Building in the face of opposition

Read the whole chapter prayerfully and I believe and trust you will learn something from it.

Now when Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies heard that I had built the wall and that there was no breach left in it (although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates), Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm. And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” And they sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner. In the same way Sanballat for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand. In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Geshem[a] also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become their king. Nehemiah 6:1-5

Friends, our Christian lives are not easy but God intends to draw us closer to Himself and change us more and more into His image.

Jerusalem’s walls were in ruins. The enemy could go in and out and do what he liked because there was nothing to protect the Jews who lived there. They were defenseless. Maybe your life has been like this – the enemy comes in and goes out. That is why you are spiritually as you are. Nehemiah heard what the situation was like in Jerusalem.  As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. Nehemiah 1:4 This is a true man of God. He was concerned about the spiritual state of Jerusalem. We ourselves are the heavenly Jerusalem where the Lord stays. Jerusalem is also the church of God. Nehemiah wept because of what he saw and heard.

Does the spiritual state of your life and your family members cause you to weep? When last did you cry out and say, “Oh Lord, you see my children and my home situation, please have mercy on me.” Have you got to the point where you acknowledge the truth of the situation you find yourself in? Nehemiah was chosen by God because he was concerned.

On this point, friends, there was a man who sought God’s face when he saw the spiritual situation of Jerusalem. When he saw the walls broken down and the enemy ruining that beautiful holy city, this man sought God’s face. Reverend Stegen saw what was wrong and did something about it, by God’s grace. In his sermon during the 2019 Minister’s Conference he said that he was dissatisfied with his life as it was and sought the Lord with all his heart. We sometimes forget whom God has used and what he went through. God had to rebuild the walls of his heart first. God showed him where the walls had broken down in his own life and he was prepared to bow, admit this and change. The Lord rebuilt the walls of his life again. He had to pay a price. But we want this life on a platter, we do not know what it means to pay the price. When I have to pay the price, I jump ship, I run. Whatever the Lord showed Reverend Stegen, he made right. He was the only white man amongst African people and the Lord dealt with him on this issue. If the Lord wants to do something in your life concerning you and people of a different nation, are you prepared to bow? When Revered Stegen acknowledged the truth of this issue, the Lord worked in his life and from that day it was called the Revival among the Zulus. Reverend Stegen is a man chosen by God. Woe to you if you go against that which God has ordained and chosen.

Nehemiah prayed. That is where he started. He always sought grace with the Lord. And I said, “O Lord God of heaven… let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you… and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” Nehemiah 1:5-10.  Here is a man who walked with God. He knew where to get answers. Do we know where to get answers, help and strength? Nehemiah went to his king and put the matter before him. The king of Persia showed him mercy. He did not need to fight or protest. He cried to God and God granted him favour. God can grant favour – do you know what that means? Maybe you see a person who prospers and whatever he does is successful – is it because of God’s grace that He had favour on him?

In the meantime, the devil was not asleep. When you begin the Christian journey, much happens that you do not understand. We can thank the Lord for people who have gone ahead and who know what it is about. This is why we need one another. (If you are in company where you are regressing spiritually, you are in the wrong company. Seek, look, pray for those who can pull you closer to the Lord.) Suddenly the enemy stood up. When your life is in God’s hands and you live for Him, the devil will hate it. You will wonder where the storms come from. You fear that you will drown and that your ship will never make it but then Jesus stands up and calms the storm.

Nehemiah’s enemies were a group of people who lived near the city. They were not Israelites. The group leader was Sanballat. But when Nehemiah came to rebuild those walls, they stood against him.

When God raised up a man to rebuild the walls of the church, here and worldwide, did you think the devil would sit down? He will throw unimaginable things against the church. You should not be surprised even though you thought that as a Christian you would never experience attacks on your life. But maybe you are on Sanballat’s side. His name means ‘secret enemy’ and ‘bramble bush’. A secret enemy – the one where you think all is well, he loves all as well, but the secret motives are unknown.

When Sanballat heard that they were building the wall, he was angry and he ridiculed the Jews. This is how the devil works. He will try and break you down. He will try and destroy you. He wants to destroy this work as well but by God’s grace, he will never get it right. If God started it, God will keep it by his grace. It is His work. Sanballat was angry. He was filled with rage. He did not like what he saw. Maybe they did not ask for his permission, maybe they left him and just started building. Maybe he thought he was important and he should be told about things. This man did not like what God was doing. This man was a secret enemy. You do not always see and experience secrets but given time, you will understand.

