#7 (THE "DON'T BE AFRAID" SERIES)
"DON'T BE AFRAID, REMEMBER THE LORD!"
TEXT: Neh. 4:1-23; 6:15-16
INTRO: Satan usually attacks us with two weapons, both are very effective in stopping us from productive living:
In some ways these two go together, for fear usually develops from discouragement, and discouragement feeds more fear.
The strongest battles you will face as a Christian will not be the actual circumstances that come into your life as much as it will be the way you respond to those situations.
A worn down saint is little threat to the Devil and evil in this world. Here are some of the things that can wear down the saints:
1. A sense of insignificance ... "you're nobody, very unimportant, you don't make a difference!"
2. Apparent unfruitfulness ... with the emphasis on the word "apparent."
3. Sustained temptations often wear down a Christian.
4. Human weakness is a major factor too, everyone has a "tiring point."
5. Strife and discord in relationships can wear down Christians.
6. Suffocating pressures of personal needs breeds discouragement, and then fear, which often results in a lack of faith!
So how do we fight discouragement which leads to fear, which creates unfruitfulness? Nehemiah in our passage reveals that there are several principles that if followed will frustrate the enemy from defeating usw and keep us fruitful for God's kingdom, these are basic steps every Christian should memorize and practice when facing discouragement and fear.
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that we are not helpless when discouragement hits, there are some steps we can take that will allow us to be victorious in the midst of discouragement and fear, S0 don't be afraid, remember the Lord!
I. CLEAR FOCUS 4:1-6
A. Tactics of Fear 4:1-3
1. Fear starts out with ridicule or discouragement.
a. Notice that Sanballat and his friends came to ridicule Israel for their plans to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, a wall that had sat in rubble for about 100 years!
b. The enemy doesn't like to see God's people making progress, so ridicule is a favorite tool to breed discouragement which will ultimately lead to fear, and when full blown leads to fruitlessness and paralysis!
c. This process is going on today in our country, Christians are ridiculed in the press and on TV … some things never change!
2. Note too that the enemy rarely works alone. Sanballat doesn't ridicule them alone, he has company! ... Misery loves company!
a. A favorite tactic of fear is to make you look like you are weak in the presence of an apparently stronger enemy, hence Sanballat and his friends with their army!
b. They had this territory for some time; they weren't prepared to let Israel reclaim it so easily.
c. The Jews however had been given legal right to come back and build, so the only thing the enemy can use is discouragement and fear as a weapon to stop them.
3. Note that another tool of the enemy is to attempt to exaggerate the problem in an attempt to get God's people to believe that they are ridiculous for making any attempt at doing something positive:
a. "will they restore their wall?" (The task was huge!)
b. "will they offer sacrifices?" (They were all poor!)
c. "will they finish it in a day?" (It may take a long time!)
d. "can they bring the stones back to life?" (Stones that were made of limestone and subjected to fire easily crumble and cracks ... note the comments about the walls falling nearly 100 years ago because of fire!)
4. Note the tools of the enemy here: discouragement, fear, and doubt!
5. All these tactics of fear were being employed to keep Israel from doing something positive, these steps are still used by the enemy of our soul to keep us from building our lives up positively!
a. Since Sanballat and his friends could not legally destroy or stop Israel, they would attempt to keep them weak and unfruitful!
b. This is often the case with the enemy of our soul, if he can keep us discouraged, afraid, and build our doubts he knows we will be of little use to God and His kingdom.
6. A believer that allows this process to keep them from doing anything will simply sit around, usually unhappy and getting harder in heart as time goes by!
a. The less we do, the harder our hearts can get!
b. Fear cripples us if left unchecked!
ILLUS:A MAN DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD NOTICED A BAG OF CEMENT THAT HAD FALLEN OFF A TRUCK, HE STOPPED TO PICK IT UP BUT WAS SURPRISED TO FIND THAT IT WAS NOT SOFT AND LIMBER, BUT HARD. FROM LACK OF USE IT HAD ABSORBED ENOUGH MOISTURE TO HARDEN INTO AN UNUSABLE OBJECT ... TAKING ON THE SHAPE OF WHERE IT HAD SAT FOR SO LONG UNUSED! THE LONGER WE SIT UNUSED, THE MORE OUR LIVES SHAPE INTO AN UNUSABLE STRUCTURE! -- Source Unknown
7. The enemy had pointed out all the reasons for them to be discouraged:
a. They were "feeble Jews" ... poor and unorganized.
b. They were looking at a wall that had been broken for 100 years!
c. They were looking at big sacrifices ... could they afford this!?
d. This was not going to be a quick project according to the enemy: "will you finish it in a day?" they taunted Israel!
8. Such are the constant tactics of fear! ... How do we deal with these tactics?!
B. Tactics of Faith! 4:4-6
1. The number one thing to do: go to God! "Hear us 0 our God...!" they cried!
a. Rather than sit down and moan over our fears, we must face them and tackle them!
b. Nehemiah's starting point is prayer ... seeking God out!
2. Notice the anger in Nehemiah's prayer: "turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder ... do not blot out their sins...!"
3. Nehemiah's anger here will have a purpose ... it will be used by him to refocus their energy and make them even more determined not to give in to the enemy!
a. There is a valid use of fear; however, it must be used to refocus our energy not to quit, it is NOT used to attack the enemy!
b. It is not a sin to be angry, only if we use anger incorrectly!
4. In essence Nehemiah simply ignores the discouragers, notice verse 6: "so we rebuilt the wall, till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart!"
a. Anger becomes useful here: it motivates Nehemiah to ignore the enemy and in fact he used it to get energized to move forward!
b. Faith ignores the enemy's attempts at discouragement, Nehemiah simply ignores all the objections and questions raised and he moves forward!
5. Nehemiah's example encourages the others to follow on to the goal!
ILLUS:AFTER THE SIEGE OF ROME IN 1859, GARIBALDI ISSUED THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT TO HIS BATTERED AND DISCOURAGED BAND OF FOLLOWERS: "SOLDIERS, ALL OUR EFFORTS AGAINST SUPERIOR FORCES HAVE BEEN UNAVAILING. I HAVE NOTHING TO OFFER YOU BUT HUNGER AND THIRST, HARDSHIP AND DEATH, BUT I CALL ON ALL THOSE WHO LOVE THEIR COUNTRY TO FOLLOW ME!"... AND THEY DID UNTIL VICTORY WAS THEIRS! ALL IT TOOK WAS AN EXAMPLE! -- Source Unknown
6. There is an important combination here:
a. Nehemiah went to God first.
b. Nehemiah starts to work next.
c. FAITH COMBINED WITH ACTION produces fruitfulness!
7. Astonishingly enough, they get the wall half built, not done in just sections; the whole wall is half way up! This is the victory of faith mixed with action!
II. CLEAR FAITH 4:7-14
A. Tenacity of Fear! 4:7-12
1. Notice the tenacity of the enemy, though Israel has quickly reached half their goal the enemy is not prepared to give up!
a. Notice now who is angry, it is the enemy! The enemy's tactics of intimidation had failed, now it is the enemy who is angry!
b. Their enemy now plots together how to increase the pressure to stop Israel.
c. When we respond in faith it might not make things better right away, the enemy is angier than ever, and will fight them harder now.
2. They will move from discouragement to outright fear now.
a. They plot a plan to stir up actual trouble for those working on the walls.
b. Intimidation has moved to the next level, opposition!
c. This new step was intentionally planned to create paralyzing fear.
3. Once Israel heard about this new stepped up plan, notice how fear affected them:
a. Their strength leaves them. "… the people in Judah said, 'The strength of the laborers is giving out,'" 4:10
b. They are overwhelmed now with the task to finish ... "too much rubble to continue building..." 4:lOb
c. They state that they are sure they are all going to die! 4:11
d. They panic, notice now who is saying words of discouragement: 4:12 "then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, 'wherever you turn, they will attack us!'"
e. Now who was exaggerating the problem!!? Israel was!
4. They were only dwelling on their fears, thus the "10 times over" comment!
a. No doubt they had worked hard and were really tired, this makes them vulnerable to a new wave of discouragement and fear!
b. Notice that even when we have moved on in faith, we can stumble again part way through if we allow fear back in!
c. Fear does not give up easily, and it likes to make return visits!
B. Tenacity of Faith! 4:13-14
1. "Therefore..." introduces a step to take action, fear would not defeat Nehemiah!
a. Rather than sit down and quit, Nehemiah starts making plans to still finish the wall!
b. Faith has its own tenacity, a greater strength than fear.
2. Notice in verse 9 the formula for dealing with the next wave of fear:
a. "We prayed to our God."
b. "We posted a guard..."
c. FAITH + ACTION again will = SUCCESS!
3. It is not enough to just pray, or just act, these must be done in concert with each other!
4. In verse 14 we find the same 2 fold dynamic again!
a. "remember the Lord"
b. "fight for your brothers..."
5. Notice that once again Nehemiah redirects their fear of the enemy into constructive action... "fight for your families."
a. What greater motivation can there be other than protecting your home!?
b. They were not to forget the great God they served, and their loved ones that needed protection!
6. Nehemiah realizes that only a motivation that joins them all together will make them successful, they must all work together!
ILLUS: BACK IN 1957 THE FIRST BRETHREN CHURCH OF SARASOTA, FLORIDA HAD A GROUND BREAKING SERVICE. INSTEAD OF THE USUAL SHOVELS FOR SPECIAL PEOPLE TO USE IN DIGGING, THEY BROUGHT AN OLD ONE HORSE PLOW. USING THE WORDS OF JESUS TO "TAKE MY YOKE UPON YOU" THEY BORROWED AN OLD YOKE AND PUT TWO STRONG LAYMEN IN THEM TO PULL THE PLOW ... BUT THEY COULDN'T BUDGE IT. THEY ADDED THE ENTIRE BUILDING COMMITTEE, BUT STILL THE PLOW WENT NO WHERE. OTHER CHURCH OFFICERS WERE ADDED BUT THE PLOW STILL COULD NOT BE PULLED. FINALLY EVERY MEMBER OF THE CHURCH JOINED IN AND THE PLOW MOVED AND TURNED OVER THE DIRT. THERE IS A GREAT LESSON HERE! ! -- Source Unknown
7. If they were too tired to fight and work on for themselves, then they needed to realize they weren't doing it just for themselves, but for the next generation!
a. How about you ... do you quit and give in too easily to fear?
b. What are we teaching the next generation?
c. