Summary: Have you ever been discouraged? Are you discouraged now? You don’t have to be. As we examine our passage today, we will discover the causes of discouragement. But more than that, we will find the cure.
You know how much I love to watch college football. How many times have you seen a huge underdog go into the home stadium of a football powerhouse and play them very close the first half? It seems like it happens every Saturday during college football season. You’ll look at the scoreboard and Podunk State Community College is tied with Ohio State at halftime. But then the next time you see the score, Ohio State has scored three touchdowns in the third quarter and is blowing out the little team. What happened? Halftime happened, that’s what. You think of all of the halftime speeches you’ve ever heard of. All these coaches get up in front of their team and pump them up and motivate them. Why do they have to do that? Because there’s something about halftime. What happens at halftime will many times determine who wins and who loses. You think about the psychology of halftime. You have just played your guts out for 30 minutes—which is really over an hour. You got up that day knowing what was ahead of you. You spent all day getting pumped up for the game that night. By the time game time rolled around, your emotions were at an absolute frenzy. And then the game started and you poured out everything you had on the field. And then you go sit down in a locker room. The emotional frenzy is gone. It has been replaced by aching muscles and bruises. And then you realize—I’ve got to go out and do this all over again. It’s not over. As a matter of fact, it’s not even close to being over. You’re only halfway there. And the next thing you know, you are discouraged. How you handle that halfway discouragement will determine whether you get trounced or get victory. It will determine whether you quit in discouragement or victoriously finish what you started. Look back up to verse 6. Where does verse 6 say that the remnant is in rebuilding the wall? They’re halfway. They had closed up all the holes and had a wall going all the way around Jerusalem. But it was only done to half the height that it needed to be. Up until that point, they had a mind to work. They overcame the external opposition that faced them and got busy. I’m sure they were excited and motivated to get busy. That’s what it means when Scripture says that they had a mind to work. But then, that initial excitement wore off. The work became hard. They were about 20-30 days into it by now. Day after day, moving rubble. Move a rock pile—build a wall. Sweat. Stiffness. Callused and bleeding hands from all the hard work. And all of a sudden, you look around and there is still a pile of work that needs to be done. Verse 10 puts it well. “The workers strength is decayed. But we’re still surrounded by rubbish.” Can you sense the discouragement there? It was halftime, the score was tied, and all of a sudden they realized that they were completely overmatched. They realized that they were incapable of completing the task that was before them. They began to see it as impossible. They said as much in the rest of verse 10. They said, “we are not able to build the wall.” Those are the feelings that the people had at halftime. They were experiencing the same feelings that we can get as we work to accomplish the mission God has given us. “I remember those days when we used to go out and work hard to bring people into the church. “I remember when we used to run buses and knock doors and bring them in by the droves.” What happened? Halftime came. Halftime came and many of us realized that we are completely overmatched. All the sin that is outside these doors is way too much for us to handle. We are completely incapable of fixing all the problems that are out there. We are not able to build the wall. That is discouragement. It’s the exact same kind of discouragement that the remnant was feeling here in our passage. But where did that discouragement come from? Aside from the fact that it was halftime, what fed that discouragement? First, it was fed from the outside. Look back at verses 7-9:
Once again, Sanballat and Tobiah pop their ugly heads up again. But this time, they brought some friends with them. Do you remember several weeks ago when we talked about Gesham the Arabian? Well, he’s back with his crew. But now they brought somebody else along. This time they brought the Ashdodites with them. Now, pull your map back up in your mind. Sanballat was from Samaria which was north of Jerusalem. Tobiah was from Ammon which was east of Jerusalem. Gesham was in charge of most of the Arabian Peninsula which is south of Jerusalem. What did that leave? That left a small sliver of land to the west of Jerusalem before you head off into the Mediterranean Sea. That land was controlled by what used to be called Philistines. Now, hundreds of years after King David, they were called the Ashdodites. In other words, enemies were coming at them from all angles. Instead of their enemies going away, they actually increased. Did you notice that? So if anybody tells you that doing the will of God makes everything go smooth for you, they’re lying. Scripture tells us that when we are on mission for God, our enemies will increase. More people will come against us. That can be discouraging. But notice how these enemies came against the remnant. Verse 8 says that they conspired together. This wasn’t some sort of full frontal attack against Jerusalem. They couldn’t do that. Remember that Nehemiah had the blessing of the king. And if any of them mounted an attack against Nehemiah, the king wouldn’t have taken kindly to it. So, instead of launching a full attack, they conspired together to “hinder” Jerusalem. In other words, they were going to launch a series of sneak attacks against vulnerable parts of the wall. What was their purpose? Was it to completely destroy the wall? No, it was to strike terror in their hearts. Does that sound familiar? See, terrorism is not a new thing. It’s been around forever. That was what these people were doing. They were conspiring together to launch a series of terrorist attacks against Jerusalem. Their goal was not to defeat them on the battlefield. Their goal was to make them lose heart and quit building the wall. But they weren’t going to be successful. Because, even though they were using sneaky tactics, they were still launching an external attack. And anytime somebody attacks us from the outside, we naturally martial a defense. There’s an old saying—nothing unites like a common enemy. Patriotism is always at its highest point when a nation is attacked from the outside. Just like we tend to rally together when our beliefs are attacked by the world. And make no mistake about it, we are every bit as surrounded by enemies as Jerusalem was. Jerusalem was surrounded by enemies who wanted nothing more than to stop them from doing what God had called them to do. We are surrounded by enemies who want nothing more than to stop us from accomplishing the mission that God has called us to. Those enemies will attack our Bible. They will attack our doctrine. They will attack our children. They will attack our morality. But even though those attacks come, they are rarely successful. Because when those attacks come, we tend to get our backs up and rally together to defend against them. That’s what happened with the remnant in verse 9. When those attacks came, they prayed and rallied together to defend themselves. When those kinds of attacks come against us, we pray and spend a lot of time defending the things we believe in. It almost acts as a way to rally us rather than discourage us. So, if the discouragement didn’t come from outside, where did it come from? Because verse 10 clearly tells us that the people were terribly discouraged. Where did that discouragement come from? Let’s look at verses 10-12: