Opposition happens. It’s one of the very few certainties of the Christian life. If, that is, we’re really living the Christian life. A insipid religious hobby will get noone’s back up. But building a life for Jesus, and striving to build a ministry of teaching and sharing His Gospel, will get reaction. And not all of it will be pleasant.
Sanballat was a powerful local pagan. We’ve seen him disturbed at the news that help was on its way for Jerusalem (2.10), and then we hear his mockery (2.19). Now we see that he is “angry and greatly incensed” (4.1). He scorns their efforts, and tells them that the job is far too great for them (v.2). His friend Tobiah joins in, ridiculing their work so far (v.3).
What are your strategies when you’re mocked and threatened as a disciple of Christ?
1. You pray (vv.4-5). God knows, and He cares. Prayer helps you keep your perspective. And Nehemiah entrusts God’s enemies to His purposes.
2. You keep going (v.6). Give up, or even slow down, and you’ve lost. Seek grace, and work with all your heart.
3. Take precautions (v.9). Pray, and guard your work.
4. Don’t resent the difficulties, work with them (vv.10-13). Everyone was feeling the strain, and the workers were anxious and discouraged. Leaders need to listen to their people’s anxieties, and respond to them. Nehemiah does just that.
5. Encourage the workers (v.14). We can all forget that God is in charge when tough times come. We need to remind ourselves and one another – He is the Lord! (v.14). There is everything to fight for, given that He is in charge. And with that conviction and that work we can overcome all opposition (v.15).
The work’s not done in a day, though, or in a week. Constant effort, constant vigilance are needed, as well as plenty of plans for when opposition comes again (vv.16-23).
Sometimes when discipleship is costly, you have to ask yourself why you’re living as you do. Why the stress of building a wall in the face of this opposition? Because the Kingdom of God is in the balance. As we serve the Gospel, God is building His Kingdom.
Fight the good fight of faith, in the power of grace.
A Prayer to Pray
Lord, I’m more cowardly and weak in my faith than I’ve realised, yet. You’re also more powerful and loving than I’ve yet discovered. You alone can make me strong, and make me stand, as I live for You. Do it, Lord, for Your Glory. Amen.