SPIRITUAL WISDOM FOR SPIRITUAL WORKERS
Nehemiah 4:1-23 (NIV) Opposition to the Rebuilding
1 When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, 2 and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?”
3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!”
4 Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. 5 Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.
6 So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.
7 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. 8 They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. 9 But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.
10 Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.”
11 Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.”
12 Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.”
13 Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. 14 After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
15 When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to our own work.
16 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah 17 who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, 18 and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.
19 Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. 20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!”
21 So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. 22 At that time I also said to the people, “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and as workers by day.” 23 Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.
This sermon is for the Body of Christ in our nations!
Illustration – The context of this passage. Nehemiah and his men are engaged in a serious work. In fact, the future of Jerusalem and of Israel itself depends on the successful completion of their project. As they labor, they provide a valuable illustration for those engaged in the work of the Lord in these days.
As you know, our churches today are facing a great task. Now, I don’t want to place undue pressure on you, but the very future of the church depends on the successful completion of this task. Thankfully, the Lord has not left you without a building work in these perilous and difficult days.
This passage points out some very precious information for those who would see that the Lord’s work is done in the church. Allow me to point out just a few thoughts that are presented here as I preach on the thought “Spiritual Wisdom For Spiritual Workers.” The thoughts given in this passage will aid you in your efforts to do the Lord’s work and will in the church. Notice what wise spiritual workers do:
I. THEY RECOGNIZE THE DANGERS AROUND THEM
A. V. 1-3 They Fought Criticism – The enemies of Israel mocked and ridiculed the work they were attempting to do. You might as well face it, anytime you are determined to do something for God, there will always be those ready to criticize what you do. They would do it differently, better or not at all. Friend, don’t let that crowd get to you, just go on for God! Some of the Lord’s best workers, including the likes of Jesus and Paul were criticized. So, when you are criticized, praise the Lord, for you are in good company!
(Illustration. “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain…and most of them do.” —Dale Carnegie)
(Ill. An officer on the battlefield aimed his cannon toward what he thought was the distant enemy. Just before he fired, the commander, looking through his field glasses, shouted, “Your aim seems perfect, but stop! They are not the enemy; they are our own people.” Did you ever think that when you aim criticism at God’s people so thoughtlessly, you are actually aiming your cannon at the Lord of your brethren?)
B. V. 7-8 They Fought Conspiracy – Their enemies plotted and planned how they might bring about their demise. The church of Jesus Christ will come under that attack of the enemy! In truth, it already has! But, that should not surprise us, after all, that is his way, 1 Pet. 5:8! You should always beware of those who would love nothing better than for this church to fail! There will be those on the outside who will plot against you and there may be some on the inside, who through their actions also plot against the church and the Lord! Therefore, be on your guard!
C. V. 10-12 They Fought Complaints – It’s one thing when the enemy attacks your work, it is another when the attack arises from within! This is what happened to Nehemiah and his workers. Be aware this day that there will arise within your own ranks those who will not be satisfied with anything you do! Some people can’t find a good word to say about anything!
(Ill. A certain father was a chronic growler. He was sitting with his family in the presence of a guest in the parlor one day when the question of food came up. One of the children, a little girl, was telling the guest very cleverly what food each member of the family liked best. Finally it came to the father’s turn to be described. “And what do I like, Nancy?” he asked laughingly. “You,” said the little girl slowly, “well, you like almost anything we haven’t got.”)
(Ill. An angry pastor’s wife looked over the remains of a dinner that had long since turned cold. She intensely inquired of her husband, “Where have you been for the last two hours?” His hollow eyes gazed toward his wife; then he slowly responded, “I met Mrs. Burton on the street and asked her how she was feeling.”)
(Ill. A young couple was becoming anxious about their four-year-old son who had not yet talked. They took him to specialists, but the doctors found nothing wrong with him. Then one morning at breakfast the boy suddenly blurted, “Mom, the toast is burned.” “You talked! You talked!” shouted his mother. “I’m so happy! But why has it taken this long?” “Well, up till now,” said the boy, “things have been okay.”)
Your efforts and motives will be brought into question and everything you do will be scrutinized. But, you need to remember always, your duty is not to please the critics and the complainers; your duty is to please the Lord!
(Ill. Here is a word of advise for all the complainers in the church: “The man who says it can’t be done should never interrupt the man who is actually doing it.” —Anonymous )
II. THEY RELY ON THE DEITY ABOVE THEM
(Illustration. When the attacks came, Nehemiah and his men did the right thing. They turned to God in faith and in prayer! They exercised the privilege of prayer!)
A. V. 4-5 The Leaders Prayed – Nehemiah called on God! He went to the Lord looking for help and direction. Let me challenge the leaders of the church to beware of turning to men and man-made organizations for your help in these perilous times/days! Look to God, He has been guiding His people through treacherous waters for thousands of years. He had helped others and He will help you, Jer. 33:3!
