During this series we are drawing our inspiration from Nehemiah—an OT leader who mobilized God’s people to a Epic Building Project around 445 BC—rebuilding the city walls of Jerusalem! If you recall, they were demolished by the Babylonians who destroyed Jerusalem. Set fire to the gates… tore down the protective walls… so God’s People (the Jews) were very vulnerable to attack!
Until an ordinary guy named Nehemiah stood up! He didn’t have power or prestige—but Nehemiah had PASSION! And he said, guys—this isn’t right! The walls broken down & God’s people in disgrace—Somebody better do something about this… and it might as well be me!
Now today, we’re gonna look at Nehemiah 3-4… Just to give you a taste of their Renovation process. And Nehemiah prayed, planned, & traveled 1,000 miles from Persia to Jerusalem—to rally the Israelites to rebuild the walls. Jerusalem was a mess, so it took everyone working together on this Fixer Upper:
Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. 3:1
Last week, we looked at some of the gates around Jerusalem that were repaired. The Sheep Gate was where the lambs & sheep were brought to the Temple as an offering to God. Just like Jesus, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed as an offering to forgive our sins… people in OT times sacrificed firstborn sheep at the Temple. So they rebuilt that gate first— it shows the spiritual priority of salvation! Our relationship with God
The Fish Gate was rebuilt by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place. Nehemiah 3:3
Fish Gate is where fishermen from the Sea of Galilee brought their fish to market. And this is important: The walls of Jerusalem were thick for protection—and the only way in was through these massive doors. So they laid beams… and hammered bolts & bars in place!) This is serious construction! And if you spend time this week, reading through Nehemiah 3, you’ll see these aren’t professional contractors—they’re just ordinary people look at this.
8 Uzziel son of Harhaiah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired the next section; and Hananiah, one of the perfume-makers, made repairs next to that. Nehemiah 3:8
Goldsmiths & perfume-makers… this was prolly the best-smelling gate of all! After 140 years of hopelessness… the city is rising from the ashes!
13 The Valley Gate was repaired by Hanun and the residents of Zanoah. They rebuilt it and put its doors with their bolts and bars in place. They also repaired a thousand cubits of the wall as far as the Dung Gate. Nehemiah 3:13
1000 cubits is about 1500 feet of wall. All told, Nehemiah 3 records 45 mentions of Repairs & Rebuilding! So this is a Massive Renovation! And it’s moving along pretty well, and then something happens.
No sooner do God’s people start rebuilding their Fixer Upper … then out come THE CRITICS! The Haters who start throwing shade at Nehemiah & mocking the Israelites. They actually first appear on the scene in chapter 2:19:
19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked.
Now: Who are these guys with funny names? Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem were political opponents of Israel. They didn’t want the walls going up… They said, “We’ve gotta keep the Jews weak & broken & dependent on us!” Frankly, they were trying to guard their power & financial interests!
It could be God’s spoken to you thru this series & you’ve said, “Baby, we are finally getting our family out of DEBT! We’re not gonna be a slave to MasterCard anymore. We’re doing cash in envelopes… getting tattoos of Dave Ramsey”… and the very next day… your car breaks down. And it’s a $780 repair. Opposition.(Car Pic)
If you’re trying to rebuild your FAMILY—a Dad says “I’m gonna be the spiritual leader my family needs. And we’re gonna pray, join a Group, serve together at church … And your teenager says “I’m not sure I believe in God anymore.” Opposition. (Pic)
Or if you’re a boss or small BUSINESS owner—and you’re trying to build a culture of Trust & Integrity with your employees—training them to do business God’s way—and you find out one of your key leaders has been saying behind your back, “This is a waste of time! He’s out to lunch. We could make more money, do more… if we just cut corners like everyone else.” Opposition.(pic)
It’s funny: You’d think: When a Christ follower steps up to do something significant—and he’s spent time praying & got God’s blessing behind him—you’d think “Well, it’ll be Smooth Sailing from here!”
Ha! You don’t understand the Xian life. Everyone has a Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem in their life.
The Xian life is NOT a playground—it’s a battleground! And believers have a Spiritual Enemy, the Devil. And he’s not threatened when we just go along with the status quo. No—he’s threatened when we step out to do something RIGHT on behalf of God—that’s when he attacks!
Understand: in your spiritual walk with Christ: You don’t face OPPOSITION when you’re doing something WRONG, you face opposition when you’re DOING SOMETHING RIGHT! When you’re stepping up to do something Big & Bold for God… Criticism is CONFIRMATION you’re on the right track! Bc the Enemy is threatened.
And you should expect Opposition! Like Nehemiah gets in chapter 4. Look at this:
When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, 2 and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?” 3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!”
