by Jesse Fungwa Kipimo
The biggest crisis of our time, and the greatest tragedy we are facing today, has to do with the lack of men and women who can be used by God to bring change to their communities and revival in the church. This article aims to remind us that God is still looking for people he can use to advance His agenda as it was the case with Ezra in Jerusalem. When we read throughout the Bible, God used men and women to bring restoration and revival among nations if we make ourselves available to be used by Him and for His glory. Throughout the four last chapters of the book of Ezra (7-10), I learned seven unique qualities in the life of Ezra that made the Lord use him in restoring true worship in the temple of Jerusalem after people returned from the Babylonian captivity.
God uses men and women who are willing to pay the price for ministry (7:6)
Ezra had an excellent position in the royal palace. He lived in comfort and had authority and a respectable position. Still, because of God’s calling and mission upon his life, he chose to leave everything in Babylon and left for Jerusalem to restore worship in God’s house. We always need to remember that ministry that can bring a remarkable change in a nation, church denomination, seminary, or family will always call for a price to be paid in depriving oneself of certain privileges, comfort, rights for God’s work. When things are not happening in your ministry as a servant of God, it is the right time to pay the price for things to move forward. I have come to understand that wherever things happened in Bible times, someone was willing to pay the price like Ezra, Nehemiah, Moses, Joshua, and many more. Have you ever paid the price for God to use you effectively in ministry? Are you willing to do so this new year 2020? Things in ministry change when we pay the price.
God uses men and women whose hearts take delight in His word (7:6-12)
Ezra was a person who first studied God’s word, not for others, not because he spoke at a seminar or a conference, but because he wanted to practice what he learned from scriptures. It is what preaches to you from the scriptures that can preach to others. Ezra did not only practice what he studied but was also willing to teach it to others. As academics and scholars, we often find ourselves wanting to respond to theological questions coming from our students without answering our personal life questions. Christianity is a lifestyle that comes from an encounter we have with the Lord through the Spirit as we meditate His word day and night. We should not study God’s word for others, but first for ourselves, and only then can we be good teachers of God’s law to the people of our generation. Someone said, “today’s theologians have big heads with small hearts because they have no time to feed their hearts with God’s word.”
God uses men and women of prayer, especially fasting and prayer (8: 21-23)
I am touched by Ezra’s attitude toward prayer and fasting. He even refused to ask for military security to accompany him and his team on the journey and told the king of God’s power was available for those who seek Him in prayer and fasting. The words of Jesus in the Gospels says that his disciples would fast and pray after the bridegroom had left. But unfortunately, very few Christians and ministers take prayer and fasting seriously. How then can we expect to be used by God? You cannot have control over the natural unless your breakthrough in the supernatural with prayer and fasting. Allow me to ask you a few questions regarding prayer and fasting: when did you last spend several hours of praying alone in your house or office as an academic or a theologian? When did you last fast, even just for three days, to seek the face of God? Remember that God will never be with you in public if you don’t have time to be with Him in private.
God uses men and women of integrity, especially in financial and material resources (8: 24-34)
The King of Persia gave a lot of resources to Ezra so that he could offer sacrifices to God and restore His worship in Jerusalem. Ezra was told to use the rest of the supplies as he wanted, but he chose reliable people to manage God’s wealth. We need to remind ourselves that God has given Africa great potential in terms of material and financial resources that can change nations and Christian organizations. But the challenge has been in the area of financial integrity. We have political leaders who are known for their high levels of corruption in public offices, church leaders who misuse God’s funds for personal gain, and this hinders our development. As you read this message, I pray that God will give you a new heart characterized by high levels of integrity in matters of wealth.
God uses men and women who treasure holiness (9: 4, 10: 1)
When Ezra heard about Jews who got married to idol worshipers, he tore his garments and cried before God together with all the people asking for forgiveness. How many ministers teach or preach about holiness today? Several have stopped preaching about sin and sanctification because their own lives cannot reflect such kind of messages. Others feel that too much emphasis on holy living will make them lose church members. So, they preach words of hope and encouragement in life as if Christianity is all about the earth and not heaven. The Bible is very clear about sanctification without it; none shall see the Lord, Hebrews 12:14.
God uses men and women who believe in teamwork (8: 16, 7:28)
Ezra surrounded himself with a team of intelligent people as he worked toward restoring worship in the temple. God’s work is teamwork and not personal business. Our God is a pluralist God- three persons in One God. The Bible affirms in Ecclesiastes that two are better than one. I recently read an African proverb that said, “if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go with others.” It is sad to note that a lot of ministries in Africa today are run like personal businesses and kingdoms, where only one person does everything. And when such leaders die, their ministries also go with them.
God uses men and women who acknowledge their total dependence upon Him (7: 6)
In the book of Ezra, there is one sentence repeated, “the hand of God was upon me.” God works with people who understand that without Him, they can do nothing, John 15:5. We sometimes think we have reached this far because of our intelligence, research models, and higher degrees. But I want to encourage someone always to acknowledge God’s hand in all that he/she does as Joseph responded to the King “it is not me oh king, but God enables me to interpret the dreams.”
As I wind up this topic, I believe that you can play a vital role in what God is doing in this generation. Take some time and reflect on these seven qualities. Which ones of them do you have? And what are those that are lacking? This message should help you be encouraged if, indeed, you have the needed qualities as Ezra had them. But if God is not using you in your church, nation, family it should have been, it is time you prayed that these qualities would become part of you as you look to the Holy Spirit for His help. Amen.
Jesse earned his D. Th in Missiology from UNISA and has been in full-time ministry for more than 20 years. Jesse is passionate about Pentecostal missions and ministry and has published three books. Jesse is the SATS BTh Honours coordinator, MTh & PhD supervisor, Lecturer, and Senior pastor Liberating Truth Mission church international, Lubumbashi, DRC.