February 5, 2021
Facing Down Your Opposition
By Skip Heitzig
You've probably heard of Murphy's law, but there's a spiritual counterpart to that I call Lucifer's law: whatever God loves, Satan hates. So if you think, I'm in God's will, so everything's going to flow smoothly, you're in for a surprise; in fact, you might even be tempted to stop working for the Lord when adversity inevitably comes along—much like the Jews in the book of Ezra did, as we saw last week.
To continue in that same vein, let's look at some of the hardships the next big leader of the Jewish people, Nehemiah, dealt with as he led the way in rebuilding the protective city walls around Jerusalem. There were four main kinds of opposition he faced:
1. Ridicule. The Jews' enemies Sanballat and Tobiah mocked them as they built (see Nehemiah 4:1-3). Nehemiah responded by praying (see vv. 4-5), and the Jews continued to "[build] the wall...for the people had a mind to work" (v. 6). But the opposition didn't stop there.
2. Discouragement. "Then [the people of] Judah said, 'The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall'" (Nehemiah 4:10). Why were they calling the precious rocks they were using to rebuild the wall rubbish? Because their enemies had called them that (see v. 2), and now the people were believing the spin. So Nehemiah encouraged them to keep going (see v. 14).
3. Selfishness. There was a famine going on in the land at this time, and the leaders of the people were lending money at an exorbitant interest rate. So Nehemiah called an assembly and basically said, "Hey, we just came out of captivity, but now you're taking your brothers and sisters captive again by the way you're lending to them? Stop it" (see Nehemiah 5:7-11).
4. Distraction. In Nehemiah 6, the Jews' enemies came around again and said, "Hey, let's meet up and talk." But "they thought to do me [Nehemiah] harm. So 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?'" (vv. 2-3). In other words, "I'm busy doing the work God has called me to do."
In the end, the walls of Jerusalem got an extreme makeover in record time: fifty-two days (see v. 15). But here's the friendly caution: Whenever you undertake any work for God, you'll have opposition. Whenever you attempt anything for God, Satan would love nothing more than to take the wind out of your sails. Why did Paul write about the Christian life like it's a fight (see 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 2:3; 4:7)? Because it is. We're on a battleground, not a playground.
So get used to it. Know that the fight is coming. Expect opposition and get prepared to pay the price. And work with the Lord to build up the walls of protection around your heart and mind and shore up your spiritual defenses.
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