Handling Opposition


Text: Nehemiah 6:15-19

 

I.         Nehemiah took on an ambitious project to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

            A.        He completed the project in just 52 days - Nehemiah 6:15

            B.        That alone is an amazing feat, but we can’t overlook the fact that the project did not go smoothly.

                        1.         From the very start Nehemiah faced severe opposition.

                        2.         Yet he overcame.

            C.        As we consider how Nehemiah handled the opposition, I ask you to consider the oppositions you face in your own life in living life as a Christian ought.

II.        Opposition by intimidation - Nehemiah 2:18-19

            A.        Sanballat was the former governor, whom Nehemiah replaced. He and his cohorts had no interest in Israel returning - Nehemiah 2:10

            B.        They didn’t believe Nehemiah really would do as he stated. But notice the threat implied. If Nehemiah does this, they would charge him with rebelling against the government.

            C.        What they didn’t know is that Nehemiah had the king’s permission to rebuild the wall - Nehemiah 2:5-6

            D.        Nehemiah answer - Nehemiah 2:20

                        1.         He did not defend himself. He didn’t layout how he was going to get the work done. He didn’t mention that the king was behind the project.

                        2.         His only reply was that God would take care of them while His people worked.

                        3.         He also took the offensive in stating they did not have a right to Jerusalem and, thus, no right to interfere.

            E.        Too often we feel that we must win over everyone who opposes us. Nehemiah knew he was in the right. He knew God would support the effort. That was sufficient. He didn’t need these men’s support.

                        1.         It is the error some Pharisees made - John 12:42-43

III.       Opposition by ridicule - Nehemiah 4:1-3

            A.        The charges:

                        1.         Too weak to protect themselves, that is why they want a wall.

                        2.         How can the manage to worship their God and work at the same time? They can’t spend enough time each day to make progress.

                        3.         They can’t get it done in a day, so why bother?

                        4.         They don’t have decent material to work with, so it won’t hold

                        5.         They don’t know what they are doing, so it is going to collapse.

            B.        Take note of the motivation for all these taunts. They were angry that the work was going on.

            C.        Also take note that none of the accusations were made directly. They were made in the Jews’ hearing, but it was said to their own supporters who, naturally, would agree, giving further impression that they are “right.”

                        1.         Wicked people often seek encouragement from other wicked people.

            D.        Nehemiah’s answer - Nehemiah 4:4-6

                        1.         First, he didn’t stoop to their level by responding to the mocking - Proverbs 26:4

                        2.         Second, he brought his frustrations to God, who could and would handle the problem better than Nehemiah could. There was no reason for vengeance - Romans 12:17-19

                        3.         Third, they focused on their work.

            E.        Notice how much progress they made. In part it is because they didn’t waste time responding to people who wouldn’t listen anyway - Psalm 38:12-16

            F.        Too often we feel the need to defend ourselves and prove we are right.

                        1.         The truth is that the proof is in the doing.

                        2.         Our accomplishments will say louder that we are right than any words we might speak.

                        3.         Instead, many waste time in arguments that could be profitably used to prove by doing.

                        4.         When someone isn’t willing to talk to you directly about concerns, but rather mocks you from the side, know that it isn’t worth the time to address time and distract yourself from the work.

IV.      Opposition by threats - Nehemiah 4:7-8

            A.        When it was clear that progress was being made, it enraged the enemies further. They did not want hard evidence that they were wrong.

                        1.         When words fail, the answer of the wicked is often to rely on muscle.

            B.        The answer - Nehemiah 4:9

                        1.         Once again, cares are taken to God - Psalm 50:15

                        2.         And a watch was established. They made it more difficult for their enemies to carry out their threats.

            C.        Don’t discount threats or wait until you are actually attacked to decide that you need to do something.

                        1.         As Christians we are under a constant threat from Satan - I Peter 5:8-9

                                    a.         The answer is constant vigilance and preparation

                        2.         When early Christians were threatened - Acts 4:29

                                    a.         They took the problem to God

                                    b.         And renewed their effort

V.        Opposition by exhaustion - Nehemiah 4:10-12

            A.        The work itself was hard, taxing the strength of those doing the work. But the added pressure of knowing that they could be attacked at any moment was getting to them. Worse, there was no telling from which direction the attack would come.

            B.        The response - Nehemiah 4:13-15

                        1.         Nehemiah established guards whose sole purpose was to defend the workers, who were also their family.

                        2.         He also encouraged them to not fear.

                                    a.         Fear is a great enemy. Our imaginations are rich.

                                    b.         There are more possible ways we can imagine things going wrong than we can handle.

                                    c.         Our own fears can do more to exhaust us than reality.

                        3.         The precautions and the lack of being intimidated stopped their enemies.

                                    a.         Often times wicked people are looking for sins of weakness or fear. Such encourages to attack because it tells them they are “strong.”

            C.        When we face opposition, we tend to take everything upon ourselves. The problem is that we can’t do everything. To try is to wear yourself out.

                        1.         Bear each others burdens - Galatians 6:2

                        2.         Let other people help - James 5:16

                        3.         In the church, Christ appointed people for just that purpose - Hebrews 13:17

            D.        Nor can we let worry rule our lives. We need to be cautious, but we can’t let our imaginations run wild

                        1.         Joshua was so told when he took over leadership of Israel - Joshua 1:9

                        2.         With God’s aid, there is no need for fear - Psalm 27:1

                        3.         God will handle the contingencies - Isaiah 41:10-14

            E.        What we find in Nehemiah is that they became better organized - Nehemiah 4:16-23

                        1.         They split the duties between building and guarding

                                    a.         This served to both provide protection and gave rest periods to combat the fatigue.

