Part 1. . . “The Hard Stuff”
Are you expecting God to use you in a powerful way? To do something significant? To help build the kingdom of God? Nehemiah also felt God’s call to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. His story gives us a sneak peak into the hardships we can expect to face when we attempt a great work for God:
The enemy will assign some “good” people to be your enemies.
Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official were well respected by the people of Judah. Tobiah’s father-in-law was a bigshot, and his son married a woman from an important family. Tobiah was even known for his “good deeds.”* Yet, these “good" men sent threatening letters, spread false rumors, tried to accuse and discredit Nehemiah, and plotted to harm him.
Scoffers and mockers will have some unpleasant things to say about you.
Sanballat ridiculed the work saying, "What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they're doing? Do they think they can build the wall in a single day by just offering a few sacrifices? Do they actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap—and charred ones at that?" *
Tobiah also chimes in, "That stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked along the top of it!"*
Be ready for a fight.
Nehemiah quickly realizes the dangerous building conditions and encourages his people, "Don't be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!"*
People will complain that the work is not happening fast enough.
The people who were once working enthusiastically now whined, "The workers are getting tired, and there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves."*
The enemy will try to find your weak spot and expose it.
Nehemiah’s enemies threatened, "Before they know what's happening, we will swoop down on them and kill them and end their work."*
Physically, you will be stretched to the max.
Nehemiah records, “We worked early and late, from sunrise to sunset. And half the men were always on guard . . . During this time, none of us—not I, nor my relatives, nor my servants, nor the guards who were with me—ever took off our clothes.”*When you don’t even have time to change your clothes—that’s serious!
My “Nehemiah” experience:
My husband and I started a church in 2009. We’ve experienced similar attacks from the enemy, although our “fight” never required us to hold an actual weapon and no one plotted “physical” harm against us. Instead, we’ve had to fight in prayer using God’s word.
Likewise, I’ve never had to work so hard that I couldn’t change my clothes—thank the Lord! But I have worked so hard that my body & mind began to break down, requiring extra trips to the doctor and to the counselor!
I never expected that planting a church would be so challenging. After all, we were obeying God’s call! Didn’t that assure us of His unlimited favor, blessing, and open doors? Instead, we felt blindsided by the insidious attacks of the enemy many times, and we questioned if we even heard God in the first place. Should we continue to fight for this church plant or should we give up?
For me, Nehemiah’s experience is a reality check. First of all, why should I think doing God’s work would be an easy thing? There is no great work accomplished in the Bible that didn’t require hard work, perseverance, and significant sacrifice—for instance, look at Noah, Moses, Esther, David, Mary, Stephen, Paul, etc. At the same time, I need to be like Nehemiah and trust that God will help us to build this wall and complete the work.
*all scriptures taken from Nehemiah ch. 3 & 4
Look for the follow up blog, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” Part 2, “The Good Stuff”