Nehemiah 4:1-6 - Handling Opposition Part I

Dr. Steve Viars July 20, 1996 Nehemiah 4:1-6

This morning we are moving into a very important section of our study of the book of Nehemiah.

I think we're finding this to be a very helpful and practical book.
So far, we've talked about FOUR leadership "dynamics" that have emerged in this book.
INPUT - Who can name one of those four?
1) The relationship of the leader to his God.
2) The relationship of the leader to his superiors.
3) The relationship of the leader to those he is called to lead.
4) The leader knowing how to get the job done.

Every one of those areas is crucial in:
a) Raising children.
b) Getting things accomplished in your family.
c) Getting your job done at work.
d) Serving the Lord faithfully and effectively in your local church.

The verses we're going to begin studying this morning bring out a fifth key area, that of handling opposition.

Throughout this study, there have been hints of opposition brewing.

1) cf. 2:10

2) cf. 2:19

The next several chapters are going to develop this important theme.
(CF. Barber's Chart - p. 64)

Warren Wiersbe has said, "When things are going well, get ready for trouble!"

It's very important for us to see that it is terribly wrong (and terribly unbiblical) to think that the degree to which you are doing what God wants you to do is directly proportional to how smoothly things are going.
i.e. - "I have no opposition...therefore I must be doing the will of God..."
or conversely, "I am facing stiff opposition, therefore I should quit because what I'm doing must not be God's will"

A clear point that emerges from this study is "Don't plan on accomplishing anything for God unless you're ready to face opposition.'

I believe that most of us would say, "I need help in learning how to handle this area of life more effectively"
Since that’s the case, let's look for three principles to help us handle opposition in a way that honors our Lord.

This morning, we want to look at the first phase of the opposition -- the ridicule phase.
READ 4:1-6

Remember, we're looking for three principles to help us handle opposition in a way that honors our Lord.
The first one is:

I. Don't Automatically Assume That All Opposition is "Nehemiah Four Kind of Opposition."

It would be wrong for us to automatically assume that any time anyone differed with us, that automatically means that they are like Sanballat, or Tobiah, and their associates.

That would be a very self-righteous way to view this subject, and a way that could potentially hinder us from growing in some key ways.

Please remember that:

A. Fools will not heed counsel.

Pro 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.

The Lord could be using this person to help redirect/alter your course.

It's sinful pride for you/me to automatically conclude that everyone who differs with us is:
1) Stupid
2) Unspiritual
3) A "tool of the enemy."

One or more of those things may be true, but it would be proud for us to automatically conclude any of those things about a person who has a differing view on something than us (assuming, of course, that we are talking about something that is not plainly spelled out in Scripture).

This is true of the way we are going about making the decision on the Christian High School.
The leadership of the church believes we ought to head in a particular way, but that doesn't mean that our minds are closed to additional input. And while the surveys that have been returned so far have been overwhelmingly positive (98-99%), that does not mean that a person who sees this issue differently is sinful, carnal, dumb, unspiritual, etc.
(again, one or more of those things may be true, but we surely wouldn't start there in our thinking).

It's proud and/or immature to view every person who differs with you as your enemy.

B. Wise persons are learning to differentiate between "friendly fire" and "enemy fire."

In this text, Nehemiah was sure that the direction he was leading the people was God's will, and he knew some things about the character of Sanballet and Tobiah that allowed him to quickly conclude that the counsel of these men was not of God.

Here's a few questions that might help us come to that conclusion regarding opposition:

1) Have you evaluated your plan in light of biblical truth?

If not, the Lord may be using the opposition to cause you to do the biblical spadework you should have done earlier.

2) Have you gotten counsel from Godly people?

By this point, Nehemiah had a plan that was well researched and therefore ready to implement. In other words, he had "done his homework." If we are going a particular direction without first taking these important steps, the Lord could use opposition to "slow us up."

3) Does the "opposer" have a ministry?

