How do we remain faithful to the Kingdom work in the face of opposition? (Nehemiah 4:15-23)

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In the last few sermons on the book of Nehemiah, we talked about the theology of opposition. We learned that when we step out in Obedience to Gods calling and purposes we will face opposition and persecution.

Jesus said if they persecuted me they will persecute you but he also said “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 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, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Last Sunday, Jinson shared on the priority of prayer and what it means to be in a promise filled partnership with God. He spoke on the enormity of the problem Nehemiah and the people of Israel had to face, the nerve-racking threat from the enemy and the discouragement that came especially from their own people.

This Sunday we’re going to talk about the practicality of how we live in the light of the things we learnt so far. The question we will answer today is “How do we remain faithful to the Kingdom work even in the face of opposition?

The battle is real, the opposition is tough, the persecution is evident.

For some of you, the battle is against your own flesh. Though you want to live a righteous and an obedient life as per the scriptures, you often end up giving in to your flesh and the worldly cravings that suck the life out of you and leave you with guilt and condemnation. You disqualify yourself from Gods calling and never reach your full potential in life.

For some the battle is against your own people who fail to understand Gods calling upon your life and often stand as a hindrance in your way. They call you names, they discourage you, they mock at you and instead of living a victorious life you give in to those discouragements and stop pursing what God wants from you.

For some of you the battle is against sickness or financial crisis that make you feel disabled and worthless for the Kingdom work.

And here’s this question in front of us today even as we go through these real struggles in life. “How do we remain faithful to the kingdom work in the face of opposition, discouragement, lack, poverty, sinful cravings, hindrances from our own people, sickness etc?”

The people of Israel in the story of Nehemiah are facing a real battle just like all of us. They are surrounded by not one but many enemies who want them dead and don’t want to see them build the wall or want them to prosper. The lives of their women and children are in danger. They’re facing constant discouragements, mocking and insults thrown at them.

But against all odds, discouragements and threat they still manage to faithfully work for the Kingdom of God.

I believe the text for today from Nehemiah 4:15-23 has some key lessons that we can learn from and apply in our lives as we face opposition and yet want to continue working for the Kingdom.

The very first thing that pops out of those verses is that the people return to work with the knowledge of who God is and a confidence (faith) in Him.

v15 – When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work.

Their trust in God’s sovereignty and power motivated them to get back to work with full assurance in their heart that God will give them success.

When we remember who the Lord is and begin to see Him correctly, that shapes everything. Our perspective changes, our response changes.

The Lord is the one who frustrated the enemy’s plans and that changed everything from the people’s perspective to their response, to the way they lived.

In the face of opposition and discouragements, we must always remind ourselves that God is fighting our battles, therefore we have to live and depend on His sovereignty and not on our abilities.

No matter how pitiful or harsh your situation is God still loves you because you are His child. Remember when we were yet sinners God loved us not because we were perfect and obedient. More than 2000 years back God sent his son Jesus to die on behalf of our sins, past, present & future. The day we believed and put our trust in what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross we were adopted into Gods family just the way he found us.

Just recently we had witnessed an American family from Missouri adopt a child from an orphanage in Pune. They already have 2 children of their own but still chose to adopt this beautiful boy. I just can’t explain the joy I felt to see the whole process; it reminded me of God adopting us into his great big family.

In Psalms 40:2 King David writes “He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.”

In times of despair we have to remind ourselves of who God is, what he has done for us, who he has made us to be.

Jer 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare[a] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” That’s who our God is.

Remember God is in complete control of our lives and he is working out something beautiful in all of us even through times of failure, discouragements, opposition and calamity.

The people of God trusted in his sovereignty and His ability to give success and got back to work with full assurance in their heart that God will give them success.

Are we willing to trust in God’s sovereignty?

Hudson Taylor, a missionary from China in the year 1832 was one day in a sailboat and the captain of the boat came to him. They were just off the coast of Sumatra and there was no wind, and the boat was drifting towards an island. And the captain came and knocked on the door of Hudson Taylor and said to him the boat was drifting, there was no wind, and this island was thought to be inhabited by cannibals. And Hudson Taylor said to him, “What do you want me to do?” And the captain said, “ I hear you’re a man of God, and I want you to pray, and pray for wind.” And Hudson Taylor says, “Well, all right. But I want you to put the sails up.” And the captain said, “Well, my sailors will think I’m crazy, because there’s absolutely no wind at all!” But Hudson Taylor insisted that he put the sails up. Thirty minutes later there was a knock on the door, and the captain was saying, “You can stop praying now, because we’ve got more wind than we know what to do with!”

It’s a beautiful story of a man who knew who his God was; he knew that God will answer his prayers.

Do we know our God?

In times of difficulty are we willing to put our trust in the God who never sleeps, never slumbers? In The God who promised ‘I will never leave you never forsake you’? Do you believe that he is working on you just like the goldsmith works on the ore till he gets to see his own reflection and brings out pure gold.

