Blessed Builders: Nehemiah’s Adversity

Blessed Builders: Nehemiah’s Adversity


Introduction:
How many of you know the story of famed running back Hershel Walker?  Growing up, you would not have thought much of him.  His teachers didn’t think him to be very smart.  The coaches at the school just saw a pudgy, overweight, slow kid.  His peers were mean to him and even did physical harm to him.  On the last day of 8th grade, Walker was beat up by a group of bullies.  He walked home.  Went into his bedroom and started doing push ups.  Over that summer Walker would transform into the most dominate athlete in his school.  Never again would anyone beat up Hershel Walker.  Eventually, he would take that determination to Georgia where he would win a Heisman Trophy.  He would also become a national champion.  


You know, it would have been easy for Hershel to get beaten and embrace being beaten down.  That’s what most of us would do.  When adversity hits, we abandon hope.  Not Hershel.  

Friend, today we will be looking at Nehemiah 6.  We will see what happens when Nehemiah faces real adversity.  Does he abandon hope or does he buckle down?  This morning, answer this question…

How Do You Handle Adversity? Tremble, Take Off or Turn It Up

What Have We Learned?

Nehemiah 1: Nehemiah’s Burden
Nehemiah 2: The King’s Blessing 
Nehemiah 3: Jerusalem’s Building
Nehemiah 4: Nehemiah’s Bullies
Nehemiah 5: Israel’s Bother  
Nehemiah 6: The Enemy’s Blueprint

Background and Context:
So, in Nehemiah 1, Nehemiah has a burden.  Jerusalem is busted, burned and broken down.  That is some pretty bad news.  

Next, in Nehemiah 2, Nehemiah transforms the burden to a kingly blessing.  Nehemiah asks the King if he can depart for his hometown to rebuild.  The King shows Nehemiah and his friends some pretty unbelievable favor. He gives him papers to secure his journey and even gives him some building materials.  

In the second half of Nehemiah 2 and the entire chapter of Nehemiah 3, Nehemiah begins to build.  He begins to rebuild the gates and the walls.  It was a big job and lots of people got involved.  People began to really believe in what Nehemiah was trying to do.  They caught the vision.  

Last week we came to Nehemiah 4.  Things are going well.  People have work.  They have jobs.  They are constructing and seem to be overall satisfied in their lives.  Yet, something happens.  Nehemiah encounters bullies.  Sanballat and Tobiah begin to try to tear down all the good that Nehemiah has achieved.  They are the worst sort of critics.  They just hang out while everyone is working and they critique everything.  They are nit pickers.  They are the sidewalk superintendents.  Always talking and never working.  

In Nehemiah 5 we see complaints from within the group.  The people are starving.  People are working hard on the wall only to have little pay and empty bellies.  So, the people begin to take out loans just to eat.  When they cannot pay, they enter into indentured servitude agreements.  Some have to sell their sons and daughters into slavery just to eat.  It is an ugly time.  The people complain to Nehemiah and Nehemiah calls out those who are giving out bad loans and making families make horrible decisions.  The people repent and work continues.  

Now we come to Nehemiah 6.  Sanballat and Tobiah are back.  This time they have a plan. A blueprint if you will.  Today they will try to do physical harm to Nehemiah in order to stop the work.  They will spread lies about God’s builder.  Watch how Nehemiah navigates the difficult obstacles and finds the road to success.  

Nehemiah 6:1-15 ESV
When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates— 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.”

But they were scheming to harm me; 3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.
5 Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter 6 in which was written:

“It is reported among the nations—and Geshem says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king 7 and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us meet together.”

8 I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.”

9 They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”

But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”

10 One day I went to the house of Shemaiah son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was shut in at his home. He said, “Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you—by night they are coming to kill you.”

11 But I said, “Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” 12 I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me.
14 Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophet Noadiah and how she and the rest of the prophets have been trying to intimidate me. 15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days.

