Nehemiah 4:7-12 - Opposition by Ridicule

Steve Viars July 27, 1996 Nehemiah 4:7-12

- we've been studying the book of Nehemiah together and we've come to the place where Nehemiah and his people are facing real opposition.
- Last week we saw that opposition often takes the same form that it did in the early part of chapter 4, that of "opposition by ridicule."

- INPUT - What were some of the things Sanballat and Tobiah said to ridicule the Jews?

- Remember, we said that when we receive opposition, we don't automatically assume that its "Nehemiah 4 kind of opposition," but once we've concluded that the opposers are being ungodly, there's much to learn from verses 1-6 about the way critical people often do their "work".
1) They twist the facts.
2) They distort an idea that may be partially true, or possibly true.
3) They play on the "unknown" that goes along with any project.

- We said that God's people must learn to overcome this kind of opposition, or we'll never get anything done for the Lord.
- Nehemiah's response to this is important.
1) He didn't respond "in kind".
2) He turned to the Lord in prayer.
  (Read what you got from Bob Sabolich on imprecatory prayer--or have him do it.)
3) They got busy working.

- now, this week, Sanballet and Tobiah are going to turn up the heat.
- Critics don't like it when their tactics don't work---and even though Nehemiah had faithfully prayed about this---that doesn't mean that these guys are going to go away.
- let's look at the form the opposition was going to take now:

- READ 4:7-12
- (point out -- Opposition coming from all sides now:
  1) Sanballet and the Samaritans - to the north.
  2) Tobiah and the Amonites - to the east.
  3) Geshem and the Arabs - to the south.
  4) Ashdodites - to the west.)
   (Could add Wiersbe - p. 53-54)

- one thing you can say about this project---the job is getting more complicated!
- cf. Swindoll's illustration of the mother and the skunks (p. 56)

- there's no question that if we had been in the shoes of Nehemiah or one of his workers, we would have been heading toward discouragement.
- One author said, "In times of adversity, many people lose their courage and display a weakness that is unnecessary. They assume that a loss, or a disappointment, is a failure when actually misfortune can mean opportunity....We must weave from our circumstances the pattern and texture of life. Strength is gained by overcoming adversity, not by giving in to it."
- So we're talking this morning about "Overcoming Discouragement."
- A good part of the outline I'm using this morning is coming from Chuck Swindoll's book "Hand Me Another Brick."
I. Source of Discouragement

- In the verses we've already read, Nehemiah gives us two important details about the  discouragement that was building:
A. Men of Judah

  According to verse 10, it was the men of Judah who voiced their discouragement with  the project first.
  If you're familiar with OT history, you know that that detail is especially surprising.
   Please turn back to Genesis 49:8-10
     READ and develop -- this was the tribe for their courage and their leadership.
    - yet they have allowed discouragement to set in to the point that they were       ready to quit.
      1) Our strength is failing.
      2) There is much rubbish.
      3) We are unable to finish.

  INPUT - What can we learn from the fact that even these men got discouraged?
   (No one is immune. All of us must guard against discouragement and despair)
   (As we get further into this study, we're going to learn some other facts about the    men of Judah at this time that will further explain what we're seeing here -- cf.     Wiersbe, p. 55)

- Another important detail about discouragement comes from verse 12.
B. Those who were positioned near discouragers.

  - As we've seen before, many of the workers did not live inside the "city limits" but were    Jews living in nearby towns.
  - Sanballet and Tobiah (and those who joined them - v. 7) were carefully "leaking" their    threats and conspiracy to the Jews who lived around them. This was so effective     that those who had positioned themselves around these people had come to      Nehemiah ten times and told him about the threats.

  INPUT - What can we learn about discouragement from this historical detail?
   (Sometimes people struggle with discouragement because of the people they have     around them.  If you're discouraged, you might want to look at the kind of people     you tend to listen to.)

- So we're dealing with a situation where Nehemiah and his people are trying to accomplish  something for God, but the opposers are making threats---and their tactics have worked  so effectively that even those from the bravest tribe are talking about quitting.

II. The Causes of Discouragement

These verses help us see three causes for discouragement:
A. Loss of strength.
  - the word in verse 10 translated "failing" literally means "stumbling, tottering,       staggering."


- By this time in the project, the newness had worn off.
- They had probably been pushing themselves too hard.  Perhaps they hadn't been good stewards of their health and their physical bodies.
- It's amazing how a good night's sleep or a day or two away from the project can change your perspective.

B. A loss of vision.
  - One statement in verse 10 especially reveals what the men of Judah were focusing    on:
    "Yet there is so much rubbish".

  INPUT - What was missing from that? (The fact that the wall was half completed).


  INPUT -How might that same tendency happen in the life of a person who was        ministering here at church?

Chuck Swindoll wrote: A perfect illustration of this myopic outlook is the young mother who has changed what seems to be fifty or sixty diapers in one day. She looks at the situation and says, `There too much rubbish, too much mess, too many diapers, too much work.' What has she lost? She has lost the vision of the growing child and the delight of introducing her son or daughter to society. She has lost her whole sense of fulfillment in the motherhood role because of the current rubbish."

C. A loss of confidence.
  "We ourselves are unable to rebuild the wall."

  - Once they started telling themselves that they couldn't do it, they were in big trouble.
  - The sad part of this is, they had started sounding like the enemy. the threats had done   their job.

