Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 21 February 2023:
Nehemiah 4:1 – Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews.
Opponents to God’s work reacted in anger because they feared they would lose their power and authority. Some people will feel threatened by your accomplishments and ridicule or resist you. Don’t chase the poisonous snakes that bite you. Or, as the old country saying goes, “Don’t wrestle with a pig in the mud because you both get dirty and the pig likes it.” Stay focused on what God has called you to do, and move around the obstacles.
Nehemiah 4:1-3 – …and he jeered at the Jews.
Mocking and sarcasm are ways people express their fear and insecurity.
Nehemiah 4:4-5 – Hear, O our God, for we are despised….
Do not rail back at enemies but rather turn it over to God in prayer for Him to handle.
Nehemiah 4:4-23 — Dedication to God and hard work, empowered by the Holy Spirit, brings amazing results.
Nehemiah 4:5 – Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders.
Enemies arouse God’s anger. If you are committed to serving God and fulfilling His will, then your enemies are, in fact, God’s enemies. No one can thwart God’s will. You have nothing to worry about if you are doing what God has told you to do.
Nehemiah 4:6 — The people had a mind to work.
My father often said, “People do what they really want to do.” Most of the time, when we say, “I can’t,” what we really mean is “I don’t really want to.” We have all heard the saying, “Where there is the will there is the way,” but how much more true is this saying when your will is aligned with God’s will? In Nehemiah we see the Jews accomplish the seemingly impossible despite being mocked, threatened, and severely resource constrained. They let nothing stand in their way and worked tirelessly day and night to accomplish their task – no excuses. Conversely, in Proverbs we read about the sluggard who is nothing but excuses — “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets (Proverbs 26:13)!’” It is vital for the Christian to have a “mind to work,” but it foremost essential that we have “the mind of Christ” and that we endeavor only where God would have us (1 Corinthians 2:16). Jesus said that He did “nothing” apart from the Father’s leading (John 5:19). Apart for God’s leading, our best efforts will be misplaced and counterproductive – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8, 9).” Interestingly, if you do a word search for the word “diligent” in the Bible, the word is mostly applied to “inquiring” of the Lord, “listening to the voice” of the Lord, “searching God’s word, and then obeying His commands. Our diligence must be in growing closer to Christ each day. In Luke 5, we see a great example given by Jesus: He was swarmed by crowds of needy people (Lepers, paralytics, etc) who were desperately seeking His ministry. What would we do in that situation? I know that I would be very tempted to wear myself out attempting to minister to everyone’s needs, relying on my own talents, intellect, and skills – “But He would withdraw to desolate places and pray (Luke 5:16).” Far more important than doing things right is doing the right things, and only God knows what is right. “Diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes (Exodus 15:26).”
Nehemiah 4:6-8, 11-12, 15 — Success among God’s people only brings the world’s increased anger because you are not only threatening their ‘kingdom,’ which places man on the throne, you are exposing the fallacy of their entire belief system, which places them at the center of their universe.
Nehemiah 4:10-12 – The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing….
Barriers to work, threats from enemies, and the doubts of others can bring us to doubt. However, focus on God relieves fear. (Neh 4:14)
Nehemiah 4:20 – In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.
God is on your side when you are on God’s side. Anything you do outside of God’s will is ultimately meaningless. When you are serving God, you are fulfilling your life’s purpose and will experience great joy. If you are not experiencing great joy, check yourself and evaluate whether or not you are doing what you should be doing.
Acts 9:4, 5 – “And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’”
Acts 9:17 – “So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’”
God chose Saul; Saul did not choose God. Quite the contrary, Saul was a sworn enemy of Christ. Nonetheless, God would further demonstrate His sovereignty through the life of Saul. God stopped Saul in his tracks and transformed his life, and there was nothing Saul could do about it.
In His Sovereignty, God chose Ananias as His instrument in Paul’s life, much to Ananias’ dismay. Once again, God demonstrates that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways – who would have dreamed of such a thing? Certainly not Ananias.
Note too how God said that when Saul persecuted Christians, he was actually persecuting Him.
Some takeaways: God saves who He shall save, and He takes the initiative in salvation, not us. God calls His disciples, led by the Holy Spirit and under His authority, to participate in what He is doing in the lives of others, and as people treat His disciples, so they treat Him. When disciples are persecuted, they are in fellowship with Christ – “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13) “ …that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. (Philippians 3:10) “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake….” (Philippians 1:29) “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:3)
Acts 9:26-27 — And when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.
“Only God knows the potential of each believer. We can project what we think God might do in someone’s life, but we have no way of knowing. We see only outward appearances and behavior, whereas God looks at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7).
The apostles were skeptical of some who professed to be Christians. No one seemed more unlikely to become a dedicated follower of Jesus than Saul of Tarsus. He had been one of Christianity’s greatest enemies, even overseeing the murder of Stephen (Acts 7:58-60). When Paul suddenly expressed an interest in knowing the leaders of the Christian movement, it was natural for the apostles to suspect devious motives and to doubt his conversion. Nevertheless, despite the apostles’ reluctance, Barnabas assumed the best in Paul and risked his own life to be Paul’s advocate.
You may identify with Paul. Perhaps you were an improbable candidate to be a committed Christian. It may be that God placed a Christian friend beside you to help you develop your faith. Thank the Father for those He has sent to you who believed in what God could do in you, even when others doubted.
Perhaps you stand with the apostles. There may be some around you in whom you have little confidence, though they claim to be Christians. Be assured that if God could turn the proud and murderous Saul into one of the greatest saints in history, He is equally capable of redeeming those around you. Don’t give up on your fellow believers. Look to see where God is working in their lives, then join Him. It is a great privilege to be like Barnabas and to invest in the life of a fellow Christian. This is the purpose of discipleship.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 21 February 2023: Pray that God will guide you in the Spirit to serve as His ambassador in the lives of those around you He is calling.