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How To Face Opposition

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Arise And Build!  All Things Are Possible With God’s Help

How To Face Opposition

Nehemiah 4:7-23

No One Said It Would Be Easy

       William Carey had to overcome great odds to obey the call of God.  In The Challenge of Life, Oswald J. Smith noted that “even the Directors of the East India Company opposed {Carey’s} work.  Following is the idiotic resolution they presented to Parliament:  ‘The sending out of missionaries into one Eastern possession is the maddest, most extravagant, most costly, most indefensible project which has ever been suggested by a moonstruck fanatic.’”  Smith added, “In 1796, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland passed the following infamous resolution:  ‘To spread the knowledge of the gospel amongst barbarians and heathens seems to be highly preposterous.’  One speaker in the House of Commons said that he would rather see a band of devils let loose in India than a band of missionaries.  Such was the opposition to missions when Carey set forth.  And yet, he was able to write, ‘Why is my soul disquieted within me?  Things may turn out better than I expect.  Everything is known to God, and God cares.’”  William Carey stood the test, and became the father of modern missions.

       William Carey knew how to face opposition.  If you want to see another biblical character who also knew how to face opposition, please notice Nehemiah.

We have already studied the first six verses of the fourth chapter of the book of Nehemiah.  In those verses, we have seen Nehemiah and the workers under attack through criticism, mocking, and ridicule.  Their response was outstanding!  They kept working and praying.  When the devil cannot discourage you through ridicule, he will make an all out attack through fear.  Now Nehemiah faces the threats of conspiracy and attack.  Let’s see how Nehemiah responds this time.  An important principle to keep in mind is that Satan operates through fear.  Seldom will God allow him to do what he is threatening.

(Notice with me please Nehemiah 4:7-18.  In these verse we can see:)

I.     The Attack.

(The attack against the Jews and Nehemiah was carried out:)

A.    Through Conspiracy (vv. 7-8).

The enemies of Nehemiah were angry with the fact that the walls were being repaired.  They could see the capital city and the spirit of the Jews being fortified.  What Nehemiah had thought would probably be a simple project, had become a complicated situation.

It seems sometimes that the more we do for God, the angrier our enemies become.  New levels—new devils!!!  All of Nehemiah’s enemies got together and planned to fight against Jerusalem.  But if God be for us, who can be against us?

(The attack was carried out through conspiracy and:)

B.    Through Rumor (vv. 10-12).

When a group of people face stiff opposition, at first the opposition is outward, but slowly it begins to creep inward.  Neighboring Jews in Judah began to become discouraged and began to complain.  Eventually the criticism and complaining came from within.

       Think about Moses!  At first his opposition was from the greedy rabble, but soon it came from Miriam and Aaron.

Beware of inner opposition and complaining!  Hanging with those who are sour will make you sour.

       Then we see more vicious threats and rumors.  The Jews who lived near the enemies came to Nehemiah and his workers ten times with these rumors.

       People love to spread rumors.  The writer of the Proverbs wrote twice in

Proverbs 18:8 (NASB-U) and Proverbs 26:22, “The words of a whisperer are like dainty morsels, And they go down into the innermost parts of the body.”

The writer is saying that rumors and gossip get down into a person’s heart, i.e. the inner recesses of his/her emotion-fused thought!!!

(What is Nehemiah’s answer to this attack by conspiracy and rumor?)

II.    The Answer.

(Nehemiah’s first answer to his attack is:)

A.    Prayer (vs. 9).

I love Nehemiah’s response.  The first thing he did was pray.  We should be certain, by now, that Nehemiah was a man of prayer.  Prayer was no mere tassel upon his suit of armor; it was the helmet that protected one of the most important parts of his spiritual body.

When we face opposition let us first go to God in prayer, then we will know how to answer and what to do.

But that’s not all, Nehemiah also set up a guard day and night.

Someone has said, “Prayer without prevention is presumption!”  Many of us are guilty of that.  Prayer alone is not enough.  Pray, but do what you can while you are praying.  Do what you can and God will do what you can’t.  Nehemiah didn’t say, “Don’t worry, I’ll pray and God will protect us.”  He is likely to have said, “Set up a watch and pray that God will help us.”  How many times do we

·        Pray for a job, but refuse to go out and look;

·        Pray that God deliver us from alcohol, but still go to bars;

·        Pray that God help us with our eating habits, but still keep buying potato chips and pop;

·        Pray for increased knowledge, but refuse to study;

·        Pray for God to get us out of debt, but keep on charging?

This is presumption!  Prayer is not to take the place of what we can do.  Prayer is to invoke divine help from God!!!

(So, Nehemiah did not merely pray, He set up:)

B.    Precautions.

(I see seven major precautions which included:)

1.     24 hour guard (vs. 9).

Remember, the words of Jesus to the disciples in

Matthew 26:41 (NASB-U), “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

We have been studying the contrast between the principle of sin that is in the flesh and the human spirit that is indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

2.     Men to guard the exposed places (vs. 13).

Nehemiah fortified the exposed places on the wall.

