Summary: By looking at how Nehemiah was able to keep the Jews’ spirits high while they rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem, we can gain some insight into how we, too, can keep from getting discouraged.
SCRIPTURE READING: Psalm 46:1-3, 10-11
Have you ever known someone that you would say was an “eternal optimist?” Did they ever drive you crazy? Did you ever think, “Man, can’t you be upset about anything?” There aren’t too many people that you could file under that category. But, in December of 1914, a 67-year-old man watched as his life’s work was being burned to the ground. Adding insult to injury, his property was only insured for $238,000 - far less than the $2 million worth of damage. His twenty-four-year-old son, Charles, said, “My heart ached for him. He was sixty-seven, no longer a young man, and everything was going up in flames.”
When Charles found his father, he was surprised by his dad’s request. He said, “Find your mother and bring her here. She will never see anything like this as long as she lives.” The next morning the older man gathered his employees at the charred ruins and said, “There is great value in disaster. All of our mistakes are burned up. Thank God that we can start anew.” And, start anew he did. Three weeks later, Thomas Edison delivered his first phonograph.
We all have disasters and disappointments to face in this life. We all face times of discouragement. But, in those times of despair, we have a choice to make. We can crumble under the weight of self-pity, and wonder “why me?”. Or, we can allow it to be a time of renewal, and an opportunity to learn.
After the nation of Israel had been in captivity in Babylon, they returned to Jerusalem to find the city in ruins. Two men took upon themselves the leadership roles necessary to help rebuild the temple, and the city walls. They were Ezra, and Nehemiah. Now, Ezra faced a great deal of difficulty in getting the temple rebuilt, due to some strife with their northern enemies. But, eventually, the temple was rebuilt.
Several years later, Nehemiah led the nation in an attempt to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. They, too, faced some especially difficult times, and some discouragements. But, they were able to overcome them, and successfully complete the project. What I want us to focus on today is in Nehemiah, chapter 4. What we’re going to find here is several suggestions on how we, today, can also overcome times of discouragement.
I. Refuse to Listen to Nay-Sayers
A. Now, what we have here in Sanballat and Tobiah are two men much like those we face today. We’ll call them the “nay-sayers.” Do you have any nay-sayers in your life? I think we’ve all had to face people like Sanballat and Tobiah. The kind of people who want to discourage any good idea we may have. The kind of people who want to ridicule any project we take on. They make an already difficult task that much harder. And, it often discourages us.
Well, we can overcome discouragement, if we will refuse to listen to those nay-sayers in our lives. We can’t allow ourselves to be influenced by their negativity. We can’t permit their pessimism to slow us down.
Now, you may be thinking, “Well, sure, it’s a nice thing to say you won’t be effected by negative comments or actions, but it’s a lot easier said than done.” And, you’re absolutely right. It’s not an easy task to let those hurtful comments go in one ear and out the other. But, notice how Nehemiah handles it. Where does he turn? vv. 4-5.
Nehemiah prays. I encourage you, this week, to read through the book of Nehemiah. It’s not a real long book - just 13 chapters. One of the things you’ll notice about Nehemiah is that he was a man devoted to prayer. You’ll see numerous incidents like this one, where the first thing he does when faced with a difficult situation, is turn to God in prayer. And, we know that in this instance, it worked. Notice the first words of verse 6 - “So we built the wall.”
So, if we will keep our eyes, and our hearts focused on the Lord, and on His will, we can overcome the discouragement we receive at the hands of those nay-sayers.
II. Have a Mind to Work
A. Another way that we see Nehemiah’s crew overcome discouragement is found in the rest of verse 6 - “And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.” “The people had a mind to work.” Let’s think about that for a minute. What Nehemiah is saying here is that the people of Israel weren’t deterred by the words of Sanballat and Tobiah because they were keeping themselves busy with the task at hand.
There’s a story of a man named Mr. Brown who ran a clinic for rich women who didn’t have much to do. They had been idle so long together that their nerves got the best of them. They imagined all sorts of things wrong with themselves as they grumbled about their aches and pains.