Nehemiah: In the Face of Opposition pt. 2
“So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up.” - Galatians 6:9
I'm not super great at finishing things. Starting, yes. It's the finishing that really trips me up. My art room contains a stack of unfinished paintings, our storage shed has boxes of half-done projects, and I have a folder on my computer filled with blog posts in various stages of completion. It's a problem, but recognizing it as such is the first step, right?
In actuality I've been aware for quite a while; for a long time, I just accepted it. I would get really, really excited about something, throw my all into it, and then it would get difficult (or boring) and I would quit. I guess that hits the nail on the head more than anything else, I was a quitter. But now, where I am in life, I can't afford to be one anymore. Setting aside a half-finished oil painting is very different from stepping away from a ministry. So God has been taking me through a time of pruning to deal with the matter once and for all.
I mentioned last week about this study that I've been doing on hard work and laziness, I've learned so much more from it than I ever expected to and I'm not even halfway through. During my time in Nehemiah, I learned that we don't just get attacked at the beginning of a thing (which I wrote about last week) but that there is a place in the middle where we need to be extra cautious of our enemy as well.
So let's pick back up with Nehemiah at the pivotal point where the builders had completed half of the wall, it's here that I truly understand their struggle. The enemy comes again, this time threatening to attack the people, trying to confuse and discourage them, and it begins to work. The workers start to see the piles of rubble rather than the progress. They were tired and over it but thank God for Nehemiah. Instead of bowing out, he regroups with a plan.
It tells us that they worked with great enthusiasm for the first half of the wall, four verses later their tune has changed. Their new position? “We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves.” How many times have we been there? How many times have I been there (just this week even)? I end up taking my eyes off the progress and get discouraged by what needs to yet be done, forgetting about what God has accomplished in me and through me already.
But not Nehemiah; he takes a minute and looks over the situation. He doesn't outright deny the people's feelings but at the same time, he doesn't base his response on them. He looks at the facts and he forms a plan. I need to do that more, I think we all do, we need to take a minute, step away from the problem, and take a good look outside of the narrative that our enemy is broadcasting. Nehemiah’s response:
“Don't be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your home!” - Nehemiah 4:14
Sometimes we need a Nehemiah to come and remind us what we are fighting for—why we started the work in the first place. Instead of looking at the rubble, the lives that are still in shambles or the prayers that we've yet to see answered, we need to be reminded of who we are working for! So today I will be that Nehemiah. I know how easy it is to give up when we don't have anyone depending on us—when it's just us that we are letting down. But dear ones, that's not how the body of Christ works. We are all interconnected, when one mourns we all mourn, when one rejoices we all rejoice, and when I give up I am giving up on a plan for the body, not just myself.
We didn't sign up for this for our own good, if that had been the point the moment that we surrendered we would have been taken out of here to be with our Savior. We are here for the good of others, for the growth of others, to do the work! Will it get difficult? Yup. Will there be times when it looks like there is no point? Definitely. Does that permit us to walk away? Absolutely not! When we surrendered, we surrendered all. That's not just a pretty song to sing out of a hymnal at our grandparents' church, it is a lifestyle! It's what we are called to. It’s not just surrendering when it's easy, or convenient, or when we receive more than we are called to give!
So anyway, I digress...
Nehemiah came up with a plan, which I'm going to paraphrase here but I encourage you to take a couple of minutes and read the whole story (Nehemiah 4:6-23). It's fiery and bold and I'm so into that stuff! He has half of the people work and half stand guard and the workers worked with one hand and supported a weapon with another. Though they were spread out from each other they were always on guard, ready to run to the defense of one another so that the work could be finished and no one would have to fight alone. They never took off their weapon and were always prepared to rush into battle because they knew that their victory came from God.
I'm going to be frank because honestly, it's the only way I know how to be—if you are finding yourself easily discouraged in your well doing then it's time to evaluate who you are looking to for your victory. Are you looking to God or is it your own effort and striving that you are trusting in? God can do so much more than you could ever dream or imagine. Whatever dream He has planted in your heart, whatever field you have been called to labor in, He knows and He is more than capable. Don't give up beloved, there is a purpose beyond what you can see. We must fight on for those who will follow in our footsteps. If we don't then they will just have to build the wall, or slay the giant, or whatever other poetic biblical imagery strikes your fancy. He called us to do it so they won't have to!
“So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless”
- 1 Corinthians 15:58
Written by Amanda Strauser