Summary: If we are honest with God, there are a lot of things in our lives which are halfway finished. Halfway is one of the most difficult places to be. Now the 4th chapter is about persevering through resistance and opposition. The closer you get to the finish l
Reconstruction: fortifying our vulnerable places
I bumped into some friends I used to play sand volleyball with at Luke’s basketball game last weekend. I hadn’t seen them in awhile. As the course of the conversation unfolded, I asked how they were doing with rebuilding their home. They said they were half-finished. They went on to explain that they had purchased a second storm-damaged home and had just finished rebuilding that one and were living in it. I asked about their home and they said that it was still just gutted and they hadn’t gotten around to working on it yet. Other things kept getting in the way like their son’s basketball game we were at and the fact that they were so tired. They didn’t know when they were going to get to work on the second house. Halfway is one of the hardest places to be. That always seems to be the place where things slow down. You can begin to see what the final project will look like and yet you also realize how much work is left to finish. You’re not quite where you need to be and yet you haven’t quite left where you’ve been. The work begins to loom over you. We’ve come to the point where the Israelites have labored on the wall and now the wall stands at half of its projected height. They’re halfway finished.
If we are honest with God, there are a lot of things in our lives which are halfway finished. We have half finished marriages and we just stop working and eventually quit, never experiencing the miracle of God in our lives or our marital relationship. Some of us have half finished educations and we had always planned on going back and getting our college degree but just never have made the commitment and sacrifices. Some of us have half finished goals. We’re at the midpoint of our careers and are beginning to realize that we’re not where we had hoped to be and we haven’t accomplished as much as we’d like. And you’re going through a mid-life crisis and wrestling with where you’re life is really headed. Some of us are half parenting and by the time the kids get to the teenage years, we’re about ready to throw in the towel. Halfway is one of the most difficult places to be.
Now the 4th chapter is about persevering through resistance and opposition. The closer you get to the finish line, the closer you get to God’s purpose, the greater the resistance will be. What started out with Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem just disagreeing with the idea of rebuilding the walls has now escalated to potential warfare. Personal attacks focus on your weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Nehemiah realizes that the greatest weakness facing Jerusalem is having no defense and thus no wall. If the city of Jerusalem is ever going to get rebuilt then the walls or the defense of Jerusalem have to be rebuilt first. And what we will discover today is that if we are ever going to passionately and aggressive pursue God’s purpose, we first have to deal with the vulnerable places in our lives.
The first vulnerable place is fatigue. The people started out with enthusiasm and giving 110% but then they wear down and get tired. The thing about fatigue is that it makes us vulnerable in every area of our lives. There’s two dimensions to fatigue. The first is physical. Verse 10, “Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, "The strength of the laborers is giving out…" Simply put, the workers were tired. They had been working non-stop and were physically exhausted. The phrase “giving out” literally means “staggering, tottering, and stumbling.” They had nothing left to give. They were in need of rest.
The second is spiritual. While you can get by on physical fatigue, for awhile, spiritual fatigue is fatal. Spiritual fatigue occurs when the work of God becomes overwhelming and when problems and obstacles are looming large. Spiritual fatigue is more dangerous than physical fatigue because it can lead to moral and spiritual failures. It can cause you to doubt God and his calling on your life. It can cause you to question your relationship with God and His protection in your life. Jeremiah was a prophet in the darkest days of Judah. The Babylonians had captured Northern Israel and it was only a matter of time before Judah would fall. Jeremiah was called to proclaim words of judgment and warning to Judah’s king and religious leaders and they rejected him. The King would not listen to him. He was punished by the royal officials. The priests and prophets opposed him. Pashur, a priest, beat Jeremiah after hearing him preach the submission of Judah to Babylon and put him in the stocks overnight. All this for being faithful to God! Listen to the cries of spiritual fatigue from Jeremiah. Place scripture on screen “O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed. But I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, "Violence and destruction!" For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, "I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name," then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. For I hear many whispering: "Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!" All my close friends are watching for me to stumble….. Cursed be the day on which I was born! The day when my mother bore me, let it not be blessed! Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father, saying, "A child is born to you, a son," making him very glad….Why did I come forth from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?” Jeremiah 20: 7-10,14-15, 18 Spiritual fatigue can lead to less effectiveness and even turning away from God.