Accompanying Ray Stedman sermon: Don't Back Down - Build Up
As mentioned yesterday, as believers, we will always experience opposition in our service for Christ. In our passage today, Nehemiah comes across some serious opposition.
Stedman makes an interesting note about Nehemiah's prayer in response to the ridicule of Sanballat and company.
It is true that Jesus taught us to bless those who persecute us, to pray for our enemies and those who despitefully use us, and to do good to them. So how do we square Nehemiah's prayer with what our Lord taught? The answer, of course, is to remember who it is that is praying. This is not Nehemiah, the ordinary citizen, the individual, who has been injured by someone's personal attack. This is the Governor of Judea, praying about maintaining order and peace in his land and forwarding the work that God himself had sent him to do. This is a different kind of prayer because it is a prayer of an authority seeking to handle the problem of evil....
The first task of government is not mercy, but justice! Mercy is appropriate when it is an individual matter, but justice must prevail in government. There would be an outcry over the whole nation if the authorities treated a man like that with grace and forgiveness instead of bringing him to justice and seeing that this crime was paid for.
And, after praying, Nehemiah and the volunteers return to work.
And then everything got better, right?
Wrong. Things got worse. Sanballat responds by moving past ridicule and into the use of force. How does Nehemiah react to this? With both prayer and preparedness! He prays, and he posts guards - both spiritual and physical/material help is needed to combat physical threat.
Nehemiah identifies areas of potential weakness, and responds accordingly.
We need to do the same in our spiritual lives. Where are you weak? Where am I most susceptible to sin? We need to be purposeful about posting a guard at that point. And then we need to remind ourselves, as Nehemiah does with the Israelites, that God is with us and He will fight for us. What an encouragement!
As Christians, we should always be at work building the kingdom of God, but we need to also be prepared for attack. And, as v21-23 shows us, that sometimes comes at a cost. Sometimes are vigilance cannot even allow for comfort. There is self-sacrifice involved in our service to God.
Opposition will come. And sometimes, opposition will stay. For a long time. And yet, it is precisely during times of opposition that our faith is strengthened, is it not? So long as we keep our focus on Jesus instead of the opposition.
Chuck Swindoll said 'Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though chequered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy or suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat'
Oh, that we as a body, would encourage each other and lift each other up as we serve in the areas God has purposefully placed us.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Nehemiah 5