Friday, May 29, 2015

Nehemiah 4: Let's Get Busy!

We were all created for work. That’s why God gave us brains, hearts, hands and legs. 

He didn’t create us to lay around, to play all the time, and to merely survive. We were not created to be one with nature, but to rule over nature, shaping into something better than it is. Adam did not frolic with animals and eat fruit off the trees in Eden. Adam planted trees and vegetables. He was the gardener. The notion that life is about leisure is a lie. We rest one day, but we work six more. Without work, we soon become miserable and unhappy.

There are many forms of work. Thinking is work. So is learning, teaching, praying, and loving.  Anyone who says there’s nothing they can do is deceiving themselves, or has been deceived. There is always more for us to do, and we are not happy unless we are doing it.

The purpose of our work matters, too. God wants us to work for Him. Everything we do ought to connect back to the Kingdom of God in some way. We may work at any job, but ultimately we serve God, and if we forget that, then our work is just vanity. 

God’s people in Nehemiah’s day were given a task to do, which was to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, so that they could rebuild the city, the temple, and ultimately the nation. But it had to start with the wall. Without that wall, nothing else could be done. The city had to be defended.

We have been given a task to rebuild a church, which includes our sense of mission, our worship, our fellowship, our reputation, restoring our church building, but first we must rebuild the prayer walls around the church. Without defensive prayer our church is helpless, just as Jerusalem was helpless without its walls. 

No one else can do it for us. It falls upon you, the members and attenders of the church, to bear the burden of rebuilding. You are responsible and only you.

If we are to rebuild we must realistically count the cost. What is our opposition? What is the cost in time, money, and energy? If we aren’t up to it, then we should not try. If we are, then we should give it all we’ve got.  

In Nehemiah 4, he gives us a realistic picture of the opposition to building the wall. He looks at the enemies within and without that fought against the rebuilding.

 There were three main enemies—Sanballat, Tobias, and Gershom. We read their mocking words as they gathered together to disrupt the work.

Our enemies mock us today. We are called homophobes, haters, legalists, superstitious yokels, and every name we can imagine. We are mocked at in our homes, in our places of work, and especially on television, and in the movies. 

Sometimes we want to hit back. But Jesus taught us when we are attacked to turn the other cheek and accept it. He taught us to rejoice in opposition. If we’re not making the Devil mad, then we are not doing right. 

There are worse things than being mocked. There are places where Christians are crucified and beheaded. Yet in America, Christians wonder if they can stand up to ridicule. Jesus told us this would happen. Our strength is in looking to God for approval, not people. We should not allow ourselves to be bothered by the ridicule of others. It is our weakness that causes us to want to defend ourselves, not our strength. 

But these three kings were not the most dangerous enemies the people faced when they rebuilt the wall. There was a much more dangerous enemy right in among them. They were their own fellow Jews, who lived around them--the “old-timers” in the land. 

These Jews had lived under the threat and opposition of their neighbors so long that they had given up hope. They were convinced that the situation was hopeless, so they tell these newcomers to give up building, and to go home for their own good. They had developed a slavish mentality. Their spirits were broken, so they tried to break the spirits of those who would cause trouble.

Some of the people we meet in the church are more dangerous to Christianity than the people we meet on the street. If the outside enemies oppose us, it may get us fired up enough to do something. But the old-timers and the despondent in our midst gets us never to begin at all. Because they are our brothers and sisters, or our fathers and mothers, they have a greater influence over us. We want to please them, we are empathetic to them, so their fear becomes our fear. Their fear and hopelessness is like a virus, which makes us sick with caution. If we listen to them, we lose all strength.

We read about them in verses 10 and 12. 

In Judah it was said, "The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall." . . .

At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, "You must return to us."

These old-timers have allowed themselves to be bullied and beaten until they sank into despair.  Despair is a more effective tool of Satan than the propaganda of an enemy. 

They didn’t just say it once to the people.  They said it ten times. Their “can’t do” attitude would have been devastating to the people of Jerusalem, if they had listened.

Nehemiah had an answer, which was to get busy.  See verse 6:

“So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.”

 Concentrate on what needs to be done, and not on what the problems are. Don’t let your enemies or even your friends dissuade you. Work is what we were put on this earth to do. Keep going, and we will succeed. Stop working and we are certain to fail.

When we look at how far we have to go, we can easily be discouraged.   We consider getting a college degree and say, “I could never finish school.” We look a mountain of debt and say, “We can never overcome it.”

We look at the wrong things. Focus on what we have to do today, and not tomorrow. A college degree begins with filling out an application. Paying off debt begins with a payment plan.  If we concentrate on the work today, then we will be ready for the work tomorrow.

Suppose you want to run a marathon. You don’t start by running twenty-six miles, all you do is walk to the end of the street. Then tomorrow you do it again, and tomorrow you do it again. In time, it gets easier. We concentrate on the work, and not on the things people say about the work. Most tasks are ended before they are started.  Most of the rest are ended when we get our eyes off the work, and onto the opposition, and the seeming impossibility of the work.  Nehemiah concentrated on the job, not on the opposition.

God gives the strength. While they worked they prayed. They knew that they could not have the strength on their own. They were right when they said in verse 10:

 "The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall."  True, but we are not by ourselves. We have God with us. His grace covers our past failures and our future ones, too. His love is with us. He wants us to succeed. His power is behind us, giving us the power to succeed. God is with us for the building of the wall.

We can’t avoid our enemies, but we can guard against them. “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.” We don’t have to take on the Devil, we just have to keep him out of our homes. 

Nehemiah devised three strategies against his enemies. First he had all the men learn to defend themselves. As they worked, they had their swords at the read. Christians need to be prepared individually for spiritual self-defense. We must be prayed up and studied up to answer the opposition of the Devil, and our own brethren. There is no substitute for improving our spiritual health. Furthermore, we must be continually training for spiritual battle.

The Devil doesn’t attack where we expect him. He comes where we don’t expect him. Keep the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and the arrows of the Spirit, your prayers, and petitions sharp constantly. 

Second, he formed squads of men to fill the gaps in the wall until they were secure.

Don’t let the enemy infiltrate our homes to attack new believers and undefended children. We must practice family discipline and church discipline until the walls are strong.

Third, we need to gather together at a moment’s notice to defend each other against attacks.  Nehemiah did this by placing men with horns around the wall. If there was an attack he sounded the horn and everyone came running.

If Nehemiah were building this wall today, would he still put men with horns along the wall?  Of course not. He would use modern technology.  Modern technology has given us tools that are much greater than horns to rally support like text messaging, cell phones,  email,  Facebook, Twitter,  Skype, and a hundred others ways of networking socially.

Make no mistake, the Devil uses social networking against us. But we can use the same social networking to make us stronger against the Devil.  Today none of us have to be alone. We can find help out there in cyberspace for prayer and encouragement. 

Let’s summarize.

We were created to work for God. But a person who runs from work is already defeated. We must work in God’s strength, and we must use all available means.

This church can rebuild, but only if we focus on the work. We need to focus on what we are doing, not where we have been. Satan wants us to look backwards. God wants us to look forward.

Don’t give up in your life. Get busy and move forward.

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