Last week we looked at Nehemiah 3 and learnt that the walls we build are not the walls of separation but of distinction. God did not call us to separate ourselves from the world, people and the culture around us. In fact, he wants us to be involved in the affairs of our culture but as distinct people of God living exemplary lives for the Glory of God.
Today our text is Nehemiah 4:1-8.
Nehemiah was a cup bearer to the King and when he heard the news that his people who came out of exile were in great distress and shame because the walls of Jerusalem were broken down; his immediate response was to go to God in prayer.
He wept and mourned for days, repented of his sins and asked God to intervene and help him find favor in the eyes of the King. In response to Nehemiah’s prayer, God turns the King’s attention to him. When the King gets to hear Nehemiah’s condition he grants him permission to go build the walls and not just that, he also permits him to take any resource needed to build the walls.
Nehemiah in obedience to Gods calling upon his life leaves for Jerusalem and starts inspecting, planning and gathering people. In Nehemiah 3 we see the building work already started. Almost everyone participated and it seemed like a well thought strategy, everyone started building the walls in parts and at different locations.
Just like Nehemiah God has a calling on each one of our lives, some of you have already discovered your calling and some of you are yet to hear from the Lord. As a church God has called us to be a blessing to the city of Mumbai, to reach the unreached with the Gospel of Jesus.
Remember, the first step, the key step, the only step that will lead us to fulfillment of our calling is unconditional obedience to God’s word and his calling just like Nehemiah stepped out in obedience and saw God’s blessing in everything he did.
I don’t how you view obedience but let me tell you it’s not an easy thing to do.
When I was growing up like I said, I was born in a Christian family and I was told that if I live an obedient Christian life everything will work out fine for me. ‘God will make you successful and bless you with great wealth and comfortable life. Look at those families settled in America and doing well, they are prayerful people, regularly attending church and reading their bible every day. They are good people blessed by God, and that is what God wants for all his children, a wealthy, successful and a comfortable life.’ There were some of the statements made.
But here’s the thing no one told me. They never told me that obedience to God will also lead to suffering, opposition, persecution & insults.
When Nehemiah stepped out in obedience to God, he faced opposition and insults. It says in Nehemiah 4:1-3
“When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became furious, completely enraged, and he ridiculed the Jews. He spoke before his brothers and the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Can they restore it for themselves? Can they offer sacrifices? Can they finish in a day? Can they revive the stones from the heaps of dust and rubbish, even the ones that have been burned?” Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Even what they are building—if a fox should get up on it, he would break down their stone wall.”
Obedience is not easy. We have to pay a cost for following Jesus. Wish I could tell you that Christian life is a bed of roses if you followed Jesus’ commands, but that would be a lie.
Let me warn you beforehand that obedience demands a cost. A Christian life is a life of battle, you have to fight it.
1Tim 6:12 – Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
I think of people who talk about prosperity & comfortable life as ones who’ve never read the Bible carefully. Because when I read the bible and especially the words of Jesus it goes completely against the teachings of this world.
In Matthew 6:25-34
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
How many of you find this easy to obey?
I remember once as a young boy I quoted these verses to my Father when he was insisting that I should plan my future and find ways to make money to survive. He got really angry on me for saying that.
He even told me that too much involvement in the church was driving me crazy and that I should restrain myself from it.
2 Timothy 3:12
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
The first opposition you will face will be from your own flesh.
“For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”
When God calls you to obedience your own flesh will come against you with raging war,
Your SELF will fill your mind with doubts like ‘Does God really mean that I need to go against my natural cravings, isn’t that the way God made me?’.
Your SELF will fill your minds with unbelief like ‘Does God really exist, is He really looking at me while I’m watching pornography? Well I can’t see him.
You SELF will provoke you to compromise and manipulate the scriptures like ‘God is loving and gracious and I don’t think he would mind me getting involved in small little sins here and there.’
Your flesh will be your greatest enemy.
But the good news is Rom 7:23.
But I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.
God is at work since the day we surrendered our lives to Christ. The Bible says that Jesus has already won the victory over sin and death. Even Jesus suffered a painful death for the sake of obedience to God. In his flesh he desired that God would take away the cup of suffering but yet he said not my will, but yours be done.
And what kind of suffering did Jesus endure?
He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
The question I want to ask you today is, How far are you willing to go when it comes to obeying God?
Are you willing to endure suffering and persecution and insults?
1 Peter 4:12-14
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
1 Peter 3:17
For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
You own people will stand against you for doing things that doesn’t fit their agenda.
You colleagues at work will hate you, and mock at you for your beliefs and steps of obedience.
You will be dragged & questioned by evil people for proclaiming the gospel
1 John 3:13
Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.
But here’s a promise from the Lord.
2 Cor 4:8-12
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.
Nehemiah had to face opposition for being obedient to God.
And how do we respond to opposition? Jinson beautifully explained it a few Sundays back in quoting Romans 12:17-21
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
In the story of Nehemiah what really stood out to me was verse 6 –
So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.
So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.
They did not give up on what God called them to do even in the face of opposition, persecution and insults. And eventually God fulfilled his promise and the wall was built.
And how did the people react?
But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry. And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it.
As we close in, let’s reflect on the cost we will have to pay to be obedient to God word. How far are we willing to go? What will be our faithful response?