Summary: Let’s look more closely at the entire passage & discover, first of all, the source of discouragement; secondly, the causes of discouragement; & finally, how to deal with discouragement when it comes our way. (Powerpoints available - #319)
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
(This is the fifth of a Leadership series featuring Nehemiah. Some ideas & illustrations in these messages were based on or benefited greatly from, to varying extents, the book “Hand Me Another Brick” by Charles Swindoll.)
(The Powerpoints used with this sermon are available free. Just email me at email@example.com and request PP #319)
ILL. An interesting thing happened in Darlington, Maryland, a few years ago. Edith saw 5 of her children gathered in a circle in the middle of the yard. Something had their eager attention & she couldn't see what it was.
So, very quietly, she came up behind them & peeked over their shoulders, only to discover that in the center of their circle were 5 little skunks. Suddenly horrified at what could happen, Edith cried at the top of her voice, "Children, run!" Instantly, each child grabbed a skunk & ran, leaving Edith stunned & frustrated.
I don't know if you have ever felt like that but Nehemiah surely must have. God had said, "Nehemiah, go to Jerusalem & rebuild the wall around the city." It sounded so easy, & Nehemiah must have thought, "That's a piece of cake! I can do that & be back here again as cupbearer to the King in no time at all."
So Nehemiah went to Jerusalem & started out on his task with great enthusiasm. But immediately, he & his workers met opposition, criticism, complaints, & mockery. The result was discouragement. And Nehemiah had to learn how to deal with that discouragement. What he learned is recorded in Nehemiah 4:10 23.
To begin with, listen as I read vs’s 10-12. “Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, ‘the strength of the laborers is giving out, & there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall. Also our enemies said, 'Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them & will kill them & put an end to the work.’ Then the Jews who lived near them came & told us ten times over, ‘Wherever you turn, they will attack us.’”
PROP. Now with that beginning, let’s look more closely at the entire passage & discover, first of all, the source of discouragement; secondly, the causes of discouragement; & finally, how to deal with discouragement when it comes our way.
I. THE SOURCE OF DISCOURAGEMENT
Vs. 10 says, “Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, ‘the strength of the laborers is giving out, & there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.” Right here is the beginning of all the complaints & discouragement that come Nehemiah's way.
Do you realize who Judah was? On his death bed, Jacob called his sons together & in Genesis 40:10 he said, “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until He comes to whom it belongs…”
What Jacob was saying to Judah was this, "You will be the leader. You are the chosen tribe to lead God's people until the Messiah comes."
So if anybody ought to be leading out in the building of the wall around Jerusalem it ought to be the people of Judah. They are the leaders. But no, from the people of Judah, Nehemiah received only complaints & discouragement.
APPL. I wonder, how often have we found that those who ought to be helpful & supportive are not? And that those who should be encouraging us are actually the source of our discouragement? Watch out for sources of discouragement!
II. THE CAUSES OF DISCOURAGEMENT
Secondly, notice that in these verses we are given 4 causes of discouragement, & it is interesting how God gives them to us in a very special order.
A. First of all, we’re told that they lost their strength. Listen again to vs. 10: “The strength of the laborers is giving out…” They started out with tremendous enthusiasm, but now their strength is beginning to fail. Why?
Go back to vs. 6 & you’ll find the answer. It says, “We rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height…” Notice the word "half." They were half way through. They had come half way, but they still had half of it to do.
ILL. An automobile half paid for has to be one of the most depressing things in the world. The newness is worn off. It has scratches & dents, & it needs repairs, but you still have as many payments left as you have already paid.
ILL. A mountain half climbed can be very depressing. You have expended tremendous energy getting this far, but you still have as far to go as you have already come.
That is exactly the situation that Nehemiah & the children of Israel faced. The wall was half finished, but they still had as much to do as they had already done, & their strength was gone. They were exhausted & discouraged!