Opposition and adversity. What ideas or feelings come to mind when you hear those words? Usually, these two terms are not met with excitement or enjoyment. We tend to avoid situations where we face opposition and adversity. Many of us go to great lengths to remove them from the equation of our present circumstances. And yet, many of us know full well and have experienced that facing and overcoming opposition and adversity has some benefits too.
Consider an example of this from the world of sports; basketball in particular. Jonah Berger and Devin Pope performed extensive research on the odds of each team winning a basketball game based on the score at halftime. After watching all of the games from the National Basketball Association from 1993 to 2009 (Yes, that is a crazy amount of screen time) they found that if a team was up by more than 4 points at the midway mark, their chances of winning were pretty high; 70% to be exact. If your favorite team brought a 6-point advantage to the locker room, those chances of victory increased to over 80%. In other words, the team trailing by greater than 4 points at halftime had to overcome quite a bit of opposition and adversity to be re-engaged and re-motivated to fight for the victory.
However, their research did show an odd trend. Teams that went into the locker room down by only 1 point at halftime actually had a greater chance of winning the game than the team going in with the 1-point lead. To make sure their numbers were accurate, they continued analyzing basketball games including over 45,000 collegiate games played between 1999 and 2009 (once again, how many bags of popcorn did these guys go through?!) The results were the same. Being far behind at halftime more than often correlated to a loss and did not increase a team’s effort in the second half. In fact, the farther away a team was from their goal, the less they tried to achieve them. Contrarily, if a glimmer of hope was realized, like being down only 1 point, something clicked that gave the losing team an edge to fight anew in pursuit of a victory.
It is with this thought that we come to the book of the prophet Zechariah. Zechariah lived during the early days of the return of God’s people from Babylonian Captivity and the rebuilding of the Temple. Very early into this building project, opposition and adversity struck both internally and externally. The nations surrounding Jerusalem did not take too kindly to the people building walls and putting their lives back together. They placed immense pressure and discouragement on the people and that discouragement would only grow. The time and money and resources that building the Lord’s Temple took began to become draining. The people became so drained, so discouraged, so disenchanted with this effort that they became apathetic. They lost all desire to see it completed, they lost sight of the ultimate goal, they were no longer motivated by the hope and promise that was theirs in Christ. They were not feeling as though they were winning or even down by a single point at halftime. Rather, they felt as though they were drowning in deficit so there was no reason to continue in the way they first began.
Zechariah’s words of encouragement and hope that were given to him by God are not just for these freed captives, but they are for us today. How do you tend to view opposition and adversity that comes your way? Maybe you are already feeling the burden and discouragement from another rejection, another mistake, another opportunity lost. Maybe you are struggling with deep feelings of opposition that life’s challenges bring us. Maybe you are looking at our world today and struggling to see the future hope. Maybe you are finding it difficult to see past the adversities currently in front of you. Zechariah’s message is the same: God is our reason for hope, He is the motivating factor that gives life to dead circumstances, motivation amidst apathy, joy amidst hardships, and victory amidst apparent defeat. The Lord promises to fight on behalf of His people. His mere presence is one that brings peace to troubled hearts and lives.
As we continue to face opposition and adversity in our own lives, may each of us trust and be encouraged by the promises of God that deliver hope and freedom when and where we need it the most.
Pastor Ben Bigaouette