Nehemiah prayed, Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Nehemiah 4:4 Do you know a Nehemiah who prays like that? God has never let him down.

Nehemiah’s enemies raged. What does Nehemiah do? He goes to the Lord. There are times you may think that a person does not like you or you feel that you are neglected. You question why you are treated in a certain manner or why things happen to you? These things push you onto the Lord. Where else can you go, what else can you do? Lay it before the Lord. That is why God allows difficult situations in your life because He wants you to come to Him and receive answers and grace from Him. Do not repay evil with evil, this is in the Lord’s hands. Nehemiah knew where to go. But he did not just pray, he encouraged his people to work and work really hard. He told them to put their hearts and minds into this work that God had given them.

So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. Nehemiah 4:11 The people had a heart and mind to work. What do we do for the Lord’s work? What are we busy with?  Are you called to just sit at home on a mission station? Has God put nothing on your heart? Did He tell you why He called you here? Even if you were born here, have you taken you time to pray and ask God why He has put you here?

These men knew what to do. They knew that they had to build the walls. Maybe God has called you to build walls but you have so many excuses why not. When the battle gets hot, you withdraw. But these people had a heart and a mind to work. Imagine what God could do if each one of us, me included, put our hearts and minds into what God wanted us to do. If you sit around, you have time to rock the boat. You do not row but you tell others what to do. You rock the boat and criticize – ‘he did not do that the right way, he is rowing backwards’ –  but why don’t you take the oars? Hasn’t God put that fire and zeal for His kingdom into your heart? You say – my children are my calling. If all the mothers would be at home who would be cooking in the kitchen? Draw nigh to the Lord and say, “Lord, here are those You gave me, what would You have me do?” Have you ever spoken to the Lord about it? I believe that God will put something on your heart to serve Him in the way He wants you to serve Him.

Do you remember when you came how you walked with the Lord? When something happened, your first reaction was, ‘God, what are you saying to me?’ When you see your child going wrong, ‘Lord, what are you teaching me? Lord, what is it that you want of me?’ But today your reactions are different: ‘How can they do this, they did not ask me? I don’t know anything about it. Let them carry on, they will see how they will end up. That person? Who is she? Who said she can do it? I’m in charge of this place.’ Then you go and speak to others. See how you have fallen spiritually. We say we know – we are learned people; we have degrees – but what we do shows that we have a small mind. There is a massive difference between the spiritual mind and the human mind. Nehemiah always went back to the source, he sought God’s help and wisdom.

15 When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. Nehemiah 4:15 Then Nehemiah encouraged the people to protect themselves against the enemies. Through things you experience in life the devil aims to distract you from what God wants you to do. He wants you to lose focus from what God called you to be. The devil gets you to worry about a small thing in your life, this distracts you and takes your attention off what He wants to do. The Lord frustrated their plan. You cannot fight against God and His work. Haven’t you learnt? But the devil always tries. He wants to make you fearful and give in if you see the situation.

In Ephesians we are taught to put on God’s armour. We have to use this armour. Maybe we have never really used it before and we do not know what it means. Ask God, it is time that you wear His armour, otherwise the enemy will overrun you without you realising it.

Firstly, the enemy rages. He is vicious in verbal attacks. They also had problems in the city of Jerusalem with people who complained. They were not united. The devil realized that if he could not be successful from the outside, he would come from the inside by using people to criticize and gossip. Woe, if the devil finds a place in your heart. Do not take it lightly. If you are the cause of internal disunity, take it seriously.

When Sanballat and the devil saw that they were not getting anywhere, he wrote an open letter, an age-old trick, that everyone could read and then go against what God had put on Nehemiah’s heart. In the letter he said that Nehemiah wanted to take the king’s position (a power struggle). Satan will come like this and then like that if there is no wall to protect you. Before you know it, you will be swallowed.

In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Geshem[a] also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become their king. And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, ‘There is a king in Judah.’ And now the king will hear of these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together.” Nehemiah 6:6,7

Dr Martin Luther, in his biography, wrote about how people attacked him and wrote against him. Did they stop the work? Did they destroy the work? Never, never. And by God’s grace, this work will never be destroyed.

