Responding To Personal Opposition

Responding To Personal Opposition

Strength is found in God so we could push forward with the work of God

Well hey there China Grove First Baptist Church. So good to have you join us online again this Sunday morning. We’re excited to continue our series, Rebuild and Restore, just continuing to walk through the book of Nehemiah. And we’ve been going through this and there was kind of this pre-building of the wall phase for Nehemiah where we begin to see the passion of the servant and we notice that he was very prayerful servant. He was very patient and prepared servant.  And all that was before the wall ever started to be built. And then we get to the point where they build the wall and they do it together. Everybody has a job to do and everybody is going in the same direction. They’re working together, doing the right things together an it’s just good and God is being glorified.

And then we started a series of messages about the opposition to the work. You know, anytime we do anything for God or anytime we’re living right or walking and living the way we’re supposed to be living, there’s going to be opposition. The world does not like the work of God.  The enemy that we have, the great deceiver, Satan, does not like God’s Kingdom to expand.  So there will be opposition to that work. And we saw how to overcome opposition from the outside.  The enemies were plotting against them. They were making fun of them. They were ridiculing them. They were threatening to kill them and to come against them by force if they had to. And yet the nation was able to unify an overcome the external opposition.

Last week we saw how we could overcome internal opposition. You know the enemy will use division within the church, within the community, to stop the work of God. And so we looked at several steps last week on how we can overcome conflict, especially conflict among the church and among the community of faith.

And today we’ll continue to look at another form of opposition, but the great thing about it is the rebuilding project comes to an end at the end of Chapter 6. So if you have your Bibles, I would invite you to turn to Nehemiah 6 and we’ll be walking through those verses today, answering the question “how are we to respond to personal attacks?”

The enemies had tried to attack the people.  They had tried to attack them from the outside. Satan had tried to divide him on the inside, but now the work is almost complete. And so they begin to realize, Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem, the Arab, begin to realize, we’ve gotta take down the leader. If we can takedown the leader, we can stop the people. So that’s what they come up with. They’re going to take out Nehemiah. They’re going to take out the leader of the people, and they’re going to do so by trying to kill him physically, but they’re also going to try to kill his character and ruin his reputation through personal attacks.  So how are we to respond when we are attacked personally?

I bet everybody listening has been attacked personally at some point in their life.  Your character has been attacked. Rumors have been spread about you. Lies have been told about you. It’s just one of these things in life that all of us have experienced. I’m a pastor. It happens OK, anytime we begin to do things for God the enemy sends people to attack what we are doing for God and a lot of that comes in the form of smearing our names or spreading lies about us. All of us have experienced that.  And the world would say hey fight back.  They’re telling a lie about you. You tell a lie about them. The world would say just confront them face to face and fight, fight, fight, fight. But is that really a way that glorifies God?

Now I know that there are times we need to stand up for ourselves and there’s times we do need to fight for ourselves, but Nehemiah takes a different approach to the personal attacks that he faces. It’s a very Godly approach. It’s a very holy and Christlike approach, and we can see how we can respond when people personally attack us, and here’s the central truth that Nehemiah is holding onto throughout this passage. It’s very simple. Very profound. His strength is found in God, so he can push forward with the work of God.  Throughout everything he’s going to experience in Chapter 6, his strength is found in God, so he can push forward with the work of God.  And so let’s take a look at what’s happening here. And let’s see how we can respond when we are faced with some of these same personal attacks, Nehemiah Chapter 6:1-4.

“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 this time I had not set up the doors in the gates.”

Now first of all, let’s just see this ’cause this is amazing.  The wall’s finished. I mean, that’s just an amazing feat that a lot of us just kind of brush over when we read it. But the wall’s finished. All that’s left is to hang the doors and put up the gates, and Nehemiah has led these people, and under the leadership and the Lordship of God Almighty, they’ve done something amazing.  But the enemies are like this is bad. We haven’t been able to stop them with any of the tactics we’ve used so far, so we gotta do something different. And again, they’re going to take out the leader. They’re going to try to take out the leader because they don’t want those gates put up. They don’t want the wall to be completely finished.

Verse 2.  “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.

