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Nehemiah 4: An Active Faith

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Faith is active not passive

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Intro

There were once two farmers who had fields that neighbored each other.
Both farmers loved God and would pray to him every day.
One farmer would rise early in the morning, pray that the Lord would give him a large harvest and then go out to work the fields.
The second farmer would also rise early, and pray that the Lord would bless his harvest and then take care of other chores around the farm like feeding the sheep and sweeping the barn.
When harvest time came, the first farmer went out and gathered more than he could store in his barns.
The second farmer went to his field and was worried because he didn’t see one single sprout in the entire field.
Confused, he went to his neighbor who was stocking his barns and said, “Friend, how is it that your field produced such a large harvest and mine not even a sprout?”
The first farmer answered, “Well the Lord blessed me. I prayed and he answered me by giving me a great harvest.”
The second farmer replied, “Well I prayed too. Every day!”
And the first farmer answered, “A farmer prays for a harvest and then works the fields. He doesn’t pray for a harvest instead of working the fields.”
This simple parable reminds us an important aspect about living for the the kingdom that is often misunderstood by Christians.
In order to live for God’s will and grow his kingdom on the earth through the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we must have both prayer and action
If we want to see others saved, we must pray that the Lord would go before us to open blind eyes to save sinners,
But then we must also go out and actually do the work of the kingdom. by living out the gospel in our lives and sharing the gospel as we have opportunity
As we study , we will see that when God’s people labor to grow his kingdom on the earth they will faced with opposition from the world, God’s people consistently respond with prayer to remind themselves of God’s power and his work to save sinners and move from that prayer to get to work themselves to see God’s kingdom grow.
They don’t pray and then sit back and relax waiting on miracles
They don’t pray and then sit back and relax waiting on miracles
Nor do they ignore God altogether believing they can do accomplish God’s purposes for their lives on their own on their own.
As we live for his kingdom, God invites us to join him in his work and get our hands dirty. Not to just pray for God’s will to be done, but to take action and labor faithfully even when we face intense opposition from the world around us.
Living by faith requires prayer and action

Context

In , God’s people are all working on sections of the wall around the entire city. Last week we discussed how it is crucial that everyone of us play our part in the church so that God can accomplish his purposes for that church.
In other words, we must all play our part so that our church can be a light to Northwest Arkansas as we proclaim that God saves sinners.
However, when God’s people join his work to build his kingdom on earth, the church will face opposition.
And as we as a church begin to labor for the kingdom by telling other people about Christ, we must endure opposition with an active faith that trusts God to accomplish his will for his church.
And in we see an example of how God’s people should respond as they are laboring to build God’s kingdom on the earth and the world starts pushing back

1. A Threat of Words

Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!”
Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!”
Sanballat is the leader of Samaria just north of Jerusalem. And Nehemiah says he was angry and greatly enraged.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), .
In Sanballat and Tobiah were just displeased the Nehemiah had come, but not that the wall was beginning to look like a wall again, they go from displeased to irate.
Why where they so angry?
If Nehemiah succeeds in rebuilding the wall then Sanballat’s and Tobiah’s power and influence would wain.
They were interested in ruling their own kingdoms where they could be the head honchos and oppress God’s people for their own profit.
And Nehemiah’s work was leading Israel to rebuild the wall so that God’s kingdom, not Sanballat and Tobiah’s, would grow on the earth.
In other words, Sanballat and Tobiah saw the expansion of God’s kingdom as the destruction of their own.
The fact that God has a kingdom confronts every person with a choice. They can either repent of their sin and live for his kingdom and worship him, or they will continue living for themselves.
If God’s kingdom remains powerless, then they never need to deal with the call to repent of their sin and worship God alone.
God’s kingdom is anywhere his rule and reign is celebrated by his people
And his kingdom is threatening to his enemies because it challenges every part of their life.
But those of the world want nothing to do with God’s kingdom because it forces them to admit that they are not god of their own life,
The fact that God has a kingdom confronts every person with a choice. They will either live for his kingdom and worship him, or they will continue living for themselves.
and that they are evil because they have sinned against a holy God.
This is why God’s enemies hate God’s people. Because of their love for their sin, they don’t want to give up their sins and worship God alone.
They want nothing to do with God’s kingdom because it forces them to admit that they are not god of their own life, and that they need a savior to forgive them of their evil.
Make no mistake about it. God’s enemies, that is any person who has not been elected to salvation through the gospel of Jesus Christ, want God’s kingdom to fail and they will use whatever means necessary to make war against it.
And often the world’s assault on the kingdom of God will begin with a persecution of words just like in Nehemiah.
Sanballat attacks the Jews by yelling out questions to discourage them from the work. To make the feel stupid or foolish for trusting in God and his kingdom.
“What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!”
He asks “What are these feeble Jews doing?
Look how weak and foolish they are trying to rebuild this wall.
Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice?
In other words, are these fanatics going to pray the wall up? Is that how they are going to accomplish their work.
Will they finish up in a day?
Do they even know what they have taken on. There is no way they can do it.
Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?”
Its going to be impossible for them to build with how much of a mess it is.
Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!”
Tobiah jeers with Sanballat that the wall the Jews are building is as fragile as a house of cards. Even the small paw of a fox that climbs on the wall will cause the whole thing to tumble down.
The big idea is that the enemies of God will always try to make God’s people give up on his kingdom by ridiculing and mocking them in attempt to make them feel so foolish in their faith that they either hide it, or give up on it all together.
And this same thing is happening in our culture today. God’s enemies mock our faith and our morals because we dare to believe what God’s Word says is true.
Particularly in regards to homosexuality, gender identity and abortion, the world wants you to feel like you are on the wrong side of history.
That you are backwards and foolish to be so unloving and cruel to people who are choosing to live their life their way.
All the mocking and mischaracterization is done in an attempt, just like in Nehemiah’s day, to get us to stop living for the kingdom of God or at the very least to shut up about it so that those people who love their sin would not have to face the conviction of God’s rule being brought to bear on their life through the gospel.
So what does Nehemiah do in the face of this opposition? He turns to...

