Handling Opposition – Nehemiah 4

When Igor Sikorsky was 12, his parents told him that competent authorities had already proved human flight impossible. He went on to build the first helicopter!  In his American plant, he posted this sign:

“According to recognized aerotechnical tests, the bumblebee cannot fly because of the shape and weight of his body in relation to the total wing area. The bumblebee does not know this, so he goes ahead and flies anyway.”  (Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations, by Paul Lee Tan [Assurance Publishers], p. 945).

Nehemiah would have loved that sign! His story shows that whenever you try to accomplish anything significant for the Lord, you will face strong opposition.

Today we are talking about opposition and how to handle it. The Bible tells us to love our neighbors and also to love our enemies. Probably because they are the same people! This was certainly true in Nehemiah’s time. His arrival in Jerusalem was a threat to those leaders and tribes and nations around him. A strong Jerusalem would endanger the balance of power in the region as well as balance of the influence and wealth.

By Chapter 4 We find ourselves about at the halfway point in the rebuilding of the wall.  In Nehemiah 4:6 he recorded “we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height”. As the work is being accomplished and the people are honoring God with their efforts, we find that there was perfect storm of opposition brewing all around Nehemiah. He was getting reports of people planning to attack them and was even starting to hear the rumblings of grumbling from within his own ranks. I am sure that He began to have a few doubts as to the ultimate success of the building project. He probably feared for his own life and for that of his workers. Not only that he also had to expend great amounts of time and energy to encourage those around him to keep building.

What about you? What will you do when opposition comes to you? Do you begin to doubt? What will you do when others come against you and ask you to quit what you are doing for God?

When you attempt to do something for God, when you try to live for God, when you try to serve God, you had better expect opposition along the way.

Any cause worth doing is also a cause that someone will feel they need to criticize! All great causes have had great critics. I believe it was Aristotle who said, “You can avoid opposition by saying nothing, doing nothing, being nothing!”

Our key truth;

Opposition will Happen

It’s foolish to think we can skate through life without opposition. Don’t be surprised at opposition. Opposition is going to happen. There are accounts recorded throughout God’s word of opposition that the people of the faith faced. Moses faced 40 years of griping and complaining from the ones whom he was leading. He faced continual conflict and continual criticism. Remember the shepherd boy David as he came against Goliath and how Goliath “trash talked” him and made fun of not only David but the entire nation of Israel. Jesus especially had critics and he had them to the point of death. Opposition is going to happen!

Today I would like to talk about the tools of opposition that were brought against Nehemiah. (Pat tool belt) These are the same types of things we will face as well. Then we will discuss what our response to opposition should be, how to handle opposition.

The Tools of Opposition…

  • Criticism 

 1 When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, 2 and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble–burned as they are?” Vs. 1-2

The first tool the opposition usually uses is criticism or ridicule.  It is like a chisel to our self-esteem, it chips away at us.  We have a clear example of this here.  It’s a powerful, effective tool. Why is it so effective?  It’s because it attacks our sense of self worth.  A lot of times we can handle anything but criticism.

Notice the motive.  “He became very angry and greatly incensed….”  People who ridicule first become threatened because they would rather have you down and out than doing well.  If you begin to succeed the threat becomes real and your opposition gets angry.

Also notice the name calling, “…those feeble Jews”.

  • Ganging Up 

 3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building–if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!” Vs. 3

Those who oppose you will like the leverage (pry bar) of having others help them. Ganging Up. People that throw rocks generally like to hang out with other rock throwers. Another way that I have heard it said is, “Birds of a feather flock together.  Opposition is contagious. When Sanballat makes the initial criticism Tobia, his sidekick, chimes in and starts.  There are always people who will ridicule you if somebody else will take the lead.  They are cowards and won’t do it on their own.

  • Exaggeration 

 Sanballat  “…Will they finish in a day?”

 He exaggerates. (Show tape measure one size then larger)  Nowhere is there any place they say they’re going to rebuild it in one day. He’s probably implying that they better get it done in one day because that’s all their good for.  Typical ridicule.

  Tobiah  “…Even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!”

Quite an exaggeration I am sure that you will agree, especially since I showed pictures last week of the wall around Jerusalem that archeologists have uncovered from Nehemiah’s time.  They have found it to be as much as 9 feet thick in some places. Nine feet! That would take a pretty big fox to break it down.

  • Scheming 

 7 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the men of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. 8 They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it.  Vs. 7-8

The opposition is gaining size and force! (sledge hammer) They’re getting organized.  Instead of just a couple of critics we have a conspiracy.  Sanballat has gathered all the disgruntled parties to resist the rebuilding of the wall.  Sanballat and the Samaritans were in the North, the Arabs were in the south, Tobiah and the Ammonites were in the east, the men of Ashdod were in the west.  The Jews were surrounded by these people who were conspiring against them.  Have you noticed that negative people tend to gravitate together?  The purpose was to fight and stir up trouble.  These folks are all around.  It seems that some people, their whole purpose in life is be against things.

  • Threats and Constant Nagging 

 11 Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.” 12 Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.” Vs. 11-12

The best way to make a threat feed on people’s fears. (Threats and nagging are like sand paper they wear you down) The gist of the threat is, “We’re going to get you from all sides”.  We’re going to attack you and you’re not even going to know what hit you.  The fact is the opposition didn’t have enough power to do this.  But the threat of an attack was enough to incite panic.  Threats are often used by opposition.

Also constant nagging “Then they told us ten times over.”  What happens when a threat is exaggerated ten times over?  People start to believe it.  I think it was Hitler that discovered if you tell a lie long enough people are going to start believing it.  This can easily turn to rumors another tool of opposition. If you are going to report something have the facts to back it up. Today it takes the form of “a lot of people are saying” or maybe “some have said”. Whenever something is brought to your attention and it cannot be substantiated with where it came from and who is saying it, generally you cannot give it much merit. Why? Because the opposition would like nothing better than for you to spend time worrying and fussing over what amounts to nothing.

What was the result of all this opposition?  v. 10-11 “Meanwhile the people in Judah said, `The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.  Also our enemies will attack.”  When you’re working hard and you’re bombarded by criticism, exaggeration and threats you’re going to get discouraged.  A common effect of opposition is discouragement.

When is discouragement most likely to occur?  v. 6 “So we rebuilt the wall until all of it reached half of its height.”  Discouragement often comes at the half waypoint.  How many of you have half finished projects around your house?

Here’s what opposition can do.  You will find this too. First it wears you down, “the strength of the laborers is giving out” Then it affects your perspective, there was so much rubble” Then we feel like we are failing, “we cannot rebuild the wall” And there’s fear — “the enemies will attack us”

 Everyone here in this room has been in a similar place before whether it has been trying to make a difference at work, in your family, or in the world around you as a Christian.  Opposition is building and getting more difficult instead of going away. We feel like God isn’t paying attention to us. We feel surrounded and alone and we feel that at any minute we will be attacked so badly that it will be the end of us. All we want to do is give up!

In the next post, I want to look at some things that will help us when we find ourselves discouraged, overwhelmed, and facing an increase of opposition.



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About dkoop

Lead Pastor of Upwards Church: Leander & Jarrell, TX
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