God Rejoices Over You - Zephaniah 3:17

God Rejoices Over You

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. – Zephaniah 3:17

We’re discussing James in small group and part of what we talked about today included the part about God not being partial to anyone and the part of viewing ourselves through God’s perspective. It got me to thinking about God’s love for us, not just a little love, but extravagant love. Not only does He love me like that, but He loves absolutely everyone like that. It’s overwhelming to think about!

It’s so wonderful to breathe in the truth of how God views us and allow that to fill us up. I need this reminder so often!

He will rejoices over me with gladness

So often I feel like a burden to God, even though I don’t generally express it that way. I feel bad when I mess up or I feel like I’m constantly asking for things even when I know I shouldn’t. No matter how I’m feeling, I love to have the reminder that God rejoices over me. He’s glad about me!

He quiets me by his love

When my mind is swirling or when I’m really worried about things, going to God with my problems and concerns always makes me feel better. He helps to take worries away and return my perspective to His greatness instead of my own problems. And He does all this with His love, not rebukes or disappointment, but love!

He will exults over me with LOUD singing

I love this one! Exult isn’t a word that we often use, but Merriam-Webster defines it as: show or feel elation or jubilation. He is jubilantly singing over me. I soak this one up, because I don’t feel worthy of this for anyone to do, let alone a perfect and powerful God. But He does and He does it loudly!

I love how much my heavenly Father loves me and I love that he reminds me of it because of who He is. I hope this reminder can help you remember it as well. GOD LOVES YOU!!!!

More of a Servant

No Pouting Allowed

There is a very famous story from 1 Kings about a man who refused to give up his vineyard. Ahab, a selfish and wicked king, saw a desirable plot of land that he wanted to annex to his garden. Naboth refused to give it or sell it to him because it had belonged to his family for generations. Ahab threw such a fit when he was denied that he laid in bed and refused to eat. Jezebel, Ahab’s even more evil wife, came up with a plan: kill Naboth by lying about him and take the land anyway. Ahab agreed and the plan was carried out.

This is one story where it’s difficult to relate to the main person. I don’t relate to a king who was wealthy trying to take land and I relate even less to demanding and pouting to the point of refusing to eat. Yet, I find myself doing some things that are nearly as unreasonable. When I’m cut off in traffic or someone nearly takes off my bumper because they’re zig-zagging through traffic, I can get unreasonably angry. Is this more of an appropriate response. I demand my own way and I get upset when I don’t get it. I’ve been annoyed when I have to wait a long time to get into a restaurant or when they’re out of what I want to order.

This isn’t a servant heart, in my opinion. A servant heart is willing to let others be bettered by our interaction, not only the people we directly interact with but the indirectly as well. We are supposed to find joy in all things and to be praying constantly. Neither of these things seems to result in whining or demanding I get what I want.

God is good and He has plans for me that involve making me more of a servant. If I want to allow these changes in my heart and mind, I need to make sure that my focus is not on my own selfish demands.

Now Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. And after this Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house, and I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money.” But Naboth said to Ahab, “The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And Ahab went into his house vexed and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him, for he had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and would eat no food. (1 Kings 21:1-4 ESV)

Without Complaining - Philippians 2:14-15

Without Complaining

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, – Philippians 2:14-15 ESV

For the most part, people tend to want to fit in. We like to find our group and enjoy being with people that “get us”. As Christians, we believe certain things not only in the abstract theological sense of things, but we believe that what we believe changes us and these changes should impact our behaviors. As a result of these behavior changes, we stand out from the world, and our differences should point others to see God.

Apostle Paul gives one sure way to stand out from the world in Philippians 2:14, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” Why is this so important? How do we go about removing these things from our daily words? While this may seem like a straightforward command, the process of doing it every day requires discipline and commitment.

In order to begin choosing to not complain, it can be helpful to keep in mind what Jesus said about our words, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). When we are grumbling and complaining, what is the abundance of the heart that causes those words to come out of us? The answer in every case, no matter how much you don’t want to admit it, is selfishness. You’re feeling bad for your circumstances and your troubles and what you’re going through: you, you and more you.

In the case of complaining, we say out of one side of our mouth (pun intended) that God is our provider and out of the other side that we don’t have enough money. We say we’ll serve the Lord, but then we whine about how hard our job is or how boring it is or how mean our boss is.

We are called to speak out of the abundance of a heart that’s fully transformed by God and the words that come from that kind of heart are never complaining or grumbling or picking a fight. This is much easier said than done, however. There are two things that we have to do and continue doing to keep our words in line with His Spirit.

