"OPPOSED BUT OVERCOMING!"
Written and preached by David P. Nolte
There was once an old fellow who was extremely hard of hearing and
who was usually opposed to just about everything anyone proposed. At a
board meeting someone proposed that the deacons of the church go to the
old fellow's home and do some much needed repair work on his roof and gutters.
The old man said, "I didn't hear what the brother was proposing, but I'm
agin' it!" There are some who are always "agin' it" no matter what it is!
Nehemiah found out that there were those "agin'" the rebuilding of Jerusalem's
wall. I want to consider that opposition and the response to it in the
message today. But in order to illuminate the sermon, let me share the
story of an American battalion, cut off from the main army and surrounded
by German troops. Food and water supplies were dwindling and now and then
a German soldier would call out, "Surrender!" That is reminiscent of Nehemiah's
enemies. They wanted Nehemiah to surrender. These foes to the good work,
though historical characters, might be made to stand for all those who
are anti-God, anti-Church, anti-Gospel and anti-Christ. They exist in our
world, in our culture, in our own relationships sometimes. But notice this
first truth about being opposed.
Nehemiah was surrounded by those who sought to harm him and who wanted
to stop the work. Similarly, the American battalion was surrounded by the
German forces. Only one signal flare was left and the Americans decided
to shoot it. That night, they pointed the flare gun straight up and fired
the round. Then they prayed. They hoped against hope that the Allied forces
would see the signal and come to help them. When the hostile neighbors
taunted, threatened and enticed Nehemiah, he shot his flare into the heavens:
he prayed. There is a model for us there:
SOME ARE SURE TO OPPOSE GOD'S
Note who Nehemiah's opponents were: In 2:19
we encounter Tobiah the Ammonite, Geshem the Arab and Sanballat the Hornoite.
They were "agin'" rebuilding the wall.
One thing is sure: God's people have always faced opposition:
Moses had Korah and other whiners who wanted to usurp the leadership of
Jeremiah had false prophets who wanted to preach a popular message.
Jesus had the Sadducees, Pharisees, Scribes and Herodians to deal with.
Paul the Apostle had hostile Jews who wanted to undo his church planting.
Christians world wide have faced opposition from Godless governments, Christless
philosophies, hostile religions, and from a society set against anything
that restricts its own desires and whims.
Why would anyone oppose the truth? Why would anyone set themselves against
that which produces morality, decency, ethics, honor, character and integrity?
Some people don't want their "constitutional rights" stifled by anything
as narrow as the Bible.
Some people don't want their income diminished by anything that would put
the damper on the sale of pornography, narcotics, or other addictive materials.
Some people don't tolerate anything that calls into question or challenges
Well, Peter advised us not to be surprised when people oppose us or at
the fiery ordeal the enemy puts the church through 1
For whatever self-serving reasons, some are sure to oppose God's work.
Note some of the tactics used by God's enemies:
They used mockery, ridicule and scorn:
"Look at these feeble Jews and their futile effort! Why, that wall is so
inferior and shaky that a fox would knock it down!"
"Nya, Nya, nya, nya, nya, nya! Your wall is gonna fall down!"
They used threats and intimidation:
They conspired to come and fight against the Jews saying, "They won't even
know it until we leap out and kill them!"
They brought a letter purporting to detail to the king how Nehemiah was
planning to become king in Jerusalem and to lead the Jews into revolt.
The enemies said, in effect, "When we send this letter to the king, you're
in big trouble!"
They feigned friendship to lull Nehemiah: Sanballat and Geshem sent a message
saying, "Come, let us meet together." In other words, "Nehemiah, we've
had our disagreements, but let's have peace; let's get together and work
things out." 6:2.
(Swindoll, "Hand Me Another Brick", p.128). They wanted him to drop his
guard thinking their intention was kindly, but they were planning to harm
And that is just what Nehemiah and the Jews did. So did the American battalion
surrounded by German forces. They shot their flare, prayed and waited.
The next day an American aircraft flew over and dropped water and food
and a note saying, "Hold on! Reinforcements are coming!" This continued
for a couple of days. In the meantime, the American troops didn't sit on
their knapsacks! They were still in the battle -- reinforcements were coming
but they still needed vigilance and action. Nehemiah sets the example for
us at this point, too. What did he instruct the Jews to do?
