Many years ago, Nancye and I were a part of a prison ministry where we were hosting revival services and making evangelistic connections to the inmates.
I found myself working in one of the solitary confinement areas one-on-one talking with and praying with individuals. I found myself talking with a man who was a Muslim and, it became apparent, absolutely opposed to Christianity. We had a cordial talk, but it was clear he was at odds with my beliefs. He was an enemy of the cross of Christ.
On another occasion a couple years back a handful of us here sat in a public forum where Christianity was vehemently opposed. We were told in no uncertain terms by another participant that we had no place in the discussion because we were led by Christian convictions.
We live in a world that is growing more and more opposed to Christianity. As Paul said in Philippians (3.18): “…many…walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.”
So, say you’ve got a godly passion. Enemies are going to get in the way. What do you do? What do you do when enemies strike?
Up to this point everything has generally been going well for Nehemiah. Back in chapter 2 (v19-20) we read about three guys (Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem) who kind of questioned Nehemiah. But, there’s been no real opposition yet because Nehemiah hadn’t started doing anything yet.
Let me just point out. Your enemies generally don’t care what you have plans to do – until you actually start doing it.
Well, Nehemiah actually started doing the work. We read in chapter 3 how groups were stationed all the way around the perimeter of Jerusalem and began building. And, that’s when the opposition started.
There’s no doubt in Nehemiah’s mind that building this wall is God’s will. He calls this work what “God had put into my heart to do (2.12)” and chalks all that’s going right up to “the good hand of my God [being] upon me (2.8,18).” This was all God’s plan, but that doesn’t mean it would be easy or without hardship.
One of the primary false notions we’ve got to get rid of in our comfortable, American Christianity is the idea that following God ought to be easy. On the contrary, we are promised difficulties, and Nehemiah finds his fair share.
And, so, Sanballat and Tobiah show up on the job site one day mocking and deriding the Jews for their rebuilding efforts (4.1-4). We can expect people to taunt, insult, and mock us for what we believe and do for God.
When this doesn’t ultimately work, things turn a bit more violent. The enemies plot together to fight and cause confusion (4.7-8).
This escalates until in v11 where the enemies plan to kill the workers to stop them.
At each step along the way, Nehemiah rallies and focuses the people to keep the wall going up.
Looking at Nehemiah’s leadership, how can we learn to respond to the enemies in our lives?
~ Remember God. In v14 Nehemiah says “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome…” Often times when our enemies strike we focus so much on the trial that we forget to look to God. As a result, the problems seem insurmountable and the enemies seem unstoppable.
Nehemiah wisely calls us back. Quit looking at the problem and start looking at the One who called you. He is “great and awesome.” Any enemy we face is insignificant compared to Him.
And, I love the way he says it: Remember the Lord. Because sometimes the attacks are so big we can’t find Him or He feels too far away. It was Victor Raymond Edman who said, “Never doubt in the darkness what God has shown you in the light.” Remember the Lord
~ Pray for God’s help. When the enemies mock, Nehemiah prays: “Hear, O our God… (v4-5). When they plan to fight and confuse, v9 says “And we prayed to our God…”
~ Set a guard. I am so thankful for the practical Christianity in this book. I’ve pointed this out before: Nehemiah doesn’t just say pray and he doesn’t jump straight to do. He says both – pray and do. So, in v9 he says we prayed to God and set a guard – both. From then on the rest of the chapter details how they guarded the people and the work.
So set a guard. Listen. There are places that you know the enemy’s going to attack – places where you are weak, places that are unguarded, places of doubt…
The first defense you can set up is mental / spiritual – time with God. So many attacks of your enemies will be thwarted by knowing your calling from God, your identity in Christ, your acceptance in Him…
Set up physical barriers. There are situations where someone has to be removed or things need to be blocked. The situations are too varied for me to address them all, but the point is you’ve got to create the protective space you need
~ Partner against the enemy. Don’t go it alone. When God saved you He called you to a body of believers so that you wouldn’t be left alone.
When the Jews heard about the threats of the enemies, they said “return to us” (v12). So, Nehemiah gathered people.
Then, he established a new pattern (v15-20). Half of the people stood guard, half built, and leaders stood behind ready to help. Of those who were carrying materials, carried with one hand and held a weapon in the other. Those who were assembling materials had a sword on their hip. Nehemiah created a warning system – a trumpet for people to rally to.
This requires wisdom and planning. I’m not saying everyone needs to know your situation. You may need to get one or two to help you. It may be an issue that you can call the whole church to. It may be a situation where while you work, you need someone else to guard your back or hold you accountable or stand with you – as it were holding the sword while you do the work.
V21-23: Nehemiah brought them all together to share the protective load. Maybe the enemy’s after the whole church and each one of us need to work together to defend it.
Listen. Your battle won’t be over until your work is done. Don’t go it alone.
The Bible says “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4.7).” Our greatest enemies are sin and Satan – and Jesus has already defeated both of them.
The reason we can resist, the reason we can stand guard, the reason we need not fear is because Jesus has already won your victory – through his death, burial, and resurrection.
None of these responses mean anything without submission to Him first.
If you’ve never trusted Christ as your Savior, your greatest struggle is against your own sin. You are under attack and doomed for destruction until you turn to Him.
And, the victory He has won is lived out daily as we follow Him. Submit yourself to God, resist your enemies. Press on toward the high calling of God in Christ.
Messages in this series
Messages by Greg Taylor