Summary: The greatest problem in ministry is often the fight within. Beware of the seeds of discontent, distrust and rivalry that the evil One can sow within the Body of Christ. Don't let selfishness gets the better of us.
What we learn last week: There will be oppositions in ministry.
• We cannot stop what people will say but we can choose not to allow their words or deeds to discourage us from doing what is good and right, what is the will of God.
• We choose not to be distracted; we FOCUS on what God calls us to do.
• We learnt from Nehemiah to be quick to PRAY, not as a last resort. We PRAY and FOCUS on what God wants us to do. We let God be the Judge.
• When we are hard-pressed, remember to ask for HELP. We look out for one another (hear the trumpet call for help) and seek to RALLY together in support of each other.
In any crisis, REMEMBER HIM (Nehemiah says) - our great and awesome God!
• Jesus: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
• 1 John 5:4-5 “For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”
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The pressure intensifies in chapter 5. Nehemiah was confronted with yet another problem.
• In fact, this could well be the biggest threat yet, the toughest problem – internal strife.
• It was a fight WITHIN the wall, not without. You can unite to fight a common enemy outside, but what can you do when you fight among one another?
Very often, the greatest problems we face in life come from within – within the home, within the office, within the church, within a nation (like what we saw in Egypt recently).
• This is the kind of problem I fear most. It is emotionally draining and it saps you of all the energy you have in fighting your enemy from without.
• It is like psychological warfare. You can be defeated even before you take the first step out of camp or take up your weapon.
• Let’s read about this new problem in NEHEMIAH 5:1-13.
Doing God’s work isn’t easy, right? Nehemiah had to handle challenges from all fronts – back in the palace he has to contend with the King, then the logistics of building the wall, enemies from without and now internal squabbling! Like siblings rivalry in the home.
• If the Evil One cannot break you with ridicule and attacks from the outside, he will work from within.
• He will sow seeds of distrust, rivalry, discontent and strife WITHIN our walls.
The people were coping with very basic needs. They were experiencing food shortages, and big families with many children to feed were struggling to make ends meet.
• A famine aggravated the situation. Food prices went up. The poor were hard hit.
• People had resorted to mortgaging their fields, vineyards, homes to buy grain.
The poor ones had to borrow money to pay taxes. They sought their fellow countrymen for help, the rich ones who had returned from exile, but they charges exorbitant rates.
• The worst-off ones had to even force their children into slavery, sell them as slaves. At least, in this way they had some money, and their children can be fed (by their owners).
This wasn’t an oppression that comes from the Persians or some foreigners but their own.
• Their suffering was brought upon them mainly by their own people. The rich among them were exploiting the poor ones.
• Nehemiah recalled in verse 8 – in the past, our people were sold to the Gentiles as slaves and we had to pay to redeem them back. “Now they were selling our own brothers into slavery, and had to pay our own people to get them back!”
Is this right? Nehemiah challenged them to think. He had called for a meeting of all the nobles and officials.
• He was VERY ANGRY at these charges. But he did not react in anger.
• Verse 7: “I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I TOLD them…”
• God has really blessed Nehemiah with the wisdom to size up situations and understand the need of the moment. We have seen that in the past few chapters.
• Pray for such wisdom. James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” His ability to handle so many various challenges so well comes from his habit of praying for God’s help.
• Psalm 111:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.”