In August 2015 I faced a real challenge to my faith. I wasn’t seeing the evidence of God’s hand in a certain area of my life, and with this lack came discouragement and apathy. I remember a few days when I didn’t even want to pick up my bible. The doubts were just too overwhelming and avoidance seemed like a better option. But finally I mustered up the motivation to open His Word and simply read. No prayer time. No journaling. If you’ve been there, you understand. But God met me there, faithful as always.
Since our teaching pastor Andy Savage had been preaching from the book of Nehemiah all summer, I started there. God used this sermon series as a significant source of encouragement and wisdom for me on things ranging from vision and leadership to prayer and perseverance. Nehemiah had nerves of steel and a heart of gold. These two traits married is a rare and beautiful treasure.
Nehemiah was called to lead God’s people in rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem, but he faced an intense amount of opposition doing it. This opposition is apparent throughout most of the book, but what impacted me most that morning in August was the sixth chapter. Just before this chapter, Nehemiah and his countrymen had all but completed the wall; the only thing left to do was set the doors in the gates. Just as they began to see an end in sight, they were approached by three foreign enemies. Four times they sent Nehemiah a message urging him to meet them in one of the villages. They were trying their best to get Nehemiah off task, to distract him from completing his God-given mission. With each attempt to distract, Nehemiah refused to be shaken. He was steadfast in his conviction that the work he was doing couldn’t be interrupted. As I read this, almost immediately I thought, “Is the enemy succeeding in distracting me from God’s purpose in my life? Or am I steadfast like Nehemiah?” The answer was painfully clear.
After four failed attempts at distraction, the enemies’ second tactic was to provoke fear. They sent Nehemiah a letter falsely accusing him of plotting a revolt and trying to become king. If these accusations weren’t enough, they topped it off with a threat: if Nehemiah didn’t grant their request to meet, they would tell the king of Nehemiah’s supposed rebellion.
We know from Jewish history that if Nehemiah was caught in rebellion against the king, he would immediately be killed. So this was no small threat; Nehemiah’s life was on the line. This false accusation and the threat that followed could cost Nehemiah everything. At this point, I’d be more than tempted to take a short break and go meet with these guys. What would a day’s delay hurt, anyway? Not Nehemiah. His two immediate responses brought him and God’s people victory.
First, Nehemiah refuted the lie with the truth: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head” (Nehemiah 6:8). He didn’t analyze their message and begin to doubt. He simply believed, spoke, and behaved according to the truth. In what area of your life are you feeling fearful? Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what lie you are believing and replace it with God’s Word.
Second, Nehemiah prayed. Short and sweet: “Now strengthen my hands” (Nehemiah 6:9). In the face of fear and discouragement, we need God to give us a supernatural endurance to press on. Ask God to fortify you for the work to which He has called you.
I hope you’ve found Nehemiah’s response as inspiring as I did during a discouraging season. Is there currently an area in your life in which you need God to help you overcome fear and strengthen your hands?