September 1, 2022
HOW TO DEAL WITH OPPOSITION – Nehemiah 4
Listen to last week’s sermon: How To Deal With Opposition found in Nehemiah 4.
A portion of Pastor Eric’s sermon on August 28, 2022, was devoted to the successful purchase of a church and the celebration of what the Lord has accomplished. During this time of new beginnings for our church, we are reminded that the Lord opens doors for His people. While fulfilling God’s purpose and following His plan for our lives, however, we often encounter opposition.
Last week, Pastor Eric explained how important it is for us to wear the full armour of God when fighting Satan’s evil schemes, since the devil often interferes with our efforts to obey the Lord. Someone said,
If you’ve never had a head-on collision with the devil, it is probably because you’re going in the same direction.
When we embrace God’s call in our lives, we will inevitably come into contact with the devil. The question is not whether we will face opposition, but rather, “How will we respond when we do?” Will we remain steadfast and unwavering in our efforts to counter him? Can we resist Satan’s schemes or will we be crippled and defeated by them?
Read Nehemiah 4
Nehemiah 4 provides insight into how an ordinary man was able to overcome adversity.
There was nothing remarkable about Nehemiah. He was neither a prophet, a pastor, a preacher, nor an apostle. Rather, he was a high-ranking official who served as cupbearer to king Artaxerxes I of Persia. It was his duty to serve wine at the royal table. Due to the paranoia surrounding plots to poison kings at that time, the cupbearer performed a taste test on the wine to ensure that it was not poisonous. Nehemiah’s responsibility as a cupbearer speaks volumes about his honesty, integrity, loyalty, and trustworthiness.
Read Nehemiah 1
The first chapter begins with Nehemiah meeting his brother and men from Judah. He inquired about the fate of the Jews living in Jerusalem who had survived the exile. He was told that they were not doing well. He was also informed that the gate and the walls of Jerusalem had been destroyed by the enemy. Consequently, Nehemiah left a well-paying job and an upscale lifestyle in order to rebuild the severely damaged wall of Jerusalem.
Following the destruction of the city walls, the threat to the city, and the fact that his people had been left devastated, helpless, and ashamed, Nehemiah spent some time alone weeping, praying, and fasting for his city and his people. This speaks volumes about Nehemiah’s character. Over the course of several days, he wept before the Lord, confessing his sins, the sins of his parents, the sins of his fathers, and the sins of his people, repenting of all of them. In his prayer, he appealed to God for favour, mercy, and a change in circumstances. Having decided to take action, he requested that the king temporarily release him from his duties so that he may leave and begin the reconstruction of the damaged walls. As soon as the authorization was granted, Nehemiah and a group of men began the daunting task of rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls.
Read Nehemiah 3 and 4
The book of Nehemiah depicts an ongoing cycle in which Nehemiah and his men are performing God’s work and then opposition arises. As the project progresses in chapter 3, back-to-back setbacks and advancements are encountered in chapters 4 to 6.
If you are facing opposition today, it may be an indication that you are carrying out the Lord’s will and fulfilling your God-given purpose. The presence of opposition is not an indication that you are on the wrong path. Rather, it is a sign that you are proceeding in the right direction.
The moment Nehemiah expressed his desire to rebuild, a united front was formed against him. Among his opponents were Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, Tobiah, Arabs, Ammonites, Ashodites, and the Samarian army. The external sources manifested their opposition in various ways and in various degrees of intensity.
Read Nehemiah 4:1
The first form of attack we see is illustrated in Nehemiah 4:1. It states,
Sanballat was very angry when he learned that we were rebuilding the wall. He flew into a rage…
Here are forms of opposition that we find in this restoration project:
1 – Fear and intimidation
Read Nehemiah 4:1 and Matthew 7:7
Initially, Nehemiah and his men were subjected to intimidation and fear. The fact that someone was concerned about the welfare of the Jews in Jerusalem infuriated Sanballat. It is likely that he was trying to intimidate them and scare them away. It is exactly that which the devil attempts to do to believers – intimidate us.
If we are truly committed to following the will of God in our lives, the enemy will be angry with us, as he perceives us as a threat. The purpose of his scheme is to induce fear in us so that we cease to work for the Lord. In the face of fear, godly people will fail to take the appropriate action. In the church, this attack is being waged on several fronts. Some believers are reluctant to share their faith with their families due to a fear of rejection. They may also be worried about being ridiculed if they speak about Jesus or attend church on Sundays. There are others who are afraid to give, serve, share, lose or request assistance. Fear paralyzes us and keeps us silent. Why are we afraid? In Matthew 7:7, Jesus said, “Ask, and God will give to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will open for you.”