2. A Prayer of Faith

Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders. So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.
So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.
Whoa now. Hold up. This prayer doesn’t sound very Christian. Didn’t Jesus tell us to Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you?
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), .
Isn’t it the hope of every Christian that more would repent of their sin and love God through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection?
Why in the world is Nehemiah praying that God would conquer his enemies rather than forgiving them?
Nehemiah’s prayer is what is known as an imprecatory prayer where God’s people pray for God to do justice against his enemies.
He is asking God to do justice against their sin in opposing God’s kingdom.
There are multiple Psalms that ask for God’s justice on his enemies like Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you.
let them fall by their own counsels;
Or Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more!
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), .
because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,
and even the saints who were murdered for their faith pray to God “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
for they have rebelled against you.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), .and even the saints who were murdered for their faith pray to God “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), .
Notice Nehemiah isn’t asking for personal vengeance out of hatred for Sanballat and Tobiah.
He explicitly says that he is asking God to do justice towards them because they have angered God by ridiculing his people.
Jesus hints at this point in his resurrection when we comes to Paul before he was a Christian who is slaughtering and imprisoning the people of God and asks Saul Saul, why are you persecuting me?
God loves his people so much that when they are attacked, he treats it as an attack on himself.
Therefore, God’s people should pray for God to do justice against those who oppose his kingdom because it is a loving thing to desire that God would deliver someone from their sin and evil by revealing to them his justice against them.
In order to repent, people must be given the grace to see how they have sinned against a holy God and are deserving of his wrath.
In response to this conviction if a person continues in unrepentant sin, then God’s justice will result in their damnation to hell where they will suffer the eternal, conscious torment of the wrath of God.
However, God revealing his justice may also lead them to salvation because they will see how even though they were deserving of God’s wrath, he sent his son to pay their penalty for them as their substitute so they could be forgiven.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
In Christ, we see God’s perfect justice with his perfect mercy.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), .
It is not that God just ignored your sin or his just wrath against you and said, “You know what. We are good.”
In Christ death and resurrection God was both just, because he poured out the wrath we deserved on to His own Son, Jesus, and the justifier because it was through the sacrifice that God provided that he gives forgiveness to all that put their faith in Christ.
Imprecatory prayers like Nehemiah’s warn all of us that if you are not submitted to God, if you are not trusting in his salvation freely given in Christ and living for his kingdom, then you are pursuing your own and have set yourself up as God’s enemy.
And if you are God’s enemy, God’s justice will triumph over you unless you repent and believe in Jesus.
Bow down your life to the Lord of lords and King of kings
Repent of your rebellion and cast yourself on his mercy and today you will find salvation.
Today you will know God’s justice not by paying for your sin yourself, but you will see God’s justice in the wrath he poured out on Christ for you and in so doing, see the profound love which God has for you.
This is the Love that God has shown to his enemies.
Notice that the first thing Nehemiah does when faced with opposition from his enemies is to turn to God in prayer.
God’s people must always regard prayer as our primary weapon against opposition to God’s kingdom, not a last resort.
When the world wants us to feel foolish for our beliefs and love for Christ, we should not resort to compromising our message or hiding the light of God’s salvation in an effort to not be notice. We must pray for boldness and keep laboring for the Kingdom.
We must live for the kingdom like the early church who when threatened to keep silent about the gospel and prayed And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles
Consider Nehemiah who does not answer the taunts of replying to Sanballat and Tobiah, but instead speaks to the Lord about them and the people keep on working.
Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders. So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.
When Nehemiah says that the wall was joined to half its height he means that they were able to close the wall all around the city even though it was presently half the height it was eventually going to be.
When he wrote that the people had a mind to work, literally in the Hebrew it reads “and the heart of the people was to do the work.”
In other words, their heart was set on it.
They lived with an active faith because instead of giving up on the wall, the persevered knowing that God was working on their behalf to accomplish his purposes of his kingdom.
God’s people should not be concerned with making God’s kingdom and the gospel of Jesus acceptable to the world.
The Bible says that the world rejected Christ because they loved the darkness of their sin more than the light of his salvation.
When the world opposes our efforts to live for God’s kingdom here and now and invite others into the kingdom with us, we should pray to the Lord for faith and boldness and press on with what God has called us to do with an active faith.
The church must become content to be mocked and ridiculed by the world and leave the results of the kingdom in God’s hands.
God doesn’t need us to change his gospel so that more people would come to church.
In an effort to be accepted by the world, many churches will soften the gospel. They will smooth its edges and compromise their beliefs all while saying they want to be relevant to the culture to the extent that they compromise the gospel itself.
Our call is to be faithful to the Lord and labor for his kingdom and leave the results in his hands.
Yet, when God’s enemies see that their mocking and ridicule have little effect on the work for the the kingdom, because God’s people pray in faith and keep working, they move from words to violence.