TURN THE PROBLEM OVER TO GOD:
Look at Nehemiah. See how he turned it over to God:
First, Nehemiah prayed about it! Now, Nehemiah's prayer sounds pretty venomous,
doesn't it? But it is in the spirit of:
The Psalmist: "O God, shatter their teeth in their mouth; Break out the
fangs of the young lions, O Lord. Let them flow away like water that runs
off; When he aims his arrows, let them be as headless shafts." Psalms
58:6, 7. The
Psalmist is content to leave the answering of that prayer to God.
Paul the apostle: "Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room
for the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,
says the Lord.'" Romans
12:19. Paul urges us to leave any reprisals to God.
The saints at God's throne who cried out: "How long, O Lord, holy and true,
wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell
on the earth?" Revelation
6:10. They are satisfied to allow God to deal with their tormentors.
Everyone who allows God to do the judging and avenging instead of taking
matters into their own hands.
Second, Nehemiah encouraged the people to trust: V14
"Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome,
and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and
One of my favorite prayers in the Bible is that trusting, dependent outcry
of Jehoshaphat when all the enemy surrounded him and he realized his own
inadequacy. To boil the prayer down, here it is: "O our God, wilt Thou
not judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are
coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on Thee." 2
Chronicles 20:12. Wisely, he turned the problem over to God.
I fouled up the phone lines this week. Shorted out a wire, messed up the
system. I called Perry Welker who installed the system and he graciously
came and fixed it. I just had to turn the problem over to him. There are
things in life we cannot do so we must turn them over to God.
What is too much for us is not too much for God; what overpowers us does
not overpower God; what intimidates us does not intimidate God. We can
safely turn our enemies, our problems, our disasters, our stresses and
all our lives over to Him and then get on about our business.
Things were tense in the trenches. The American troops were watching and
fighting. The last signal flare had been shot. The enemy still taunted
and called for surrender. Provisions were scant even with the air-drops.
Hope was fading. But after a couple of days the American troops heard artillery
fire and soon the reinforcements had routed the German troops and the battle
was won. As the troops were rescued, so God delivered the Jews from their
enemies. Nehemiah summed it up, "So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth
of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And it came about when all our enemies
heard of it, and all the nations surrounding us saw it, they lost their
confidence; for they recognized that this work had been accomplished with
the help of our God." Nehemiah
6:15, 16. Someday those who set themselves against God will recognize
that they have set themselves up for failure. Nothing is too difficult
for our God. No purpose of His can be thwarted. No one can oppose Him with
success. And those who seek to serve Him, however opposed they may be,
will in the final analysis be successful. What it takes on our part is
absolute confidence and trust in the Almighty and a heart committed to
serving Him against unnumbered foes! Who will trust God this morning? Who
will serve Him? Who will stand for Him no matter who stands opposed? Who
will trust and obey?
WATCH AND KEEP WORKING: 9, 15-23:
The Jews took turns watching and working; some had one hand on a sword
and the other on a tool; some had their weapon nearby, and the trumpeter
was on the alert to sound the battle cry.
Trusting God means leaving the anxiety to Him, but it doesn't relieve us
of responsibility! We are to be prayerful and productive; we are to be
trusting and toiling; we are to be watching and working. May we have the
attitude of the poet who said, "I want to let go, but I won't let go, Three
are battles to fight, by day and by night For God and the right, and I'll
never let go. I want to let go, but I won't let go, May this be my song,
'Mid legions of wrong, Oh, God keep me strong, that I may never let go."
Swindoll said, "Guard against the subtle teaching that suggests that God
does everything and you step back and do nothing." ("Hand Me Another Brick",
Let me clarify that:
If you are having a difficult with reading debased literature, recognize
the peril, pray about it and steer yourself away from the magazine stand.
If you are dealing with some addiction, some destructive habit, some pernicious
practice, be aware of the danger, pray about it and exercise self-discipline.
If you are in an unwholesome relationship and you are being influenced
toward wrongdoing, be alert to the jeopardy, pray about it and sever the
If you are in the grip of a grudge, under the sway of a rotten attitude,
or held in bondage to hate or anger, be conscious of the hazard, pray about
it and turn from the wrong.
As you go through life facing opposition, watch and keep working. But let
me urge you:
Don't see a demon behind every bush, an enemy in everyone who holds a different
view than yours, or a heretic in every other person. Don't be so vigilant
that you are a legalistic vigilante.
But don't become complacent, either. Satan is real, his determination to
deceive, discourage and destroy you is real. He is not all powerful, but
he is powerful. Defeat him with Christ.
Avoid both extremes; be watchful, but be working; be working but be watchful.
Peter puts it like this: "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary,
the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of
suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world." 1
Peter 5:8, 9.
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Story adapted from Knight,3,000 Illustrations For Christian Service
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