Sanballat said to Nehemiah, So now come and let us take counsel together. Sanballat does not get to the point, he does not tell Nehemiah that he did not like what he was doing but he said let us talk. This is an age-old trick. He puts blame where there is no blame. Listen to Nehemiah’s response: Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind.” For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands. Nehemiah 6:8,9 With regards to the e-mails, WhatsApp messages and FaceBook posts going around – who says they are the truth? You hear it from somebody. To understand this principle, imagine a line of children in a row: Tell the first child something and then have each child whisper the message they heard into the ear of the next child until the message has reached the last child. It is guaranteed that the last child will never say what the first child was told. But you accept what you hear to be the truth, and swallow it hook, line and sinker and at the end of the day you wonder why you are sick. You ate poison.

A story which comes from the beginning of the revival is about someone who talked a lot. That person was given a white chicken and was told to walk quite a distance and pluck the chicken while walking. When the person reached a certain point, she was told to turn around and pick up all the feathers that had scattered far and wide. Is it possible? Do you want to go into eternity like that? Where will you start, where will you end? And then others take what you have said and broadcast it. How on earth will you ever put that right again? Where do you get courage to speak so foolishly and tell such lies? I do not think we understand how serious it is.

Nehemiah did not sit still. He carried on with the work. But the next trick came to stop him from working.

10 Now when I went into the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home, he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple. Let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you. They are coming to kill you by night.” 11 But I said, “Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live?[c] I will not go in.”12 And I understood and saw that God had not sent him, but he had pronounced the prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me a bad name in order to taunt me. Nehemiah 6:10-13

He was told, ‘They want to kill you. It is serious. Run and hide in God’s temple where you will be safe.’ There was a “religious” connotation to this threat. The devil comes as an angel of light and that is why we were taught from the beginning of the revival to pray for discernment. If you pray for something, pray for eyes to see.  Nehemiah stands up and says “Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live? I will not go in.” He knew that he was not a priest, he was not authorized to do that. The devil is very dangerous when he comes with a spiritual cloak. 12 And I understood and saw that God had not sent him, but he had pronounced the prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. Nehemiah 6:12

When you read through Nehemiah, you see the same tricks that the devil uses with you and me. Do you know how many people who go who leave this place? With a verse.

And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” Nehemiah 6:3 The devil wants you to come down. You are too serious, come down. Just calm down. Don’t take things so seriously. You may say, ‘That’s for people in Africa. No, not like that, that’s for those people there. It’s not for me.’ Sanballat told Nehemiah to come down but he saw the trap. What, I come down from where God has put me? From that which I am doing – building the wall high up there, should I leave it and come down to your standard? And even to go to the plains of Ono, a place where there was water, a place of rest.

Purity? But you don’t have to go that far to stay pure. You want to come down and be kissed by that boy? Do you want to come down and be discussed by boys and later lose your purity? We are called by a high calling. Should we come down?  It is not so serious. Where do you draw the line? Once you let go, once you lift that anchor, where will you stop? Next step – clothing is tighter. Next step – clothing is shorter. Where do you stop? It is climbing down and being dragged along. Where will you draw the line? Compromise. Compromise is a life of peaceful stagnation. Where do you draw the line? Once you ‘get down and start talking’, where do you stop? Compromise means co-operation with the devil. In the end, it makes you powerless.

Gossip is ‘a conversation or a report about other people’s private lives that might be unkind, disapproving, or even not true.’ If somebody tells you about others, how they are, what they used to do, what sins they even committed, I will not be surprised if one day you will be taken as if you have committed that very sin yourself. You say things about other people’s private lives that might be unkind and not true. Have you done that? “One compromise here and another compromise there, and soon the so-called Christian and the man in the world look the same. “ A W Tozer
A little bit here, a little bit there, possibly you feel sorry for a person or you do not want to be too hard but once you have compromised that is where things go down.

Nehemiah did not stop. He finished the wall. The Bible records the people, the families who helped with the building. Don’t you want your name to be written in the Book of Life and be named with the group who want to build the wall? Our lives are so short. This could be my last sermon. You never know what will happen. Do you still have time to play around? Do you still have time to shoot other people down? May God be merciful to us that we will not be distracted and move away from the work God has given us to do.

A closing thought: They surrounded me like bees; Psalm 118:12 A bee can sting. It hurts when it stings. People react to stings. They swell and some even die because of a bee sting. The Psalmist says that the people were around him like bees. Also, when a bee loses its sting, remember know what happens? It dies.


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