Sermon, 2.22.09"Fighting Without. Fears Within." Rev. Erik Bonkovsky Nehemiah 4:1-14
Our story this week opens with Sanballat jeering at the Jews for attempting to rebuild Jerusalem's walls. Not only were Sanballat's attacks demoralizing to the workers, but they were also attacks on God. God's instructions were to rebuild the city, and this man was questioning both the plan, and their ability to carry out the plan.
Later, even their fellow countrymen question the plan to rebuild Jerusalem, urging the workers to go home to their respective towns. They call attention to the gargantuan amount of work to be done, and the small number and energy of the workers.
But Nehemiah said "Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome" (v. 14). The Israelites succeed not by stiffening themselves and working hard to prove the naysayers wrong, but by remembering God
What are the doubts that creep in for you? Some examples could be opposition from your family, people being dismissive toward you, people condescending to you about your faith, the challenge of getting to know who you married, or wondering if God will provide someone for you to spend your life with. These doubts seem to accost us at every turn. But instead of letting ourselves become overwhelmed, we have hope:
"Hope is not simply wishful thinking; it is a fruit of the Spirit born of the spiritual discipline of remembering. This is why, even in the darkest eras, God has left us a witness of what happens when his people believe and follow him in the fight for justice" (Gary Haugen).
The Jews had plenty of reasons to believe in a great and awesome God, who had led them out of slavery in Egypt and into the promised land. They had concrete evidence that allowed them to continue in hope. But we can trust in this hope completely because Christ has already faced down the opposition. He has vanquished the mockers. This verse from Colossians is the fulfillment of Nehemiah's prayer:
"He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him."
So as much as others may seem to tell us, "give it up!" we cannot listen to them. Jesus is saying them same thing to us, but he is saying that we need to give up trying to overcome our doubts with our own strength. He has already done it for us, and we need to rest in that truth. We are not perfect, but the beautiful part is that we don't have to be.