Overcoming Opposition

Overcoming Opposition

Hey there China Grove First Baptist Church.  My name is Trent Drye and I’m the Senior Pastor here. I’m so excited that you joined us for a time of Bible study, a time where we can open God’s Word together and just see what He has to say to us today and let me invite you to take your copy of God’s Word and turn to Nehemiah, Chapter 4, Nehemiah, Chapter 4.

We’re in the middle of a series of sermons called Rebuild and Restore, A Study of Nehemiah. It’s a wonderful book filled with a lot of wonderful things, but what it ultimately is is a book of how God is using people to do some extraordinary things for His glory. It is God who is the hero of the story found in the book of Nehemiah. And so we’ve been walking through the different sections and last week we saw that under the leadership and lordship of God Almighty, they are starting to build the wall.  They are working together side by side to accomplish this great thing that God has called them to accomplish. God promised to do it and now God is using them to fulfill this promise all for His glory.

But you know anytime we try to do something in life, any try, especially if we’re trying to do something for God, opposition is going to arise.  In Nehemiah 2:19 we see this, “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?”

You see, this is a group of people who were unhappy that they were rebuilding the walls. They were unhappy that they were beginning to expand God’s territory. They were unhappy that God was doing something in their midst and it made them angry, and so we see back in Chapter 2 that these seeds of opposition are being planted.  Today when we get into Chapter 4, we’re going to see that opposition take shape and we’re going to see how we can respond to the opposition that we face in life.

You know, there was one time when I was playing football in high school.  I was a senior and it was a big game, it was a huge game and I had to block a defensive lineman who had already committed to play Division One football. Now I wasn’t great by any stretch of anyone’s imagination but I was good enough to start on the team I played for but this guy was good. He was a three or four-star recruit. He was a great defensive lineman and went on to have a pretty good college career.  And it was my job on this night to block him.  I remember the first play. He lined up in front of me and I am extremely intimidated ’cause he is huge.  And the ball was snapped and I fired off the ball as fast as I could and my little feet were just, you know, going as fast as they could.  And I was pushing forward and doing this with my feet. It would be a lot funnier if you could see my feet moving right now, ’cause they actually are. And all I know is that as I was moving my feet forward, my body was going backwards.

And it didn’t matter how hard I tried, his opposition was forcing me back right into the quarterback as he handed the ball off. It was a bad play and it happened over and over and over again. I tried to cut block him. I tried every technique I knew how, but I just couldn’t figure it out and so I went over to the sideline and the coach was upset, but he understood and he said, “Trent, I think I’m gonna have to give you some help and you’re gonna have to depend on the guy next to you to help you block him” and I said “that would be great. I’m gonna depend on that guy, my tackle, to help me block this huge wonderful defensive tackle.”

And we struggled all night.  At halftime, I remember the coach came over and he said, “boys, he’s tough to beat but don’t stop working, don’t stop trying.”  We have found a way by the end to neutralize him the best we could. I think he just got tired and they were winning so bad I just he may not have been trying anymore but we never gave up. You see, when, you know I could have quit because when the opposition felt so great that I couldn’t overcome it, I could have quit. I could’ve just said “You know what?  I can’t do this, so I’m not even gonna try”, but the coach said “no, I’m gonna get you help and you gotta keep working. Don’t give up. Don’t quit. I know it’s a huge opposition. I know it’s a huge obstacle. But if you keep working and if you keep at it, you’ll find a way. Just don’t give up.”

Back in May of 2001 there was a man by the name of Eric, I don’t know his last name, but he accomplished something that only 150 people per year do. He reached the top of Mount Everest. He climbed to the top of Mount Everest. The thing that made Eric’s achievement unusual is that he was the first blind person to succeed in scaling the tallest mountain in the world.  Eric was born with a disease that led to his complete and total blindness by the time he was 13 years old.  Rather than focus on what he could not do rather than quit in the face of an obstacle or opposition, he focused on what he could do. He focused on reaching the top, even though no one expected him to do it. No one thought he could.  But he did it anyway, because I’m sure he depended on the people around him to help and he didn’t give up.  He did not quit.

Yet I believe everyone watching this today has experienced some type of obstacle or some type of opposition in your life. Opposition seems to be natural. We set goals and we set out to accomplish those goals in opposition comes up.

I feel like this week I’ve been just bombarded with obstacles in preparing this message on opposition. It’s been a very busy week. We’ve closed on our house in Oakboro. We’ve had a lot of moving to do and just it’s just been one distraction after another.  So God has been speaking to me this week as I prepared this sermon.  And I’ve experienced lots of opposition in my life.

On a mission trip to the Bahamas, and I know it may sound like a good trip, but it was anything but good and there was opposition at every turn of this trip.  Because we were there as soon as we walked in the door, we realized that the living conditions were not good.  First of all, there was no air condition. It was about 115 degrees every day that week.  There were rat droppings on the beds that we had to clean off and the guys barracks flooded about three times during the week.  And on top of that, the people who were supposed to pick us up every morning to go to ministry, they were late every morning, roughly 2-3 hours late every day. And so there’s just so many obstacles and so much opposition, but here was the great thing about that trip. We didn’t give up. We wanted to.  There were times we said we’re going to the airport, we’re buying a ticket and we’re going home.  We didn’t give up and we saw God glorified and magnified.  We saw lives changed through that work, even though we faced opposition day in and day out. We experienced those great obstacles, but I learned something that week.  Our God is greater than the opposition in the obstacles that we faced as we advanced His Kingdom.

There are times in life where the obstacle seems great, that the burdens in the opposition seem to just be weighing us down, but don’t ever forget that the God we serve is greater than the opposition trying to stop us. And that is what the people of Israel are getting ready to discover.  They’re getting ready to discover that there is going to be significant opposition to the rebuilding of the wall, but their God is greater than that opposition.  That through their complete dependence upon God and their continuous work, they will accomplish what God has called them too, and God will be glorified through that work.  As you and I face opposition in our daily life. It’s important to know that God’s got our back and that we need to be completely dependent upon Him to help us to overcome.  That we trust Him and have faith in Him because He is faithful to never leave us nor will He forsake us.  And because of that we continuously work at advancing the Kingdom of God.

And so the seeds of opposition were sowed in Nehemiah Chapter 2.  This morning we see three different types of opposition. Now there are several more types of oppositions that in our text today we see three types of opposition.

The first one is ridicule. Look at Nehemiah 4:1-3:

“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, “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!”

These guys are making fun of the Jewish people for trying to do this. They call them “these feeble Jews” are trying to do something they’re not capable of doing. Why are they doing this?  So they’re just ridiculing them?

Ridicule is not an unusual attack by our enemies. Right?  Goliath ridiculed the Shepherd, Boy David when he showed up on the battlefield with a sling and a stone.  Jesus Himself was ridiculed by the soldiers and and by the people who had put him on trial as He hung on the cross.  He was mocked and made fun of.

You see they called them feeble Jews questioning their ability, mocking the hope that they had to even attempt such a great feat. They were trying to destroy their enthusiasm.  To destroy the motivation that they had.  And then Tobiah jumps in and says, well, if they do it, don’t worry, a fox is gonna jump on it, and it’s just gonna fall down.  Meaning it’s going to be poorly built.

You know, I can relate to that. I took masonry as a student in high school and there was this one time I had built a wall.  It was just a straight up wall and I was the first year masonry student and didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t bond it right and so basically it was just brick, brick, brick…..that’s just kind of how it was. It wasn’t bonded at all. There is no strength to the wall and I turned around and my my elbow, just slightly tapped it and the whole wall fell down and boy what I was made fun of. My father was the masonry teacher and you know he gave me a pretty hard time.  He goes, “why didn’t you put the bond right” and I said “I didn’t know what I was doing. I’m not as skilled worker.”

And so what Tobias saying is they’re not skillful enough to build this wall of any strength.  A fox is gonna jump on it and tear it down.  Look at these guys. Why are they wasting their time?

You know, being made fun of them being ridiculed is pretty hard thing, isn’t it. Teenagers, young students, college students, it may be one of the hardest things that they experience in their teenage years is being made fun.  The peer pressure to conform.  To not stand out.  To not move forward. It’s almost as if when we do something different, especially if it’s for God, we get made fun of. We get ridiculed. We get called, you know, holy rollers, or you know, all kinds of names ’cause the world wants us to conform to its standards, not to God’s standards.

Ridicule has caused many people to abandon their faith and just give up. They just can’t handle being made fun of.  Shakespeare once said that “ridicule was paper bullet of the brain, but those bullets have slain many, a warrior.” Someone once said that “ridicule is the language of the devil. Some can stand bravely when they’re in battle, but collapse when they’re laughed at.”

They’re trying to deter the efforts of expanding God’s Kingdom by making fun of them and ridiculing now, and it’s a very challenging thing.  It’s a very hard thing to deal with.  But when the enemy is laughing at us, I assure you God is doing something greater than their laughter.  And we’ll get to how to respond to these oppositions in just a few minutes.

But the 1st way of opposition is ridicule. The second one we see is intimidating plots.

Look at Nehemiah 4:7- 8:

“But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry.  And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it.”

