The Nehemiah Project (Sermon Notes)
(by Pastor Jerry Ingalls)
October 2, 2016
For the first 3 weeks of The Nehemiah Project we have asked God to give us humble hearts, to uniquely break our hearts, to show us the little and big kairos moments before each of us (e.g. cutting Melinda’s yard on Sunday after Terry’s death), and then the faith to act wholeheartedly. Today, we are going to discuss that as we do step up as God’s strategy to make a difference for Christ in this world there will always be opposition to the work of God!
We live in a world hostile to God’s purposes. Jesus said in John 10:10 that the devil is like a thief whose only purpose is to “steal, kill, and destroy” from those who are setting out to do the work of God. Satan will not thwart your personal ambitions or your anxious toiling, in fact, he loves to spin those plates in your life. The opposition actively opposes any work of God in you or through you!
So, how should the people of God respond to this opposition?
Listen to 1 Peter 5:8-11, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
As we continue our study in Nehemiah, we see opposition comes against the strategies of God. How did Nehemiah respond to opposition?
Nehemiah’s response was to stay focused on God’s work, “So we built the wall” (Nehemiah 4:6 & 21). How could Nehemiah be so focused in the face of so much opposition? The answer is two-fold:
First, Nehemiah understands the nature of the opposition!
Listen to Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
The nature of the opposition is spiritual even when it manifests in people, places, or things. In fact, spiritual warfare primarily manifests in people because Satan understands both the greatness (we are made in the Image of God!) and the fallen nature (we are distorted by sin!) of God’s marquee creation—people (you and me)! Satan knows you, not because he is omniscient or omnipotent, remember your opposition is a created being who cannot be everywhere all the time, nor can he read your mind, but he and his minions (1/3 of innumerable angels fell from God’s presence and are now demons, aka “unclean spirits”) are careful observers of human nature and have 6,500 years of experience with us.
God’s strategy is God’s people, so where and how do you think Satan will attack?
Satan attacks people through people!
The devil’s primary tactics to oppose the work of God are: 1) fear (internal emotions and external intimidation); 2) accusation (blaming yourself and the blaming of others); and 3) deception (lies, distortion of truth, and disinformation).
We see the tactics of the enemy clearly in Nehemiah 4:1-8: anger, name calling, questioning motives, casting doubt, belittling the work, gossip and rumors… this brings about shame and derision against the people of God (Nehemiah 1:3; 2:17: 4:4). Satan wants you to feel disqualified and he loves when God’s people manifest (put on display for the world to see) their sense of disqualification. Satan knows he cannot take away that which only God can give (your salvation), but he will work until his final day to thwart God’s strategy by killing our witness, stealing our joy, and destroying our fruit!
These tactics are then manifest in three spheres of influence:
- The enemy’s attacks come from within me!When the attack comes from within our own mind and heart, we have to win the battlefield of the mind! If we don’t win this battle, this is usually a sufficient level of opposition to stop individuals. I cannot overemphasize the importance of overcoming the opposition at this level of the battle. This is an active engaged victory, not a passive one. Fear paralyzes good people!
English philosopher Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
The means of victory to defeat this attack is Spiritual Confidence! Confidence in God and God’s call upon your life to live by faith and not by sight!
A great illustration of victory in this sphere of attack is found in Nehemiah 1:5-11. What a prayer; what a victory!
- The enemy’s attacks come from within us!When individuals or groups within the church turn against one another or possibly just won’t do the work of God (Nehemiah 3:5) it can seriously demotivate the group or even discourage the leader to delay or detour the work of God.
Momentum and direction are sensitive living entities in group dynamics… It takes Spiritual Courage to defeat this enemy! Not only spiritual courage in the leaders to stand firm to do the work of God when there are dissenting parties, but also spiritual courage of the people to not be swayed by the shifting sands of internal dissensions and gossip. If the hardest victory to win is the battlefield of the mind, second to that is the battle of group dynamics and interpersonal conflict.
