Nehemiah 4:15-23

Dr. Steve Viars August 3, 1996 Nehemiah 4:15-23

- The last few weeks we've been studying the matter of opposition in ministry.
- Often when we seek to do something for the Lord, there will be some sort of opposition to face.
- Any parent surely knows this -- Sometimes there's a price to pay for seeking to help your child live for God.
- Sunday School teachers and Clubs workers could testify to this.
- Wherever and However you're seeking to serve Christ, you know that opposition is often part of the picture.

- These verses have been very helpful for two important reasons:
1) They give insight into the methods commonly used by those who often oppose the work of God.
2) They give insight into how godly people respond to sinful opposition.

- our plan this week is to spend more time developing verses 15-23.
- There are still a number of principles to be gleaned here that we just didn't have time to get into last week.

- However, I realize that a number have been on vacation, and since I think this is the kind of chapter we'll need to go back to time and time again, we're going to take the first few moments this morning and break you up into small groups with your team leader...
- I'd like to ask you to scour back over Nehemiah 4:1-14, and look for two things:
1) Make as many observations as you can about the nature of opposition. How do "opposers" often do their work?
2) Make as many observations as you can about how Nehemiah handled opposition. What did he do? What didn't he do? What principles emerge from all of this?

- Divide up into groups.
- Come back together, review answers.

- This morning we want to look for three more principles about handling those who oppose the work of God.
- Read Nehemiah 4:15-23.

I. Face Problems Head-on and Get Them Solved

- There are two wrong extremes Nehemiah carefully avoided in these verses:
A. Instead of ignoring them.

- Nehemiah did not stick his head in the sand.
- He did not act like the problem was over when it wasn't.
- He didn't act like the problem didn't exist when it did.
- He knew the problem was there and he faced it head on.

- In this case, that meant taking half of the servants to hold the spears, the shields, the bows, and the breastplates.

- Some of God's people hate problems, and so they ignore them as long as possible.
- Sometimes that happens in a marriage.
- At other times it happens in a family.
(cf. times where there was an obvious problem with a young person, tried to speak to the parent about it, refused to see it)
- At times, this can even happen in a church.

- Nehemiah was not that kind of a leader, and he was not that kind of a person.
- He faced the problem head-on and he helped the people find a reasonable solution.

- INPUT - What's wrong with ignoring problems?

1) They often get bigger.

2) they often are the perfect crucible for growth.

- That’s one of the reasons, on our Christian High School surveys, that we asked the question, "what concerns do you have about starting a Christian High School?"

- That’s also why we have been traveling around to other Christian High Schools in our state asking them, "What problems have you faced as how have you solved them?"

- Both of those things (surveys and visits) are intended to place the appropriate amount of emphasis on dealing with potential problems and difficulties.
- No one is going into this with "rose colored glasses" on, as if it will be a walk in the park. (of course, who wants life to be a walk in the park?)

- but the point here is that Nehemiah refused to ignore problems.
- He faced them head-on and sought to get them solved.

- Let me ask you, while we're on this point, are you like Nehemiah in this important area?
- Are you a person who has the courage and the godliness to roll up your sleeves and get things solved?
- Do you do that in your marriage?
- Do you do that with your children?
- Do you do that at work?
- Do you do that at church?

- now, there's another side of that.
- the other wrong extreme is...

B. Instead of being consumed by them.

- It's also important to note that Nehemiah didn't stop the project and give every person a spear and a sword.
- He divided some people up to work, and some people up to watch.

- It's wrong to ignore problems, but its also wrong to be consumed by them.

- Am I right when I say that it’s possible to get so wrapped up in a problem that your whole focus gets skewed?
- sometimes you can get so absorbed in one situation that you fail to be thankful for all the things God has blessed you with.
- cf. counseling -- folks who say they're saved but can't think of anything to rejoice about, or anything to be thankful for.
- that person's focus is skewed.

- sometimes you can get so absorbed with one person that you start assuming everybody is that way.
- Like the teacher who is having problems with one student, and all of a sudden she's upset with all the students...or she operates from the assumption that all the students are that way.

