Summary: It should never surprise us when we do the Lord's work and people react with anger, ridicule, and rejection. Nehemiah gives us a great example of how we need to respond when the enemies of God oppose His work.
In this lesson, I would like to look at the leadership of Nehemiah through the hardship and opposition that the people went through. They had opposition from outside and discouragement from inside, yet they got the job done.
It should never surprise us when we do the Lord's work and people react with anger, ridicule, and rejection. Jesus, during the sermon on the Mount, said:
Luke 6:22 - "Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man's sake. "
Matthew 5:11 - "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake."
Throughout the history of God's people they were opposed. They were always going through hardship. We shouldn’t think that it will be different for us today. Most of our opposition today comes in the form of ridicule. There may be social humiliations and a variety of difficulties and pressures when we are openly faithful to God. We can be sure, the more active our faith, the deeper our courage and the bolder our preaching - there will be opposition.
In the second chapter of the book of Nehemiah, we read about Sanballat and Tobiah, as we saw earlier; these two men were distressed because Nehemiah came to seek the well being of the people in Jerusalem. At the end of the second chapter they begin to show their contempt against Nehemiah and the builders.
Nehemiah 2:19 says that they despised them and mocked them just because they had decided to build the walls. Their attitudes so not change once the building began.
TURN TO NEHEMIAH 4
IN the beginning of this chapter we see the mocking continue.
Read Nehemiah 4:1-3
Nehemiah and the builders get this ridicule and even sarcasm from their enemies. How would they respond?
How did the great leader Nehemiah respond? I bet you won’t believe it: The first thing he does is pray! This is what you would expect from a man of prayer. After spending the majority of the first lesson talking about this great leader’s prayer life, we should expect him to see his prayer life in action. We see here in this chapter 2 examples of His prayerful awareness of God’s presence.
In verses 4-5, we see that when Nehemiah became aware of the opposition; he prayed. This is what we need to do - when we face fear; when we become aware of opposition: we must remember always: take it to the Lord in prayer first!
READ Nehemiah 4:4-5
In the Old Testament - especially in the book of Psalms - there are prayers like this which may seem strange to us. We are familiar with the teachings of Christ who said love your enemies and pray for them... not against them (Matt. 5:44-48). Jesus and Stephen give us a great example of praying for your enemies by requesting forgiveness for those who killed them (Lk. 23:34 & Acts 7:60).
But in the Old Testament there are these imprecatory prayers, where people of God called upon God to defeat and punish the enemy (Psalms 59 & Psalms 137). Yet in these prayers - of David and Nehemiah - I see no evidence of personal vengeance; but rather - appeals for God’s righteousness and justice. Nehemiah saw that they weren’t ridiculing their work, but God’s, and he put the situation into God’s hands.
BUT HERE'S WHAT IS ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT TO OBSERVE - When Nehemiah became aware of this growing opposition; in the face of this fear he prayed. This is what we need to learn, and this is what we need to do - when we face fear; when we become aware of opposition: PRAY!
TURN Acts 4
We see in Acts 4 a time when the disciples go to God in prayer after the arrest and release of Peter and John.
Acts 4 opens with the report of Jewish leaders in Jerusalem "greatly disturbed" when they heard the apostles preaching "in Jesus, the resurrection from the dead." Peter and John were taken into custody and Peter gave a bold defense of their work.
Verse 13 says: "...when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus."
A man who had been healed was standing nearby -- evidence of their work. Those who had taken Peter and John spoke privately and decided to threaten them and tell them not to preach the gospel. Peter and John were released after the threatening, and they go to the brethren. They go to the Lord in prayer. Let’s look in their prayer starting in verse 23.
Read ACTS 4:23-31