B. V. 9a The Laborers Prayed – It wasn’t just the leaders who called on God. But, everyone involved in the work, bathed the work in prayer. They all turned to the Lord in dependence upon Him and believed Him for the help they needed. The best thing the church can do right now is come together in a spirit of united, focused prayer! You need the Lord and His help in these hours and testing times! If you will call on Him, He will hear you and He will help you, Phil. 4:6-7! (Note: Verse 14 – They were told not to fear the enemy, but to focus on the Lord!)
III. THEY RESPOND TO THE DUTIES ASSIGNED THEM
(Note: They didn’t just pray about the work and think they were finished, they knew that prayer was just the beginning. After prayer, it was time to bend the back under the load!)
A. V. 6 They Were United In The Process Of The Work – Notice the word “we” and the phrase “people had a mind”. This expresses a unity of purpose and work. These folks were working together and as a result, the work was accomplished! (Ill. Neh. 6:15) . The process for the work is going to go far more smoothly if you ALL will work together, in UNITY! (Phil. 1:27)
B. V. 9 They Were United In The Protection Of The Work – While they ALL worked, they also ALL watched! Everyone had each other’s best interests at heart! For them, the big picture was the main focus! Each member of the church should keep his or her eyes open for the slightest hint of trouble! If each person is watching for the enemy, he will have a more difficult time getting his foot in the door! (Ill. The strongest walls are useless if the gates are weak or if the gatekeepers are careless or disloyal. The Great Wall of China was penetrated by enemies at least three times, and each time the guards were corrupted and bribed. The church desperately needs strong gates and loyal gatekeepers.
C. V. 13-18 They Were United In The Progress Of The Work – As the work progressed, they were ALL in it together, until it was completed. Each person had a different function, but they were ALL united in the work! This is essential to success in the church! Unless the church works together as a team, it will surely accomplish nothing of eternal value! (Illustration. Have you ever wondered why the Canadian geese fly only in the V formation? For years specialists in aerodynamics wondered the same thing.
Two engineers calibrated in a wind tunnel what happens in such a V formation. Each goose, in flapping his wings, creates an upward lift for the goose that follows. When all the geese do their part in the V formation, the whole flock has a 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew alone. Each depends upon the other to get to its destination.
Something else — When a goose begins to lag behind, the others “honk” it back into place.
Now, let us learn from God’s animal creation. The church needs to fly in a spiritual V formation, “honking” one another into steadfastness. And it must be at least 71 percent easier to live the faithful Christian life flying with the flock as opposed to going it alone. “Let us consider one another, to provoke unto love and to good works” (Heb. 10:24).)
IV. THEY REMEMBER THE DETERMINATIONS ABOUT THEM
(Note: They needed to remember what they were fighting for, and so does the church of Jesus Christ today!)
A. V. 14 They Were Fighting For Their Faith – More was at stake in Jerusalem that a wall! Nehemiah know that the very worship of Jehovah was in the balance! Remember as you pray and labor for your church, that the future of your worship is at stake! What you do now, will determine the atmosphere of worship in the church for a long time to come! Be careful that you do not allow the enemy to empty your altars, silence your praise and extinguish your testimony!
B. V. 14 They Were Fighting For Their Families – Nehemiah knew that the struggle was for the very lives of their families! If they succeeded, their families would live. If they failed, then they would all die! The struggle in the church is just as real! WAKE UP! You are fighting to maintain a place of worship that will impact your families and the generations to come! Be careful that you take the time to count the costs for the families and the community as you seek the Lord’s will for your church!
C. V. 14 They Were Fighting For Their Future – The very future of Jerusalem and the Jewish faith was on the line during this time of conflict. These people were battling, not just for themselves and the needs that were currently at hand, but they were fighting for the next generation and all future generations to come! No one knew that future, but they knew that the future rested on what they did right then!
(Note: The same could be said concerning the struggle you folks are entering now! No one knows exactly what the future holds for the church in the nations. But, we can build the broken walls together in UNITY. It is certain that your future, whether bright or dim, rests on the decisions you make at this crucial time! That is why you need to seek the Lord in prayer and take the right steps of faith so that you may arrive at the bright and hopeful future the Lord has placed in front of you!)
Spiritual work requires spiritual wisdom!
And, that spiritual wisdom is available to all those who will ask for it, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”, James 1:5.
Do you need to get before the Lord today to seek His face concerning His will for your Church? Do you need wisdom that surpasses that of mere mortals? If there is a desire in your heart to see the Lord take the church and prepare her so that her future is far brighter than its past, then I invite you to come before JESUS in earnest prayer and seek His blessing, His wisdom and His power for task that lies ahead!