Wednesday, 20 February 2008 10:29

Gracious Victorious Perseverance [2]

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We are studying Nehemiah 4, another very instructive and most relevant passage of Holy Scripture. Last time we learned from this chapter how the devil loves to discourage us, especially in Gods ways, if he cant do anything else for he knows he gains so much when Gods people are down and out in discouragement. How true what one writes about this saying, Discouragement - what a difficult disease to cure. I dont know anything that will take the wind out of your sails so quickly as discouragement. Rare is the person who can resist it.You cant ignore discouragement. It is like ignoring a flat tire. Pray all you want to; drive all you want to, you never get the air back into it. Youve got to fix it! Thats the way it is with discouragement!

But how now do you fix discouragement and how ultimately can we combat the devils tactics against God and His people, and living for God and good? Are you interested in this question as well? Let us learn from Nehemiah 4 and this man of God, Nehemiah, the way of victorious determination whatever diabolic plots and whatever discouragements might come our way. We see Nehemiah and his people in this rebuilding project while knocked down yet not knocked out. How so?

For one, it is in the way of prayer to God and ongoing prayer to Him. We have learned before how Nehemiah did nothing without prayer and you might say he accomplished all he did in the way of prayer, ever looking to the Lord and depending on Him. When the scoffers come, we hear his prayer in verses 4-5 where Nehemiah brings the problem to the Lord and asks God to deal with them as they deserve. His prayer that God not forgive them their sin against them may sound harsh in our minds, but we need to realize this was not at all a sinful or hateful request, but a holy prayer by a holy man who was not here speaking in a spirit of revenge, but in zeal for the Lord and His cause. Nehemiah saw rightly in these attacks against the work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem an attack against God and His gospel cause! Nehemiahs prayer was, as one put it religiously and not nationalistically motivated.

It was by way of prayer that Nehemiah persevered and led the people to persevere. It is striking how in verse 9 with the intensifying of the attacks, that the praying is mentioned as not just something from Nehemiah, but others with him prayed. Verse 9 reads, Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God. Nehemiah also pointed the people to God as their constant refuge and strength in the challenges. He turned the peoples attention from the threat of the enemy to the truths about God and His awesome power and faithfulness. Always whatever the opposition or trouble or challenge, it falls away as nothing before the almighty, majestic Saviour God of His people. Even the devil himself cant stand a chance before Christ the Lord, the Emmanuel! Verse 14 reads, And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: Remember the Lord. which is great and terrible [most awesome]..

Isnt this still the way to overcome discouragement and trouble? As the psalmist of Psalm 62:5-8 puts it, Nehemiah would so have the people live by this and out of this gospel truth, My soul wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock, and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Do you know this escape from the vile devil and the virus of discouragement defeating and deflating you, casting all your cares upon the Lord, trusting He cares for you, for Jesus sake alone? Will you learn this, especially also in the way of seeking and serving the Lord?

But notice what else is so obvious regarding Nehemiahs gracious victorious perseverance. It wasnt only in the way of prayer but also very much in the way of combat and equipping the people for the job that needed to be done. With the increased dangers Nehemiah had the people take up their weapons and to work with sword and trowel. It says in verse 15 he brought the enemies plot to nothing with having the people both ready to work still and ready to fight, if need be. Verse17 gives such a good picture of how we must pray and work and equip ourselves against the dangers of the day. They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon. Everyone, you might say, equipped themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon.

So confessing Christians today must be like Nehemiah in his day, praying and working and being ready for the combat. Paul says in Ephesians 6:13, Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Is your posture like that of Nehemiah 4:17, to pray and work? It is foolish to pray, for instance, dont let me be robbed, and then not protect yourself from being robbed, or to pray for a job but not go out looking for a job. Pray and work, the Bible teaches us, not to earn salvation ever, but in the sense of God will have us use the means available even as we pray for His guidance and keeping in all our ways.