Warren Wiersbe said "Critics run with critics."
There are certain persons who love to sit around and throw rocks at everyone else, but don't have any positive ways they are ministering for Christ.

The opinions of people like that are almost always skewed.

INPUT - Other questions you would add to this list to help us differentiate between "Friendly fire" and "Enemy Fire"?

II. Opposition Often Takes The Form of Ridicule

People who want to sinfully oppose something often do so through means of sinful speech. That is certainly the case here in Nehemiah 4.

A. Examples from this text.


1) What are these feeble Jews doing?

2) Will they restore their wall?

3) Will they offer sacrifices?

4) Will they finish in a day?

5) Can they revive stones from rubble?

6) If a fox should jump on it, he would break their stone wall down.

The Scriptures also contain many other examples of godless people using ridicule as a means of opposing God's plan.

1) David and Goliath
I Sam. 17:43 - "And the Philistine said to David, "Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?"

2) Soldiers and our Lord.
Luke 22:63-65 And the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking Him, and beating Him, and they blindfolded Him and were asking Him, saying, "Prophesy, who is the one who hit You?" And they were saying many other things against Him, blaspheming.

So, often times opposition takes the form of ridicule.

B. Ridicule that hurts the most has a possible nugget of truth.

These men said what they said for specific reasons.

1) Calling them "feeble"

In a sense, they were feeble. At this time their numbers were few and their influence small compared to the previous years of their history.

Of course, no one is feeble if they are doing what God wants them to do. (I Cor. 4:13)

2) Can they restore their wall?
This was a huge undertaking. restoring a wall that 1 1/2 - 2/1/2 miles long was a big job.

However, the critics made a crucial error by calling it "their wall." This was God's wall, and Nehemiah knew it.

3) Will they offer sacrifices?
The exact meaning of this comment is unknown, but some writers believe the thrust was, "Are they going to pray the wall up?"

The irony was, in some senses thats exactly what they were doing. They were asking the Lord to help them and bless their efforts.

4) Will they finish in a day?
Of course they never said they would finish in a day, but the question gets at the issue of whether they could finish in any reasonable amount of time, or would it take them "forever".

cf. cleaning out the flood house (not always possible to predict how long a task is going to take).

5) Can they revive the stones from the dusty rubble?
This is simply an exaggeration. The wall had been knocked down, but it hadn't been obliterated. Sure it would be hard to reassemble the stones, and there would be times when the exact stone could not be found, but the opposition often wants to misrepresent the facts and overestimate the size of the job.

6) A fox could knock this down.
Many of the people working were not masons. Whenever you're doing something for the first time, there is that question in the back of your mind, "Is this thing going to stand up when I'm done?"

These statements give us a great example of critics at work. They love to take a little nugget that could possibly be true, and then twist the facts and exaggerate the facts (and often sprinkle in a fair amount of sarcasm) in order to make their point.

But it’s not a fair fight. Critics are seldom confident enough to go "head to head" with the facts. So instead, they often throw "sucker punches" of half-truths and twisted ideas.

An important point to note here is that often when you are doing something for the Lord, you don't know how its going to come out.
There's some natural insecurity there because you don't know the future.

cf. Scott and the Smite Trip

cf. First Passion Play

In a minute, we're going to look at how Nehemiah responded to ridicule, but let me pause here a moment and speak to anyone who may be guilty of this kind of speech.

I wouldn't be surprised if someone here would have to say, "I see myself in Sanballet and Tobiah." I can be critical and cutting at work, at home, or in the church.
If that’s the case, I hope you would use the occasion of this study to admit that sin and make plans now to be different.

III. Godly People Learn to Handle Ridicule Well

A. What he didn't do.

It's important to note that Nehemiah did not "get down on the critics level" by ridiculing them back. (Though he surely could have)

B. What he did.

1. Prayed

(if time - develop the idea of imprecatory prayer)

2. Got back to work.

It's amazing how much of an effect a little bit of progress can have on a person in the context of unjust criticism.

cf. Swindoll - p. 55

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 four 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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