The enemies of God just don’t give up, they just won’t stop. Now they want to do him harm and they want to kill Nehemiah, but they disguise it in the form of a diplomatic meeting. They’re like well, if we can’t beat ’em join ’em.  That’s the approach they’re trying to convince Nehemiah they’re taking, and it’s in the form of peer pressure.  Four times they try to get him to come in to meet with them.  Four times they try to take him away from the work. Four times they try to get him to leave his people and go to the plane of Ono.

You see, peer pressure can be a very tempting thing, can it?  For days and days and days, Nehemiah has been fighting these people and all of a sudden they want to be his friends.  Now, Nehemiah is a pretty smart guy, so he picks up on the plot.  But for us it can be really hard when people who have been fighting us, people who have been attacking us, people have been coming at us or kind of like you know what we get it now. Why don’t you just come here? Come meet with us and then they begin to pressure and pressure and pressure and peer pressure is hard to overcome ’cause we all want to be a part of that cool kids table.

We all want to fit in. We don’t want to be different. Nobody wants to be different, and so we’re pressured to conform.  But here’s what would happen.  If Nehemiah gives into the peer pressure, then he leaves his people. And Can you imagine, as they’re finishing the work and the leader says, alright, see you later. I’m going to go hang out and rub shoulders with the big shots because I’m a big shot. It wouldn’t look good. It would hurt his credibility among his own people.  But he would’ve also been killed.  Because that’s what they want to do. They want to draw him away and kill him. Listen.  When people pressure us to do things that we know are not right, when they pressure us to pull away from living a holy life, when they pressure us to move away from the work that God has called us to do, there’s danger if we don’t say no.

And so this first kind of personal attack is in the form of peer pressure, and Nehemiah says, “Oh no to go into Ono.”  Now I heard a bunch of preachers say that this week and I said I wasn’t going to make that joke and here I just did it. So it’s corny, and I know, but you just can laugh at it, but he does. He says, “Oh no to go to Ono.”  He doesn’t give into peer pressure. Teenagers and college students, This is so important for you to understand.  Because you are pressured, and if you’re just starting college, you’re leaving you know, the small China Grove maybe bubble of Christian faith and you’re going into these colleges where you’re being pressured to abandon that faith. You’re being pressured to leave the work that God has started in you.   And you have to be strong enough to say “I won’t abandon my God, no matter how much you pressure me.”

Being a part of the cool kids table, being able to go hang out with the big shots isn’t worth sacrificing your faith. It’s not worth sacrificing what you have been called to do and I know it’s hard. I get it saying no to your peers and your friends is not easy.  But your strength comes from God to say no.  And you push forward with the work.

Now you do so politely. Nehemiah was pretty polite in his response. He just said “hey, no thanks guys.”  God called me to do something. What you want me to do? I can’t do it, I’m just not going to give in an over and over and over. He says no. Because his strength comes from God and he pushes forward with the work that God has called him to do so. We’ve got to say no to peer pressure, but that makes Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem and all these enemies very angry because they’re trying to take him away, they’re trying to kill him, and so then they do something else. They start rumors.

Who hasn’t had a rumor spread about them, right? Here’s what they say in the same way. This is verse five.  “In the same way Sanballat for the fifth time.” So four times he said no to peer pressure. Here comes the fifth one for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand. This is an open letter, everybody can read it. It’s not private. You know we see a lot of these on social media, right? It seems like every time I turn around there’s been an open letter written to this guy or an open letter written to this guy and it’s on Facebook and its own Twitter.  99% of the time. It’s character assassination of a person.  It is talking bad. It’s never open. Letters are very rarely helpful. I mean, occasionally you’ll see one, but you know, usually we’re trying to get attention. They’re trying to, you know, stir up trouble. They’re trying to ruin Nehemiah’s reputation so they send an open letter. Everybody can see it. And here’s what it says. Verse six, “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 king.”  Verse 7.  “And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, ‘there’s a King in Judah.’  And now the king, talking about Artaxerxes here, will hear these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together.”

So in an effort to get Nehemiah to come, take counsel with them so they can kill him, they kill his character.  They spread false accusations in the form of “I heard somebody say and Geshem heard it too and he says it’s true”, but we don’t really know where Geshem heard it from. We heard somebody say something.

Now, this really isn’t a part of this message, and there’s a lot of verses we can talk to especially, there’s a 10 commandment that says don’t make false accusations about somebody. This is not how Christians should behave.  And I’m just going to throw this in here because it’s in the text. Christians should not behave this way and attack each other’s character, especially with the saying “I heard somebody say”.  This is how gossip and this is how rumors start and it’s devastating to communities. Well, I heard this person say this and that and they heard it from this person and this person said this now. First of all, by the time you go through that many people, you ain’t anywhere close to the truth. If it was ever true to begin with.   It is a detrimental part of community to spread rumors anonymously because everybody just assumes you make it up anyway.   And that’s what they’re doing. They’re making up false accusations, and it’s dangerous.  If the king gets hold of this, and if the king believes it, he’s gonna kill him.  He’s going to march his army into this city, destroy the walls, and kill Nehemiah. Luckily, Nehemiah and the king are pretty tight, and I don’t think the king would believe it even if he heard it ’cause Nehemiah’s got that really close connection with the king because he was the king’s cupbearer. I mean, let’s be honest. If Nehemiah wanted to take over, he would have gave the king poison while he was a cupbearer. I mean, that’s just the reality. But it doesn’t hurt the fact that the people of Israel see this. The surrounding villages, the surrounding nations are able to read this open letter and it is a character assassination against him.   They’re trying to discourage him and discredit him so he’ll stop doing the work. I get it when we, when people spread rumors about us, we get angry and we want to fight back and we want to go after them and start spreading rumors about them.   It’s natural to do that.

That’s not what Nehemiah does. Look at his response to this. Again, very politely in verse 8.  “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’s making them up.  He’s like, listen, I know that you’re obsessed with me.  I know that you think about me all the time, but you just you dreamed this. I’m not trying to rebel. My people aren’t trying to rebel where I’m not trying to be king. I’ve never wanted to be king, I’m just I’m just a guy. Remember, Nehemiah is just a guy who had a passion for God and a passion for people and his passion and his purpose aligned with God’s passion and God’s purpose.  He’s just an ordinary dude who God called to do an extraordinary thing. He doesn’t want to be king.  He doesn’t want to rebel. The people don’t want to rebel, and he says you’re crazy.

Listen.  To overcome rumors, sometimes we just have to endure the rumors.  We deny it and we move on.  We deny them and we move on. That is how we are to endure the rumors that are spread against us. Verse 9 “For they wanted to frighten us, thinking that their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” See personal attacks are meant to scare us away.  And that’s what the hope is. Is like all the people are going to be afraid that the king’s going to march his army in here so they’re going to stop. But they don’t stop the work because Nehemiah denies the rumors and he prays.  We’ve seen it over and over and over again. Nehemiah is a man of prayer.

Here’s what he prays, but now God strengthen my hands. Help me to endure these rumors. Help me to push forward. He prays for strength because he knows his strength comes from God and he needs that strength to push forward with the work.  You know Matthew 5:11-12 says this.  “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.  Christians, they hated Jesus. They made fun of Jesus. They attacked Jesus’ character. They attacked Him spiritually and He stood strong for you and me and because of what He did in the example, He said He says when you experience the same kind of persecution because they hated Me, they’re going to hate you. When the enemy attacks you, you need to understand you can rejoice, for your reward is great in Heaven.

We don’t serve people, we serve God.  We don’t need to worry about what they’re saying about us. We need to worry about what God thinks about us.  And that’s how we endure rumors. A young pastor named Timothy is the young leader of a church. A young man. Paul writes this letter of this word of encouragement to him, in 2 Timothy 2:1. “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus,”  Be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  Endure the rumors because your strength comes from God and just like Timothy and Nehemiah and even Jesus, we push forward.

In Acts 4:29 “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness.”  We can’t back down.  It doesn’t matter what the world says about us, we have to push forward because we have a Gospel message. We have good news that the whole world needs to hear.  We have a message that says you are separated from God by your sins. Everybody, myself, you, we have all failed to follow God’s Law.

