Week 4:  If you lack purpose in what you do, you will also lack passion for what you do

This five-week series addresses what God did for the Jewish people throughout the events recorded in the book of Ezra. Through failure, forgetting what is important, and sin, we may become exiles attempting to return to God. However, just as in the book of Ezra God reclaimed his people according to his promises, he also reclaims and redeems our lives for his purpose in this world.

Read the Sermon Summary below


If you lack purpose in what you do, you will also lack passion for what you do.

“I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate. The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted.  Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain.”  AW Tozer

In sports, there are specific expressions that are used to describe the overall performance of a player.  Two regularly used terms including saying someone is on a “Hot Streak” or a “Slump”.  Players desire one and try earnestly to avoid the obvious alternative.  People, just like players, experience these same conditions.  There are times in life when everything seems to be going right.  Usually this hot streak is not a coincidence but a result of planning, discipline, purpose, and consistency.  Yet, there are seasons in life when many of us find ourselves in a slump, unable to improve our circumstances.  This sensation of feeling and being stuck in a rut can be very demoralizing.

Around the time I turned 30, I found myself in an overall life slump.  I wasn’t happy despite having an incredible wife and family, while also having the opportunity to pastor at the church I grew up in.  The reason I was frustrated was because I felt like I was failing in every area of my life.  Financially, professionally, relationally, you name it.  I would ask God, “Why?” a lot.  During this season of my life, by turning to God in a more profound way, I learned something.  He was not ignorant of my condition.  He hadn’t neglected me and inadvertently allowed this to happen.  To be honest, I was the principle cause of my slump.  My failures to prioritize my life had lead me to this.  So God took my condition and leveraged it so that I might have a confrontation with Him.

Being comfortable and complacent in any area of life will cause us to begin to abandon God’s commands instead of obeying them.  No one can experience God’s best if they don’t put Him first in their heart.  This is what the Israelites had attempted to do as they began to return to their homeland and to the Lord, after 70 years of captivity!  Could you imagine being in a slump for seven decades?  How would you feel after breaking out of that?  Upon returning to the land, the people got themselves on a hot streak.  They had begun to rebuild the Temple and their city, despite intense opposition.  Yet this hot streak cooled off because of the people’s complacency.  They began to turn from God again, ignoring His ways, and began repeating the same mistakes that had led to their exile.

At this point, Ezra returns to Jerusalem to teach God’s ways to His people.  This is when he discovers that the people had married into pagan household and had begun to worship idols and adopt pagan practicing.  This is not a revelation that God does not approve of interracial marriages.  We see many examples in scripture of God including and welcoming non-Jews into the Jewish community.  What mattered was not their race but rather the God they worshiped.  All were welcomed by God to come and join the family.  But the Lord discouraged His people to worship false gods because it would lead them away from Him and away from the true source of life.  They compromised and chose to accept a con-promise while rejecting God’s.

This blatant sin caused Ezra to react in a very emotional way.  Don’t we get the same way when we see our loved ones repeating the same habits that have lead them down dead ends before?  Don’t we too get sad, angry, frustrated, or confused when we come face to face with injustice and evil in the world?  Sin should cause us to react in this way.  It’s when it doesn’t bother us when we should really worry.

8 But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a secure hold within his holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery. 9 For we are slaves. Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem. 10 “And now, O our God, what shall we say after this?  For we have forsaken your commandments, 11 which you commanded by your servants the prophets, saying, ‘The land that you are entering, to take possession of it, is a land impure with the impurity of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations that have filled it from end to end with their uncleanness. 12 Therefore do not give your daughters to their sons, neither take their daughters for your sons, and never seek their peace or prosperity, that you may be strong and eat the good of the land and leave it for an inheritance to your children forever.’ 13 And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such a remnant as this…” Ezra 9:8-13 (ESV)

Ezra began to pray to God for forgiveness while also speaking to the people, reminding them of all that God had done to bring them back.  He drove an incredible point home by mentioning that because of God’s faithfulness, they had all been punished less then they all deserved because of their unfaithfulness.  If they were to return to their past sins, instead of repenting of them, they would rightly deserve all that was about to come.  Ezra did all that he could to keep that from happening, and He did so by not just pointing out everyone’s failures but also by pointing to God’s “unfailing love” (Ezra 9:9).

Many years have passed since Ezra walked the earth, yet God has not failed to love all people.  I want you to know that the present evil in our world bothers God more that it bothers you.  He has not remained silent or inactive either.  He has constantly and consistently been involved in the affairs of mankind.  But understand this, for God to truly deal with the evil in the world, He would have to deal with us.  If there was a nuclear button that if pushed, everything that is wrong in this world would be removed, both you and I would be included.  This is why Jesus had to come.  At just the right moment in history, God stepped into our story.  Jesus died in order to deal with the sin inside us in a way that wouldn’t destroy us.

“2 And Shecaniah the son of Jehiel, of the sons of Elam, addressed Ezra: “We have broken faith with our God and have married foreign women from the peoples of the land, but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this.”  Ezra 10:2

God got me unstuck from my rut.  I know that if I ever find myself in another in the future, I know He will be able to do it again and raise me out.  Because of Jesus, there is still hope for us, in spite of our past sins.  Like Ezra declared, God has not forsaken us in our slavery to sin and Hell.  He is alive today, desiring to revive us through His unfailing and steadfast love so that we may once again reclaim our lost birthright as sons and daughters of God.  God will never fail to be your refuge and strength, and be your very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).  If you are complacent, lacking a desire to do what you really want to do, then do what needs to be done.  Call on Christ.  There is always hope because God is near to help you to recall, return, and reclaim His promises in order to restart again.  I can promise this because He promised it first.