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Overwhelmed by opposition?

posted 31 Jan 2016, 08:51 by Stephen Childs
Prince Arikankharer Slaying His Enemies.
Christians are ridiculous. At least if TV is anything to go by. Ned Flanders. Rev. Lovejoy. The Vicar of Dibley. Christians are often portrayed as out-dated, weak, and just a bit pathetic. Some would go further and say that not only are Christians ridiculous - they are dangerous and need to be stopped. Perhaps you've experienced just a little bit of this yourself? The raised eyebrow on Monday morning when you say you went to church. The frosty atmosphere when the discussion turns to other religions and you mention that Jesus said he is the only way to God.

We all face some kind of opposition as Christians. The question is, how will we respond? Depending on your personality, you'll be tempted either to hit back or hide away. Nehemiah 4 shows us a better way. It describes the opposition that came Nehemiah's way as he was rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. A powerful coalition of local officials made fun of him (verses 1-3), then started making some nasty threats (7-12). But Nehemiah neither hits back nor hides away. Instead he does three things:
Put it in perspective (1-6)
Instead of hitting back, he took it to God. Instead of throwing his own insults back, he prayed. He entrusted the situation to God.

Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders. Nehemiah 4:4-5 (NIV)

Prepare for battle (7-15)

Having prayed, Nehemiah doesn't sit back. Verse 9 sums up his attitude throughout: "But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat." He prayed and prepared. He trusts God and works hard. He unites the people in the weakest locations, arms them, and motivates them. He reminds them of who God is and what's at stake:
‘Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.’ Nehemiah 4:14 (NIV)
Ephesians 6 reminds us of the battle we're in. Not against people, but against the devil and his evil schemes. And it reminds us of the armour we need: truth, righteousness, salvation, the gospel of peace, faith, and the word of God. The basics, understood and lived out in the most difficult situations.

Prioritise the building

Although there seemed to be a real threat, Nehemiah does not get obsessed by the enemy. He remains focussed on the work of rebuilding. They continue the work, swords in one hand, and trowels in the other. Likewise we need to take care we don't get so distracted by the million challenges out there that we forget to actually do what we're hear to do. Again, Paul puts it well in Ephesians - chapter 4 this time:
speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:15-16 (NIV)
That's our building project: speaking the truth in love to each other so the church grows. Nothing should distract us from it.
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