I’ve been following Jesus for many, many, many years since I was 17 years old, so I guess 27 years 20 years, OK?  I’ve sinned in those 20 years.  But God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ has forgiven me.  That is the message that we have to take to those who are addicted to drugs. Those who are addicted to alcohol.  Those who are addicted to all sorts of things that are causing their life to be broken.  That we have a Savior who will restore us and His Name is Jesus Christ and He hung on a cross 2000 years ago and He said “forgive them, they do not know what they do.”  It’s an amazing Gospel message, and it doesn’t matter if they attack us. We push forward.

James tells the Christians that he’s writing to to push forward and take joy in the trials that they are experiencing.  The church in Philippi is told to have strength and courage and be unified as they advanced the Gospel.  Again, having joy in the trials that they are experiencing.  Through Christ and His work on the cross, we can be saved and we can push forward enduring what the world says about us.

But there’s a third thing. Sanballat, Geshem, they were unsuccessful. Then they went to a guy that Nehemiah could trust and they bought him off.  I don’t know if he was Nehemiah’s close friend, but Nehemiah is going to go to this guy’s house, so we know Nehemiah knows him and the Nehemiah has some kind of trust in him, and we know he’s a prophet.  So here’s what happens. Look in verse 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.  So he’s coming to him under the shadow of “Hey we need to meet together and we need to do so in the temple” and he says “let us close the doors of the temple for their coming to kill you.“

So Shemaiah comes to Nehemiah says or Nehemiah goes to him and this prophet says look, they’re going to kill you. I want to protect you. I want to help you. So let’s go into the temple and let’s lock the doors.

Verse 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? I will not go in.”  The point of this was to scare Nehemiah. Well, all of it’s been to scare him.  But now he’s got a friend, maybe a prophet. A guy that Nehemiah trusts says, hey, you need to be afraid they’re coming to kill you.

And I love what Nehemiah says. “Should such a man as I run away?”  You see, if Nehemiah goes into the temple, he’s gonna die anyway. Because there’s this law in Numbers 18:7 that basically says that if you’re not a priest, then you can’t go past a certain point, past the altar of burnt offering. And if you go past the altar of the burnt offering, you sin and you die.  So Nehemiah basically stands up and he says, should I be more afraid of these men or should I be more afraid of God? Should I violate God’s law in Numbers 18:7 to save my own life.  And he looks at this prophet and he says “I can’t do it. I fear God more than I fear man.”

We all have to come to a point in our life as Christians where we say I fear God more than I fear men.  I care more about what God thinks about me than what those people think about me.  And I know it’s hard. It’s hard to say listen, that’s not right.  I’m not going to let my friends, I’m not going to let you influence me to do something I know is wrong just because you want me to. God’s Law is very clear, so I’m going to follow God and trust in God.  And so he says, no, I’m not going to be afraid of them. I’m going to be afraid of God and I’m going to follow God.  As we’re attacked, don’t be afraid.   They can’t hurt you.  They can’t hurt you.

I was reminded as I was studying this of three guys named Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego, right?  Now these were guys who experienced the exile first hand. They were in Babylon under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar and Nebuchadnezzar said “you’re going to worship my statue. You’re going to worship me. You’re going to bow down to me or I’m going to throw you into the fiery furnace.”  Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego said “no, we don’t care about what man thinks. We care about what God thinks.”  I want to read this to you in Daniel 3:16-18.

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace,’”  Listen God’s, able to deliver you from those personal attacks.  God’ able to deliver you from the rumors.   He’s able to deliver you from the hands of your enemy, if he wants to. And he and these Shadrack Meshach and Abednego says, look, God can deliver us from this fiery furnace if he wants to. We’re not afraid of it. We’re not afraid of the furnace. We’re not afraid of you. We will not sacrifice our faith and our beliefs and compromise what God has called us to stand firm on.

But then Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego add this “and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”  So basically they say. If God chooses to take us to Heaven, If God chooses not to take us out of this fiery furnace, we’re still going to choose God because we will go be with the Lord. Boy that’s faith. And that’s courage, and that’s boldness to say. I will follow God and not man.

Christians, brothers and sisters, we’re here not to please each other. We’re not here to please men.  We’re here to please God.  And we should live a life worthy of that calling, as Paul writes in Ephesians chapter four.  We should live a life worthy of that calling which we have been called to.  So if we want to overcome these personal attacks or this personal opposition, we say no to peer pressure, we endure the rumors, we don’t run away, we’re not afraid, but then we have to be discerning. And you see this throughout the whole text. Nehemiah has been given a brain.  God gave it to him and he’s smart enough to recognize the plots against him.  So we have to be discerning.