Notice further how Nehemiah also united the people together in the battles they faced. He had nobles and servants working together. He had the people working together in their families and for each other. There was a united front against the enemies, and he urged all, also by way of example, to give sacrificially of time and attention for the needs of the other. There was an all out united effort and care for one another in the face of the enemy and the dangers all around. How important this is today as well in the challenges we face. Disunity in the battles is such a hindrance also in Gods ways, and how much damage it has done and still does whenever the church is plagued with disunity rather than unity. In the next chapter, Nehemiah 5, we will learn about how the devil later tried to bring disunity to divide the camp of Judah in their rebuilding project for God and good.

Are you one who sees the importance of working together in unity with others and doing your part for the well-being and protection of all the rest? Or do you, also as church member, live more independently, not caring at all about the rest of the people? Are you helping to promote working together and being an example of that or do you live otherwise and hinder the work in the Lords house? When we live together in unity, what an encouragement and help that gives in living and working in Gods way. Nehemiah worked hard that the people live in godly unity. How important that Gods people do the same today.

Nehemiah, with the people, persevered in a gracious victorious way with valiant dedication, not only in the way of prayer and working [ready for battle with sword and trowel in hand] and building a united front against the enemy, but what else is so obvious is that he had the people on the alert and watchful all the time, with the trumpeter standing ready beside him should any emergency or sudden attack come, as verse 18 states. Are we not called to be watchful always, on the alert against Satan and temptation from within us and from outside and all around us? Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour, so Peter warns us in I Peter 5:8.

How we must be on guard against drowsiness in the faith, or lukewarmness in our relationship with the Lord and half-heartedness and hardheartedness towards God and His kingdom and His church and His glory! Are you watching as on terrorist alert, at the highest level? As long as we are in this life, must Gods people not always so be on guard and ever watchful and ready always constantly so careful in Gods ways? Isnt it striking and a sad irony as we come closer to the end of the age when the Bible warns of great tribulations and final satanic assaults so terrible, yet so many confessing Christians are less careful than our fathers in seeking the Lord and equipping themselves in grace and truth, and being ready always? If you lived in Nehemiahs time, would you be one in Jerusalem not watching carefully nor working diligently, not praying faithfully and not doing your part in unity with all the others? This question is not unimportant nor irrelevant for too many even in Nehemiahs time were not really part of his holy band. But, think of it, what hope did the enemies of Gods people have? To join their ranks or continue to follow their ways is to follow the way that leads to everlasting destruction and defeat. Wont you learn this from this chapter?

Nehemiah kept the people intent on the goal, to repair the walls of Jerusalem and to restore that city to something of its former glory. He urged the people to keep their focus right, and he himself would lead them in this. Our God will fight for us he reminds the people in verse 20, giving the example of wholly dedicating himself to, for, and in the work. In Nehemiah here do you see with me the greater than Nehemiah and how the Lord Jesus Christ is out to lead His people in depending on God and working for God, in being united before God and watchful in all their ways to live for God and be ready always, and in keeping focused on Him and His glory? Isnt this chapter ultimately in view of Jesus Christ the Lord, the Saviour of sinners, who won all battles ultimately through His shed blood on the cross of Calvary and with His almighty resurrection from the dead? Are you looking to and following after Jesus Christ, the Captain of our salvation and the Builder of the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband?

The way of gracious victorious perseverance is the way of the Lord. Is that the way of life you follow, regardless of vile devilish attack and in spite of the virus of discouragement? Isnt God earnestly calling and encouraging us all to live in that blessed way, His way of grace and truth in and through our Lord Jesus Christ by Whom we become more than conquerors, come what may? Nehemiah 4 gives reasons for so much encouragement in Gods ways and with living in His service, and shows us the way to find this encouragement and to be encouragers ourselves in the service of God and for good towards others. Will you so live, by Gods grace, in the way of Nehemiah 4? Isnt it actually the need of the hour, and more and more so as we see the final day approaching? Amen.

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