Whenever people come together to accomplish something for the Lord but face opposition, if there’s a book of the Bible they should read for encouragement it’s Nehemiah. You’ve got the Jews returning from exile trying to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem but facing resistance on all sides. The book is basically about:
- The Jews trying to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.
- The Jews’ surrounding enemies trying to stop them.
I was sitting in my office feeling thankful VBS was going so well when someone burst in: “You have to come to the nursery…it’s flooded!” While I’m in the nursery trying to figure out where the water is coming from someone else says, “The boys’ bathroom is flooded.” A third person arrives, “There’s water all over the floor of the girls’ bathroom” and finally to make the parallel with Job 1:13-19 complete a fourth person arrives, “The floor in the kitchen is flooded…and I alone have escaped to tell you!” I know you’re on the edge of your seats wondering how I’d handle such a disastrous situation, but I’m not a pastor for nothing…I knew what to do: call Dave Zumstein. He came over and in about three seconds said, “The sewer is backed up.” It took all Tuesday night, but we fixed the problem….until Wednesday evening, when we fixed the problem again…and then Thursday night we fixed it again.
Last Sunday I preached on the spiritual battle that takes place around us and that’s basically what the kids learned throughout VBS (the theme was Kingdom Chronicles). I’m not going to lie about this week: digging up a parking lot every night until a few hours within kids arriving for VBS isn’t how I wanted things to go; however, there was something cool about the whole situation: it really felt like there was a battle being fought to keep VBS from happening. When the kids left each day it was like we were in the middle of a fight to make sure they were able to return the next day. Nehemiah said, “When Sanballat, Tobiah and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks in it…they thought to do me harm” (Neh 6:1-2). They heard the work was going well…they heard it wasn’t interrupted…they heard there were no breaks in the wall, so they tried to mess it up. Nehemiah had a fantastic response for them: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it because of you?” (Neh 6:3). Don’t let the opposition make you cease.
The Book of Nehemiah is a great illustration of what ministry often looks like!
In Nehemiah’s day, sometimes the opposition was obvious and other times it was subtle. At one point, the opposition Nehemiah faced looked like nothing more than an invitation to a meeting:
When Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they thought to do me harm.Nehemiah 6:1-2
Then I love Nehemiah’s response:
I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?”Nehemiah 6:3
I have a lot of favorite verses in Scripture. Many of them serve different purposes. This is my favorite verse to tell myself when facing opposition or discouragement in ministry.
You’re trying to serve the Lord while enemies oppose you. To be fair, sometimes the enemies trying to oppose you don’t know they’re hindering God’s work. They might even think they’re doing God’s work, seeing you as the “enemy” that’s opposing what God wants them to do! Confusing Christians and turning them against each other is probably one of Satan’s strongest and most successful strategies when it comes to disrupting the work for God’s kingdom.
To be clear, there’s nothing going on in my ministry that motivated this post. I’m not feeling discouraged or opposed. In fact, I’m feeling quite the opposite. I’m excited about the direction Woodland Christian Church is going. I’m thankful for the new people God has added. I’m blessed by what God is doing in our church family.
So what motivated this post? Nothing more than the reality that there’s an Enemy out there that wants to oppose God’s people. We should understand that whenever we’re doing a work for the Lord we’re going to face opposition.
When we face discouragement – and it’s going to happen – this is what we should tell ourselves: “I’m doing a great work for the Lord and I can’t stop. Why should the work cease while I deal with you?”
If you’re serving the Lord, regardless of what you’re doing, it is a great work. It shouldn’t stop because someone is trying to distract you.
- Can you share about a time you faced discouragement in ministry?
- How did you handle it?
- Has the Book of Nehemiah ministered to you in a special way?