Nehemiah: In the Face of Opposition
"The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build”
- Nehemiah 2:20
I had this moment some years back where God freed me from fear in an instant. It was intense and it was beautiful and I will never be the same. I had carried fear around with me like a constant companion for the majority of my life up until that point and the freedom was tangible. I was not aware that the weight that I carried, that the voice of accusation that I heard wasn't normal until it was gone and I was free. God had freed me from the spirit of fear that I was enslaved to but that doesn't mean that there aren't times when it comes around knocking to see if I will let it in.
Recently one of those knocks came to try to take out the dream that God had planted in my heart. I've been aware for some time that I was supposed to shift directions and move into women's ministry, except I didn't want to. My schedule is stretched so thin as it is and I didn't know how I was possibly going to find the time to handle more things packed into it. So I let the ‘what ifs’ and the uncertainty keep me from moving forward. But God was relentless, like He always seems to be, and would not let the topic slide. My fear (respect) of Him overpowered my fear (terror) of the unknown and I stepped in. I would be lying if I told you that I had it all figured out, I don't. I still don't know how I'm going to find the time but I have faith that God will make a way.
So in preparation for this new endeavor, I've been working on a personal study on hard work and laziness, which is where Nehemiah comes in. All week I've been stuck in the first four chapters. Nearly every time I open my Bible I find that I am drawn back to them and I knew that it needed to be the blog topic of the week if nothing else for my own growth, though I know that I'm not the only one that has had fear try to stand in their way.
So anyway, on to Nehemiah...
This week I realized a tenacity in him that I had never picked up on before. It's not just apparent in the obvious refusal to be bullied or intimidated but even before that, it's there in his character. He felt things big. I get that. When he was made aware of the state of Jerusalem's walls he wasn't just bummed out or disappointed, he was deeply moved. We are told that he mourned for days, he fasted, and he prayed. But here's the thing about his prayer: he involved himself in the solution! (Neh 1:11) One man finds out about the ruin of a nation and decides that he's going to do something. One man wasn't afraid to pray a big prayer. Sometimes all it takes is one!
Before the obvious opposition that Nehemiah faced in the rebuilding of the wall, he faced it inside first. When he finally had his bold prayer answered and he got a chance to make his request of the king (Neh 2:1-3) the Bible tells us that he was terrified! I like that—I like how the Bible doesn't hide people's humanity, but even more, I like that he didn't let it stop him. The NLT translates it this way, “I was terrified, but I replied” I think that “but” is the most important word in the whole sentence. He didn't let his fear stop him. Another thing I want to point out is that even though he was scared it was still God's will. Nehemiah didn't wait for the fear to leave! Fear tried to abort the dream that God had planted in Nehemiah’s heart, but he pushed through and followed regardless of how it made him feel.
O church, if we could only get a solid grip on that truth! I know fear is a liar and all of that, but honestly, no matter how many times we say (or sing) it, so often when it is staring us in the face we falter. We assume that if it was God's will then we wouldn't be scared, that He must have something else, something safer. We weren't promised safe! We need to stop pursuing it and making it the goal. When all is safe where does faith come in? If your purpose is safe who is praying the bold prayers?
Unfortunately overcoming the fear was just the first of the opposition that Nehemiah needed to deal with in the pursuit of God's dream in his heart. The first time that his enemies come against his plans (Neh 2:19) Nehemiah responds, “The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we, his servants, will arise and build.” He knew where his help came from and by taking a public stand against his enemies he lit a fire within the hearts of the people to “arise and build” and that's exactly what they did. From the skilled stonemason to the priest and government official, the people built. There is record of a goldsmith, a perfumer, and even some women helping to rebuild the walls of the city! The cupbearer of the king was now leading a rag-tag group of dreamers to reclaim what was rightfully there's. That sounds just like something my God would do and because Nehemiah didn't bow out before it started, God was able to work through him and for him to make this dream a reality.
Beloved, I'm going to pry here a bit. What is your God dream? What is the plan that He has placed in your heart to fulfill? Are you walking in it, toward it, or have you allowed fear to get in your way? It only takes one to stand up and refuse to bow in the face of the opposition for an entire community to be changed. Maybe that's too big, though, just that word might overwhelm you. So let's try this: it only takes one for your family to be changed, for your workplace, for your friends. We must stop bowing down to fear and choose to move forward in the face of it. Fear itself isn't our enemy but our enemy uses fear to cripple us if we allow him to. So what bold prayer do you need to start praying again? This week, today, let's stand up in the face of our fear and stop believing the lies.
Our God is bigger! Our God will give us success! Stand up beloved! You never know who will stand in our wake.
Written by Amanda Strauser