At this time in our world the daily news reports areÂ predominantly more bad news than good. The disregard for fellow human beings has superseded even basicÂ consideration ofÂ others and “loving others as yourself”. In secular society the “Golden Rule” seemingly has been replaced with “MY way or the highway.”
It is terribly sad, but what if I told you… it’s NOT surprising.
Why is it that peopleÂ (who endeavor to live ethically, morally as Christ did), areÂ “shocked” when people who have not yet acknowledged God and His Sovereign Lordship? They do not fear God’s promise of just punishment for every sinful thought, word and deed. Why is it so shocking that the unprincipled people would live unrighteously?
That’s right, God has revealed in His Word and through recorded events throughout history, the curse of sin that plagues our world since the Fall continues to degrade our societies into not-so-civil civilizations. That same “cause” is at work today! The blame does not fall on guns, knives, drugs, or terroristic gangs of people. The root of our problem is SIN. That is truly something that we ALL share; each and every one of us cannot help but commit sin in our natural life. Transgressions are unavoidable. What we do about them is the decision that will either bring us everlasting peace or continuing turmoil.
I have not only heard growing severity and numbers of reports from other people about the encroachment of evil opposition into theirÂ daily lives, Â but lately I have experienced personal attacks that leave me shaking my head in disbelief at what I am witnessing first-hand.
Given recent developments, I even more appreciate the wisdom of the leadership and pastors at our church in selecting the current series of messages in the Bible’s book of Nehemiah and Ezra which focus on our need to think differently about our mission in reaching a lost world with the message of salvation which is for all mankind… the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God does punish sin, but He SAVES sinners that genuinely seek His righteousness. Get that? It is Jesus’ righteousness (we could NEVER accomplish it on our own), but it is offered to ANYONE who will believe. How awesome is that!
.Today’s message was deliveredÂ by Curt Tyra and was entitled “Advancing God’s Work in an Antagonistic World”. He covered both chapters three and four of the book of Nehemiah in the Bible’s Old Testament.
Nehemiah Chapter Three — EVERY INDIVIDUAL MATTERS.
Did you ever notice how many times there are all these near unpronounceable names in the Old Testament? Why not just say “a bunch of people got together and this is what they did”? Â I had thought it was because by recording actualÂ names and lineages, individuals could be identifiedÂ by their neighbors of the time and also be researched throughout history. Their individual testimonies and actions could be studied, challenged, and/or verified. Their witness mattered more because they were “named” individuals.
Curt stressed, “Names Matter: Individuals Matter!” There are individuals who were used by God and their participation mattered.Â Look at that participation:
- Individuals of all kinds of people: one task, yet various skill sets, ages, societal status
- Corporately working together: the phrase “next to him” pointed out the teamwork of the project and that they were a bunch of individuals that were “all in it together”.
- Communication is VITAL. Whether it is aÂ white picket fence or a stone wallÂ weÂ NEED to know the plan and be working together toward the same end.
- Enthusiastic participation – they “set to work”. Didn’t just talk about it… they rolled up their sleeves and got things done.
- Not always unanimous – even amongst their ranks, people didn’t always agree. The nobles would NOT stoop to chip in; they would not humble themselves to do the work of the Lord.
- NOTE: The people did not stop progressing forward. They didn’t say “if they don’t work, then neither will I”. They persevered and continues the work!
Nehemiah Chapter Four —Â Persevering Over Opposition
The EnemyÂ has a predictable and often repeatable pattern in of opposing us when we are working God’s plan.
- ANGER – (4:1,7) as long as we are just talking about what we want to do, the enemy leaves us alone, but the moment we actually move into action the enemy unleashes his anger toward us. Being sucked into a battle of emotions (very primal, fleshly, “natural”) could stop progress.
- JEERING – (4:1-3) the enemies anger will quickly turn into jeering and taunting. This is designed to cast doubt on our own contributions to the good mission. The Enemy says “who do you think YOU are? You CAN’T do that?!”
When neither the enemy’s anger nor taunting stopped their work, he involved others in his plan to thwart the mission…
- PLOTTING — (4:8) How evil can someoneÂ get? Intentionally lying and acting in such ways as to do harm to others is bad enough, but to enlist the support of others via misleading them is especially heinous. As we get serious about actually doing the work of God, the enemy will gather others together to conspire and plot and CAUSE CONFUSION.
- NOTE: remember that God is not a God of confusion… that is Enemy territory. That is the direct result of what happens when one does contrary to God’s sovereignty and best for us.
- THREATS — (4:11) Â Personal threats are a drastic attempt at the enemy to stop us from doing what we know to be right. The Enemy likes to use FEAR along with his lies to try to deter us from getting the job done. God’s Word says “Perfect Love casts out fear”… Jesus is that perfect love. As children of God, ours is not a spirit of fear. Rather, we have been given all we need to overcome; “victory in Jesus”.
OUR RESPONSE TO OPPOSITION:Â “The people of God persevere in the work of God for the glory of God.”
- PRAY — (4:4, 5, 9) Look at Nehemiah’s prayer to God:Â “Hear, O our God, how we are despised! Return their reproach on their own heads and give them up for plunder in a land of captivity. 5Â Do notÂ forgive their iniquity and let not their sin be blotted out before You, for they have demoralized the builders.” Â Prayers of confessing ourÂ dependence upon God and that we may have His perspective. Not a call for personal vengeance, but for God’s perfect plan. Things like Jesus’ model prayer for us “THY kingdom come”.
- REMEMBER — WHO God is. Is. 46:9 “I AM God and there is no other.” God is ours and we are His. No enemy is greater than He. “If God be for us, who can stand against us.?” The fear intended by the enemy can be overcome when we remember that GOD is in control, especially when we are feeling so “out of control”
- PLAN — (4:13, 16-22) There were NOT unaware of the enemy’s scheme and plan accordingly. They continued the work by working together to protect AND work… a sword in one hand and a trowelÂ in the other.
The opposition came when they went to work (not just talk about it) in the midst of coming together andÂ building the wall, the enemy’s opposition came quickly and it came fiercely! Â His intent was to tear down that which was being built and to confuse and demoralize the workers BUT …
“The people of God persevere in the work of God for the glory of God.”
and they did so with prayer, remembrance, a plan and by each individual ACTING, and doing so in the unified spirit of building.
See Ephesians 6:10 > regarding our need to put on the FULL ARMOR of GOD.