I’m no construction worker, but if I were, I would rather not pour concrete or lay bricks during a tornado. If I’m building, I want to do it on warm, dry, sunny days. I feel the same way about building God’s kingdom. I’d rather do that on sunny days as well.
But we don’t always get to choose our building conditions. God showed me this in Nehemiah 4 where I was reading a few weeks ago.
As you may recall, Nehemiah was the project manager, as it were, for the daunting task of rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall. The Babylonians had razed the city in 586 B.C. but at this point, 142 years later, God put it on Nehemiah’s heart to rebuild.
Despite very clear indications of God’s provision and favor, however, Nehemiah and his co-laborers still faced fierce opposition. One enemy in particular, a guy named Sanballat, was relentless in his taunts, insults, lies, threats, and schemes. “What are those feeble Jews doing?” he mocked. “Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?” (Nehemiah 4:2).
But Nehemiah refused to let Sanballat’s vicious words demoralize him. “Hear us, our God,” he prayed, “for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders” (4:4-5).
Although the people continued to work “with all their heart,” God did not take away the opposition. On the contrary—it seemed to intensify. Understandably, the people became fearful, weary, and discouraged.
So what did Nehemiah do? Did he let the tired ones rest and the fearful ones take shelter? That might be what I would have done, but not Nehemiah.
Nehemiah prayed, obviously. Nehemiah’s nothing if not a prayer warrior. But he didn’t just sit idly by, waiting for God to intervene. Rather, Nehemiah redoubled the effort. He stationed groups of armed people along every portion of the wall. He commanded them to work with one hand and to wield a weapon in the other. The work must not stop, no matter how fearsome the opposition. There was too much at stake!
“Don’t be afraid of them,” he urged the people. “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes” (4:14).
The applications to us are clear. We, too, are involved in a great building project: we’re called to build the kingdom of God. But we, also, face formidable opposition: the enemy hates God’s kingdom and doesn’t want it to advance. So what do we do?
Nehemiah gives us a good strategy:
- Remember the great and awesome Lord!
- Build with one hand,
- defend with the other.
- Remind one another of what’s at stake,
- and fight for our families, our sons and daughters.
You know, I’d prefer to either build or defend. I really don’t want to do both. I imagine you may feel the same way. But that strategy simply isn’t effective in times of great spiritual opposition. So, I’ll encourage you and you encourage me to keep on building and keep on defending so the kingdom of God can keep on advancing.