Remember Satan knows our weaknesses and he goes for the kill, so let’s fortify our weaknesses.  If you know you are strongly attracted to the opposite sex, set a watch there.  If you know you like to talk, pray the prayer that David prayed,

“Lord set a watch over the doors of my lips,”

and stay off of the telephone with gossiping people.

       Here, at The House of the Lord, we must find our weakest points and fortify them.  Our weakest points, in my humble opinion are

1)                Religion instead of the power of the Holy Spirit;

2)                Gossip;

3)                Familiarity;

4)                Negativity; and

5)                A lack of empathy.

(Next we see:)

3.     People stationed in families (vs. 13).

We must come to realize the importance of our natural and spiritual families.  You have a natural family to share with, love and be loved by.  This is a part of God’s creative order!!!  God created Mankind in a family, i.e. “male and female created He them.”

       But, in addition, The House of the Lord is your spiritual family!  The Kingdom of God is populated by God’s children and He is our Father.

(The next precaution is very interesting.)

4.     Nehemiah armed the people with swords, spears, bows, shields and breastplates (vv. 13, 16).

Nehemiah had learned a lesson.  He now knew that the enemy would always be there, so he took permanent precautions.  Nehemiah prepared the people for war.

This is war!!!  We are in warfare with Satan.

A Powerful Adversary

       If you go to Wartburg, Germany, they will show you a dark spot on the old walls which they say was caused by the breaking of an ink bottle that Martin Luther—fathe rof The Reformation—supposedly threw at the devil.  Skeptics say it was just the rats inside of the wall that Luther heard.  Whether the evil one caused the actual physical disturbance, we do not know.  What is important is that Luther recognized that Satan sets himself in opposition to those who champion the Word, and that Luther never hesitated in fighting him.

When the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, there were long periods of rest, with seasons of warfare.  Once they crossed over into the Promised Land, there were long periods of warfare, with seasons of rest.

Since, we are the Joshua Generation who are storming the beach to possess the promises of Jesus Christ; we will experience constant warfare, with periods of rest!!!

So, Nehemiah prepared the Jews to fight.        Now, most of the precautions that have taken place up to this point have been of the defensive nature, but now Nehemiah also prepares the people to go on the offensive.

(a)    Half the people worked, while half the people watched.  The half that acted as protectors were armed with:

(1)    Swords.

“The sword is the symbol of war and slaughter, of divine judgment, and of power and authority.  The word of God is called the ‘sword of the Spirit’ in Eph. 6:17” (Unger’s Bible Dictionary).  Therefore the sword is representative of the Word of God.  This is the only offensive piece of equipment in the Ephesians passage concerning the armor of God.  Nehemiah provided the Jews with swords to strike back.

       At times Satan comes close enough for hand to hand combat.  He attacks us personally.  We fight back with the Word of God.

(2)    Spears.

“The spear is a weapon that is common to all nations of antiquity.  There were several kinds of spears.  One type of spear was the shelah which was probably a lighter missile or dart” (Unger’s Bible Dictionary).  We can see this concept in Eph. 6:16 where, in the NASB, the word is translated “missiles.”  The spear usually represents long distance fighting.

       Rumors are like long distance fighting!  We must develop thicker skins, edify ourselves through spiritual language, and return the volleys through prayer.

(3)    Shields.

“The shield… protected the soldier from spears, arrows, and ‘fiery darts.’  In Paul’s day, arrows, dipped in some inflammable substance and ignited, were shot at the enemy (Wiersbe).  Satan sometimes throws fiery darts or missiles at us from a distance and we protect ourselves with shields and breastplates.

       The edges of these shields were so constructed that an entire line of soldiers could interlock shields and march into the enemy like a solid wall.  This suggests that we Christians are not in the battle alone” (Wiersbe).  We must stick together in this war.

       “The shield is illustrative of God’s protection” (Unger’s Bible Dictionary).  Wycliffe calls this “the shield which consists of faith.”  “The ‘faith’ mentioned here is not saving faith, but rather living faith, a trust in the promises and the power of God.  Faith is a defensive weapon that protects us from Satan’s fiery darts.  Satan shoots ‘fiery darts’ at our hearts and minds:  lies, blasphemous thoughts, hateful thoughts about others, doubts, and burning desires for sins” (Wiersbe).  David Augusburger notes that, “trust occurs only when there is risk.”

The NASB translates this phrase, “So you may be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one.”  Satan is firing missiles at us, but we will put them out and render them harmless by the shield of faith.  “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.”

(4)    Bows.

“The bow was the principle weapon of offense among the Egyptians, Assyrians, and Hebrews.  The word is also used to denote the efficiency of God’s word (Psa. 45:5)” (Unger’s Bible Dictionary).

       So, once again, we go on the offensive, when we are skilled with and filled with the Word of God!!!

