[Ezra] was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the LORD, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him. — Ezra 7:6, ESV
I so want to be effective in life. I want to be effective as a leader, as a husband and dad, as a pastor and teacher. I so want to know that what I am doing right now will actually ring throughout the years after I leave this earth. So, to be effective, I need to listen to those who are effective. And honestly, I believe this to be true. However, I wonder if I’ve missed something lately. As important as it is to listen to those who have gone before me and those today who are “doing it well,” I need to start with these principles that I read today from the book of Ezra. I read this verse this morning in my time with Jesus, and I just had to stop and stay on it.
As I kept thinking through it and asking God why he was pointing me to stay on this verse, a couple of things popped out.
1. EZRA WAS SKILLED IN THE LAW.
Ezra knew the Law of Moses, and this Law was what was given to Moses by God himself (…that the LORD, the God of Israel, had given…). And it hit me: the only way to become skilled in anything is to spend time doing it. The only way to be skilled in the Bible is to be in the Bible – to study it and study and study it. To be skilled in the Bible, I must ALWAYS be a student of the Bible, not just quiet times and for message prep, but be constantly studying the Bible so that I’m skilled in using it. But I must lose God in the process. Charles Spurgeon said it best: “To me the Bible is not God, but it is God’s voice, and I do not hear it without awe.” As I spend time in God’s word, I spend time with God. The more I spend time in God’s word, the more time I spend with God. And then I become skilled in God’s word because I have spent time with God in his word.
2. GOD’S HAND WAS ON EZRA.
God’s favor was on Ezra. And so when I read that God’s hand was on Ezra, I asked, “What keeps the favor of God on someone?” And here’s the thought that came to mind:
The guaranteed way of losing God’s favor is to act/live unfavorably.
Some will read that and jump to us being saved by grace through faith. But this idea doesn’t relate to our salvation. That’s not the point. It is true that I am saved by grace through faith, but God’s favor on me can be removed if I’m living in sin. God’s favor on the ministry that he has called me to can be taken away if I’m not the man that he wants me to be. For God’s main concern is not the effectiveness of my ministry but rather the life that I live and lead. It’s about doing favorable things that are pleasing to Jesus, showing that I am God’s man first and foremost, desiring for him to be exalted and Jesus to be known. I’m convinced when that is the focus of my life, then God is pleased and his favor/hand rests upon me.
So I think I need to make sure that my priority is to be God’s man, skilled in the word that he has entrusted to me. After that, sure – I’ll listen to others who have “done it well,” but not more than listening to Jesus.