3. A Threat of War

But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry. And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.
Remember that if you were to look at a map, all of the enemies mentioned in verse 7 completely surround Jerusalem.
But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry. And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.
So all these enemies see that their ridicule isn’t doing the trick, they begin to plot to bring war to Jersualem.
If God’s people weren’t going to give up from embarrassment, then maybe they would give up by force.
Again notice how God’s people respond. They pray to the Lord, and then set a guard as a protection day and night.
Again, we see prayer is crucial for a life of faith.
As we labor for the kingdom and face opposition prayerful dependence is how we access the power of God to persevere.
But Nehemiah doesn’t just pray and expect everything to happen for him. He prays and then sets a guard around the city. He gets involved in God’s work to build the walls.
But it doesn’t appear that the guards were enough becaus
But just because Nehemiah prayed to the Lord and set a guard around the city doesn’t mean that all the opposition magically stopped. In fact it ramps up.
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.” 11 And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.” 12 At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.”
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), .
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), .
The people of God continue to face challenges to their faith.
Is God really for them? Will he help them build the walls to protect them?
Will they survive long enough to be a holy nation once again and live as a light to the nations of God’s salvation?
The people in the city lose faith and begin to wonder whether or not they can really build the wall. It is so much work and they are so few.
They lose sight of God working in and through them and instead base their potential success on their own strength and resources.
Not only that, but the enemies continue their threats saying that the Jews will never see it coming and this leads the families of the Jews who live outside the city to come to the men working on the wall to beg them to come back home to protect them.
Now Nehemiah not only had to worry about the enemies coming and making war, but he was now dealing with the Jews losing faith and giving up before the wall was complete.
Of God’s people giving up on laboring for God’s kingdom
The enemies were about to win. The walls were going to remain broken down. God’s people would not be restored.
The light to the nations was nothing more than smoldering wick and if it was snuffed out how would the nations hear that God saves sinners?
Seeing his dire situation, Nehemiah calls the people to...

4. An Active Faith

I. Reminds them Of God

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), .
So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. 14 And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”
Nehemiah gathers the people of Israel and encourages them to remember the Lord.
The God they served was great and awesome. He was not threatened by his enemies but would accomplish the work of his Kingdom.
And because God was for them, the people of God need not be afraid even though the world around them hated them, but they could fight valiantly for the Kingdom.