(5)    Breastplates.

“This piece of armor, made of metal plates or chains, covered the body from the neck to the waist, both front and back.”  “Being an efficient means of protection for the body, it is used metaphorically for defense… (Unger’s Bible Dictionary).

       We see, in Ephesians, the breastplate of righteousness.  “It symbolizes the believer’s righteousness in Christ as well as his righteous life in Christ.  Satan is the accuser, but he cannot accuse the believer who is living a godly life in the power of the Spirit” (Wiersbe).  J. B. Phillip’s translates the phrase, “integrity as a breastplate.”  Righteousness protects our heart.  Righteousness protects the heart which pumps the Christian’s life blood.  The protection of our hearts is the integrity with which we live!

(We can also see additional precautions that Nehemiah established.)

(b)    Half worked while half stood guard.

We must learn to guard each other, to defend each other, to build up each other, to protect each other’s reputations.  One another ministry!!!

(Another interesting precaution is seen in the fact that:)

(c)    Captains were behind the whole house of Judah?

Rulers were available and ready to lead the people in case of attack.

              We need leaders who are willing to step up and lead, when there is a serious attack of the enemy!!!

(Another major precaution is seen in that:)

5.     One group of workers worked with one hand and held on to their weapon with the other hand (vs. 17).

Those of us who are working and carrying the burdens of this ministry must not forget to stay armed in the Word of God.  Don’t forget that you are not exempt from Satan’s attack because you are zealously working for God.  As a matter of fact you are the target for Satan’s attack.  Therefore,

“Be on the alert.  Your adversary the devil is walking about, as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

The missiles of hell are trained upon me, because I am doing the work of the Kingdom!

(Precaution number six was that:)

6.     The actual builders wore their sword girded at their sides (v 18).

Keep the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, ready.  Keep it ready in your mind and in your hand.  Be ready to give to every man an answer concerning the faith that we have.

(The last precaution was:)

7.     The trumpeters for sounding an alarm.

We need a trumpeter, a herald, a preacher, a man of God to sound the alarm, and to let the local church know that Satan is attacking and that we must fight the good fight of faith.  We must fight while we work; building up the last bastion of Christian hope:  the local church.  We must build it up so that the Gospel may be proclaimed and men, women, boys, and girls may be saved.

(We have seen Nehemiah’s prayer and his precautions, but we also see his poise.)

C.    The Poise (vv. 14-15).

(In all of these circumstances and through all kinds of opposition, Nehemiah and the Jews showed tremendous poise and assurance.  This poise is seen in his attitude.)

1.     Attitude.

(The poised attitude of the Jews is illustrated by two characteristics:)

(a)    A lack of fear (vs. 14).

Satan’s primary weapon is fear.  So the first thing Nehemiah cautioned them about was fear.

       Fear makes cowards of us all.  In Deut. 20:8, Moses gives commandments for victory and purging the fearful from the army before going to war:

“Then the officers shall speak further to the people, and they shall say, ‘Who is the man that is afraid and fainthearted?  Let him depart and return to his house, so that he might not make his brothers’ hearts melt like his heart.”

Remember how Gideon followed this commandment and all but 300 went home.

       If you are fearful and afraid that God will not keep His promises, do not discourage the faith of others!  Keep your doubts to yourself!!!

(Their poised attitude is further illustrated by their:)

(b)    Devotion (vs. 21).

They worked from dawn until dark with their weapons in their hands.  That’s devotion!!!

We must become devoted to the Word of God and the work of God.  Let us devote ourselves to the work of the Lord, in the local church.

1 Corinthians 15:58 (NASB-U), “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”

(The poise of Nehemiah and the Jews is not only seen in their attitude, it is also seen in their activity.  Please notice with me verses 19-23.)

2.     Activity (vv. 15, 21-23).

(a)    They worked.

When you are under attack, keep on working.  God will take care of the attack of the enemy.  Satan will be hesitant to attack when he sees you are armed and waiting for him.  Keep working!  Keep praying!  Keep fellowshipping!  Keep witnessing!  Keep giving!  Keep on obeying God’s Word!  Keep teaching!  Keep on living victoriously!

(b)    They spent the night in Jerusalem in order to guard one another by night and work by day.

·        Stay in the church.

·        Stay together.

·        Stay with the project.

Stay in the local church so that we may guard one another.

(c)    They did not remove their clothes or their weapons.

This is no time to rest.  There were no seats in the tabernacle.  There is no place, this side of heaven, to take off our weapon or lay down the Word of God or retire from the work of God.  We can never do that in this life.  When we go on vacation or relaxation, we never rest from the Word of God.  When we retire, we retire from a phase of ministry, but not from the work of the Lord.  At the very time that we are unarmed and not alert, Satan will attack.  How do we face opposition?  By being armed, alert, and active!!!

(Now is the Day of Salvation.  Come to Jesus, now!)


Call to Discipleship

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