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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.