We saw last week that Nehemiah, who held an official position in the Persian’s king’s court at Susa, left his position and travelled to his home town of Jerusalem, where he knew God had called him to rebuild the wall of the broken down city, and suffered attacks from opposition.
Nehemiah stepped out in faith to do what God asked him to do. He didn’t win a battle, he never prophetically saw the end of time, he never became king or high priest, he just built a wall, because that was his destiny.
People say to me, are you trying to be a mega church? Are you trying to be famous or huge or successful. No, I’m simply trying to be faithful. If I was trying to be a mega church I’d have a blackened out room with smoke and lasers. I’m determined that Ignite should be all God has called us to be… Faithful.
Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem to ostensibly to build a wall, but what he really built was a nation. This building was a rallying point for the community, just as our building in Nambour is more than just a shopfront, it is a rallying point for us to build a community to reach our community.
Nehemiah didn’t arrive with a vague idea, he came with a plan, then he did his due diligence and inspected the wall. Then he got the leaders together and said
Nehemiah 2:17-18 (ESV)
“You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.
That is what God is saying to us… Let us rise up and build, and He is calling Ignite to strengthen our hands together for the good work. When our new auditorium is open in a few weeks, that’s not the end, it is the beginning of what God has called us to do. The journey rolls out ahead of us, to win our people to Christ.
But along the way Nehemiah faced opposition. Any time you do anything significant for God, there will be opposition, sometimes, even often times, from people you might expected more from.
Today I want to look at the opposition Nehemiah faced in rebuilding the wall… much of which we face today. His involved Sanballat and Tobiah. We face our own opposition, and interestingly you will see that, any time you start to do something significant for God in your life, the tactics of the enemy haven’t changed much.
So let’s look at how these attacks often come…
1. MOTIVES MISCONSTRUED
The opposition, led by Sanballat and Tobiah, attacked Nehemiah, and they started by questioning his motives.
Nehemiah 2:19 (ESV)
But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?”
I have had to face my motives being questioned, and at some point, so will you. “You’re only a pastor for the glory. You just want people to admire you. You just want other pastors to envy your church.”
They will say that to you sometime. You only go to Ignite because it’s successful! You’re only a Christian because you wanted something. People love to mock what they perceive as our motives. They conveniently overlook the commitment, the faith, the risk and the hard work, and many times they extrapolate their own twisted motives in their attacks into our situation.
Now our natural response is to defend ourselves. I have to stop myself when I hear such accusations, because in my heart my conscience is clear. How did Nehemiah respond?
Nehemiah 2:20 (ESV)
Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.”
What Nehemiah is doing here is turning it back to God, and letting God fight the battle. Say what you like, but you can “but out” in Jesus name. Letting God fight for you is the best response. As God said to Moses as he faced the Egyptian armies at the Red Sea
Exodus 14:14 (ESV)
The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Let them question our motives, because as Paul said,
Acts 24:16 (ESV)
So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.
2. MOCKING AND MUCKRAKING
The devil loves to use mockery to discourage us, and it hits the marks often. Australians especially are great at mocking, and sometimes it is innocent fun, but other times it can be used by the devil to deflect our vision from Christ.
Nehemiah 4:1-3 (ESV)
Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, (notice where he is saying this, in amongst his mates… That’s what bullies do!) “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!”
Look at your pathetic efforts! A tiny fox would break it. Think you can make a difference? Think you can reach your community for Jesus? Your church is a joke, mate!
We can make the all important difference where we are, with whom God gives us. So what did Nehemiah do? He didn’t react to the mockers, he turned to God, and I have had to do this many times
Nehemiah 4:4 (ESV)
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.
Hezekiah, faced with a mocking letter, placed it on the altar and prayed over it.
2 Kings 19:14 (ESV)
Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD and spread it before the LORD.
When the enemy attacks and mocks you, sometimes even using people close to you, take it to God. They will call you weak for being a Christian, that you need a crutch, that Christians are all hypocrites. In this current climate, I find myself turning to the basic truths of Scripture, and refusing to bow to the mockers, or the government.
