Monday, August 25, 2014

Courage, Opposition and Prayer

At last the wall was completed to half its height around the entire city, for the people had worked very hard.  Nehemiah 4:6 (NLT)
The job to which God called Nehemiah was to leave being a comfortable captive in the service of a Persian king (Artaxerxes), and travel to the home of his ancestors in Jerusalem; it was there the work of rebuilding the crumbling walls of a defeated people was to take place.
God gave Nehemiah a spirit of favor with the Persian ruler.  King Artaxerxes gave Nehemiah permission, letters of authority to rebuild the walls, and supplies to accomplish the task. 
What a great God we serve!
Arriving in Jerusalem, Nehemiah made a midnight inspection tour of the broken-down walls, but told nobody of his heart’s plans. 
When he was ready, Nehemiah gathered the people and gave them a 37-word “sermon” I cannot match that!  He told how the broken-down walls of God’s city were a disgrace before the world.  They should arise and rebuild (Nehemiah 2:17-18a). 
Before Nehemiah could tell the organist to play “Just As I Am” the people responded…Let us rise up and build.  (I’d like to see YOU match that!)
In classic fashion, the enemies of God entered the picture before the ink was dry on the architectural drawings for rebuilding of the walls (2.19); yet Nehemiah’s response was to trust God (2.20).
That’s our refresher on the story line from last week.  For today, we have the account of rebuilding the walls, and we learn a number of principles of Kingdom building.

Lesson I. When it comes to the WORK, some are APATHETIC

Next were the people from Tekoa, though their leaders refused to help.  Nehemiah 3.5 (NLT)
A survey-taker knocked on a door.  When it opened, he asked the homeowner if he was aware that the greatest problems America faces today are ignorance and apathy.  The man replied, I don’t know, and I don’t care!
It is bad enough to have apathy among followers, but Nehemiah faced apathy among the leaders of the little village of Tekoa.  Not all heroes are leaders; not all leaders are heroic material.  The greatest heroes I have are of the “ordinary” variety – folks who serve year-in, year-out in the mundane ways. 
     On the walls of Jerusalem, the common folk from Tekoa caught the vision their apathetic leaders couldn’t see.  In our day there are apathetic folks in the kingdom of God as well. 
* When people don’t see the need to serve others – when their own purposes and ideas and appetites are far more interesting and urgent, it is apathy towards God. 
* When people think life is too busy for kingdom work, it is apathy towards God. 
It’s the kind of apathy which comes up with a hundred excuses for not worshipping and not serving; it is apathy towards God, and apathy towards God is sin.
Jesus had something to say to first century churches that were apathetic:
“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold.  I wish you were one or the other!  But since you are like lukewarm water, I will spit you out of my mouth!  Revelation 3:15-17 (NLT)
What do you do to address apathy?  Lesson learned, and…
* Application:  When people are apathetic, encourage them.
For those of us who slip into apathy in our worship, service, stewardship, devotion, or witness…the encouragement is stop this
a.  You are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus. 
b.  Greater is He who is in you, than the apathy that wants to steal your service and blessing. 
c.   Be strong in the Lord!  Be the man, the woman, the young person God called you to be!
We need to reclaim our PASSION for the work of the Kingdom.  Apathy is the stuff of lukewarm churches and lukewarm Christians.  
If you know some apathetic believers, encourage them.  But don’t do it as if you’re apologizing.  We have enough lukewarmness.  Say it like you mean it.  “George….man what’s happened to your passion?  Are you backing off from the Lord?”  “Robin, why have you stopped coming?  What could make you give up on Jesus?”
Apathy is backsliding, and it is nauseating to God.  It calls for strong people to love the apathetic back into the fold. 
You can do this!

Lesson II. When it comes to the WAY, some get OFFENDED

Sanballat was very angry when he learned that we were rebuilding the wall.  He flew into a rage….   Nehemiah 4.1a
It is as old as Cain and Abel.  People always get offended; especially when it comes to the way we remember things were, or think they should be.  When these memories are contradicted by God’s Word, or somebody messes with our agenda; watch out!
Most of the time when people get offended, the infractions have prodded our pride – and we have forgotten how our own sins have offended holy God!  And how God, for Christ’s sake has forgiven us!
Nehemiah was involved in a great and difficult work.  Some really warmed to the task – others were apathetic; Sanballat was offended at the new guy, Nehemiah, who arrived and took over his province.  It is that way in churches sometimes. 
* Things get changed.  We do things differently. 
* We don’t like this or that; so we grumble, or pout. 
* We pull back from everything. 
* Sometimes it happens when people don’t know the Word of God, and the leader points to God’s way, and the follower says, “I don’t like that.”
Beloved, that is not spiritual, Christian, Godly or even close to humble.  It is sin.  It is sin to worry about feelings when eternal souls are going to hell because we would rather fuss over incidentals than take the time to go tell the gospel.
* Application:  When people are offended, lead them.
What do you do with “offended” folks?  Lead them!  Lead them with your example of Godly humble service.  That’s what Jesus did.  Jesus was the perfect Son of God.  He was accused of everything imaginable.  His response was to give his life for His accusers.