The second thing we see in the text is that the people stayed together & worked together in community.

v16 – 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

v19 – And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. 20 In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”

They stayed together, they built together, they fought together.

I don’t think I need to emphasize too much on this point because one of the things I really cherish and appreciate about ‘The Gathering Community Church’ is our sense of community, the way we love and care for one another, our openness to share our struggles with one another and pray with one another.

I love my meetings with Jinson and Aslem every Thursday. I am so blessed to have brothers with whom I can share my life and find encouragement from each other.

It is encouraging to see the girls connect every Wednesdays where they have grown into friendship and show genuine love and care for each other.

It is beautiful to be a part a community that loves and cares for each other and the benefits are fulfilling.

1. Community challenges us to be more like Jesus
2. Community meets practical needs
3. Community carries us emotionally
4. Community reveals our gifts and talents
5. Community opens our eyes to the needs of others
6. Community empowers our relationship with God
7. Community meets our need for love
8. Community offers opportunities for confession which leads to healing
9. Community teaches us to work through conflicts
10. Community gives us the chance to forgive

Let’s continue to intentionally stay together and build each other even when we grow in numbers.

The third and the final thing that we see in those verses is that they fought and was on guard against the plots of the enemy.

V17 – 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.

v18 – And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built.

Along with trusting in God’s sovereignty and being in a community, it is also important to remember that we need to constantly guard our hearts if we want to continue working for the Kingdom.

Luke 6:45

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Colossians 3:5

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

When we think about the work that needs to be accomplished we must get rid of the myth of neutrality — — we must remember that there’s no standing still. We’re either gaining ground or we’re losing ground. There is no neutral.

Nehemiah’s skill was to plan for realistic events, the possibility of certain things that were about to happen…the lookouts that he had, the way he prepared the people for battle. In verse 23, right at the end:

“Neither I nor my brothers nor my servants nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us took off our clothes; each kept his weapon at his right hand.”

Even at night they were prepared. They were prepared by day; they were prepared by night. He had a trumpeter who stayed by Nehemiah’s side the whole time so that wherever there might be a threat of an incursion into the city the trumpeter would blast his trumpet, and they would come running to the sound of that trumpet. Wherever they would hear that sound, they were to run there in order to defend that part of the city. It’s not just organization, its preparation.

The question I want us to answer today is “What are some of the practical things we’re doing to guard ourselves against to keep us from deviating from the task at hand?”

Since we’re talking about guarding our heart I want to take some time out and talk a bit about Spiritual disciplines.

I believe one of the ways we can guard our hearts is by cultivating spiritual disciplines.

Let me define what Spiritual disciple is.

Discipline in general is defined as “training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior.” It is a natural component of the Christian life. In fact, almost nothing of any significance in our lives is ever accomplished without it. Spiritual disciplines can be described as those behaviors that augment our spiritual growth and enable us to grow to spiritual maturity. This process of spiritual growth and development begins to take place the moment a person encounters the risen Christ and comes to Him for salvation.

The purpose of spiritual discipline is to develop our inner being, that which has been transformed by Christ at salvation.

“A Spiritual Discipline is an intentionally directed action which places us in a position to receive from God the power to do what we cannot accomplish on our own…. The deep waters of God’s life are already flowing. We simply learn the strokes that will enable us more and more to be at home in them…. The human body is our power-pack of mind-body-spirit — we discipline it in order to practice cooperation with God. (Life with God, p. 135-137)”
― Richard Foster, a Christian theologian.

Remember our Lord Jesus when he was on the earth practiced and taught spiritual disciplines. He fasted for 40 days and 40 nights before stepping into ministry, he would often go away into solitude to talk to God, he regularly prayed, he memorized scriptures and often quoted from the old testament to prove his point.

Daniel in the Old testament prayed for 3 times in a day and was willing to die in the Lion’s den when the King and the officials passed an order to stop praying to any other God except to the idol of Nebucanezzar.

Paul often instructed the people of God to follow Spiritual disciplines.

1 Tim 4:7 – Train yourself in Godliness
Phil 2:12 – Work out your salvation with fear and trembling
Rom 15:30 – Strive together with me in prayer
1 Pet 2:11 – Abstain from sinful desires which war against your soul.

As parents one of the things we want to cultivate in our children is to have spiritual discipline in their lives and therefore we have incorporated prayer, bible reading & waiting on the Lord as part of their daily schedule.

So as I close in, let me list down some of the Spiritual disciplines that you may want to incorporate in your daily schedule as we have talked about guarding our hearts against the plots of enemy and moving forward in working for the kingdom with zeal and passion.

Solitude, Fasting, Worship, Prayer, Fellowship, Confession, Journalizing, Sacrificial living etc.

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