The purpose of the Christian life is to be faithful – to live with God as the kind of person He has made us to be. This is what we are called to focus on and put our effort into. This is the essence of the last post. But there is more.
There are callings that God places on our lives, things that He is wanting to do through us. Ephesians 2:10 describes the Christian as God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works prepared in advance for us to do. We are called to put our effort into being the person God has made us to be, but there is also a purpose he has made us for. This purpose is something that God will work through us as we focus on living faithful to Him.
Yet I wonder how many of you have, like me, experienced the reality that when we put our face to the work God has given we begin to face opposition? When we hear the call of God and decide to walk with Him, things often get difficult. The fact remains that we are in a battle and this battle is real. But how do we fight it?
Here the book of Nehemiah reveals a simple yet profound truth. Our secret weapon in spiritual warfare is Perseverance.
Nehemiah is a book in the Old Testament that described the work of Nehemiah in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. A number of years after God’s people had been exiled and Jerusalem destroyed, the Persian King gave Nehemiah permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city. What we read both describes the historical situation and offers an example of how the Enemy brings opposition to God’s work and how we respond.
Opposition to the work comes mainly from Sanballat, the leader of the neighbouring people who did not want Jerusalem rebuilt. Throughout the book we see numerous attempts from him to obstruct Nehemiah. First he mocks and ridicules the very idea of rebuilding the wall. Next he begins to threaten. Later he calls Nehemiah to have a conversation giving a false sense of security, but then begins to spread lies that Nehemiah is seeking to revolt.
Mockery, accusation, distraction, and lies. Ring any bells? Anyone who begins to follow a clear call of God, no matter how great the experience that led to that call, will experience some or all of this issues. Having moved cities or started a new role or stepped out in a particular way we’ll face ridicule that we’re being stupid, accusation that we’re doing the wrong thing, distraction that we should be busy with something else, and potentially even lies accusing us of things that have no basis in truth. We may even find, like Nehemiah, that close friends of ours begin to speak the same things to us – even when well meaning. It was one of Nehemiah’s friends who tried to convince him to hide in the temple due to fear that Sanballat was sending people to kill him.
What was Nehemiah’s response?
This is what I find particularly interesting. Nehemiah fought this opposition by simply keeping on keeping on. He persevered with what God had said.
Too often we can slip into thinking, as soon as opposition raises it’s head, that we need to stop, turn aside and ‘deal with the opposition’ before we carry on with the work. The assumption is that we must first make this opposition stop before we can continue with what God has called us to
John Wimber, whose teaching brought this to my attention, puts this wonderfully: ‘Nehemiah didn’t stop building the wall in order to fight the opposition. Rather, he fought the opposition by building the wall.’
Now, Nehemiah didn’t simply ignore opposition. He took some precautions by arming some of the workers and setting people as watchmen. He also brought every issue to God and we repeatedly read that, when accusation or threat came, he went straight to God in prayer and asked for help. But he kept on building.
The Christian life is a call to faithfulness and the response to opposition is perseverance. Why? Because ultimately it is God who works through us to do what He has planned to do. Our job is to keep in step with Him – to be the people He has called us to be in order that He can do through us what He has purposed to do. There is no opposition that can stand in the way of that and there is nothing that can harm us when we dwell in Him. And that is the topic of the next post.