Lessons From Nehemiah 6

I. Godly People Doing Good Things Have Enemies vs. 1-2
Nehemiah 6:1-2 ESV
When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates— 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.”

Point:
Have you ever noticed that some of the most Godly people seem to have the most enemies?  Here you have Nehemiah, a man called by God to do a tremendous work, being plotted against by Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem.  What gives?  Nehemiah is doing something to help others.  He is rebuilding far more than a wall.  He is rebuilding society.  He is rebuilding people’s faith in God.  He is transforming the brokenness of Jerusalem.  Wow.  So, instead of applause, Nehemiah receives annoyance from every direction.  

Illustration: Tim Tebow
We all know Tim Tebow. Tebow played football for Florida and wore his faith on his sleeve.  Remember when the Florida Gators won the National Championship and he inscribed John 3:16 on his eyeblack?  



Millions of people around the world Googled John 3:16 and were exposed to the Gospel.  Wow, what a witness.  Then people took note of Tebow’s pre game ritual.  He would kneel down just outside the end zone before games and pray.  People mockingly called it “Tebowing”.  Really, it was just a man praying.  More men need to pray before they go to work.  


You’d think that people would applaud a man who lives for his faith.  You’d think that people would affirm a man who would rather spend his time on the mission field than in the night club.  Not so.  Jake Plummer, former quarterback had this to say about Tebow:

“I wish he’d just shut up after a game and go hug his teammates,” Plummer said, via SportsRadioInterviews.com. “I think that when he accepts the fact that we know that he loves Jesus Christ then I think I’ll like him a little better. I don’t hate him because of that, I just would rather not have to hear that every time he takes a good snap or makes a good handoff.”

So Tebow is no longer on the field. However, he is still stirring up controversy as a man inspired by his faith in God to help people.  One of the coolest things I have seen in a while is when Tebow hosted a prom for kids with special needs and disabilities.  


You know what, people criticized him for doing that too.

Tebow now works for the SEC network and is a contributor to SEC Nation with Paul Finebaum.  A picture was captured of Tebow and his counterparts praying before the show.  He had no idea the photo was being taken.  Notice Finebaum, a Jewish man, praying with Tebow.  

 

Guess what, Tebow was criticized for that as well.  Some even calling for his resignation.  

Here’s the point, Godly people doing good things will always have enemies.  

Jesus even promises that the world is going to hate his followers.

John 15:18-25 NIV
18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

Point: 
Trust me friend, if you are doing God’s work, people will hate you for it.  Let’s look at Nehemiah and how people treated him for doing what God called him to do.

Nehemiah Enemies Planned To…

A. Damage vs. 2
Nehemiah 6:2 ESV
2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.”

Point:
So, the first weapon in the arsenal of Sanballat and Geshem is to do harm to poor Nehemiah.  They actually wanted to do physical harm to this man of God.  Thankfully we do not live in a culture where people do physical harm to believers.  However, that is not the case around the world.  Everyday we hear of martyrs who have died for the cause of Jesus Christ.  There seems to be a story daily about ISIS killing and harming Christians. Don’t think that it cannot happen here.  Churches are regularly targeted by extremist and terrorist.  Church shootings are on the rise and God’s people here in the US are increasingly facing physical harm.  

I Peter 3:14 ESV
But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,

B. Distract vs. 4
Nehemiah 6:4 ESV
4 Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.

Point:
So, they request an audience with Nehemiah not once, not twice, but on four separate occasions. Four times they tried to distract Nehemiah from doing what God has called him to do.  Evil people will do that won’t they.  There are lots of distractions that evil people will use to pull us away from raising up disciples around the world. 

Proverbs 4:25-27 ESV
Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.

C. Dismantle vs. 5-7
Nehemiah 6:5-7 ESV
5 Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter 6 in which was written: “It is reported among the nations—and Geshem says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king 7 and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us meet together.”

Point:
Now they are lying about poor Nehemiah.  Sanballat and his cronies now claim that Nehemiah and the Hebrews are leading an insurrection against Persia.  They go on and say that Nehemiah intends to set himself up as King over the people. If that is not bad, they then say that Nehemiah has bought off the prophets and priests to proclaim to the people that he is to be their next King.  So, three lies.  Three lies that are told to disrupt the rebuilding and hurt Nehemiah personally.  

Illustration:
There is a great poem about the power of lies and how they can ruin good people.  Check it out.
First, somebody told it,
Then the room couldn't hold it,
So the busy tongues rolled it
Till they got it outside.

Then the crowd came across it,
And never once lost it,
But tossed it and tossed it,
Till it grew long and wide.

This lie brought forth others,
Dark sisters and brothers,
And fathers and mothers--
A terrible crew.

And while headlong they hurried,
The people they flurried,
And troubled and worried,
As lies always do.

And so evil-bodied,
This monster lay goaded,
Till at last it exploded
In smoke and in shame.

Then from mud and from mire
The pieces flew higher,
And hit the sad victim
And killed a good name.
Point:
Remember, lying never blessed anyone and often calls down cursing on the teller of the lie.

Proverbs 91:9
A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.

D. Discourage vs. 9
Nehemiah 6:9 ESV
9 They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”

Point:
Next, the evil 3 try to frighten and discourage the people.  They give commentary on their ability to do the work.  

How many times have you heard something like that:

-Your not smart enough

-God would never call you to do that.

-You’ll never succeed. 

-No one is going to help you.

It can be frightening and frustrating.  People can be very discouraging.  Do you know what most people do when they are discouraged?  They move on.  They hope that in moving to a different situation or by coming into contact with different people that they will be encouraged.  

Do you remember the story of the fisherman?  Remember Jesus told them to cast their nets one more time.  These fisherman were tired.  They had had enough.  They were ready to move on to a different location where more fish might jump into their nets.  

Yet Jesus told them to drop their nets in the same spot.  They did and wham, more fish than they could have ever imagined came into their nets.  Aren’t you glad that Nehemiah was not moved by discouragement.  

Are you moved by discouragement?  Don’t be.  Remember…

John 14:27 NIV
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

E. Distort (Misrepresent) vs. 12
Nehemiah 6:12 ESV
12 I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.

Point:
We better be careful with how we use the Word of God.  The evil 3 paid off the priests and the prophets to discourage Nehemiah.  Not smart.  Nehemiah, because he was a man who knew God’s Word saw the ploy for what it was.  

Point:
Have you ever sought out advice from someone and that certain someone told you what you thought was a Bible verse.  Maybe it didn’t sound right.  Something seemed off.  Friend, Nehemiah was able to stand firm against the twisting of Scripture because he knew his calling and he knew God’s Word.  Simple as that.  

Nehemiah measured what was being spoken against the Word of God.  If what was said didn’t match God’s Word, it isn’t true.  Simple as that.  God’s Word is our standard for knowing and judging the truth.  

It is the same today.  

Point:

Betty Miller states this about knowing and proving God’s Word…

“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (I Thessalonians 5:21).

Today, the world has no enduring standard. Every man does what is right in his own eyes, as Israel did in the day of the judges (Judges 17:6). A multitude of standards abound in the 20th century, ranging from the many cultic and false religious standards to our current cultural “standards.” Much of the confusion in the world today comes from this one thing: Society has abandoned the one standard of truth, which is the Bible.  Since the Word of God is the final authority on all things, thus the world’s standards all are doomed.

“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

Transition Illustration: No Enemies
A reporter was interviewing an old man on his 100th birthday. "What are you most proud of?" he asked. "Well, " said the man, "I don't have an enemy in the world." "What a beautiful thought! How inspirational!" said the reporter. "Yep," added the centenarian, "outlived every last one of them."