II. Equips them with Weapons

When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. 16 From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, 17 who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. 18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built.
When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. 16 From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, 17 who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. 18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built.
Seeing the people of Israel rally together equipped with weapons, the enemies of God give up their plan.
They knew that if a war broke out between different provinces of the Persian empire, Artaxerxes would come and demand answers.
This would leave Israel’s enemies in a precarious position because they saw the letters from the king saying that he was on the Jews side to help them rebuild the wall.
Thus, if they made open war on the Jews, Artaxerxes would likely come and make open war on them.
Notice how Nehemiah says it was God who frustrated their plans.
This was significant because Nehemiah is saying that the practical steps the people took to organize a defense of the city was God’s means to frustrate the warmongering of the enemies.
Faith is active, not passive.
But Nehemiah couldn’t just focus on defending the city. His challenge was to organize the defenses without sacrificing their most important work to rebuild the wall.
It is easy for us as Christians to lose sight of what is most important and get side tracked by good things.
So he organized his workers to all have a weapon at the ready in case of an attack.
The same thing must be done in the church. We can’t get sidetracked with making a defense for ourself or having petty squabbles about how to do ministry. Every church must remember what is most important. They must look to the word of God and do all that God calls them to do to faithfully proclaim that word to a world in desperate need of salvation.
And even though it looks like this was enough thwart their enemies, Nehemiah still doesn’t leave it to hope and positive thinking that they won’t attack, so he...

III. Devises a Plan

The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me. 19 And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. 20 In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”
Nehemiah saw that they were spread out along the wall and were consequently thin in numbers.
Any attack on them would likely be successful.
Seeing the danger, Nehemiah had a trumpeter following him. Any hint of an attack Nehemiah would run to the battle with the trumpet blowing beside him so that all the Jews could rally to the battle and defend the wall.
And again he reminds them that their hope is not in themselves, but in God.
He says that God will fight for them. Nehemiah reminds the people of the salvation God had worked for them the first time their situation looked dire.
Escaping Egypt where they spent 400 years as slaves, the Israelites came to the Red Sea.
This was it. A sea before them, Egyptians behind them. They were going to die.
But Moses rose up and said Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
God was going to fight for his people to save them and sure enough, he parted the Sea, drowned the Egyptians, and brought his people to safety.
Even though Nehemiah was leading the people of Israel to do things to help protect themselves against their enemies, he constantly focused their hope not in themselves, or their circumstances, but on God.
And as we labor for the kingdom, as we do the practical work of the kingdom, living out the gospel and let it change how we live and sharing the gospel with others, we must remember that God is the one building his kingdom through us. God is fighting for us.
So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from the break of dawn until the stars came out. 22 I also said to the people at that time, “Let every man and his servant pass the night within Jerusalem, that they may be a guard for us by night and may labor by day.” 23 So neither I nor my brothers nor my servants nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us took off our clothes; each kept his weapon at his right hand.
Nehemiah shows us that when God’s people face opposition to his kingdom, they must respond with an active faith
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), .
A faith that isn’t passive sitting back expecting God to magically accomplish his purposes in the life of the Christian, but a faith which trusts God whole heartedly and displays that trust by putting faith in action.
When faced with opposition Nehemiah and his people
Instead a faith that is active. One which trusts God whole heartedly and displays that trust by heartily laboring for the kingdom.
prayed to God
Then they took wise and practical steps to protect themselves trusting that they were responsible to do their part, and God would take care of the rest.
Because they rested in the truth that God was great and awesome and in control of every detail of their lives.
Therefore, when Christians face opposition of any kind as they live for God’s kingdom, they must pray with hope, play their part, and trust God with the rest.

Application

As we look out on the cultural landscape, there is an uneasiness about where Christianity will stand in the near future.
When everything that is deemed intolerant is labeled as hate speech, many Christians are tempted to shrink back and down play their faith.
And with the tide of the culture going the way it is, it will only become more unpopular to follow Jesus.
It is from another culture.
We hinted earlier about how in the culture we live in, it is second nature to assume that Christians who believe and proclaim the word of God are racist, homophobic, misogynistic backwards bigots who are filled with hate and on the wrong side of history
The God I follow is Love no matter what.
Just like Sanballat and Tobiah The world mocks and jeers us into keeping silent about our faith, to resist God’s kingdom because the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), .
This truth that the world hates the light leaves the church with a few options.
They can hide from the world. Put a basket over the light God has given them to shine forth proclaiming his salvation and retreat.
They can capitulate to the culture and modify their faith to make it more acceptable to the world.
Or they can pray to the Lord for strength and boldness, and continue with the work of the kingdom, trusting that God will take care of the rest. This is the response of prayer and action.