                        2.         But the workers didn’t neglect precautions for themselves, they armed themselves as well.

                        3.         They planned to help each other, from whatever direction trouble came. And with this created an alarm system of trumpeters.

                        4.         In one sense they couldn’t work as fast because half were guarding, but because they were better rested they were able to do more.

            F.        When things aren’t going well, adapt, make changes. The task and goal never changed, but they took each problem in stride and continued on.

                        1.         Too many burn themselves out because they don’t adapt.

                        2.         Nor is there anything wrong with taking period breaks while continuing to progress.

                        3.         I’ve seen too many Christians fall away because they didn’t pace themselves. They wanted everything now and couldn’t sustain the rate.

VI.      Opposition by extortion - Nehemiah 5:1-5

            A.        Enemies to progress are always external. Too often the greater enemy is ourselves. Brethren who take advantage of brother.

            B.        The poor among the Jews brought complaints to Nehemiah that the rich were making life hard for them

                        1.         There appears to have been a famine, which made grain scarce.

                        2.         With everyone working on the wall, people were struggling to feed their families and were going into debt.

                                    a.         Some had to sell family land just to pay their taxes.

                                    b.         Others had to sell children off into slavery and there was no funds to buy them back.

            C.        The solution - Nehemiah 5:6-19

                        1.         The root cause were people who took advantage of the poor.

                                    a.         They charged interest contrary to the law - Exodus 22:25

                                    b.         They were willing to ransom someone sold to a foreigner, but they didn’t extend the same when sold to a brother - Leviticus 25:47-49

                                                (1)       The people had just been redeemed out of foreign lands and now people are being sold into slavery to their own brethren?

                        2.         Nehemiah declared it to be an embarrassment before the nations

                        3.         He points out his own example of lending to the poor without interest.

                        4.         He insists that they restore what was taken, including the interest charged.

                        5.         Nehemiah was not charging taxes. He and his people were self-supporting. And they worked along with everyone else. And feed about 150 people daily.

            D.        In far too many churches, brethren turn against each other - Galatians 5:14-15

                        1.         There is only one solution to this problem. It has to stop - Galatians 5:26; I Corinthians 3:3

                        2.         Set the proper example

                        3.         Why should Christians do the work of the enemy when we have enough of our own work to do?

VII.     Opposition through compromise - Nehemiah 6:1-2

            A.        Nehemiah’s enemies the work was nearly done, so they sought subterfuge. “Let’s get together and talk.”

            B.        Nehemiah’s answer - Nehemiah 6:3-4

                        1.         There wasn’t anything to talk about.

                        2.         To give credence to the request would mean they had something to offer.

                        3.         At best, it would take time away from the labor. At worse, it was a trap.

            C.        There are innumerable time wasters in the world

                        1.         We need to recognize that dealing with people who have no interest in helping, learning, or aiding will do nothing but waste our time.

                        2.         I get a lot of people who have no other desire than to argue. They present detailed intricate arguments. No answer is good enough for them. And if you don’t watch out you can consume valuable time.

                                    a.         I Timothy 6:3-5 - withdraw yourself

                                    b.         II Timothy 2:14-16 - shun

                        3.         Just because someone claims to want to study, it doesn’t always mean they want to learn. Don’t let such people distract you from profitable work.

VIII.    Opposition through slander - Nehemiah 6:5-7

            A.        The attacks become more personal.

                        1.         Either you meet with us or we’ll tell everyone that you are planning to rebel against the king and have people saying you will be king.

                        2.         Notice how it is disguised as a concerned letter from a friend. “I heard ...”

            B.        Nehemiah’s answer - Nehemiah 6:8-9

                        1.         Nehemiah’s answer was short and to the point, the charge wasn’t true.

                        2.         Nehemiah saw that they were trying undermine his confidence and thus slow down the work.

            C.        When you make progress that another opposes, it is not at all unusual for attacks to be make against your reputation - Psalm 35:19-21

                        1.         We see this all the time in political campaigns. Eventually one candidate fears his rival is too strong, so out comes the mud. Sling enough and they hope something will stick.

                        2.         Don’t let lies distract you from your work or question what you are doing.

                        3.         Be strong in God and do not fear - Ephesians 6:10

IX.      Opposition through treachery - Nehemiah 6:10

            A.        A man was hired to get Nehemiah into a compromising position.

                        1.         He tried to get Nehemiah to think someone was about to assassinate him, so he should take refuge in the temple.

                        2.         He even had someone issue a “prophecy” regarding the attempt.

                        3.         In doing so, they tried to take advantage of Nehemiah’s cautious nature and make him appear to be a coward.

            B.        Nehemiah’s response - Nehemiah 6:11-14

                        1.         Why should someone, who trusts God, hide? - Psalms 11:1

                        2.         In essence he is say, I rather die working for God, than to preserve my life in fear - Proverbs 28:1

                        3.         In answering him, Nehemiah realized that this man was a hireling of his enemies.

            C.        Nehemiah’s enemies understood that perception can be a weapon

                        1.         This is why leaders and prophets were told to stay strong in the face of opposition - Jeremiah 1:17-19; Ezekiel 2:6

                        2.         We are told to do the same - I Peter 1:13; I Thessalonians 2:2

X.        Despite the opposition, the wall was done in just 52 days - Nehemiah 6:15

            A.        Just think Nehemiah faced all these attacks and problems while undertaking a huge task, all in less than two months time!

            B.        Now think about the excuses you are giving as to why you can’t do the Lord’s work, why you can’t remain faithful, why you just want to give up.

            C.        Are you letting the enemy’s opposition keep you from doing righteousness?