Monday, October 8, 2018

Standing Strong

When we try to live according to God’s calling on our life we will inevitably encounter resistance.  It may come in the form of other people trying to distract us, discourage us, or even deceive us.  Given that arsenal of weapons, sounds like another Enemy we have too!  Let’s continue with our review of Nehemiah in the sixth chapter of the book bearing his name.  We will discover how he demonstrated great discernment, fortitude, and faith in the face of resistance and saw the job through to completion.  There’s a lot to learn and apply from his example.
Nehemiah 6:9
They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work and they will not be completed.” But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”

Things to think about:
·      You’ll recall that Nehemiah was a Jewish layman, still living in Babylon after the captivity and working in the king’s court when he discovered that the wall in Jerusalem had fallen into total disrepair.  He felt a strong calling to return to Jerusalem to oversee the rebuilding of the wall and to make sure the city was safe.
·      The project was progressing nicely but some very important work was yet to be completed – the installation of the doors in the gates. 
·      Two of his enemies, Sanballat and Geshem, sent him an innocent enough note asking him to meet with them out of town.
o   Neh. 6:3-4 - But they were scheming to harm me; so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?”  Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.
o   Here’s the first warning sign: they were enticing him to leave his work
§  Nehemiah immediately recognizes their intentions and discerns their desire to harm him
§  He is clear in his response – NO
§  His antagonists are persistent – four times they came back with the same offer
§  Four times he said NO. Sometimes we can resist once but repeated drips can wear down our convictions.
o   How can we recognize seemingly harmless distractions for what they really are?
§  Are they coming from a Godly source?
§  Are they related to the good work you are involved in?
§  Do they respect your refusal to cooperate?
o   What might some examples of modern day distractions be?
o   What is a proper response?
·      But evil doesn’t give up that easily so it ups the ante:
o   Neh. 6:5-7 - Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter  in which was written: “It is reported among the nations—and Geshem says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king  and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us meet together.”
§  The Enemy is persistent so he moves in with a lie that the Jews are planning to revolt and Nehemiah is plotting to be the king.
§  It’s a small detail, but notice how the text says “an unsealed letter”?  A proper communication would have been sealed so as to remain private.  This is like misused social media today, meant to spread a false rumor and get Nehemiah to cower in fear.
§  Instead, he tells them in verse 8, “Nothing like what you’re saying is happening, you are just making it up out of your head!”  He saw what they were up to, “they were trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘their hands will get to weak for the work, and it will not be completed.’”
§  Here’s your key verse for the day – “But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”
§  The spiritual battles we fight are not won by trying harder; they are won by praying harder.
§  How does this principle work in your life?
·      Is there an area today you could try less and pray more for the strength you need?
o   OK, so far so good for Nehemiah but the last attack comes from an unlikely place:
§  Neh. 6:10-13 - One day I went to the house of Shemaiah son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was shut in at his home. He said, “Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you—by night they are coming to kill you.”  But I said, “Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!”  I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.  He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me.
§  Wow, a “Christian friend” encourages him to go to church and hide out there to be safe from his enemies.
·      Nehemiah’s discernment knows no boundaries! He is so tuned into God’s spirit that again he figures out this guy was trying to distract him from his calling and actually lead him to sin through intimidation and deception.
·      His decisiveness is inspiring – “Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!”
o   “a man like me” -  What do you think he meant by this?
§  As strong of a man as he is, he prays again, this time asking for God to avenge his enemies.
·      Neh. 6:15 – So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days.
o   It goes on to say that his enemies were afraid and lost their confidence because they realized God had made this happen.
o   Nehemiah accomplished his task and several thousands of years later we are still talking about him.
·      What are areas of your life where you are under attack for doing life God’s way?
o   How does Nehemiah’s example encourage you today to be more discerning, decisive, and devoted?

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