God’s people start rebuilding… and their enemies start throwing shade! Talking trash… Insults, taunting, mocking… You’re weak. Pathetic. You’re so basic.
So they start mocking, making fun… ridiculing Nehemiah for upsetting the status quo! What do you think you’re doing? You’re gonna rebuild that wall? Pfffft! Yeah right! Their goal is to discourage Nehemiah and his crew.
And this leads us to our Big Idea for Today: If you’re a Christ follower, whenever you step out to do something great for God– you should EXPECT OPPOSITION! There will be Haters… there will be Critics… Spiritual Enemies who want to STOP the progress you’re making! We must learn how to DEFEAT DISCOURAGEMENT BEFORE IT DEFEATS YOU!
You’ve got to do this because Discouragement is the enemy of progress. If you’re serious about rebuilding your life, and seeing God do new things in your world discouragement is one of the fastest was to stop that progress. Discouragement is like a hot knife in butter—it cuts directly through you.
Discouragement is a powerful tool used by our enemy, Satan to disengage you and cause you to feel disqualified from whatever God’s spirit has prompted your heart to do. Discouragement is the act of being discouraged. And what is at the root of the word discourage… it’s the idea that there is no courage left. It is a lack of courage.
Courage for what? Courage to face the issues head on. To stand in the face of injustice and racial discrimination. Courage to stand up for those who can’t stand on their own. Courage to change your family tree. Courage to stay married and fight through the feelings and desire for divorce. Courage to love your rebellious teenager. Discouragement can sneak in and defeat you before you even begin. This is why we must defeat discouragement first.
If you’re taking notes. If you’re a leader & you step out to do something great for God, expect: OUTSIDE OPPOSITION.
Before I started Hope City, I met with so many church leaders. Church leaders across the country, across our state, and many leaders here in Sarasota. I’ll never forget, I got invited to lunch by a local pastor and he said he wanted to treat me to lunch, because he’d love to hear about what we were planning for Hope City.
I sat down and for 45 minutes this man, put me on blast about the problem with church plants and would I be stealing his people. I went home and told Tiffany and said, “I didn’t buy lunch, but I certainly paid for that meal.” It was hard.
Listen closely, leaders: Criticism is often CONFIRMATION you’re on the right track! Anytime Christ followers steps up to do something significant for God—expect CRITICISM & discouraging comments because that’s how the Enemy works. Like Sanballat & Tobiah: “You feeble, weak Jews! What do you think you’re doing? That won’t work—even a fox could knock it over!”
(Building Slides a header that says “DISCOURAGEMENT”)Do you know how you know you’re discouraged? It’s not always obvious… You experience EXTREME EMOTIONS. You lash out in anger, or you retreat away in sadness. Or you lay down in apathy. I don’t want to do anything but take a nap. You also experience a LOSS OF MOTIVATION. You know when you started out, that diet felt so good. You were all in. You were ready to go. And then you didn’t see the pounds fall off the way you thought you would. You stopped enjoying Kale Salads, and you lost the motivation. Discouragement sets in. Another thing that happens when you’re discouraged is you LACK COURAGE. You just chicken out. You step away from the plate rather than leaning in ready to go to bat. Discouragement robs your courage. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the mastery of it.
Discouragement is a gut punch to your spiritual strength. It’s no wonder that
Solomon, one of the wisest men that ever lived wrote the following words about discouragement.
The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear? Proverbs 18:14
We can endure the flu, we can endure ruptured Appendix’s, we can deal with in grown toe-nails, we can deal with broken bones. But a crushed spirit? That’s another thing. The Bible talks about courage 50 times… It says You have to DEFEAT DISCOURAGEMENT BEFORE IT DEFEATS YOU!
Who was on Nehemiah’s side? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If you are sitting here this morning and you’re feeling discouraged, this message is for you. Your circumstances may look bleak and discouraging. But you aren’t defined by your circumstances, you aren’t defined by your position, you aren’t defined by what you do. You are defined by who you belong to. And as a Christ follower, you have been adopted into the family of God, and that means that you are a Child of God. The same words that Joshua told the Israelites as they walked through the Judean wilderness apply to you today… “BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS!” “TAKE COURAGE”. You may be in your own wilderness wondering when you’ll finally catch a break. But remember, you aren’t defined by what you do, but whose you are. You don’t need to catch a break you need to trust in God’s provision.
If you want to do something significant for God—you must remember: You never get OPPOSITION when you’re doing something WRONG, you get opposition when you’re DOING SOMETHING RIGHT!
And criticism is often confirmation you’re on the right track. Learning how to endure it is a vital part of your walk with Christ! All through his ministry, Jesus was mocked, taunted, threatened by a Chorus of Critics—and yet he never deviated from his mission of Salvation & never responded defensively.
