Summary: Anytime you step out in leadership, you will face opposition. Since that is the case, it’s important to know what you’re up against and how to overcome it.
Some people will tell you that there are no guarantees in life. Well, I’m not going to do that. I will make you an iron-clad guarantee tonight. This guarantee is as sure as I’m standing here. I’m not a betting man and I wouldn’t want you to make bets. But if you were ever to bet on this, you would win. Are you ready? Here it is: Anytime that you step out in leadership you will be opposed. That’s not really a surprise, is it? Well, actually for some people it is a surprise. You see, some people have this mistaken notion that if God gives you a burden… and then you really pray and seek His face about that burden… and then you do all the planning and preparation you’re supposed to do… and then you boldly step out in leadership like you’re supposed to… some people mistakenly think that it’s all going to be smooth sailing. It never ceases to amaze me when people finally step out in leadership on something that the Lord has clearly burdened them about. And when they finally step out in leadership they inevitably run into opposition. And then as soon as they run into opposition, the first thing they want to do is quit. And then this is the part that gets me. Then they try to blame it on God. They say, “Well, I guess since I ran into this opposition, God is closing the door.” Does God close doors of opportunity? Yes. But He usually does it as a way to show us His will for a situation. He usually does it as a way to clarify the burden that He’s given us. But once that burden has become clear… and once that burden has been prayed and fasted over… once that burden is clear, God usually doesn’t close the door. Think about it, why would God give you a burden that is crystal clear and then block you from doing anything about it. Nehemiah’s burden was to rebuild the wall and the city of Jerusalem. God clearly gave him that burden. Nehemiah prayed and fasted over that burden. He planned and prepared and prayed some more for that burden for four months. God opened the initial doors of getting permission to go. Remember, that was what Nehemiah had prayed about. He prayed that the Lord would prosper his servant and grant him mercy in the sight of the king. And God answered that prayer. He answered it four months later when the king told Nehemiah he could go. And not only did he give him permission, he gave him his protection, and his provision. The door was clearly open. The burden was clearly from God and the door was open. So much so, that Nehemiah recognized it back in verse 8. He said that it all happened because the good hand of his God was upon him. So if the good hand of God was so clearly upon Nehemiah, everything was bound to go smoothly, right? That’s what always happens when we’re walking in God’s will and doing what He wants us to do, right? If God wants you to lead in accomplishing His work and you boldly step out and do it, He’ll make sure everything goes smoothly for you, right? Wrong! That is the one time when you are guaranteed to face opposition. I know that might not seem like a good way to get you to boldly step out in leading in the burden that God has given you. And if I were a salesman or a recruiter it wouldn’t be. Because most of us are too timid to step out and lead under the best of circumstances. Much less when somebody stands up here and tells you that you’re going to face opposition. But it’s true! If I told you anything less, I would be lying. Nehemiah was clearly in God’s will. He was clearly called by God. God clearly gave him a burden. He clarified that burden in prayer and preparation. He opened doors with the king when Nehemiah obediently stepped out in leadership. And then, no sooner than things started happening, opposition came. Just like it will when you step out to lead in the burden that God is giving you. So since opposition is inevitable… we need to understand it before it comes. That’s one of the wonderful things about this book. I imagine it wasn’t so great for Nehemiah, but it’s great for us, because we get to see all of the opposition he faced. And a lot of the opposition came from these two characters in our passage tonight—Sanballat and Tobiah. We will see them different times throughout the book, but tonight we’re just introduced to them. But the introduction is enough to help us understand opposition before it comes against us. It will help us recognize opposition when it comes and when we recognize it, then we can know how to overcome it. The first thing we need to understand about opposition is that opposition can be territorial.