  1. Be aware of what we’re saying.

As we go about our day, it is easy to stop being aware of what you’re choosing to say. Words come so quickly sometimes and by habit so that we can have entire conversations that we barely remember. We have to start choosing to listen to our own words. This doesn’t mean fear what’s about to come out of your mouth, and at first, maybe not even trying to change it. It simply means practicing thinking about your own words.

An analogy from another part of life is a food journal. Many diets recommend tracking all the food that goes into your mouth as a way to start seeing where changes need to be made. This is the same idea, but for words instead of food. Of course, it would be impractical if not impossible to write down every word you say in the day. That’s not quite what we’re going for. Instead, a simple habit of listening to yourself sets you for the next step.

  1. Choose to frame things positively

We’ve all heard a conversation that goes something like, “It’s all going to turn out terribly!” Another response, “Don’t think that. Be positive!” The first person responds, “I’m positive it’s all going to turn out terribly!” While that might be good for a bit of a laugh, it’s not good for changing your perspective to something positive.

Part of negativity that leads to complaining is a lack of perspective that includes God. We tend to forget His promises and His greatness. How else can we give up on ourselves or our circumstances so easily? We have to choose each and every time to frame our response to things with the goodness of God in mind. Even our thoughts need to in line with this. Changing the words we speak without changing our thoughts leaves us with a feeling of hypocrisy or ineffectiveness.

By choosing to be in a positive perspective, we prepare ourselves for the last step.

  1. Change the bad and keep the good

We often think that being positive means ignoring our circumstances, but that’s not right either. Our circumstances may be very serious and need addressing. Sometimes we we’re most tempted to complain it’s because there’s valid issues that need to be dealt with. There’s nothing wrong with making changes in tough situation. Simply complaining about things will never get the problems solved; we have to make the choice to change things.

Sometimes we can’t change the circumstances, but we can always change ourselves. We can either change our choices to give us more freedom or we can simply change what we think about it. Use this time to see more of the Spirit coming through you in the form of patience or long-suffering. Find reasons to celebrate God with you no matter what’s happening. We can also consider reaching out to others for help, whether that be friends or professionals. Sometimes, circumstances depending, others can help us see the solution we need to fix a problem.

Watch your words, and surrender both them and your heart to the Lord so that His righteousness will be the only thing that is seen in you.

Gods Steadfast Salvation - Isaiah 51:8

God’s Steadfast Salvation

Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed. “Listen to me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear not the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings. For the moth will eat them up like a garment, and the worm will eat them like wool; but my righteousness will be forever, and my salvation to all generations.” – Isaiah 51:6-8 ESV

There are things in our world that feel like they’ve been around “forever”. There are ancient ruins and traditions that go back farther than anyone remembers. None of these things, however, will matter or stay. Even our planet itself will someday wear out (Isaiah 51:6) and all the people will die out as well. Doesn’t sound like a happy thought, does it?

This thought isn’t frightening or scary, however, if you know the One True God. He always has been and always will be; He is the great I Am. He offers us an eternal hope beyond the world that we’re in and beyond the limitations of our existence.

Once we know this, it’s so much easier to understand how we cannot be afraid of those who threaten us. Even if they are threatening to take away our very life, we don’t need to fear. They are just as fallen and mortal as we are. If we are being taken to task because of what we believe, simply smile and say, “Let’s talk about this in the next life.”

We spend so much time trying to be right and trying to defend ourselves and our beliefs. God is so much bigger than any kind of theological correctness. He is good and true and right and we need to experience a relationship with Him first, not just try for churchiness or correctness.

The salvation that God offers through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, His One True Son, is eternal. It is lasting and it can be relied on when everything, absolutely everything, in our world can’t be.

Finding Contentment in Work - Ecclesiastes 2:24

Finding Contentment in Work

Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man’s envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after wind. … Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind. – Ecclesiastes 4:4, 6 ESV

There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from him who can eat or who can have enjoyment? – Ecclesiastes 2:24-25 ESV

A full-time job is generally considered to be somewhere around 40 hours. Some work three 12 hour shifts, other work nearly constant overtime. But for the most part, we consider 40 hours to be full time, and the average commute (which actually varies widely, but we’ll just stick with averages for now) is 1 hour a day. That means we’re spending roughly 1/3 of our day working and commuting to and from there. Considering the large portion of our time we spend at work, we should definitely take some time to ponder the truth in Ecclesiastes.

