The Success of Faithfulness
Responsibilities that we are charged with are disheartening, even from the beginning, if it seems our efforts are certain not to succeed. Ezekiel was called by God to be a spokesman for Him to his fellow Israelites in exile. The Lord warned that it would be a difficult task due to the hard-heartedness of the people.

Consider God's words in Ezekiel 2:3-8:

"Son of man, I am sending you to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. For they are impudent and stubborn children. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, 'Thus says the LORD GOD.' As for them, whether they hear or whether they refuse--for they are a rebellious house--yet they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you dwell among scorpions; do not be afraid of their words or dismayed by their looks, though they are a rebellious house. You shall speak My words to them, whether they hear or whether they refuse, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, hear what I say to you. Do not be rebellious like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you."

As the narrative goes on, Ezekiel did eat the scroll (i.e., the message God wanted him to deliver) and he did preach as instructed.

Did you notice how often God reiterated the rebelliousness of the people? That's why they were in captivity to begin with--they would not submit to the divine will! These people Ezekiel would be attempting to teach were fierce and very unpleasant. They could be like cutting thorns or stinging scorpions. They could attack verbally and with dirty looks; they were brazen. God tells Ezekiel to just preach anyway. These rebels (like all people) needed a chance to hear God's word. They needed to know a prophet had been among them. There was a danger for Ezekiel, however, beyond the negative response of the people. He might be tempted to become rebellious like them--tempted to shut his mouth and refuse to correct error. Ezekiel would have to be strong, not silent, in order to obey the Lord. God would make him strong like rock, to be able to endure the opposition he would face as a spokesman of God's word (cf. 3:8,9). It was imperative that Ezekiel receive into his heart all of God's word, so he could transmit it courageously and faithfully (cf. 3:10). If he did that, he would be a success no matter how the message was received.

When I reflect upon Ezekiel's situation, I think many American Christians--particularly preachers--can relate. The word of God is sweet like honey as we study it, but trying to convert our rebellious friends and neighbors can leave us with a bitter feeling in our stomachs. The word of God is so wonderful, yet few in our culture really want to hear it. It can be very discouraging. Like Ezekiel, we are surrounded by hard-hearted people who are capable and ready to spew forth words of hate and angry looks against those who would dare hold forth the gospel and speak against their worldliness. If we are not strong, we will be silenced. If we allow them to intimidate us into ceasing to preach the gospel, then we fail. If we choose to remain silent on certain hot-button issues when we should be proclaiming all of God's truth, then we fail. If we become disheartened to the point of turning all of our focus inward to our fellow Christians and stop trying to reach the lost, then we fail. Friends, God's word will bring opposition--it's always been that way. We must allow God's word to harden us against the rebellious so that we do not become rebellious by remaining silent! If our co-workers, neighbors, and others we have influence with want to choose the way of death, so be it, but we must do everything within our power to show them the beautiful alternative they could choose--Jesus Christ and the way of life! Don't let discouragement silence you. Don't keep the gospel to yourself. Keep preaching and teaching, even to what appears to often be a brick wall. You may not convert a soul with your efforts, but don't let that dishearten you. Whether they hear or whether they refuse, let them know that a Christian with the word of God has been among them! If we do that we'll be faithful and thus successful in God's eyes (cf. Matt. 28:19,20; I Cor. 3:5-7). Don't define success by results but by whether or not you are being faithful to God! And do not forget that if we fail to warn the wicked to flee from evil, we fail them and God, and we will be held accountable (cf. Eze. 3:17ff).