Look how he responds in verse 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.”  This prophet was a hired Hitman against Nehemiah.  And he was able to discern that.  Why?  Because the prophet asked him to violate God’s Law.  Why would a prophet ask somebody to violate God’s Law if it wasn’t a setup?  So he’s using his brain?

Here’s the thing, I don’t expect you to believe everything I say just because I’m an ordained pastor and I’ve been to seminary.  I want you to study it for yourself. Know, the Word of God, so you can test the messenger.  Nehemiah was familiar enough with God’s Word that he could recognize a false prophet or a false teacher.

Our churches around this country would do well to study the Word of God on their own because there’s a lot of false teachers out there.  Most of them are on TV.  And if and when we don’t know the Word of God ourselves, we can fall for their schemes for their clever words, ’cause some are just snake oil salesman.  So it’s important that all of us know God’s Word and test the message that you hear week in and week out. And listen. If I ever say something that you don’t understand, ask me. So it’s important for you to know God’s Word.  Test the message you hear based on God’s Word.  But again in verse 14. “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.”  So again, at the end Nehemiah says, look.  No, you’re a false Prophet. I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to give in. I’m going to get my strength from God and I’m going to push forward.  And I’m going to pray.   Again, he prays.

I’ve heard this said a lot and I’ll just tell you. When you’re going through stressful experiences, when you’re worried when you’re going through personal attacks or anything.  Pray give it to God and go to bed.  Pray give it to God and go to bed.   And then wake up and push forward ’cause your strength comes from God.

Now verse 15.  Won’t read it to you, but here’s what it says. The wall is finished.  After all, the opposition. After all the attacks. After all the struggles.  It is finished.   The wall is done.  By the way, 52 days from start to finish. It is finished.

When I read those words, I’m reminded of another event that happened. When Jesus hangs on the cross.  And in His last breaths, utters the words it is finished.  Nehemiah has finished the work of rebuilding the wall.  Jesus finished the work of restoring a people.  Because it is through the work of Jesus Christ on that cross that we can be restored to our broken relationship between us and God.  Through God’s grace we put our faith alone in Him.  And you can be restored today. You can have an eternal hope and everlasting hope today.   By saying Jesus, “You are the Lord of my life. And I recognize that You did what I couldn’t do. You took my place on that cross. You took my punishment for my sins. And You finished the work.”

From that very moment in the garden when Adam and Eve took that bite, God has been redeeming His people in history and through history, and in that moment, the redemptive work was finished. And we have a path to God through faith in Jesus Christ.  Make no mistake though, He’s coming back.  Are you ready?  If you were to die today, are you ready?  Do you know where you would spend eternity?  Would you spend it in heaven worshipping Almighty God?  Or would you spend it in hell, separated from God?

If you don’t know the answer to that question, then I would encourage you to pray and accept the Lord Jesus Christ into your heart. You just say, Lord, I’m a sinner. Forgive me of my sins and I commit my life to following You. And if you’re ready to make that decision today, please let us know. Contact the church office. Send me an email. Send the church an email.  We would love to disciple you. We would love to come alongside of you because it is a process.  Growing in to be more like Jesus is a process. So please let us know if you’ve made that decision today.

Church, we gotta work to do. And we need to know that our strength comes from God and that we push forward.  We don’t back away.  We don’t retreat. We don’t hide.  We don’t cower. We push forward.  Imagine what God can do in our homes in our community, in our schools, in our businesses, when we say we will push forward with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Let’s pray together.

Father, I thank you for this time together. I thank you that You for being a God of Restoration.  A God who rebuilds walls and rebuilds lives.  Father, I pray today that if there is someone who’s never made that decision and they’re hearing this message whatever day it may be, Father, I pray that they would accept You as Lord and Savior.  That you had changed their life for eternity, that You would secure their place in heaven.  That You would give them an everlasting eternal hope. And Father, I pray for our church.  Father in the face of opposition, help us to move forward.  Help us to stand firm getting our strength from You and pushing forward to work ’cause You have called us to do a good thing.  We ask this in Jesus Name Amen and Amen.