- Nehemiah faced the problem without being consumed by it.
- This passage presents a balance that is very important for us to note, and to follow.

- I've been reading through the comment portions of the school surveys, and they been very helpful.
- Frankly, I've been surprised at how positive folks are about this possibility....I knew we had folks who were interested in doing this, I did not know how strong that support was until we started tabulating the papers (which was the purpose of the surveys to begin with).

- The concerns that were expressed were for the most part very good, and helped us know what we need to be talking about to prepare for a vote.
- However, like any "family," we've got a person or two who haven't learned how to express a concern without being condescending or just plain "out of line."
- the temptation in a situation like that is to get consumed by it, or wrongly conclude that that is the overall spirit of the group, when it obviously is not.

(cf. recent note)

- It would be wrong for let a comment like that "gnaw at you" for days, or color your thinking on the entire situation, or the entire family.
- Nehemiah has helped us in these verses think about how to get problems solved, without being consumed by them.

- a good question for each of us to ask is -- How am I doing at achieving that balance, and what might the Lord be wanting to say to communicate to me as we study this important section of Scripture?

II. Strike a Balance Between Building and Battling

- Another important balance is also evident in verses 17-18.
- In one sense it’s similar to what we've already studied, but in another sense this point needs to be emphasized by itself.
- Not only did Nehemiah know how much emphasis to place on thinking about/dealing with problems....he also knew how much time to spend building the ministry, and how much time to spend battling those who are trying to weaken or destroy the ministry.

- it's wrong to focus "just on building," and its also wrong to focus "just on battling."

A. Weaknesses of "just building."

- I'm aware of churches where the leadership has concluded, "Don't waste time dealing with issues or people that might be potentially divisive, just build, build, build."

- I think of one situation where the pastor was an excellent communicator, and the church was growing very rapidly...
- the problem is people were being attracted to the church who held all sorts of aberrant theological views...and some who had also sorts of sinful habits of behavior that needed to be handled...
- but this man was too busy "building" to get his hands dirty with wrong doctrine, or sinful practice.

- the problem with that was, it wasn't long before he moved on to some larger, higher profile ministry...and guess what the church was stuck with...
- a large group of people who didn't know what they believed about several key doctrines///topped off with a bunch of sinful habits where the doctrinal differences couldn't be ironed out in a godly fashion...
- add to that the fact that they had a mountain of debt...and it was an obvious recipe for disaster.

- the point here is – that’s not building!
- the attitude "we're just going to build" without being willing to battle over some issues is going to result in a very weak structure.
- The NT is filled with admonitions to deal with wrong doctrine, and sinful behavior.
- a church is not a church if it won't do that.
(cf. our Sunday evening series --- not going to do that all the time, but we sure need to address these issues from time to time)

- on the other hand, it is also wrong to "just battle."
B. Weakness of "just battling."

- balance is such a key word is this chapter.
- the Lord recorded this event for us because he wants us to picture these people spoken of in verse 18...."As for the builders, each wore his sword girded at his side as he built."

- cf. Spurgeon's paper, "The Sword and the Trowel"

- while some of God's people are never willing to battle over issues that ought to battled over...on the other hand some of God's people seem only interested in battling.

- that ditch is wrong as well.
- that’s one of the things I've appreciated about Jay Adam's ministry over the years...
- "I have tried to never break out a window unless I had a better one to put in its place."

- I'd like to ask you this morning, are you a person who battles while you're building, or do you just battle?

- Some people live a lifestyle that could be summarized with the word "churning."
- they're always agitated about something.
- they're always "into it" with someone.
- they always have something to complain about.

- their criticisms are often unbalanced, or overly harsh.

- you need a sword AND A TROWEL.
- having a positive ministry takes the critical edge off real fast, because you know how hard it is to build something for God.

- I want to ask you this morning, are you a "churning kind of person?"
- are you a critic or a co-laborer?
- Christian ministry is fundamentally a "building endeavor".
cf Eph. 4:12, 4:29

III. Consolidate Efforts and Work Together as Much as Possible

- cf. examples in the text

- develop -- importance of not getting too many things going at once, trying to keep the focus on working together, being involved in developing the same thing.

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and five grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

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