Ecclesiastes is traditionally thought to have been written by Solomon. There is no author ascribed in the book other than, “the Preacher”, a man who spends his life seeking wisdom. He talks about many aspects of wisdom and wise living, but he emphasizes work in many passages. In Ecclesiastes 4:4, 6 and 2:24-25, he views two different sides of work. While they may seem opposite at first glance, they are in fact simply two sides to the same coin. A truth, that when viewed in its entirety instead of its pieces, can help us choose to use our time wisely.

(Side note: in both the King James Version and the New King James Version, this is translated as, “a man is envied by his neighbor” instead of the other way around. I feel like the truth we’re after is there no matter who is envying who; I hope you agree with me on that one.)

In chapter 4 he tells us about the frustration and achievement that comes from envy. Can we be honest with ourselves? How many times did we pursue something out of jealousy or envy of someone else? Did they show us up and we had to do better? Did we think, “I could do that, and do it even better than they did”? Have we ever pursued something because we saw another person getting attention and success? Even if we didn’t pick the job we’re working out of envy, are we pursing a lifestyle out of envy? Are we striving after a certain look to our world or out of the expectations of having certain things?

When we think of envy, we often think of that boiling feeling in our stomach that makes us feel both angry and insignificant, sometimes referred to as “being green with jealousy.” There is another form of jealousy, however, and it’s the simple feeling that you deserve as least as much as someone else. It’s the feeling of missing out if they have something newer, better, or what you wanted to have. It’s that sense of, if they have it, so should I. Choosing clothes, cars, homes, or even decorations based on what you see others having and what you think you deserve. This can also be rooted in jealousy even if you don’t feel it in your gut.

So what’s the solution? Never buy anything again? Never spend time working for something that you want? No! Remember, we have two sides to this coin. The other side is from chapter 2, “There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil.” God made you and knows you and wants you to feel like you have a purpose and that your work is good.

Are you choosing your work based on becoming the best version of yourself? Is your current job, even if it’s not the ultimate job, taking you on the path of becoming closer to God? There is no wrong work, as long as it is good, honest work. There is no job too menial for someone who has the heart of a servant. If you are seeking God, you may be surprised at the jobs you take, but it will always be to grow you and change you and help you to find meaning and enjoyment in your work.

Don’t settle for a paycheck because that what you think you’re “supposed” to do. Find a work that is in line with who God made you to be and learn to find joy and contentment in that work.

Arrows, Part 3 – Sermon Notes

Rhythm – Movement, fluctuation, or variation marked by the regular recurrence or natural flow of related elements.

God has a specific rhythm for each of our lives.

1. If you want God’s rhythm in your life, you need to control your schedule. There is no one else who has the power to fill up your schedule except you. We live in a culture that equates busyness with importance.

What good things in your life are keeping you from the great things?

It’s easy to justify all the things we cram on our calendars. What are the great things God has for us? Start by going back to week 1 and focus on the target, knowing Jesus Christ.

We need to view our schedule like a pitcher of water. When more is added, it displaces what’s already there. You need to add a scheduled time for prayer Mark 1:35). You’re not too busy to pray, you’re too busy not to pray.

2. You need to begin each week by gathering before you scatter. It’s important to start your week by joining the body of Christ and honoring God before scattering for the week.

It’s also important to join a circle. You need to be in a place where people know your story.

You need to serve. Many people believe that the church is not here to serve you. Instead the hope is that you will be so inspired by others’ service that you will offer your own service to bring others to Christ.

Two things that we need to make surr are important in our days are family days ans family dinners. Make it an appointment that you can’t break.

3. Discipline is vital to finding rhythm. God loves us so He disciplines them; we should do the same for our children. No one enjoys it. Discipline, by definition, is an unpleasant process that leads to a desirable result. There is a difference between punishment and discipline. We need to be the archers that set a standard in our home that when broken is consistently enforced. Giving freedom only works when we’re willing to reel it back in when needed.

4. Rhythm requires rest. Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 says there’s a time to work and a time to enjoy the results of the work. Take a break, take a vacation. Why did God rest on the seventh day? He rested to provide for us a model, to show that the rhythm he wants for us includes rest.

Are you taking a Sabbath weekly? Are you taking a day to rest and not work? We need to cultivate the difficult art of doing nothing. Psalm 127:2. Lack of rest increasesany physical issues, including heart disease.