the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

In Acts 4, the saints are threatened by the authorities to stop preaching the gospel of Jesus so they prayed, And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness,
And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness,
And the Bible says that, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), .
They saw that following Jesus and proclaiming the good news of the gospel was worth any price, even if it meant they were hated by the world.
Nehemiah was leading the people to rebuild the wall so that God’s kingdom would grow on the earth and more people might hear of his salvation.
The people of God today labors for the kingdom, not by building a wall, but by proclaiming the gospel and planting churches so that more people might be saved.
And God’s word is clear. When we live for his kingdom, we will face opposition. Jesus himself said, If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
And John one of his disciples reiterated in Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.
In fact, Jesus went so far as to warn us Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), .
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), .
All this to say, that if we aren’t facing opposition to are lives and work for the kingdom, it begs the question, are we really living for the kingdom?
When we lay down our lives and live for Christ just like he laid down his life for us, we will face opposition. As we face opposition, we must pray to God for
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), . As we face opposition, we must pray to God for
boldness in our faith,
trust in his Word,
and perseverance to endure faithfully,
And then, like those in Nehemiah we must get to work.
And we must not labor for the kingdom of God in our work clothes, but we must put on the armor of God.
Paul says in Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
Ultimately, our enemies are not the people who war against us. They are the demonic forces that desire to keep people enslaved tp their sin by deceiving them and blinding their eyes from the truth of the gospel.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
But we are called to trust in the Lord and his strength. When we put on the armor of God, it is in faith of God who is strong enough to overcome the world and build his kingdom on the earth in and through us.
And if we are going to stand firm in the evil day, to keep living for the kingdom no matter the opposition we face from the culture we must be equipped for the battle just like Nehemiah’s servants by taking up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.
To put our trust in God’s Word and not in our circumstances.
Trusting that God, who is great and awesome, loves us and that his kingdom is worth dying to ourselves so that more people might hear the gospel of Jesus Christ even if it means we are hated by the world.
And Paul tells us how we are put on this armor in praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), .
We are to pray to God in the Spirit who lives in us because of Christ’s work.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), .
And after praying that the Lord would equip us with the armor of God to endure faithfully for his kingdom, we keep alert just like the saints in Nehemiah knowing that our God will fight for us.
When we live for the kingdom, God fights for us. He accomplishes his purposes in and through us.
Our call is only to be faithful to his gospel, bearing witness to all who will listen with boldness
The purpose of the armor of God is to equip the saints to war against satanic powers and religions and philosophies that blind the eyes of people in need of salvation and to proclaim the mystery of the gospel boldly. That is the labor we are called to continue in no matter the opposition
Trusting that our God is a God who saves. That through the gospel of Jesus Christ, he has the power open blind eyes and transfer sinners from the kingdom of darkness to his kingdom of light

Conclusion

Living by faith in the face of opposition requires both prayer and action.
Without prayer, we will have no power to withstand the schemes of the devil because we will try to remain faithful in our own strength instead of the Lord’s
And without our faithfulness to the Lord and his mission for the church, God’s kingdom will not push back the kingdom of hell like Jesus promised in .

Conclusion

ntil we die or Christ returns.
Let me point out two kinds of opposition Christians will face as they strive to live for God’s kingdom and show you what it means to live with an active faith.

The Opposition of the Flesh

The Bible talks about how while you and I are forgiven of all our sins but we will still struggle with sin until we die or Christ returns.
And because Christ showed us just how foolish our sin is, Christians hate succumbing to temptation to sin.
They see the grace they’ve been given in Christ and the immense price God paid to save them from their sin, and loathe the fact that there is still something appealing about their sin.
Speaking about his sinful flesh, Paul said Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Christians should desire that sin be put to death in their lives. That want it to be put to death in their lives.
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
And many Christians will pray