II. Godly People Doing Good Things Have An Escape vs. 9
Nehemiah 6:9 ESV
But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”

Point:
So, when you are discouraged and beaten down, where do you go?  Where can you rest?  What would God want you to do?  Let’s look at Nehemiah’s response. 

Nehemiah Energy Was Planted In…

A. Persistence vs. 3-4
Nehemiah 6:3-4 ESV
3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.

Point:
Nehemiah could have quit, but he didn’t. He kept pushing forward. Friends, we cannot quit on God’s work either.  Is God doing something in your family?  Don’t quit?  What about your marriage? Don’t quit.  What about work?  Don’t quit.  What about in the lives of your children?  Don’t quit.  I know that sometimes quitting seems to be the easier play but it is not always the right play.  

B. Principle vs. 8
Nehemiah 6:8 ESV
8 I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.”

Point:
Nehemiah stood by the truth and called out the lie. 

C. Prayer vs. 9
Nehemiah 6:9 ESV
9 They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”

Point:
Lastly, Nehemiah found purpose, he found encouragement, he found strength in prayer. Are you missing purpose this morning?  Are you discouraged?  Do you feel week, like you are ready to quit?  If that’s you, pray.  Pray often.  Pray without ceasing.  Don’t quit on prayer because prayer is the one place we can go to escape the arrows of the world.  

Quotes:
"...Men may spurn our appeals, reject our message, oppose our arguments, despise our persons -- but they are helpless against our prayers." Sidlow Baxter

Pray as if everything depends on God, then work as if everything depends on you.
Martin Luther

Illustration: God Answers Prayer
Attending church in Kentucky, we watched an especially verbal and boisterous child being hurried out, slung under his irate father's arm. No one in the congregation so much as raised an eyebrow -- until the child captured everyone's attention by crying out in a charming Southern accent, "Ya'll pray for me now!" 

III. Godly People Doing Good Things Have An Encouragement vs. 14-15
Nehemiah 6:14-15 ESV
14 Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophet Noadiah and how she and the rest of the prophets have been trying to intimidate me. 15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days.
Point: A Job Done
Friends many of you may not know this about me but I am a but over zealous when it comes to my yard.  I love yard work.  I love being outside.  I love to cut grass, trim hedges, weed, edge.  I love doing it. I had a pastor come to my house and he remarked how nice and manicured my yard was.  He told me that he didn’t see me as a person who would enjoy doing that sort of work.  I told him that I didn’t know why I liked it, I just like it.  

He then proceeded to tell me that he thought he knew exactly why I liked it so much.  He said “Stuart you are in the people business.  People are messy.  People have the tendency to be wrecks.  They are like projects that are never completed.  Just when you think that you have finally gotten one fixed, they go mess up again.  They get themselves in all sorts of trouble.  It can be very frustrating for the pastor.  However, this yard work, this project is something that you can start and finish.  You can see the work that you have done and you can be pleased with the outcome.  Like people, this yard is going to let you down in a week.  Bank on it.  However, you can just pull out the lawn mower and restore it to order.  People are much more complicated.  The reason you love yard work is because it gives you something that you will never have with people.”

Wow, I had never heard such insight into my life. He was right.  I enjoyed the finished project.  At the end of the day for Nehemiah, the wall was completed.  It took 52 days of non stop planning, organizing, and working.  It took focus and determination.  When it was over, Nehemiah could stand there and be encouraged by the project that was completed.  

He was encouraged.  Yet, was we will find out, rebuilding people is much harder than rebuilding a wall.  It takes more energy and time.  

Point:
Friend, God want to encourage you today.  You know the times when I have the best perspective is when I am serving.  When I am using my hands or my talents to further God’s Kingdom.  Could it be that you are feeling discouraged this morning because you have done nothing to enhance the church or build God’s Kingdom?

If that’s you, Use Nehemiah’s Example For Your Excitement!


Use Nehemiah’s Example For Your Excitement!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

According To Luke: Man vs. Wild

The Generous Giver: The Choice To Give

Wise Men Still Seek Him