How do we conquer fear?
a – We need to be courageous.
Read Deuteronomy 31:6 and Romans 8:31
The ability to be courageous is not inherent in us. We draw our courage from God. According to Deuteronomy 31:6, we are to be strong and courageous because the Lord, our God, is with us. He will never leave us nor forsake us. With Him on our side, who can stand against us?
Read Joshua 1:6
Joshua was instructed by the Lord to be strong and brave in order to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land.
Whether we are courageous depends on where our gaze is focused, or on whom it is focused. It is important to understand that the presence of courage does not imply the absence of fear. It simply means that we do not allow fear to paralyze us.
A wise person once said, “Bravery is being the only one who knows you are afraid.”
Someone else said, “Courage is not the absence of fear but the conquest of it.”
b – We need to know the facts.
Read 2 Timothy 1:7
A spirit of fear is not from God. As stated in 2 Timothy 1:7, “The Spirit of God within us does not cause us to fear. Rather, His Spirit is a source of power, love, and self-control”. Fear will paralyze us and prevent us from fulfilling our God-given destiny. When we feel fear creeping into our hearts, we are to rebuke it in the name of Jesus and declare the Word of God. Let us pray for renewed courage, boldness, and faith to guide our lives. It is imperative that we return to the facts and to the truth.
Read Numbers 13:33
Do you recall the ten spies who viewed the people of Canaan as giants and themselves as grasshoppers, and who accordingly gave an unfavourable report? The statements they made were exaggerated. Joshua and Caleb, on the other hand, provided a positive report. They silenced the voice of fear.
2 – Mockery and insults
Read Nehemiah 4:2
Sanballat asked his friends and the army of Samaria, “What are those weak Jews doing?” Many of those ridiculed and mocked were elderly. Often, the use of mockery and insults will lead to discouragement and the abandonment of our goals and endeavours. It is easy to ignore the mockery and insults hurled at us by people we do not know, but if they come from people we care about, they can cripple our spirits, discourage us, and ultimately cause us to give up.
Read Proverbs 4:23
How do we counter this?
We are instructed in Proverbs 4:23 to guard our heart since it determines the course of our lives. It is the driving force behind our motivation. Our beliefs influence our behaviour; therefore, by causing us to lose heart, the devil prevents us from being encouraged, motivated, and strengthened to rebuild the walls that have been broken in our lives. For these reasons, knowing who we are in Christ is of utmost importance.
Isn’t it interesting that some people attend hockey games with large blow horns which they use to cheer on their favourite team? Standing on the seats and cheering for their team is no problem for them. When they attend a church service to worship God, however, they stand silently, immobile. Why is this so? Is it due to our fear of ridicule? As we are in the presence of friends and family, there is no reason to be apprehensive. It is important to recognize that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Worshipping the Lord is not something to be ashamed of.
Read 2 Samuel 6:16
David had brought the Ark of the Lord from the house of Obed-edom to the City of David. As a result of his intense joy, he leaped and danced before God with all his strength. He did not dance before men. He danced before the Lord! When Michal glanced at her husband through the window, she despised him for the manner in which he worshipped God. Michal viewed David’s actions as shameful. As we gather to worship the Lord, we should be mindful of the people around us, but we should also not be afraid to express our passion.
3 – Doubts
Read Nehemiah 4:2-3
Those who opposed the Jews did so in order to create doubt and make them feel that their efforts were futile. This led the Jews to doubt God’s calling on their lives. Thus, they came to believe that they were not doing anything positive or that their efforts would not yield any results. It was intended to cast doubt on their entire mission. Thus, if the devil is unable to intimidate, mock, or insult us, he will resort to doubts in order to get us to back down. The Lord’s mission is then brought into question because the opposing voice is louder than the soft voice of God.
The only way to counter this type of opposition is to know the will of God. A faithful reading of the Bible, a regular prayer practice, and attending a local church are essential to discovering His will. Some elements of the Lord’s will are clearly identifiable in Scripture while others are less obvious. For instance, it is advisable to seek the Lord’s guidance when making decisions regarding employment or marriage. Having learned God’s will, we adhere to it. That is the way in which we overcome doubt.
Pastor Eric reminded us that we must walk by faith and not by sight. Many people in the Bible are depicted as people of faith. Through obedience to the Word of God and reliance on the Holy Spirit, we are able to acquire the mind of Christ. In other words, faith allows us to know the will of God. Unless we have a clear understanding of God’s will, we will be shaken by doubts and allow circumstances to determine the course of our lives rather than our faith.
Pastor Eric recounted a meeting he had with the district superintendent. While the two of them dined at a restaurant, the man said,
There are different types of churches. A church can decide to chart its own course based on its finances, or it can let vision be its guide.