Intimidating plots are actual plans to attack and obstruct the progress of the wall.  All these different armies are forming. They’re going to come against the Israelites, the Jewish people.  And they’re going to stop them by force, if necessary. You see, they want to undermine the people’s effort.  And if it takes force, they’re willing to do that. So, they plant and they unite together in opposition to physically attack these people and they want to cause confusion.  I’m reminded that all warfare is deception. So, causing confusion amongst the people is a way to divide them.  A way to cause them to separate and to stop working. You know when we are confused about the direction that we’re heading, then we won’t head in any direction. We have to understand it and so their strategy as they are preparing to attack is to cause confusion and to create division because they think that if everybody is going their own direction, if everybody is confused as to what to do and and where to go that their attack will be successful.  And we have to be this vigilant and we have to be ready because if the ridicule doesn’t work, the attacks will come. They could come in the form of character attacks.  Some could be very physical attacks. The church, largely around the world, is physically persecuted in attack for advancing God’s Kingdom.

We have two ways of opposition. We have ridicule. We have intimidating plots. The physical action of coming against the people. But there’s a third opposition we see and it’s distraction and discouragement. Look at Nehemiah 4:10-12:

“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.”  And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.”  At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.”

You see, in two instances here there is distraction and discouragement from the inside. You know, not all opposition comes from the outside. Some opposition comes from within.  The reality of the task began to sink in. The ridicules begin to to take effect, and they begin to think we can’t do this. The rubble is too great. Their motivation started to wane after they saw how high the mountain was going to be to climb for them to be successful.

To the people it began to look impossible. And there were other Jews from outside the city who were coming in and says, look, you gotta stop this.  Stop wasting your time, return to us.  Over and over the opposition from within continues, continues and continues.  And then again, they are distracted by the fear of their enemies who are preparing to attack.

You know there are Christians from within the church, the universal church, every church really.  There are those Christians who will come and say, stop rocking the boat.  Stop rebelling. Of course we’re really not rebelling, we’re following God Almighty.  So just conformed to the world, it’s not worth it. It’s not worth the pain. It’s not worth the heartache.  There are Christians who will come and say. Just keep to yourself, just keep quiet. Just stay in your little circles and don’t don’t don’t spread the Gospel.

But I want to tell you something.  Jesus died for my sins so that I can be forgiven.  And Jesus died for your sins so that you could be forgiven. You know why? Because we were worth it to Jesus.  So when Jesus calls us to serve Him, it is worth it to stand for God. We cannot let the distractions and the discouragement stop us.

You know Jesus didn’t have to do it.  Oh, it was God’s will for sure.  But He didn’t have to.  But He did it because He loved this. We don’t have to work.  We should choose to work to expand God’s Kingdom because of our deep desire to Love God and to serve God because God first loved us so much that He sent His one and only Son to die on Golgotha’s Hill on that Calvary’s cross where He was punished for our sins and in three days later He was rose from the dead.  Conquering sin and death once and for all, so that whoever would have faith in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life, as John 3:16 says.

So, serving Him and advancing the Kingdom of God is worth it to me.  And it should be worth it to all of those who are followers of Jesus Christ.  Even in the midst of discouragement, even in the midst of ridicule, even though in the midst of distractions and intimidating attacks, it is worth it to continue working; completely dependent upon God, all mighty.

And you see, that is how we respond to opposition. We respond with a complete dependence upon God in a continuous work for God. Verse four, they prayed, showing complete dependence upon God. They knew they cannot do this work without God and that prayer in verse four is a very harsh prayer towards the enemies.  But you have to understand the enemies aren’t just mocking the people, they’re mocking God Himself.  This prayer is like “God don’t let them mock you.”  Don’t let them make fun of you.  If they’re not gonna turn to you, then stop their ridicule and stop them and punish them. I think it’s a fair prayer for the enemies of God to be stopped.

But you see the thing about it is the ridicule that they’re facing is true. These Jews are feeble, they are weak. They are not the most skilled workers. And so this prayer says, stop their ridicule because we are dependent upon God Almighty to do the work.  We know we can’t do it and so we’re trusting You to do the work for us. They ask God to turn the ridicule away because they did not want God’s faithfulness to be mocked.  It is only God who can do the extraordinary things that God has called us to do. And the rebuilding of this wall brings God Glory. The advancement of the Gospel in China Grove and in the Rowan County area in Cabarrus County areas is going to bring glory to God.  And so we must be completely dependent upon Him.

And so they prayed.  They prayed a couple of times in these verses.  In verse nine you see another prayer.  But then you see they’re prepared to fight.

They are prepared to in verse 17 we learned if they held both tools and weapons.  They are prepared to continue to work, but they are prepared to fight depending upon God.