5. Rhythm includes romance. If, after the kids leave the house, you turn to your spouse and realize there’s no feeling there anymore, it’s because you neglected to pursue the one you caught. We are also called to serve our spouse above our kids. We should never discontinue to pursue the one we are spending life with. The kids are supposed to leave, but our spouse isn’t.

Where do you go from here? What are the area that you are out of rhythm? Ending prayer comes from Hebrews 12:1-3, run the race you were made for with perseverance.

You Have Wholly Followed the Lord - Joshua 14:9

Be the Losing Voice

In Numbers chapter 13, we see Caleb, a strong man of God among the Israelites who left Egypt, choosing to be the losing voice in a pressure filled situation. Caleb was one of 12 men who were sent to scout out the land of promise after leaving the slavery of Egypt. They were told to look over the land God had given to them and report back to the Israelites. After their spying trip, they met up with the people and delivered a report: it’s good, but not that good. They agreed that it was bountiful land flowing with milk and honey, but it also happened to have big cities and big dudes in it (Numbers 13:32-33).

Imagine, if you will, standing in the stead of Caleb. Not only do 11 of the leaders of the Israelites disagree with you, the people are most likely going to side with them. Who wants to face giants and walled cities? Think of the most peer-pressured situation you’ve faced and how it felt to be up against it. Imagine the adrenaline and the physical pressure and stress of wanting to go against what the others are saying. If you go with the flow, no troubles. If you stand against it, even your own body reacts, sweating and shaking. There’s the fear of what others will say or even do if you don’t agree with them. I imagine that Caleb felt all that. He not only had the peer-pressure of the situation, but he’d seen the threats first-hand. He knew how big the cities were and how strong the enemy looked.

In spite of all that, he chose to be the losing voice and stand up for what the Lord had promised. He not only voiced his opinion, he made sure the whole crowd was quiet before he started speaking, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” His response showed no fear and sense of urgency. He wanted to go right now and occupy the land. The giants? The cities? No worries, we got this!

Caleb was the reminder voice. Caleb was God giving the Israelite a final choice to obey him. In spite of all the blessing of God and Caleb’s dissenting opinion, the Israelites chose to take the deceitful path that seemed safer, but really took them away from blessing. How heartbreaking for Caleb! His words make him sound like a passionate type of person and I can’t imagine how frustrated and disappointed he was that they’d chosen so poorly.

It’s easy to think that the story stops there, but it doesn’t. God isn’t done with his faithful servant. We find Caleb again in two places, Deuteronomy 1:35-36 and Joshua 14:6-15. First, in Deuteronomy, Moses tells us something special about Caleb.

‘Surely not one of these men of this evil generation shall see that good land of which I swore to give to your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him and his children I am giving the land on which he walked, because he wholly followed the LORD.’ (Deuteronomy 1:35-36 NKJV)

God had seen the faithfulness of Caleb and he’d remembered him and let him enter the Promised Land when everyone else who had been his peer was condemned to die.

The next time we see Caleb, the Israelites have entered Canaan and started claiming the land. They’ve reached the part of the land that Caleb helped spy out and he goes to Joshua (the only other person who was allowed to enter the Promised Land from that generation).

“I [was] forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as [it was] in my heart. … “So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the LORD my God.’ “And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the LORD spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old.” As yet I [am as] strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength [was] then, so now [is] my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. (Joshua 14:7, 9-11 NKJV)

What a crazy life! He’s now 85 and he’s just as strong as he was at 40. Granted, people in this part of the Bible are living a little longer than we live, 100 – 120 years. But even with that slightly longer lifespan, 85 is still pushing the higher end. And to say that his strength is the same, and he’s ready to fight? Amazing!

I wish I could know the sweetness and victory in this moment for Caleb. He had to endure 40 years of wandering in the dessert with the faithless generation. But here, finally was the answer to the prayers he’d been praying, and he wasn’t going to miss out at all!

When we have to wait for blessings that we know God is holding for us, sometimes we can feel that it won’t be as good or we won’t be able to enjoy it as much, if we’re too old. But when God promises something he’s faithful and He doesn’t go half-way. He blessed Caleb and, on top of the blessing, he gave him the strength and energy to do what he was willing to do all those years before.

God is good and His blessing are amazing! It’s always worth the cost of obedience and God will never, ever forget His servants.