Pastor Eric then provided a brief explanation of the circumstances surrounding the purchase of our new church facility.
We noticed a ‘For Sale’ sign on Caron Street, but we did not know how much the land was listed for. Upon contacting the real estate agent, we learned that the seller had lowered the price the previous day. The land was initially listed for $350,000. When we called, they lowered it to $250,000. In the later stages of the negotiation, they were prepared to sell the land for $200,000. Only one problem remained: We had less than $10,000 in the bank. While our circumstances indicated we were not ready to purchase land, our faith in God empowered us to do so. We eventually acquired the land.” Following this statement, Pastor Eric boasted in Jesus, and Jesus alone, for what He has allowed us to do. “Not only did we get the money for a deposit, but we also paid off the entire amount owing and sold the land five years later for almost four times the price we paid. God willing, we will be moving into our permanent home in two weeks as a result of this step. Our situation would have been very different had we relied on our circumstances to determine what we could and could not do.
Pastor Eric was not advocating acting in folly without seeking the Lord’s guidance. Rather, he was referring to those who were driven by faith, who believed that this was the will of God, and who chose to follow it. Although we are unable to see where the Lord is leading us or understand the plans He has for our lives, we are to trust Him regardless. As Christians, it is our duty to walk by faith and not by sight.
Had New Beginning Church’s Pastor’s Council been paralyzed by fear or controlled by doubt, we would not be in the position we are today. We would have most likely missed this opportunity. It is imperative that we know God’s will. This is particularly important as we work for His Kingdom, because we will undoubtedly face opposition at some point in our spiritual journey. When that day arrives, we will be required to lock onto the will of God and put on the shield of faith in order to combat the fiery darts of the evil one.
4 – Confusion
Read Nehemiah 4:7-8
One of Satan’s most effective strategies is to cause confusion in the family, in marriage, in friendships, in the workplace, at school, and in the church. Should the enemy be unable to intimidate us, if he cannot lead us to doubt God or His promises, he will attempt to cause confusion in our lives. Why? Because confusion plays a significant role in the attack. Until now, attacks have been external, but confusion is an attack that comes from within where it is least expected. In order for the devil to achieve his goal, chaos must reign within. Chaos is the key to the devil’s success. The sad fact is that it appears to be an effective tool in marriages, families, and churches today, which leads us to lose sight of the real enemy.
There is no doubt that Satan will do everything in his power to convince us to give up. Therefore, it is more important than ever before that we commit to strengthening the unity of our marriages, our families, our small groups, and our churches because we are stronger together.
Read John 17:20-23 and Nehemiah 4:9
Pastor Eric prayerfully requests that Jesus’ prayer in John 17 be answered within New Beginning Church, in marriages, in families, and in friendships. He also prays that we will be able to recognize the devil’s tactics and effectively rebuke him. This is how Nehemiah dealt with the devil’s attacks. As stated in Nehemiah 4:9, “We prayed to our God and appointed guards to watch for them day and night.” This is how we are to handle spiritual warfare. Whenever we build something, we must protect it and defend it. Prayer was Nehemiah’s response to every attack. Despite the opposition he encountered, he persevered.
5 – Distractions
Read Nehemiah 6:1-3
Nehemiah’s enemies were attempting to persuade him and his men to engage in another battle. Their objective was to distract Nehemiah from his work so that they could harm and attack him. His response demonstrated his commitment to the Lord. He replied, “I’m doing a great work, and I can’t come down. I don’t want the work to stop while I leave to meet you.” We should adopt the same approach. Life’s most challenging lessons are learning how to say no to good things as well as to things that serve only to distract us from our mission.
6 – Lies
Read Nehemiah 6:13
Despite his enemies’ best efforts, all of their attempts failed. Even though Nehemiah and his men encountered difficulties, they did not lose heart. Even in the face of discouragement, Nehemiah continued to encourage them to place their trust in God. As a result, his enemies began fabricating and spreading lies about him and attacking his integrity. It was their intention to claim that Nehemiah was trying to establish his own small kingdom and to alert the king to his activities. The plan was to spread rumours and conspiracies about him. Nehemiah continued to work despite the ongoing attacks. That is an appropriate course of action for us to follow. It is important that we do not allow the actions of the enemy to divert our attention, regardless of what he may be doing in the world. Our primary focus should be on the Lord, and our Father’s business should be our foremost concern. Our faithfulness to what he has called us to do is imperative if we are to fulfill our calling and use what He has given us for His glory. In only 52 days, Nehemiah and his men rebuilt the wall that had lain in ruins for 70 years.
What obstacles must we overcome? What is preventing us from rebuilding the broken walls in our lives?
Watch the video here.