Summary: One of the major landmines to seeing your vision fulfilled is handling criticism. This sermon explores the types of criticism Nehemiah faced, and a few keys to moving forward in the face of criticism.
We have been working together on bringing into focus the vision that God has for your life, and for our church. For Nehemiah, it was represented by a wall to be built around the city of Jerusalem. Hopefully, through our first month of exploration you have been able to start to understand the passion, the area of concern, the vision that God is specifically calling you to.
But as we move forward together with our individual and corporate visions, there are some landmines that lie ahead. Over the next couple weeks, we are going to explore some of them together. The first one is a difficult truism of life. In fact, if you have ever shared a passion, a vision, an area of concern with someone you have probably seen this truth come to bear.
The truism: Visions are easy to criticize. In fact, visions even attract criticism. They can be very difficult to defend against criticism. And often, that criticism will result in the death of your vision. There are a number of reasons why this is true. This reality that visions are easy to criticize. One of the reasons is that visions are often equated with change. Whenever you suggest or introduce change into people’s lives, that will often stir up negative emotions that will be reflected as criticism.
Another reason visions go hand and hand with criticism is that they often have gaps. Two weeks ago we talked about the “how” question. How will the vision get done. And there will always seem to be holes in the plans from the perspective of those outside your vision. Why? Because a divine vision will require divine intervention. So the people around you won’t have a clear enough picture of “how” you are going to fulfill the vision. The nature of vision is that it has gaps. Just think about this, if the vision didn’t have gaps, if there were no holes in the vision, somebody else would have already done it.
It is just a tough fact that visions are easy to criticize. They attract criticism, and they are often very difficult to defend against criticism. Now, this criticism or opposition to your vision can take on a number of different forms. Let’s look at some of the ones that Nehemiah faced.
Turn to Nehemiah chapter 3. We are going to look at a number of verses today, so you will want a copy of the book of Nehemiah opened in front of you.
Just to bring you up to speed, in Nehemiah chapter 1, Nehemiah gets a picture of the condition of Jerusalem, and cries out to God with the concern burning in his spirit to be a part of fixing it. In chapter 2, Nehemiah goes to King Artaxerxes and boldly asks for the opportunity to change the way things are in Jerusalem. Nehemiah heads to Jerusalem, views the condition of the city firsthand, and then calls on the people to rise up together and rebuild the wall.
Then you come to chapter 3. We aren’t very far into the job of rebuilding the wall, fulfilling Nehemiah’s God given vision, before the criticism and opposition kicks in (read verses 1 through 5). Did you catch that? Things are cruising along. People are taking care of their areas of responsibility, and then you come to the Tekoite nobles. (re-read verse 5).
One form of criticism or opposition that your vision might face is. . .
Some people just don’t care about the vision. In verse 5 we see that there are nobles who just say, “Ain’t gonna do it. Not sweating and loosing sleep over this. Someone else can do it.”
This is often a great challenge I face with my vision. There are a lot of people out there that just don’t care that other people are lost and going to hell. I can share my passion with other pastors, and they will look at me like I’m crazy. Like, why worry about that. They will say to me, “You’ve got a good paying job. Keep the people happy. Quit stirring up the pot. Don’t get so emotional about lost people. Collect the check and move on.” Other pastors say these things.
Some people just won’t care about your vision. Another form of opposition you may face is. . .
Chapter 3 continues to share more of the different families and groups of people that go about their work on the wall. Then you come to chapter 4 of Nehemiah, and we get introduced to some real characters in this story. Sanballat and Tobiah. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, and for lack of better terms to use from the pulpit. . .these two guys are real turkeys. And look at how they respond to Nehemiah’s vision. Chapter 4, verse 1 (read).