Youth with Answers - Job 32:8

How to be a Young Person with Answers

Then the wrath of Elihu, the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, was aroused against Job; his wrath was aroused because he justified himself rather than God. Also against his three friends his wrath was aroused, because they had found no answer, and [yet] had condemned Job. Now because they [were] years older than he, Elihu had waited to speak to Job. When Elihu saw that [there was] no answer in the mouth of these three men, his wrath was aroused. … “Therefore I say, ‘Listen to me, I also will declare my opinion.'”  – Job 32:2-5, 10 (NKJV)

When we think of Job, we think of the man the book was named after: the sufferer who patiently insisted that he was not a sinner. There are several other characters in the book who are just as interesting, however. One being the young man name Elihu who understood what all the others didn’t seem to get: God first above everything. According to the book of Job, Elihu had been listening to all the conversations that have been going on and he is not ok with what’s happening. He’s upset at Job because he’s trying to justify his own righteousness instead of God’s (v. 2), and he’s upset with Job’s friends because they keep trying to be right even when they can’t find any proof their ideas are true (v. 3).

I can relate to this frustration. I feel like I’ve been in so many situations where the people who were making decisions were the ones that simply wanted to do it like it always been done. Never mind that it stopped working (or never worked), or that there may have been changes since then. In those times, I knew that I could make a difference, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. Sometimes, I said nothing and fumed in my mind. Sometimes, I opened my mouth and probably handled it badly. How I wish I could have had the wisdom of Elihu!

Elihu decides to step in and remind them of the greatness and, more importantly, the sovereignty of God. What Elihu says is good stuff, but how he said it may be even more important. If you are feeling frustrated with people in your life who don’t seem to be getting things right, either older people or simply people in authority, Elihu models the appropriate response.

  1. Listen!
    When we hear others saying things that we feel aren’t beneficial, we often shut down and just start trying to push out our ideas (v. 7). Listening, however, is vital not only to relationship building with the others, but to double check your own ideas. Being young means missing out on one vital component: experience. Older people have it, and it’s very wise to make sure that you’re listening to them to make sure you understand their perspective. It doesn’t make their perspective right, but if you don’t take the time to listen to it, you are make it more difficult for them to listen to you and increasing the chance that your perspective is incomplete.
  2. Acknowledge that All Wise Ideas or Perspectives are from God
    Elihu knew that age was only one indicator of good ideas. He also knew that no matter who you were or how old that all good ideas came from the Lord (v.8- 9). You need to develop that same trust. Trust that God has put you where you are for a reason and that your ideas are relevant to what God needs accomplished. Don’t get arrogant and assume that you’re better than the previous people; you aren’t! Keep humility close and remember the Source.
  3. Be Confident in Your Ideas
    Once you’ve listened and acknowledged God, you can move forward with confidence in your ideas (v. 10). Think through things before speaking and put them out there with passion. You will still need to listen to the others and maybe even modify your thoughts based on what they say. Remember, experience is a teacher you haven’t had yet, so be wise and be willing to change if you run up against new ideas. The one thing you shouldn’t do is feel like you don’t have a right to speak. You do, because of who God made you to be and who you are becoming by humbly walking with Him. Apostle Paul gives his protégé similar advice in 2 Timothy 4:12, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” Live what you believe and be confident. God is with you.

Our Eyes Are On You - 2 Chronicles 2:12

Our Eyes Are On You

“For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” – 2 Chronicles 20:12b

Yesterday we learned how to reject the voices that fight against you. Today we’re talking about how to win the battle. It’s a counter intuitive solution, but the only one that guarantees success.

This passage comes from 2 Chronicles and is talking about a battle that is facing King Jehoshaphat of Judah. Jehoshaphat was a Godly king and tried to honor the Lord in his reign. In this case, a great army was coming up against Judah from Edom. Jehoshaphat called the people together to pray and ask God what to do. The Lord answered by coming in the Spirit on Jahaziel and telling them to not worry, but to let the Lord fight their battle. God routes the army by causing their enemies to lie in wait with and ambush and destroy them, every last one (v. 24).

Jehoshaphat faced a literal battle that threatened all of his people. Our battles are usually not a physical thing like his was. Our battles take place in the spirit, in the mind and in our words. However, we can certainly learn from Jehoshaphat how to handle the situation.

