Summary: In this sermon you will find encouragement and strength to continue when trials are present.
Over the past few weeks I have shared several messages from the book of Nehemiah. One week we looked at Nehemiah 1. In that message, “Rising Above The Rubble”, we saw how Jerusalem lay in shambles and Nehemiah lead an effort to rise above the rubble of defeat. In the next message, “From Sadness to Singing”, we saw how God transformed the people’s sadness into singing. However, along the way they faced challenges. We also face challenges from time to time. In those times we need strength to continue. That is the picture of life. We need the divine strength to continue when times get tough. This message will encourage you in your work for God. This message will encourage you in your emotional life. This message will encourage you in your marital life. This message will encourage you in your leisure life. From time to time we all need encouragement and strength to continue.
A mother watched her son begin to lose energy as the week went on. By the end of the week he’d lost his desire to get out of bed. She heard the alarm go off through his bedroom door. Apparently he just kept punching the little snooze button on the top. Finally, after 3 or 4 extra rings she walked in and said, ’Son, it’s time to get up.’ He peeked out from under the covers, ’Can you give me a good reason to get up?’ She said, ’Yes. First, it’s Sunday - time for church. Second, you’re 43 years old and you know better. Third, you’re the pastor and they expect you to be there.’ WE ALL NEED ENCOURAGEMENT!
(Contributed to Sermon Central by Daniel Harman)
We are going to concentrate our thoughts on Nehemiah 4. Before we go there I would like to draw your attention to chapter 3. Chapter 3 shows a beautiful picture of God’s people working together. It is a picture of cooperation, coordination, and unity among God’s people. It shows a picture of God’s people working together for the glory of God. Notice Eliashi’s effort in verse 1, the men of Jericho in verse 2, the sons of Hassenaah in verse 3, a man named Meremoth in verse 4, and this pattern continues through chapter 4. This chapter lists a chain of human workers working together for God’s glory. Chapter 3 portrays the good times. The people were having fun and everything was on a positive note. However, the events in chapter 4 arrive. The situation is different. The first phrase in chapter 4 is “it so happened.” In life things happen. That is when we need strength to continue.
Look at chapter 4 and the trials they faced.
• They faced ridicule (4:2-3). Notice especially verse 3. Tobiah said “if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.”
• They faced confusion (4:8). Their enemies sought to create confusion among them.
• They faced discouragement (4:10,12). Notice especially verse 10 “the strength of the laborers is failing.”
• They faced fear (4:14). In verse 14 Nehemiah encourages the people to not be afraid.
Ridicule, confusion, discouragement, and fear…did they not need strength to continue moving forward? Can we not learn something from them? Let me share some jewels I found in this chapter. I want to show you four sources of strength.
1. Find strength through prayer. Every turn of the page, in Nehemiah, prayer is mentioned. As you follow Nehemiah’s efforts you see him leading the people to continue in prayer. Notice 1:4 “I was fasting and praying before the God of Heaven.” Notice 2:4 “So I prayed to the God of heaven.” Notice 4:4 “Hear, O our God, for we are despised.” Notice 4:9 “We made our prayer to our God.” There are times when we might give up on prayer.
Early African converts to Christianity were earnest and regular in private devotions. Each one reportedly had a separate spot in the thicket where he would pour out his heart to God. Over time the paths to these places became well worn. As a result, if one of these believers began to neglect prayer, it was soon apparent to the others. They would kindly remind the negligent one, "Brother, the grass grows on your path." (Today in the Word, June 29, 1992……Contributed to Sermon Central by Scott Malone) Do not let the grass grow on your path to prayer.
Let me encourage you in your prayer life. None of us are perfect. All of us struggle with inferiority when it comes to prayer. All of us are on a learning curve when it comes to prayer. Allow me to encourage you by exalting our gracious, loving, and compassionate God. When you pray, God listens. Even when we do not have it all together, God listens. Even when we are downcast, God listens. Even when we have trouble holding our heads up, God listens. Even when we doubt God, God listens. I was sharing with someone, this week, one of my favorite passages about prayer. It is found in Acts 12. In this passage Peter was in prison. It tells us the church was praying for him (vs. 5). Peter was miraculously delivered from prison by an angel of God. Peter goes to the home of a lady named Mary, where prayer was being offered for him. A girl named Rhoda answers the door and Peter is at the door. She is so excited to hear Peter’s voice that she does not open the door for him. Rhoda runs into the house and tells the others (who were praying for Peter) that Peter was at the door. The group of praying saints told Rhoda she was beside herself. (A cotton patch translation: you are nuts.) In spite of their unbelief God answered their prayer.