Those who commit to joining God in the building of his church will inevitably face discouragement and opposition. It's not easy! There are trials and challenges, testings and even suffering on the path. But God is worth it! And he gives us the power to serve him with joy, even when times are tough.
In Nehemiah 4 we see a glimpse of God's people facing opposition. The exiles had returned from captivity, had rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem, and were now working on the city wall. This was God's work. He had brought his people out of captivity in Babylon and was now building up the remnant...and setting the stage to send his Son, the promised Messiah!
God used Nehemiah to stir up the hearts of the people for the work, as he had used Ezra before. So the people began to build the wall. And then we meet Sanballat and Tobiah.
These guys are just mean, and they hate God's people and God's work. First lesson! There is a devil, and he hates us. He wants to kill us and destroy us, but first he wants to discourage us and get us to stop working for the Lord. How many churches have people who have been burned...and have given up on the work! No longer are they working and building; they are just there - floating from meeting to meeting, discouraged and defeated.
Sanballat and Tobian begin to taunt God's people. They say that even if a fox goes up on their wall it will fall down. Words, even dumb jokes, can really hurt. They can deflate the people of God and take us away from the work.
"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 4:6, ESV). God gave the people a mind to work. Do you have a mind to do God's work? Or are you busy and distracted with a mind to do your own work?
So Sanballat and Tobiah raised the opposition. No longer did they just use words; now they're coming to kill God's people and stop the work! But Nehemiah leads God's people. They prayed to God (v9) and then Nehemiah gave them a charge that filled their spines with steel: "Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes" (v14).
What a charge! First take care of your own heart by refusing to be afraid, and remembering the Lord (who is great and awesome!). Then fight for others. Men should lead the way by fighting for their families. Fight for the other brothers and sisters in the local church where God has stationed you!
Finally, they got ready to fight...while they continued to work on building the wall! "From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, who were building on the wall" (v16). Notice that the leaders were right there with the workers and warriors, encouraging them along. Church leaders, get in their with the people and fight and build!
"Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built" (17-18).
A trowel in one hand, a sword in the other. Ready to fight while doing the work. What a vision for serving the Lord in the midst of trial and even opposition. Have you become discouraged? Have you put down your trowel and stopped working? Have you put down your sword and stopped fighting? Have you put them BOTH down? Well pick them back up! STAND with the brothers and sisters in the local church where you have been stationed, and join them in the work - and in the fight!
Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight as you build!