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Summary: Where do you see yourself in this picture? Are you being pelted by unfair criticism as you are serving Christ? If so, keep on going and God will reward your efforts. Or do you recognize yourself as one who tends to be critical of others? If so, it’s time

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Overcoming Opposition By Prayer (Nehemiah 1:4-11)

Illustration: There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health. --Proverbs 12:18

Critics talk much and do little that is constructive. They are more interested in trying to make themselves look good by making others look bad.

If Nehemiah had listened to his critics, the wall around the city of Jerusalem would never have been rebuilt. Some of what those critics said to him was accurate. The wall was rubble and fire had burned the stones and caused them to crack and crumble (4:2-3). But the critics talked much and did absolutely nothing to help.

Years ago, Theodore Roosevelt noted, "It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood; . . . and who, . . . if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

Where do you see yourself in this picture? Are you being pelted by unfair criticism as you are serving Christ? If so, keep on going and God will reward your efforts. Or do you recognize yourself as one who tends to be critical of others? If so, it’s time to quit the demolition team and join the construction crew. --HWR

I would not criticize the one who works,

The one who listens to God’s Word and heeds;

But I would criticize myself, dear Lord,

Confess to you my faithless words and deeds. --Hess

Any spectator can criticize the players; it takes skill and dedication to play the game. (Our Daily Bread)

1. The Holy Spirit can lead you as He led Nehemiah to weep, pray and fast for the needs of your people. Nehemiah prayed, "Those who survived the exile are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates have been burned with fire. When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some day I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven." (Neh. 1:3,4) Ask the Lord to help you to weep, pray and fast for your people allowing the Spirit to do His work first in you and in the hearts of your people before anything else happens.

2. The Holy Spirit can lead you as He led Nehemiah to praise God amidst great difficulties. Nehemiah prayed, "O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands." (Neh. 1:5) Ask the Lord to give you the heart to praise God regardless of whatever problems, pressures or people are on your mind.

Illustration: So we built the wall . . . , for the people had a mind to work. --Nehemiah 4:6

Some people, like the comic-strip character Beetle Bailey, work hard to avoid working. In real life, we know that work "makes the world go round." God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden "to tend and keep it" (Gen. 2:15), which shows us that work is essential to our well-being.

God wants us to work, and He wants us to put our hearts into what we do. That’s easy for some people, like former Detroit Tiger baseball player Alan Trammell. He once said it was easy for him to be enthusiastic about his work because he was paid for doing what he would enjoy doing for nothing.

But how can a person put his heart into a job that is drearily monotonous, or so stressful that it brings on high blood pressure or ulcers? The apostle Paul gave these answers to followers of Christ: "Work with your own hands, . . . that you may lack nothing" (1 Th. 4:11-12). To another church he wrote, "Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men" (Col. 3:23).

If you think of your job as a blessing by which you can provide for yourself and others, and that your diligence is honoring to the Lord, you too will have "a mind to work" (Neh. 4:6). --HVL

Whatever you are working on,

Engage in it with zest,

Because your work is for the Lord

And He expects your best. --Sper

Work becomes worship when you work for the Lord. (Our Daily Bread)

3. The Holy Spirit can lead you as He led Nehemiah to confess personal, group and national sins to the Lord seeking His forgiveness and restoration. Nehemiah prayed, "I confess the sins we Israelities, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses." (Neh. 1:6,7) Be willing to confess and forsake all personal, group and national sins before you attempt to lead your people

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