INPUT - Situations in which a believer might be discouraged? (point out -- There's nothing     necessarily wrong with discouragement, unless we let it us to despair and       depression--DEVELOP--However, in this case the people were guilty of sinful     thinking that definitely needed to be turned around.)

- let's read the rest of the verses to find out what Nehemiah does next:
- READ 13-23.
- From these verses, let's talk about:

III. How to Overcome Discouragement

A. Accurately diagnose the problem.
  - In verse 14, Nehemiah showed how important it was to properly diagnose what the    real problem was.
  - These men and women were afraid.
  - The problem, in the final analysis, wasn't the enemy---it was the fact that God's people   up till this time had not learned to handle fear.


- So Nehemiah diagnoses and then sets in to correct the problem.

- INPUT - How do fear and discouragement often work together? What might a discouraged person be afraid of?

B. Turn your focus to the Lord.
  - We've seen many times that Nehemiah was the kind of leader who helped God's     people focus on Him.
  - These people had been staring at the rubble, and staring at the enemy...it was time to    focus on their God.

  INPUT - Examples from verses 9-23 of Nehemiah doing this?

  Isa. 26:3 - The steadfast of mind Thou wilt keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in       Thee.

  Phil. 4:6-7 - Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with       thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of      God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and        your minds in Christ Jesus.

  Heb 12:2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set       before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at       the right hand of the throne of God.

- cf. Swindoll p. 91

C. Maintain a balance between thought and action.
  - These verses are a great balance between faith and works.

  1) Deal with the real problem, not an imagined one.

   - Cyril Barber makes the important point that Nehemiah did not let the threats of      these enemies cause him to start imagining all sorts of calamities and preparing     accordingly.

   - It was very unlikely that these men would wage an all-out attack because that      would have appeared to be rebelling against the kind who had allowed       Nehemiah to come in the first place.

   - It was much more likely that these enemies would try some sort of guerrilla attack,     so that's what Nehemiah planned for.

  2) Don't be afraid to battle, but don't battle exclusively.
   - There's a beautiful picture here of Christian ministry -- building and battling.
   - While we ought to be concerned about people who seem to only want to battle, we    ought to also be concerned about people who would never be willing to battle for     anything.
   - The Christian heritage we enjoy today was secured in part by people who were      willing to live and in some cases die for some things.
   cf. Spurgeon's magazine - "The Sword and the Trowel."
  3) Work together as much as possible.
   - Nehemiah's bringing the people together to work as teams made the project much     more "do-able."
   - cf. the paint crew this week.

   - cf. Alan Redpath - "The Jews succedded at getting their work done and keeping     the enemy at bay because they had a mind to work (v. 6), a heart to pray (v. 9),     an eye to watch (v. 9), and an ear to hear (v. 20).


The Book of Nehemiah
Adult Sunday School
4:7- 23 - Overcoming Discouragement
Introduction
"In times of adversity, many people lose their courage and display a weakness that is  unnecessary. They assume that a loss, or a disappointment, is a failure when actually  misfortune can mean opportunity....We must weave from our circumstances the pattern  and texture of life. Strength is gained by overcoming adversity, not by giving in to it."


I. Source of Discouragement


A. Men of Judah
  Genesis 49:8-10
  INPUT - What can we learn from the      fact that even these men got         discouraged?
B. Those who were positioned near       discouragers.
   INPUT - What can we learn about       discouragement from this historical    detail?

II. The Causes of Discouragement


A. Loss of strength.
B. A loss of vision.
    "Yet there is so much rubbish".
  INPUT - What was missing from that         statement?
  INPUT -How might that same tendency        happen in the life of a person         who was  ministering here at         church?
Chuck Swindoll  - A perfect illustration of this myopic outlook is the young mother who  has changed what seems to be fifty or sixty diapers in one day. She looks at the  situation and says, `There too much rubbish, too much mess, too many diapers, too much work.' What has she lost? She has lost the vision of the growing child and the delight of introducing her son or daughter to society. She has lost her whole sense of fulfillment in the motherhood role because of the current rubbish."


C. A loss of confidence.
  "We ourselves are unable to rebuild     the wall."
  INPUT - Situations in which a believer    might be discouraged?


III. How to Overcome Discouragement


A. Accurately diagnose the problem.
   INPUT - How do fear and            discouragement often work together?   What might a discouraged person be    afraid of?
B. Turn your focus to the Lord.
  INPUT - Examples from verses 9-23 of    Nehemiah doing this?
  Isa. 26:3 - The steadfast of mind Thou    wilt keep in perfect peace, Because     he trusts in Thee.
  Phil. 4:6-7 - Be anxious for nothing, but   in everything by prayer and          supplication with thanksgiving let      your requests be made known to      God. 7 And the peace of God, which    surpasses all comprehension, shall     guard your hearts and your minds in    Christ Jesus.
Heb 12:2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the  author and perfecter of faith, who for  the joy set  before Him endured the  cross, despising the shame, and has  sat down at  the right hand of the  throne of God.
C. Maintain a balance between thought  and action.
  1) Deal with the real problem, not an      imagined one.
  2) Don't be afraid to battle, but don't      battle exclusively.
  3) Work together as much as possible.

Alan Redpath - "The Jews succeeded at getting their work done and keeping the enemy at bay because they had a mind to work (v. 6), a heart to pray (v. 9),  an eye to watch (v. 9), and an ear to hear (v. 20).

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

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

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