has a purpose for us, He will do all that is needed to see us fulfill His will.
The book of Jonah relays Jonah's journey, his resistance and getting back on track.
When God first told Jonah to go to Nineveh, his first reaction must have been "Heck-no". He chose to go and hide in Tarshish, so hopped on a boat at Joppa and must have let out a sigh of relief thinking he had outwitted God. When storms rose around him on the boat he immediately knew why it was happening. Jonah got his own kick under the backside. Seeing his mistake, he prayed. He repented. Even though he strayed, God did not desert him. God saved his life and put him back on the path he was intended to follow. When God asked him a second time to go to Nineveh, there was no hesitation. He must have had one of those movie type flashbacks of being stuck in the belly of a fish for three days! Imagine the smell!
At the start of his journey, Jonah had no courage. He feared to go to Nineveh more than he trusted in God. His courage was in himself instead of in the Lord.
In Nehemiah (one of my favourite books in the Bible), we see the complete opposite. As a simple cupbearer Nehemiah felt called to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. No task could have seemed more impossible. Not only did he not have the means to embark on such an endeavour, but there were many - including kings, that he would need to defy and face to complete his task.
What we must realise, is that Nehemiah did not come up with the idea. In the same way, when we feel called to a purpose, it is God, now through the Holy Spirit that moves us, and gives us the desire to fulfill His purpose.
Every obstacle was removed before him. The king gave him permission, and a letter of protection to pass through hostile areas on his way to Jerusalem. He gave him the timber he needed, and not least of all soldiers to protect him.
During the work on the wall, there was constant resistance and threats. These are not the threats we face today when following our dreams. The threats were physical, in the form of armies, spears and arrows. Kings plotted, and armies rose against him. But did he stop? No. The work on the wall continued. Nehemiah 4:21-23 recounts how each worker worked with one hand, and with the other held his spear.
In the same way, when we face adversity we cannot simply stop what God has led us to do! We carry on with the task. With the one hand we work, with the other we prepare and defend against resistance.
The opposition does not always come as a physical threat and more often than not, it does not come from enemies. Our friends and family can be our greatest detractors when following our path. A simple comment like "You could hardly pass matric now you want to run a business", or your vision being called "silly" is enough to demotivate anyone.
When you are mocked, challenged or laughed at first of all remember who gave you your dream. If you believe that the opinions of others trump God's will for your life, then put down your tools and go home. If you know deep inside that God placed that dream on your heart, throw Nehemiah's words that we see in Nehemiah 6:3 back at them "I am doing a great work, and cannot come down". If he could be so stubborn in following his God-given purpose, surely you can find it in yourself to shrug off a few hurtful comments?
We must remember that any purpose given to us by God, is never as simple as just getting your dream car or making a bit of money. We will never have the full picture as God sees it.
This is where our stubborn, blind faith in God comes in. We must trust and believe beyond any doubt that there is more at the end than we could ever comprehend. Nehemiah simply felt he had to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, but it was the start of Israel rising out of oppression. Jonah had no idea the impact he would have on listening to God. Yet the entire Nineveh repented and accepted Yahweh as the one true God.
Once we understand that the vision we see is but a fraction of God's big picture, we can stubbornly play our part, and reap the reward of doing our `father's bidding.