I stood against gay marriage, I stand against gender fluidity, and abortion, and the evil bill just passed in our state for assisted suicide and euthanasia. If they try and make it law that only double vaccinated people can come to church, I will defy that too. Peter Marshall said, “We are better to stand for something lest we fall for anything.”
3. MEETINGS AND DISPUTES AS ATTACKS
We live in a world where everybody wants to debate everything. Get on Facebook and say you believe something, and you could fill an entire day dialoging with people who agree and/or disagree. What a waste of time!
Nehemiah 6:2-3 (ESV)
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?”
If it lines up with Scripture, I’m in. If it doesn’t, I’ll stand against it. But what I refuse to do is become embroiled in endless, fruitless, debates, that go nowhere and win no one!
Titus 3:9 (ESV)
But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.
When God has called you to a great work, such as He is doing right now with all of us, don’t get involved in unprofitable and worthless discussions, and don’t cater to the dissenters. Keep your eyes fixed in Jesus, and go hard for your destiny, don’t get entangled in pointless debates!
4. MISINFORMATION AND SLANDER
Nehemiah faced misinformation and slander. Lies, rumours and allegations spread about him that were untrue and potentially destructive. I have faced a similar barrage, and so will you at some time. And trust me, even in Christian circles, dissension, disunity and criticism are alive and well.
When Nehemiah refused to meet with these guys, they sent a letter.
Nehemiah 6:6-7 (ESV)
In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Geshem 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 could have met with them to “sort it out”, but he knew their hearts. He also knew his own heart and the false evil these baseless allogations represented.
Nehemiah 6:8-9 (ESV)
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.
He didn’t argue, he didn’t try and prove his position, he denied everything in one phrase, then once again turned to his Lord. This is a great example for us. When they attack, defame, slander or criticise you, stop arguing, stop justifying, just say to them, it’s not true and take it to God to let Him sort it for you.
Over the last several months I have been accused of ripping off Lily House to the tune of $700,000, of lying, of pride and of impatience, just to name a few. If you are a committed Christian, unbelievers will often actively set out to seek ways of tricking you into compromising, accusing you of all kinds of things. Don’t fall for it, don’t discuss it, don’t answer, argue or justify, take it to God and let Him fight for you.
5. MORTAL THREATS
Nehemiah 4:8-10 (ESV)
And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.
In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.”
The next tactic was death threats, using fear and intimidation, and they repeated this time and time again. The enemy uses fear to control, manipulate and discourage. Don’t believe me… Look at COVID!
Proverbs 29:25 (ESV)
The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.
So who do they attack? Everyone, starting with the leader, but we are all open to fear. The enemy conspires against us right now to stop us moving the Nambour, because he realises the destiny we have. I bet many of you have had others say, “Gosh, Nambour is full of weird people, why would you want to go to church in there?”
Listen, the world is full of all kinds of weird people, and Jesus died for every one of them. Don’t let fear of moving into the city steal your faith and keep you from this great work. Is the inner city dangerous? Yes. Am I going to let that stop me? Not a chance. I am trusting God and serving Him, come what may, and I will not let the Spirit of fear control our destiny…
2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
6. MORALISTIC/LEGALISTIC ATTACKS
I want to highlight a special form of attack that I often face, and I’m guessing so do many of you. Holier than thou people who look spiritual, who think they know some theology and criticise in a legalistic way, even using Scripture and/or prophecy to promote their own opinions. Nehemiah faced personal, moralistic, legalistic attacks from so called prophets, who tried to cause him to sin…
Nehemiah 6:10-11 (ESV)
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.” But I said, “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.”
Legalism is alive and well across the church of God. We don’t have much of that here now, but you will often encounter people claiming to be speaking for God, quoting Scripture and creating factions within the church, but in reality trying to deflect you from your destiny.
Be wary! Test the Spirits, and stay close to the leadership whom you can trust.
1 John 4:1 (ESV)
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Nehemiah 6:12-13 (ESV)
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. 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.
3 GODLY WAYS OF RESPONDING TO THE OPPOSITION
So all these attacks came against Nehemiah and the people who were with him. They were designed to cause division and disunity, fear, mocking, discouragement and to stop them reaching their destiny. Satan is up to same tricks today. So when others attack you for your faith, when others mock or discourage you for your dreams, when they tell you you’ll never make it, you’re not good enough, you’re deluded, you’re wasting your life, how do you respond?
