We might give mental assent to the fact that it is entirely possible, even perhaps likely, that God’s work will encounter opposition. But, how often, when we encounter opposition, do we start to question if we’ve taken the right path or engaged in the right work? When things don’t go according to plan . . . when they don’t align with our expectations . . . we wonder if we missed discerning the will of God. When the going gets tough, we start wondering what went wrong. Now, to be sure, sometimes we can run our noses into a brick wall because we determined to zig when God has called us to zag . . . but it’s also true that sometimes the opposition is, in fact, an indicator we are on the right path and provides the exact context in which God reveals Himself powerful for His glory.
Such are the thoughts running through my head as I continue to read in Nehemiah this morning.
Nehemiah, a man of some standing and wisdom . . . a godly man of prayer . . . a man called to a great work—rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem . . . an obedient man who leaves the king’s courts to tackle the city’s rubble. A man with a plan . . . a man on a mission . . . a man with expectations of the great work that would be accomplished . . . a man who told others of “the hand of my God that had been upon me for good” (Neh. 2:18). A man who wastes no time putting the people to work. And the enemy wastes no time in seeking to frustrate his efforts.
At first, there were jeers from the naysayers. Mockery from those who despised the things of God. Big deal . . . sticks and stones . . .
But then, those who cast dispersions began to plot to take up arms (4:8). Words would give way to war. And it’s Nehemiah’s response to such opposition that grabs me this morning . . .
And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night. . . . And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.” (Nehemiah 4:9, 14 ESV)
They prayed and stayed.
They trusted God and set a guard. The remembered the LORD, and determined to defend the land. And, though they prayed, they didn’t expect the opposition to be gone. Though they trusted in an awesome God, they also armed themselves and readied for battle.
And the work resumed (4:15-23). Half the workforce continued constructing the walls, and half held “spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail.” Those who carried on the work, also carried weapons . . . laboring with one hand, ready to defend against the enemy with the other. Those wearing tool belts also had a sword strapped to their side. Though they believed that “our God will fight for us,” they were ready to be God’s army.
As I respond to what I believe to be the will of God, I need not be surprised when things don’t go according to how I envisioned them . . . or be discouraged when I encounter opposition and struggles I never expected. But I need to trust in the God of my calling . . . I need to call out to the God who is great and awesome . . . I need to know that He will fight the fight for us . . . and I need to strap on the whole armor of God . . . with one hand doing the work, with the other ready for battle. I need to pray and stay . . .
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
(2Corinthians 4:7 ESV)
By His grace . . . for His glory . . .