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Kicking Discouragement in the You-Know-What

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Text:  Nehemiah 4:10-23


            What do you do when life blows up in your face and ends up in a stinking mess?  It can knock the wind out of you, rob you of your confidence and leave you discouraged.  When you are a leader and discouragement comes your way, you need to tap the bottom of your well of faith and find the direction for the way out.

            Nehemiah found himself facing an enormous wall that stopped his project dead in its tracks…a wall bigger than the one he was trying to repair…it was the wall of discouragement.  As we saw last week, he faced opposition from those in charge of the region for King Artaxerxes.  If Nehemiah was a success at rebuilding Jerusalem, Sanballat and the wealthy men of Samaria stood to lose a lot.  A prosperous Jerusalem meant a depressed Samaria.  One of the main roads linking the Tigris-Euphrates river valley with Philistia and Egypt went right through Jerusalem.  With Jerusalem once more a well-protected city, it would attract trade, and Samaria’s economy would dwindle to nothing.  When someone threatened the purse strings of Sanballat and others, the opposition they imposed would be no little argument…it would be an out-right war for survival of the fittest.  Let’s take a look at what caused discouragement and how Nehemiah dealt with it.  Read Text.

1.      According to verse 10, what new problem did Nehemiah now face?  (Burnout of the people – their strength was failing.)       What did it result in?  (It resulted in work coming to a standstill.)
Insight: The word for “rubbish” in the Hebrew means dry earth, debris.  Try to imagine the scene of the piles of debris from destroyed walls and houses from a war 120 years ago and no maintenance since then.  The task of cleanup would seem overwhelming. 

2.      What would you say their confidence looked like at this point?  (Pretty shabby.)       Do verses 11-12 give you an indication of what their “self-talk” was in their mind?       What happens when that kind of talk begins to spread?
Insight: When you combine seemingly impossible tasks with sheer exhaustion and discouraged fellow workers, all kinds of self-defeating self-talk goes on in the mind.  It takes a strong discipline of the mind and a sure faith in a God bigger than the problem to keep your thoughts in check.  Fortunate indeed is the one who has a friend like Nehemiah who can look above the troubles to a problem-solving course of action.

3.      What happens to the morale of those around us if we are verbal with our critical objections?       How do you like to be approached if someone has something critical to say to you?

4.      How would you describe Nehemiah’s first plan of action for rebuilding their confidence in verse 13?  (He unified the people around a common goal.)
Insight: I’m amazed at Nehemiah’s insight.  He saw the basic unit of encouragement is the family.  He saw that they had been broken up by working in different places on the wall.  The scattered family was actually counterproductive.  So he reorganized the work around the family towards a common goal.  Churches would do well to learn from this and create teams via families.

5.      When Nehemiah saw their fear, what did he do to counter it according to verse 14?  (He directed their attention to the Lord.)
Insight: The look of fear is quite recognizable.  It spreads like wildfire.  He had to act quickly.  Until he changed this element, no progress would be made.  There is no greater resource for stemming the tide of fear than pointing people’s attention to an Almighty God!  Ps. 41:1-13;  Ps. 42:5, 11;  Josh. 1:9;  2 Chr. 20:15-17;  Ps. 27:1;  Isa. 41:10-14

6.      What instinct did Nehemiah call upon for motivation in verse 14?  (The instinct of protecting your family and home.  It’s very strong, and he needed that surge of motivation to kick them out of the downward spiral of fear.)

7.      Nehemiah had pointed them to the Lord.  What did the Lord do in a mighty way in response (v.15)?  (He frustrated the plans of their enemies!)
Insight: Praise the Lord that the children of God can count on Him doing something in the enemy’s camp that we would never be able to penetrate nor succeed in doing anything like it!  Not only does He encourage our hearts…He frustrates the plans of our enemies!

8.      What was the result of God’s mighty work, combined with Nehemiah’s insights and encouragement (15-16)?  (They returned to the wall and each one to his work.)

9.      How would you describe Nehemiah’s strategy according to verses 16-17?  (He encouraged them to maintain a balance: work & protection.)
Insight: When discouraged, it’s easy to see only one view at a time, instead of the whole picture.  Good leadership is able to see the whole battle plan and not be distracted by the current, fierce skirmish.  Nehemiah had a plan that gave them peace of mind while allowing the work to go on.

10.  What was Nehemiah’s next strategy revealed in verses 19-20? 
Insight: Sometimes quelling fear takes more than effort…it may very well take several bolstering encouragements to restore confidence and keep things on track.  Here Nehemiah provided them a rallying point in the event of an attack and reminded them God would be fighting alongside them.  Josh. 23:10

11.  What was Nehemiah’s final strategy according to verses 21-23?  (He created a protective buddy system.)
Insight: Wise is the leader that gets people involved in serving one another.  This boosts morale and creates confidence so that the project can be completed.  When David was pursued by Saul, Jonathan was there to protect and encourage.  When Elijah was depressed and ran from Jezebel, Elisha came to encourage him.  We all need someone who will drop what they are doing and come running when we need help.


            Many of us started our walk with Christ with confidence and faith.  We go after Moby Dick with a row boat, a harpoon and a jar of tartar sauce.  But it doesn’t take long to start feeling the row boat is swamping and the waves of intimidation come crashing down upon us.  Perhaps it would be good for all of us to stop and take inventory, lest we find ourselves opting to stay on the shore.  Turn to your spouse/friend and share your responses with one another to these questions.

  • Are you facing the halfway mark in some task in your life and seem to be stranded on the sandbar?
  • Are you dealing with feelings of being overwhelmed at the task before you?
  • Have you been going at it so intensely that you are worn out?
  • Are you feeling insecure about whether God is really going to help you?  What are you expecting Him to do?
  • Are there things that are feeding your discouragement, like a lack of strength? Lack of vision? Lack of confidence? Lack of security?
  • What is it you can do that would help you push your boat off shore?

Isa. 40:28-31;  Ps. 40:1-5, 16-17

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