This is so important, leaders: We need to Learn how to respond to criticism—not defensively, but graciously. Refusing to strike back… or defend yourself. But being open to learn what you can from critics… but ultimately trusting God to handle it. I don’t answer to Man… I answer to God!
That’s what Nehemiah does! Instead of getting upset (Tobiah wrote a mean tweet!) Or getting discouraged, Nehemiah shows us that World-Changing leaders who are criticized Take it To God in Prayer.
This is exactly what Nehemiah did in verses 4-5. He received the insults, heard their curses, and decided to take it to God in prayer.
4 Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. 5 Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders. Nehemiah 4:4-5
Notice: This is a pretty savage prayer! Nehemiah didn’t pull any punches! He’s like; “God, turn their insults back on them… don’t let them walk away innocent… they’re insulting people & you—take care of them for me, God!”
I love how honest & raw Nehemiah is in his prayer. He doesn’t strike back at his critics—instead, he TELLS GOD ON THEM! When this happens to me, instead of defending myself or our ministry—getting defensive or trying to set the record straight… I TAKE IT TO GOD INSTEAD!
I don’t hit back… I get on my knees & tell my Heavenly Father about them. I don’t send angry emails. Instead, I pray, “Father, you need to handle so-and-so. I can’t change them—I can’t close their lips (though I’d like to). God, you handle of them. I’ll keep my heart pure… And trust You to do what’s right here!”
Let me tell you: That is such a powerful practice for Christ followers! You are never more powerful than when you’re fighting from your knees! When you refuse to retaliate & trust God to handle it!
So in a divorce hearing—when things get nasty with your –ex—and you go tell God on them… instead of telling your friends. That’s a Christ-like response. Or when someone at work treats you unfairly— and instead of striking back… You bring them before God? And ask Him to take up your cause!
That’s how Xians spiritually wage war with your Enemy. You don’t take revenge; you take it God. And then, you GET BACK TO WORK. First, Nehemiah prays. Then, he perseveres… break time’s over! Back to building! Verse 6:
6 So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.
Critics discourage… but Great Leaders EN-COURAGE their people! After countering his critics in prayer… Nehemiah inspires his people to give 110% effort! They work with all their heart! It was time to GET BACK TO WORK.
This is a picture of Perseverance! Any leader will tell you: When you step out to do something great for God: There is always a “Tap Out” moment before the Tipping Point.
If you’re trying to start a business or solve a problem—or fix a broken part of the world, there is always a moment when we’re tempted to say, “This is too hard! Harder than I thought! I didn’t see that coming!” And too many leaders… lose heart! Their dream dies on the doorstep of destiny.
They tap out before the Tipping Point. Bc if they had just pushed through… the breakthrough is waiting on the other side!
Guys, this is the crucial moment—in rebuilding your marriage (don’t throw in the towel when the counseling gets hard)… catch your breath & GET BACK TO WORK!
If you’re fighting to stay sober (and the temptations are there & your old friends and patterns are pulling you back… Don’t tap out… Instead: Push through… and persevere!
Guys this is where we are as a church! We are believing that God has some great things in store for our church, for our community. I have seen the way that lives have been changed in this past year and a half. I’ve seen the way that God has moved in the hearts of people, and I have been praying that God would do this again. That God would move again here in our church. That the friends that you invite to Hope City would Find Hope in Jesus and Experience Home, true community. I’m praying that our generosity increases so our ministry influence can increase. I’m praying for the launch of our student ministry on September 16th, that God would do a new thing here in Sarasota County, that the youth of this city would fall in love with Jesus. We’ve had obstacles come up along the way, let me tell you! But we are trusting Jesus and looking only to Him. This week I reread His words to Peter. He said, I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH, AND THE GATES OF HELL WILL NOT OVERPOWER IT!!! You guys, we are so much more than just a community group, or a social club. The Church is God’s way of breaking in and unleashing His love and Grace in our world today. It is vital that you Defeat Discouragement before it defeats you!
Nehemiah has critics. So he takes it God… then he gets back to work.
Prayer & Perseverance—is the 1-2 punch in defeating discouragement.
- Now understand something: Our Enemy is stubborn. And he perseveres too.
First, he attacks from the outside. But if that doesn’t work, he’ll create… INSIDE OPPOSITION
7 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. 8 They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. 9 But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.
See the Pattern: Nehemiah Prays & Posts a Guard to protect the workers. But finally… it’s too much & discouragement sets in! Verse 10:
10 Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.”
The Jews are building the wall— brick by brick, board by board– they’re making progress.
But remember: This is a Fixer Upper. And the walls of the city looked like this. Like firebombed city in WW2. There was so much rubble, it was overwhelming. So the people start to lose heart.