Lesson III. When it comes to REVERENCE, some will RIDICULE

…and mocked the Jews, saying in front of his friends and the Samarian army officers, “What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they are doing?  Do they think they can build the wall in a day if they offer enough sacrifices?  Look at those charred stones they are pulling out of the rubbish and using again!”  Tobiah the Ammonite, who was standing beside him, remarked, “That stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked along the top of it!”    Nehemiah 4.1b-3
This same bunch that got offended also lashed out at Nehemiah and the work.  That is the normal response of people who get angry. 
Sanballat’s rage became a tirade of mocking and insults.  The problem with that kind of anger is that no matter how you regret it later, once you’ve ridiculed the work, your spirit is such that it is next to impossible to repent, humble yourself and rejoin the efforts. 
It is hard to admit you’ve been wrong and going against God.  That is why Satan fell, and stayed down!
What did Nehemiah do?  He prayed!  And that is our application as well if we would learn the lesson.  When they ridicule…
* Application:  Leave Them (to God)
Then I prayed, “Hear us, O our God, for we are being mocked.  May their scoffing fall back on their own heads, and may they themselves become captives in a foreign land!  Do not ignore their guilt.  Do not blot out their sins, for they have provoked you to anger here in the presence of the builders.”   Nehemiah 4:4-5
Nehemiah didn’t waste his breath trying to convert his detractors over to wall-building.  And he didn’t fire-off some insults to answer them back.  It does no good to turn around and ridicule someone who has deserted God’s will, gotten angry and ridiculed the work.  You become as twisted as they.  Nehemiah prayed, leaving the results to God.
I have had many people angry at me in my lifetime.  Now, that’s hard to admit for a peace-lover.  I hate conflict.  Having someone angry at me eats away at my insides like cancer.  On the other hand, as a pastor I have studied God’s Word and human nature is revealed ever so clearly there.  We humans are a prideful and stiff-necked bunch! 
Most people act pretty reasonably most of the time.  But!!!  Watch-out when you cross them!  I recall a man who was a member of a church I served years ago.  He was pretty reserved, but occasionally entered into the good-natured teasing men do when gathered for a social event.  And our men’s fellowship was better at teasing than most!
Once, when our church was hosting a community Thanksgiving service, the meal was ready, many of our members and guests had arrived.  It was a festive, happy spirit that night; until he came through the door.  With a great big smile, and warm handshake, I teased, Well, look what the cat drug-in.  He teased back, Cat wouldn’t ever drag somthin’ like you in
The next day the man came to my office.  The secretary showed him in and closed the door.  He never even sat down.  He came to my desk and said, Preacher, you embarrassed me last night.  You ever talk to me like that again, you’d better duck with the next breath, because I’m gonna knock your head off.  I immediately apologized to him.  I couldn’t recall how I’d embarrassed him, but the fire in his eyes told me he needed to calm down.  Despite my apologies, and offers to publicly apologize, he eventually stormed out of my office, and we never saw him in the church again.
Now, that is an extreme example.  Most people who get angry at the preacher, or other church leaders, are really angry with themselves for some other reason.  And most times they ridicule from afar. 
What do you do about such?  Pray….Leave them to God. 
Don’t forget, sometimes God moves people into your life and influence, and sometimes He leads them away.  When the issue is truly a misunderstanding, the truly humble servants will humbly come together to solve problems.  But when people with a haughty, angry spirit leave in a huff, leave them to God.  He is much better working with them than you will ever be!

Lesson IV. When it comes to SERVING, some will LABOR

At last the wall was completed to half its original height around the entire city, for the people had worked very hard.  Nehemiah 4.6  (NLT)
By far this is the happiest part of the story.  The King James Version says the people had a mind to work.  I like this newer translation; it says it plainly…the people had worked very hard!   
Some will always do the work, get the job done.  I am very appreciative for the Kingdom laborers we have here.  I am ever-mindful of the fact that nothing can really be done without cooperation.  Our people cooperate on doing unseen things – like opening the buildings for worship each week, praying, visiting and bringing meals to the sick.
Nehemiah made the point that the wall got finished because of the willing spirit and faithful service of the people.  In a church it is true that the Pastor can’t do everything.  Just as true is the statement that whatever the Pastor does won’t be anything without the people. 
So, it’s not about the Pastor, or the teachers and committee members or the style of worship – hymns or choruses.  It is all about the family of God working together, doing what God called to do…   
a.   Share the Good News with people that Jesus saves.
b.    Help people know Jesus and live by His word.
Nehemiah saw a great revival among the people because God placed it in their hearts to work.  What should we do about the work of the Kingdom?
* Application:  Join In
One lady wrote about a women's club luncheon.  She said
… a young woman sitting across from me spoke of the camaraderie she felt with her mother-in-law since they'd opened a small craft shop.  We all looked at her in disbelief as she talked about the many tasks they performed together.  When someone asked how she managed to avoid the typical in-law clashes, she answered, It helps that one of us has a good disposition.  Amused, I asked which of them that was.  Oh, she laughed, we take turns![1]
What a wonderful outlook on working in a difficult situation! 
We need that in Kingdom workers…always.  The Lord promised us we would always find opposition to His Kingdom’s work.  That is true – evil will always seek to undo righteousness.  Taking turns at having a good, humble, Christ-like disposition is good medicine for preventing sickness in the life of a congregation! 
How we need that; for only a healthy congregation can truly build the walls of God’s Kingdom.
Let us pray: 
God, give us courage to face our own lack of strength, our apathy, with humility – recognizing we depend solely on Christ for strength to accomplish the work to which He has called us.  Lord, we rely on prayer to accomplish what we cannot – Be our strength, O God, our Rock and Redeemer!
Lord, like Nehemiah leading the people to rebuild the Jerusalem of old, let us see rebuilt walls of family and community in our day here in where we live, work, go to school and play.  
May we see it in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

[1] Jane Paramore, Denton, TX. Heart to Heart, Today's Christian Woman. 

No comments:

Post a Comment