  1. Acknowledge that you are incapable of anything without Him.
    Jehoshaphat didn’t pretend that he could do anything that he couldn’t do. He knew where he stood and he knew he didn’t have what it took to defeat this battle. If we are unwilling to admit our helplessness before the Lord, we are risking bringing pride between us. God helps the humble and the humble know themselves and their own limitations.
  2. Wait on the Lord
    This may be one on of the hardest things we ever have to do. Our patience is necessary, among many reasons, to help open our eyes to what the Lord is doing. Impatience and running around or trying to control things only takes away from His plan and His work.
  3. Keep your focus on the Lord
    Jehoshaphat kept his eyes on the Lord. He didn’t try to count the able-bodied men or make battle plans “just in case”. He knew where to focus and he didn’t waver until he had his answer.

We know that the Lord is with us and for us, but we also have to be willing to listen and wait in order to experience His salvation. Don’t let distractions and fears cloud your vision (read more about that here). Let Him fight for you!

The God of Heaven Will Help Us Succeed - Nehemiah 2:20

You Have No Right Here!


But now I said to them, “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!” Then I told them about how the gracious hand of God had been on me, and about my conversation with the king. They replied at once, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!” So they began the good work. But when Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab heard of our plan, they scoffed contemptuously. “What are you doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” they asked. I replied, “The God of heaven will help us succeed. We, his servants, will start rebuilding this wall. But you have no share, legal right, or historic claim in Jerusalem.” – Nehemiah 2:17-20 (NLT)

We each have work that God had for us to do. In fact, he not only knew us and knew who we’d be (Psalm 139), but he even made good works for us to grow into (Ephesians 2:10). As we walk through life and we find our calling and learn to submit our heart and mind to the Lord in order to do this work, we will face opposition. People will scoff and laugh and tell us we can’t do it; sometimes, it will even be people we love and want support from. When we face this, we can learn from Nehemiah how to respond to this.

Nehemiah was in the time of the Babylonian captivity. He had a job (cup-bearer) very close to the King of Babylon. When he heard that Jerusalem had been destroyed and burned, he was heartsick. So much so that the king noticed how sad he was. When the king asked about it, Nehemiah not only was honest about what upset him, he also asked for permission to go fix it. In the day when kings were the ultimate law, taking it on yourself to ask for something when he didn’t start the conversation shows either a world of trust, a little insanity, or, I believe in Nehemiah’s case, faith in the Most High God.

In answers to Nehemiah’s prayers, the king responded positively to his request. The king even went so far as to give him letters to show he was working with the King’s permission and to pass through the lands as well as officers and men to accompany him. Even with all that, the enemies of the Israelites were upset that someone was coming back to try to build up the city.

This is a direct parallel to our own lives to many times. We think we have it all set and we’ve got all the blessings we need to keep walking. Then, before we’ve even really started, opposition comes at us. It can be so disheartening! We want to have the feelings of enthusiasm keep us moving, but it can seem so draining to feel like our best laid plans aren’t quite good enough or strong enough. But, like Nehemiah, we can stand up and renew our commitment to our God-given work.

Nehemiah said three things to the opponents that we can use in our fight.

  1. Know the Source – “The God of heaven will help us succeed.”
    We need to know who the source behind us is. If you don’t fully and completely believe that God is with you, growing you and changing you and causing you to succeed, you risk faltering when the road gets rough. It’s not about you, thank God. It’s about Him and He takes his job very seriously.
  2. Know the Task – “We, his servants, will start rebuilding this wall.”
    Nehemiah was very clear on his task. He didn’t worry about any work that hadn’t been assigned to him. We must find this kind of clarity and choose to keep our focus. One quick way to fail is to start getting distracted or increasing the size of the task the Lord has given you. There will always work to be done, don’t worry about that. Instead, claim the work you have and focus on it and only it until you’ve completed it.
  3. Know the Boundaries – “You have no share, legal right, or historic claim in Jerusalem.”
    Nehemiah knew that he was in the right place doing the right thing and that his enemies were in the wrong. He didn’t give them ground and he didn’t entertain their claims. So many times we let the words of the enemy into our hearts and our minds. We forget that we’re on a divinely appointed mission and we start listening to those voices. “Maybe I don’t have wat it takes. Maybe I’m wrong in what I believe. Maybe I should quit now and risk looking foolish.” On and on the voices go, trying to take back land that doesn’t belong to them. Throw those voices out! You have the right to be serving your God and no amount of doubt or nay-saying should throw you off course.

Always remember, God is with you and you can do what he’s called you to do. Not because of who you are, but because of who he is: the Great God and Creator of the universe. He is strong and He is moving and He will lift you up and cause you to walk in His light and His truth.