You see, Deuteronomy 20:4 says “for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies.”  They know that if they have to fight, God will be fighting for them. Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged for the Lord Your God will be with you forever.”

So they depended upon these truths from God’s Word, and they continuously worked with a tool in one hand and a sword in the other hand. You see, for you and I the sword that we carry, and the tool that we carry to do the work is God’s Word, the Bible.

You see, Hebrews 4:12 says “for the Word of God is living active and sharper than any two-edged sword.” The Word of God is living. It is alive today. It is an active tool that we must stand upon and use to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ from cover to cover. From Genesis to Revelation, Jesus is the hero.  It is a redemptive story about how God has been working in history and through history to redeem His people through the sacrifice that Jesus made for our sins.

But it is also the weapon in which we used to fight the enemy.  When Jesus was in the desert for 40 days, he was tempted by Satan three times and each time Jesus used the Word of God to beat back those temptations.

For you and I as we face the oppositions of ridicule, the opposition of intimidation and people plotting against us, as we faced distraction, maybe it’s the distractions of our own temptations, the distractions in the discouragement of our own sin. It is so important that we know God’s Word.  That we are reading the Word of God, that we are memorizing the Word of God because it is the Word of God that we use to fight the enemies in advance the Gospel.

So for you and I when the devil begins to attack and he will as we work, we will be attacked and there will be opposition to the spread of the Gospel. But we must remember that we are completely dependent upon God through prayer and the Word, and we must work for God standing on the Word of God. Depend on God and work for God. We must stand on the Word of God. The Bible says that our battle is not against flesh or blood, but it’s against Satan himself. It is against demonic forces and we read this in Ephesians 6.  And then a response to our battle against the enemy is to put on the full armor of God, which is the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness. Our feet are fitted with the Gospel of Peace, because that is what we’re taking to the nations. We hold the shield of our faith, our faith that God is protecting us. Our trust, independence that God is going to work and fight for us.

And then we put on the helmet of Salvation and we carry the Sword, which is the Word of God. So, in order to overcome the oppositions that we face, we are dependent upon God completely, and we work for God continually, never giving up, never giving in, always ready and prepared to fight if we need to.

That is what you see in Nehemiah 4.  A people who are facing opposition that are dependent upon God and continually work for God.

Opposition is going to come in our lives. I faced it. I will face it again. You have faced it. You will face it again. We will experience it. We cannot avoid it. Especially if we boldly and courageously stand for God’s truth.

But despite opposition, God shows Himself to be faithful to His people.  Time and time again, God has been faithful.

In our text today, we are seeing His faithfulness to keep His promise of bringing His people out of exile. He called them and is restoring them to covenant faithfulness and He is fighting for them because God is always faithful.

1 John 1:9 says “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us of our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.“

You see, it is our sin that can cause opposition between us and God. It is sin that separates us from God. The greatest opposition that we face today is our sin that is separating us from God because all have sinned and fall short of God’s perfect law. But it is God who is faithful.  God, who was faithful enough and gracious enough to send His son to save us.  And we cannot overcome the opposition of stand by ourselves. In fact, we can’t work. We can’t earn it. We cannot be good enough to overcome the opposition of sin. But we don’t have to because Jesus Christ has done the work for us on an old rugged cross. And if you are listening today and you don’t know this God, if you’ve never confessed, Jesus Christ as the Lord of your life. If you’ve never stepped out on faith and said I’m going to follow Jesus, then I want you to know that your response can either be to just try to live a better life, but it will not work, or it can be to accept Him today into your heart.  And if you’ve never done that, I would encourage you to do that today. Just confess your sins to the Lord Jesus Christ and say that you believe in Him and make Him the Lord of your life, and you begin to follow the teachings of Jesus.

But maybe today you’re a Christian and you haven’t been advancing the Kingdom.  Church, maybe it’s time that we reflect upon the faithfulness of God in our life. How has He moved among us in the past? Maybe we should reflect and see the history and use that as a reminder that God has always kept His promises and let us as a church, to continue to depend upon God and continuously work for God as we advanced and expand God’s Kingdom all for God’s glory.

Let’s pray together.

Father, thank You for the Word. Thank you that in the face of opposition You do not leave us, nor do You forsake us, but You fight for us and You stand for us.  And that through You we can do all things. We are grateful for the Word of God, that is our weapon, to fight against the enemies.  Father help us to read it, to understand it, to memorize it, and to stand on Your truth even when the opposition to that truth is so great. Father give us courage and boldness to work continuously for You to advance Your Kingdom all for Your Glory. And we ask this in Jesus’ Name.  Amen and Amen.