A great illustration of victory in this sphere is found throughout Nehemiah 2:17-18. There is power when the people of God work as one for the glory of the One!
I have heard it often quoted, “Imagine what we could do together if none of us cared who got the credit.”
- The enemy’s attacks come from without us! In Nehemiah, we see Sanballat and Tobiah as the manifestation of the enemy. They use the tactics of evil with political precision infused with demonic power, but the people of God prevail. As early as Nehemiah 2:10 we see opposition starting; it started with “displeasure” at Nehemiah caring for the welfare of God’s people. It progresses in Nehemiah 2:19 from displeasure to hatred (“despised us”) and active opposition through jeering and false accusation. And by Nehemiah 4:1 the opposition moves to rage and a full out smear campaign. The final stage is all out harassment of the work with threats of physical violence in Nehemiah 4:8.
Conviction is necessary when you find yourself standing against the worldly structures, established by Satan, opposed to the work of God. It takes Spiritual Faith to defeat this manifestation of evil!
A great illustration of victory is how Nehemiah constantly points them back to God, His prayers are to a big God; He instills confidence in the calling of God’s people
to act like God’s people! Listen to Nehemiah 2:20, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you [to the opposition] have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem” In other words, keep your government intrusion and cultural values out of my Church! We see much of this from Nehemiah as he strengthens the people of God to the work of God (Nehemiah 4:4-5, 14, 20).
Secondly, Nehemiah not only knew the nature of the opposition, but he prevailed in leading the work of God because Nehemiah knew that the best defense is a good offense!
James 4:7-8 teaches us the way to victory against opposition, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
If you want to overcome the opposition, you cannot ignore the reality of spiritual warfare, but you also shouldn’t get distracted by the enemy’s tactics. Yes, knowing your enemy is important and crucial in warfare, but above all you must fight according to the High Commander’s orders and strategies to ensure Victory! As a Christian, you must first and above all, “Submit to God” by drawing near to God, acknowledging your sin, confessing and repenting of that sin and renew your covenant with Him so that His power will dwell in your weakness. In humility, the power of God’s Word wins the day! Do you believe this and if so, how does your personal Bible study life demonstrate your faith in the power of God’s Word to win the day?
Nehemiah focuses and refocuses the people on God’s call as God’s people. In the face of opposition, you must remember whose you are (God’s!) and to what you have been called (to be a dwelling of His glory)!
Listen to Nehemiah in Nehemiah 4:14 as he address the people regarding the opposition, “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 your homes.” And in 4:20, “Our God will fight for us.”
God gives us the weapons to fight and the plan for Victory in the face of our opposition!
We are to put on the Full Armor of God. Listen to Ephesians 6:10-20. Do you understand what it means to put on the Full Armor of God? God, through the Spirit and Word, gives us all that we need to be the people of God in the face of opposition. We must reject passivity and pride, and allow the Spirit to build us up as God’s People for God’s Purpose on the One True Foundation of Jesus Christ.
The Victory is ours in Christ Jesus! God’s people overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the Word of our Testimony (Revelation 12:11). You are the strategy of God! Therefore, the enemy will come after you, from inside and outside…but you have salvation in Jesus Christ and authority through the Holy Spirit’s transforming power in your life. The Word of God as your direction, the Spirit of God as your power, you will prevail to be the place where God’s name dwells (Nehemiah 1:9).
Call to Action: In the face of opposition, will you answer the invitation to work together to build God’s Church to the glory of Jesus Christ? We are inviting you today to: 1) read your Bible daily in a time of personal worship; 2) to commit to a Bible Study in discipleship groups & classes; and 3) Have an open availability to the kairos moments (big and small alike) in your neighborhoods. Never underestimate the ripple effect of one small act of obedience. You are invited to take these active steps as the living stones of God’s strategy.
How is God calling you to respond in the face of a very real enemy working against you?
To read more about the Nehemiah Project, click HERE.
On October 16th Pastor Jerry Ingalls will be preaching on Nehemiah 5:1-13 “Care for the Hurting!”