Staying the Course Despite Resistance

20171201_gettyimages-462881839_FotorGod never promises that we will experience easy times, never encountering resistance; after all we are in the midst of the most significant war in history.  In this war, the soul of every man and woman hang in the balance.  I’m not sure I even understand the scale of this war.  It is a war that’s ending is already known, but every single man and woman on this earth has a choice…to follow the ways of Christ and submit to His Lordship or follow the ways of the world and submit to its lordship. To either experience freedom…or bondage.  I believe Nehemiah understood this war. His choice to take the resistance he encountered to the Lord, seek His wisdom, then take action, is a clear identifier that he understood.  (For a better understanding of the personal battle we face, especially as believers in the western world, please read Killing Kryptonite, by John Bevere).

Nehemiah had a few people who were relentless in their pursuit of making his and the builders of the wall lives completely miserable…Sanballat and Tobiah.  I am not sure these two knew it, but the enemy’s goal through them was to prevent the protection of Israel and its people and to ensure they continue to be blended into the world so as to remove their identity in God. Ultimately, his goal was to ensure their soul, in this great war, fell on the side of hell. They harassed Nehemiah and the people rebuilding the wall.  And this was Nehemiah’s response:

Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity! Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked You to anger before the builders. So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. (Nehemiah 4:4-6)

A couple points I want to make about this passage and what follows in chapter 4 of Nehemiah.

  1. Nehemiah and the rest of the Jews who were rebuilding the wall were being criticized and threatened. The threat was real and it was physical in nature.  At the beginning of the chapter it was noted the Samaritan army was involved and later, Nehemiah and the people took up arms.  BUT, in the face of a real and significant threat, Nehemiah’s gut reaction was to pray and seek the Lord FIRST.  Nehemiah’s prayer displays the fact he refused to take matters in to his own hands, but instead asked the Lord to deal with the threat.  What is your reaction to a threat?  Fight or Flight?  What about prayer, even in the midst of a threat?  All God needs to hear is an open heart and a cry for help…He will respond.
  2. Nehemiah took action after he sought God’s wisdom, “Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night” (Neh 4:9). He charged his men to take up arms and every man had a sword on his side…they built with one arm and defended with the other arm.  Nehemiah himself kept a man with a trumpet next to his side, so in the case there was a battle, all parties could gather at the sound.  Throughout this ordeal Nehemiah kept encouraging the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome” and “Our God will fight for us.”  Nehemiah prayed, took action, encouraged his people, and trusted the Lord.  The results? “When our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work” (Neh 4:15).

James says that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20b); I would suggest that prayer without action is powerless and weak prayer.  What kind of faith does it take to sit down and pray for the Lord to build the wall in the middle of all my enemies?  None what-so-ever!  On the other hand, what kind of faith does it take to seek the Lord, hear His voice, and begin rebuilding the wall under a pagan king, surrounded by people that hate you? SIGNIFICANT FAITH.  Now, I want to caution you that action without seeking the Lord is just as foolish…action for the sake of action, success for the sake of success, trying to prove your worth…is simply an idol in the way of the Lordship of Christ and God’s will for your life.

Stop now!!! And ask the Lord where he needs you to take action today.  If you are willing to pray that prayer and truly mean it with no exceptions, He will use you in a significant way.  Just get ready for the adventure!!!

Blessings!!!

Scott

 

The Black Sheep of Spiritual Disciplines

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How many of us make decisions on something small, significant, or somewhere in between then pause to pray about our decision moments before taking action?  In my late teens and early 20’s I developed a bad habit of making decision based on my feelings at the time.  I am, by nature, an emotional person.  That means if I am not careful, I will make decisions based on how I am feeling.  The danger of that…our feelings betray us at times.  Feelings are not concrete, not based on fact.  They are based on circumstance, hormones, and a host of other factors.  When we make decisions based on feeling the results can be devastating…massive debt, divorce, job loss, obesity, addictions.  The list is endless.

Imagine with me for a moment an alternate earth.  In this parallel world, the citizens of a specific region were god’s chosen people, he and he alone wanted to lead them in the ways that were righteous and would result in their blessing.  Instead of following him they cried out for a worldly leader and in god’s love for them, he provided a king.  Over the years they wandered further and further down the path of doing what feels good and fulfills their every desire.  Due to continuously feeding the desires of the flesh and seeking out leaders who would continue to give them the same, they ended up with a long line of wicked leaders.  Eventually, the wickedness of the culture caused their national security to be severely compromised and they fell into enslavement to a foreign government.  This foreign government took the citizens of a once great country captive and removed everyone from their homeland.  They destroyed the once beautiful capital city.

Fast forward 90 plus years.  The dictator of the country who took the other country captive had groomed a high-level employee to provide his house the best and safest food and drink.  Unbeknownst to the dictator, the head chef was a godly man, who constantly sought out his god for wisdom to perform his job to the best of his ability.  Why?  Because he knew that if he failed at his job it meant his life…failure was NEVER an option in this world.  The head chef was speaking to a relative, who was relaying to him the disarray of the homeland.  He told him how the capital was still in ruins and not rebuilt, even though the foreign government had begun to allow citizens of the chef’s country to return to their homes. The chef was grieved.  He was devastated and emotionally broken, that his fellow people had not realized the blessing they had received by being allowed to return to their homeland.  He was broken that his people chose to live in disarray, devastation and disobedience, instead of being thankful for the opportunity to go home and begin reconstruction.

At that very moment, the chef knew something must be done in the homeland.  He knew his people needed to set their hearts and eyes on their god and begin the restoration process.  He thought to himself, I am of well regard with my boss, the dictator; I need to plead my case and see if he will allow me to go to my homeland for a short period of time to encourage and lead my people.  But instead of taking matters into his own hands, he laid down his own desires for the desires of his god and over the next 4 months he prayed and fasted for his people.  He patiently prayed and fasted daily while waiting for an answer from his god, never taking matters into his own hands.  Then in a split second, everything changed and his prayer was answered…his patience, his faithfulness, his laying down his own desires was being honored.

This fictional story, was birthed from the story of Nehemiah in the Old Testament.  Over the next 21 days we are going to dive deep into the heart and mind of Nehemiah; one of God’s faithful in the Old Testament.  Nehemiah is often studied for his example of leadership, but if all we ever do is focus on Nehemiah the leader, we will miss much of the wisdom the 13-chapter Old Testament book holds.

Fortunately, our God has more grace then I will ever understand and in His goodness, He has displayed to me a better way over the past few years.  There is value in being patient, slowing down, and seeking God prior to making decisions.  When we encounter an emotional response, we must pause and pray while our mind is still flexible and open to the wisdom of a Father who truly does want the best for us.  We must be willing to sacrifice our fleshly desires through the discipline of fasting and praying to hear our Father’s voice clearly.  Please join us on a prayer and fasting journey (January 1st through the 21st) as we look at the prayers of Nehemiah; a man who sought out his Heavenly Father with patience and faithfulness, believing He would answer his prayers.

Blessings and hope in Him for the new year,

Scott