When you encounter opposition how do you respond? When someone maligns you, do you counter back with choice words of your own; do you walk away in self pity? Nehemiah gives us some good guidance in Chapter 4 where he shows us that opposition tests our faith and increases our stamina as we live our lives for Jesus.
We start out chapter 4 with mockers speaking against the rebuilding. There are several rounds of threats each escalating in greater danger. At first it is just words but by the end, it is clear that annihilation is their objective. When the opposition wasn't successful in deterring the work of building the wall through mockery, threats turned to physical harassment and then open hostility.
Now here is Nehemiah's example to us in facing opposition: each threat Nehemiah repeatedly did two things; 1. prayer to God and 2. diligent activity to defend his work. So often I am guilty of one or the other, and frustrated when I had limited success or no success at all. In this passage we learn that faith in action stands against any foe.
Nehemiah was a man of prayer; that is how he could know that this was a mission of God that he was called to. It was also how he gained his focus and strength. Nehemiah could confidently proceed with the work because he had God's clear vision for the project. How often have I undertaken projects and felt frustrated or defeated because I did not pray and have God's clear direction and purpose. For Nehemiah, prayer was his first and foremost weapon. Nehemiah looked to the Lord for his defense, but he also prepared his men for battle at the same time knowing that God often uses his people to accomplish his purposes.
Nehemiah also encouraged the people to consider how God was greater than their enemy and to trust him to supply their need. As enemy threats increased, the people started to become discouraged and fearful. The hard work was taking its toll on their stamina. The project was huge without opposition. The threats made the completion of the wall virtually impossible. Nehemiah needed not only stand against the enemy, he needed to strengthen the resolve of his people to persevere.
Nehemiah not only relied on prayer, but he acted on his prayers, joining God in the defense of the building project. He outlined 5 strategies to prepare the people for battle:
1. 1/2 people worked while 1/2 defended the workers
2. workers and defenders were armed to stand against the enemy if needed
3. workers worked all day and then guarded their work at night
4. trumpet signal used to call the people to the location of a threat
5. men wore weapon at all time; even when getting water.
Every defense that could be made was. Nehemiah didn't go about his business and not prepare to address the threat; he looked to the Lord first and then prepared his people to join the Lord in battle against the enemy.
Whatever your opposition today, you can be assured that faith in action can stand against any foe. Your enemy may want to discourage you and make you feel insufficient to the task, but if you belong to the Lord, you have a defender on your side that is greater than any opposition you face. Look to him for your strength and then stand firm!