“Maybe we can’t complete this after all! Maybe we bit off more than we can chew!”
And all this Doubt… Discouragement… and Defeat start pouring in! Which is a classic STRATEGY of SATAN!
Remember: These are the people of God… rebuilding the City of God… home to the Temple of God! So this is spiritual warfare— the Enemy of God (Satan) trying to discourage God’s people from completing the job! With INSIDE OPPOSITION. And this is part of the Xian life too, friends!
I want to share something personal with you. I’ve never told this story before. In the early days of Hope City, I had a pastor reach out saying He wanted to talk, he wanted to help. I went and sat down, and found out that we have different ideas of what help meant.
We talked for a bit and after a while he said, “Hey, are you really sure about this? Like do you really want to church plant? Because you’ve got a job here if you want it. You can consider this a parachute. This isn’t a church in our area. But I have to tell you, my stomach was sick. I couldn’t understand how someone who was leading a church and trying to see people connect with Christ and others could do this to me. I left so discouraged. So heartbroken. I have this burden that everyone should know Jesus. That His Grace, and Forgiveness will change the world! And I want that for you, for your friends. And here was someone who would say the same thing, undermining the very process. I didn’t know what to do with that. I got back in my car and didn’t know if I wanted to puke, or cry.
Understand something, If you dare to do something great for God… the Enemy will oppose you. Bc he’s threatened!
Satan is called the Accuser—and if he can’t get you from the outside—he will oppose you from the inside… with thoughts… voices… and whispers.
“Who do you think you are to….________________?”
Foster a child…
Help feed the homeless…
Mentor a middle schooler…
You’re just a stay-at-home Dad … or business woman… You can’t have an impact! I understand you have your little Prayer Journal and your dreams… But you’re nothing. You’re not worthy. You don’t have what it takes. You can’t even pay your own bills.
And the Enemy will accuse you—sow seeds of DOUBT & DISCOURAGEMENT… and Self-Condemnation comes pouring in!
This is a classic Enemy strategy! Attack from the inside! He uses Fear, Intimidation, and Self-Doubt on a Christian—to discourage you from stepping up. And if you let that in… it will paralyze you! And you’ll do nothing!
That’s why you must FIGHT BACK in the power of the Spirit! Bc the Bible says:
The Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. – 1 John 4:4 (NLT)
The Devil may be strong… but your God is stronger!
If you’re discouraged today… Q: How do you defeat the Enemy? A: Do what Nehemiah does in verse 14:
14 … I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome…”
Say that with me… REMEMBER THE LORD!
Nehemiah tells his people: When the Enemy attacks…REMEMBER THE LORD!
For the battle is His! I’m preaching to somebody today. Someone here is discouraged—you’re defeated & deflated, dismayed—and God is saying to you:
Don’t be afraid! Have faith… and remember the Lord!
For the Jews, this was a specific call to remember the LORD’s saving history of Israel: Remember how:
- He called Moses thru a burning bush…
- He pulled you out of Slavery…
- The Lord led you out of Egypt…
- He fought Pharoah with 10 Plagues!
- You were caught between a Rock & a Hard Place (Pharoah on one side– and Ocean on the other)… and God split the sea!
- And put your feet on solid ground!
When the people got discouraged, Nehemiah told them to REMEMBER KEY POINTS in their journey when God fought on their behalf!
When you’re discouraged: Take time to think back… And remember how the Lord provided for you… protected you… showed His favor to you over the years.
And never forget: THIS. IS. PERSONAL! Last thing, Nehemiah says: When you’re discouraged… tempted to throw in the towel… Make it personal. And… FIGHT FOR YOUR FAMILY. Last part of verse 14. Nehemiah says:
14 … I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
Nehemiah says: If you won’t fight for yourself… Fight for those you LOVE! Remember: You and I are fighting for the real lives of real people…
There are people in your life … someone who needs you… who can’t make it without you… and when you stand up to fight for them… God will give you a spiritual strength you’d never have on your own!
So let me ask you, who are you fighting for? When it comes to defeating discouragement, who is on your mind? What do you think could happen if you didn’t give up? What’s on the line?
Let me encourage you, if you’re facing discouragement this week, take courage. You can defeat discouragement!
Do what Nehemiah does, go to the Lord in prayer, and get back to the good work that God has called you to. In fact right now, I’m going to ask the band to play quietly, and we’re going to spend a minute in prayer right now. IN the quietness of this room, would you ask God to strengthen you, to give you resolve, to undergird your convictions. Maybe today you’re so discouraged that you just need to cry out for courage. God give me courage!
Our lives our yours God! We want to follow you, and live in a way that honors you and serves our world.