Zechariah 4:6 (ESV)
Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.
Zerubabbel was charged to rebuild the temple, some time before Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of the city, and God said, as He says to us today, that it is not by might or power, or money or prestige, but only by the Holy Spirit that we build. As a side note it also says this 4 verses later,
Zechariah 4:10 (ESV)
For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.
Church, look around. We are jammed into this small building, but don’t despise this, because we are about to explode into our destiny. Not by might nor power, but by my Spirit says the Lord!
So how should we respond opposition?
1. RESPOND, DON’T REACT
People are so reactive today. Don’t believe me, get on Facebook. They tear each other apart over vaccines, masks, lockdowns or anything else.
Psalms 37:8 (ESV)
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
If someone attacks you, don’t react in a knee jerk way. Step back, excuse yourself, take time to pause, pray and ask God how to respond. Then if you feel the need to respond, do so in love and humility, but also in strength like Nehemiah. He wasn’t a doormat, he was a brick wall!
Nehemiah 6:8 (ESV)
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.”
He was straight, he was honest because he knew he was right. Don’t debate, or defend, don’t react, but take the time to respond instead of react.
2. TAKE IT TO GOD
You need to recognise (as Nehemiah did) that they are attacking God, using you as a conduit. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil. Nehemiah said many times something like,
Nehemiah 6:14 (ESV)
Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, according to these things that they did, and also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who wanted to make me afraid.
Nehemiah always seemed to pray before he responded, and it’s a great pattern to follow. He took it all to God, because ultimately your enemy is not a man, or a government it is satan, and they are not attacking us, they are trying to get to God through us.
3. STAY THE COURSE
Under incredible attack, Nehemiah stood his ground and stayed the course. If satan can’t make you sin and fall, he will try and discourage you. If he can’t do that, he will try and deflect you off course, to slow or stop you. Under threat of attack from their enemies, this is what Nehemiah said…
Nehemiah 4:19-21 (ESV)
And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”
So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from the break of dawn until the stars came out.
He had the team build with swords and Spears at the ready. He never gave up, never gave in and never gave way to his enemies.
NEHEMIAH FULFILLED HIS DESTINY
In the end, the entire wall, that the people had waited 90 years for, was completed in 52 days. When the work was done, they celebrated, and so shall we when we move in, and it is getting closer. It will be less than 52 days!
When it was built, the people celebrated. They gathered, they read the law, and then the people celebrated Sukkot, the feast of tabernacles, where people dwelt in temporary structures to remind them of how God had led them in the desert. It was a time of reflection, a time of celebration where Nehemiah
Nehemiah 8:10 (ESV)
said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Feast of tabernacles is this very week in the Jewish calendar. And It was at this Jewish festival centuries later that Jesus observed people going through the religious motions of this feast. There is a ritual in this ceremony where the priest would fill a golden pitcher with water from the pool of Siloam, then go up and pour the water on the altar while choirs sang from Isaiah
Isaiah 12:3 (ESV)
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
Jesus watched this ritual from the shadows, by then a lifeless, religious observance, until He could stand it no longer.
John 7:37-39 (ESV)
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit,
Our building is nearing completion, and we are soon to celebrate just as Nehemiah and the people did, but if all we have is a religious ritual, we have missed the plot. It’s not by might, or power, but by my Spirit!
We need rivers of living water to flow through each of us and into the city of Nambour and surrounds. This spake He of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God, the not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit, Spirit.
If we move to Nambour without the Spirit of God, we will have an impressive but lifeless facility, and our witness will shrivel on the vine, and I don’t do shrivelling!
So… this morning, I want to pray that we might all be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is not weird or scary, not by might not by power but but my Holy Spirit is the only way we can live a victorious life in Christ.
We are going to take a little time this morning to ask God to fill us all with His Holy Spirit.
WHAT IS GOD ASKING YOU TO STEP OUT IN FAITH AND DO FOR HIM?
WHAT OPPOSITION HAVE YOU ENCOUNTERED?
WHY DO YOU NEED TO BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT TO DO WHAT GOD WANTS YOU TO DO? PRAY FOR IT NOW.