Big Idea

Time and again we saw that Nehemiah would pray to God, but then actually do something about the situation he was in with hope that God was answering his prayer through his actions.
Now here is what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that you must do something in order to obtain saving faith. Saving faith is a gift given to you freely by God to regenerate your heart and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Faith is active not passive.
Consider the context of . This is not a chapter about God giving salvation to his people. This is a chapter about God’s people facing opposition as they try to live out God’s will for their lives.
They need faith to live out God’s purposes, but it is not a passive faith.
But many Christians wrongly assume that just because they are saved by grace and not by works, that works have no role to play in their Christian life.
They assume that living for God and his kingdom happens through passive faith. They pray and then expect God to magically help them grow in Christ and live for him.
Its not as if you can live for the kingdom by praying and then doing nothing.
shows us that to live a life of faith is to live a life of prayer and action
The People of Israel
To pray to God and ask him to allow his will to be done in our lives and then actually go from that prayer and actively live our life in accordance to that will as it is revealed in his Word.
The Jews in Nehemiah were called to build the wall which represented God’s kingdom on the earth.
They faced opposition from God’s enemies, and at every turn, they would pray to God and ask him for his help, and then they would actually do something about the situation they were in, trusting that God was working in them to accomplish his purposes.
And through the gift of saving faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, you and I are born again.

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
And when we are born again, we are and given the Holy Spirit who lives in us and empowers us to live by faith for God’s kingdom.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), .

II. Christ our Faith

So what does this actually look like? If God saved us so that we can be transferred from the kingdom of darkness to his Kingdom of his beloved Son, how do we live out an active faith as God works his purposes in our lives?

Application

As we live for God’s kingdom, we face all kinds of opposition that tempt us to shrink back from living wholeheartedly for God’s Kingdom. But I want to focus on probably the most important for many Christians
Our Sinful flesh which is the enemy within
A Hostile Culture which is the enemy without

I. An Active Faith and Our Sinful Flesh

work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
This is a very interesting verse.
First, Paul calls us each to work out our own salvation.
He doesn’t mean work out our salvation like do these things to be saved. That is a works based righteousness.
He means work out your salvation like make every effort allow the salvation you have been given to have its full effect in your life. To radically change you as you die to yourself and live for Christ.
But then he says that it is God who works in you, both to will, meaning he gives you the desire to live for his kingdom, and to work, meaning he gives you the power to actually live for his kingdom.
So there is a mystery in our sanctification where God is the active agent in it, but we also have a responsibility to play our part.
I think this is what Paul means when he said that we should not grieve the Spirit.
In other words, the Spirit is constantly at work in us to change us from the heart out to live like Christ.
As Nehemiah and the people labored for God’s kingdom to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, they faced opposition from those who wanted God’s kingdom to stay at arms length so that it wouldn’t interfere with their lives.
When we respond to that work in obedience, we are working out our salvation in response to God’s grace.
So what does this have to do with living with an active faith?
So many Christians will pray to God and ask to be filled with the fruit of the Spirit, to let their life be a spiritual sacrifice for God’s glory.

II. An Active Faith and A Hostile Culture

Nehemiah lived with an active faith that prepared for the opposition.
Nehemiah lived with an active faith that prepared for the opposition.
They pray with fervency, desperate that God would save them from some particular besetting sin that eats away at their soul.
They will pray and hope and then do little else and are surprised when weeks, months, and even years down the road, and nothing has changed. They are still the same.
Maybe they didn’t have enough faith.
Maybe Jesus didn’t care enough about them to free them from their sin.
Maybe they aren’t even saved or the gospel isn’t as powerful to free sinners from their sin as everyone claims.
How can God’s people work out their own salvation when facing an enemy that is a part of them? Their own sinful flesh?
By praying for God’s to allow the grace he gave in Christ to have its full effect in their lives and then practice the Spiritual Disciplines.
While trusting God fully, he still took action to prepare the people against their enemies so that God’s purposes would be accomplished.

Conclusion

The church today is called to continue to trust God. Trust that living for his kingdom is worth it no matter how dire the situation seems in a culture that is hostile to his gospel.
But the church cannot shrink back and avoid the work God has given us to do to make disciples. We must take action.
We must put on the armor of God to withstand the schemes of Satan who wants us to be ashamed of our faith and stop laboring for the kingdom through the proclamation of God’s Word, so that people will stay in the darkness instead of being forgiven of their sins through the glorious gospel of Christ.
Let’s Pray
Scripture Reading:
Philippians 2:12–16 ESV
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life,
But if we are going to live for God’s kingdom, we must pray to the Lord
Most people assume that to live by faith is to pray to God and then sit back and hope everything works out.
Because Christ laid down his life for us, we can press on in faith laying down our lives for him. This is an active faith.
Nehemiah lived with an active faith that prepared for the opposition.
How are you preparing for opposition? How are you preparing for when temptation comes to make war on God’s kingdom in your heart and you are tempted to live for yourself?
How are you preparing for the opposition we are facing a culture that is growing ever more hostile to our faith.
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