This is a sketch of a sermon I preached on Nehemiah chapter 6. After praying about what to preach on, I felt very strongly that there were three things Jesus wanted me to talk about for people in the church who are going through a tough time - that is to Standing Firm, Do Not Fear and Trust. Whilst I followed the general structure of this sermon, I preached unscripted and used a lot more personal stories and illustrations than appear below, however I hope that what is written below may be of use to some people.
Life can be difficult & challenging.
- Health problems
- Relationship difficulties
- Financial concerns
- Worries about work
Being a Christian, does not mean we’re immune to these problems.
Billy Graham – “The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes, and say ‘O God, forgive me, or help me.”
When you are going through a tough time, just getting through the day can be a struggle.
BUT THERE IS HOPE – BECAUSE JESUS IS WITH US
If you are going through a hard time at present, there are three things I believe Jesus wants to say to you –STAND FIRM, DO NOT FEAR and TRUST.
- We can stand firm, because Jesus is with us
- We do not need to fear, because Jesus is with us
- We can trust, because Jesus is with us
In the book of Joshua (1:9) it says “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
And Jesus said ‘Remember I am with you always.’ (Matthew 28:20)
Nehemiah knew all about what it was like to face opposition and challenges, but he was someone who STOOD FIRM, REFUSED TO GIVE IN TO FEAR, and who TRUSTED in God.
The Story So Far
- 586BC Jerusalem razed by the ground by King Nebuchadnezzar. Jews taken into captivity - Babylonian Exile or Captivity. Tiny remnant remain in Jerusalem.
- 538BC first wave of Jews return to Jerusalem following decree by Cyrus II of Persia, work begins to Temple in led by Zerubbabel.
- 516BC 2nd Temple rebuilt
- 455BC 2nd wave of returnees led by Prophet Ezra
- 444BC Nehemiah returns (94 years after first Jews returned)
- City in ruins
- Nehemiah leads rebuilding of city walls. Nehemiah Tackles problems of injustice, Jewish nobles oppressing the poor – order cancellation of all debt & mortages
- Chapter 6 – walls rebuilt, only doors needed to be reset in the gates.
Opposition to Nehemiah
Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem the Arab, see rebuilding of Jerusalem as threat to their own power in region. Do all they can to disrupt rebuilding of the walls.
Nehemiah faced three plots
- Intrigue (6:2-4)
- Innuendo (6:5-9)
- Intimidation (6:10-14)
Intrigue (Nehemiah 6:2-4) – STANDING FIRM
- Seemingly innocent invitation sent 4 times. Would take Nehemiah away from Jerusalem where he’d be vulnerable to attack
- But Nehemiah STOOD FIRM.
- He was a man of prayer & discernment, and he knew that they wished to harm him. He would not allow anything to distract him from the task God had given him.
- “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” (6:3)
- Nehemiah would not allow anything to distract him from the task God had given him to complete.
- When we are facing tough times, we need to stand firm, and not allow ourselves to be distracted, from what God has called us to.
- Even seemingly good things, can if we’re not careful distract us.
- There was a missionary in China whose abilities were so outstanding that an American company tried to hire him. They offered him an attractive job with a salary to match, but he turned it down. He told them that God had sent him to China as a missionary. He thought that would end the matter, but instead they came back with a better offer and an increase in salary. He turned that down too, but again they came back, doubling the financial package. Finally he said to them, “It’s not your salary that’s too little. It’s the job that’s too small!” He stood firm.
- God has called each of us to a great task. This is true of every believer in Christ. To be his witnesses in the world. To serve Him on our frontlines. That is our calling. This means STANDING FIRM when times are tough.
Innuendo (Nehemiah 6:5-9) – DO NOT FEAR
- After failure to get Nehemiah to leave Jerusalem, they try to slander him.
- Open letter sent – claiming Nehemiah planning to revolt and declare himself king
- Power of rumours – ‘It is reported among the nations..’ – i.e. “Everyone is talking about it”, “Lots of people say…” This is why gossip and rumours can be so damaging.
- When criticised, especially when it’s unfair, it’s easy to get distracted, want to defend myself and lick my wounds, even quit. But Nehemiah didn't allow himself to be distracted by the criticism.
- Nehemiah’s he refuses to get drawn into pointless argument, which would have distracted him from his main task. Nehemiah instead simply dismisses the claim “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” (6:8)
- Gossip and rumours can be very damaging. Which is why before we say or write something we should always THINK:
- T--Is it true?
- H--Is it helpful?
- I--Is it inspiring?
- N--Is it necessary?
- K--Is it kind?
- Nehemiah realised there strategy was to make him afraid. But he refused to give into fear.
- Many people live paralyzed by fear. Fear of what others are saying about them, or what they might say about them. Or fear about the future.
- Nehemiah refused to allow his actions to be dictated by fear of what others thought or said.
- Nehemiah knew that God was in charge of the situation, so why give in to fear. Instead his response was to turn to God in prayer, asking God to “Strengthen my hands”.
- If you are facing a difficult situation, and feeling fearful and anxious, it is worth remembering these words from Isaiah 41:10 Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand
- Phrase ‘Do Not Fear’ is repeated 365 times in the Bible – one for each day of the year.
- The reason we do not need to worry is because God is faithful and just.
- Nehemiah went to house of Shemaiah – who warned Nehemiah that men were coming to kill Nehemiah, and to hide in the Temple.
- Sounds reasonable, but Nehemiah sees through plot.
- To run into the Temple would have not only undermined his authority as a leader, but it would have been in violation of God's Law – only priests allowed in temple. Although Shemaiah uses religious talk, Nehemiah sees through it. Shemaiah is a false prophet, on Sanballat’s payroll.
- Nehemiah’s response was to say “Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” Despite the threats, and intimidation Nehemiah chose to TRUST God, and turned the situation over to God in prayer.
- Trusting God can transform our lives. But what does it mean to Trust God?
- Trusting God is simply believing that He loves you, He’s good, He has the power to help you, He to help you, and He help you.
- Proverbs 3:5,6 says,
Nehemiah faced a lot of opposition, but he STOOD FIRM, DID NOT GIVE INTO FEAR, and TRUSTED in God.
The reason he did this is because it was rooted in his relationship with God. His character, how he responded to the challenges he faced, was shaped by the God he worshipped and followed.
It is only if we spend time in the company of Jesus, that we will be able to develop the character of Jesus, so that when tough times come our way, we can STAND FIRM, NOT GIVE INTO FEAR, AND TRUST GOD, like Nehemiah did, and more importantly like Jesus did.
Because Nehemiah stood firm, did not give into fear, and trusted God, the walls were completed in record time. Nehemiah did in 52 days, what no one had managed in 94 years, to rebuild the walls. Even his enemies recognised that this work had been done with the help of God.
If God can use Nehemiah to set right a 94 year old problem in less than 2 months, then what can God do through you and me?
As God’s people we can stand firm, because Jesus is with us
We do not need to fear, because Jesus is with us
We can trust, because Jesus is with us – not matter the challenges we may face.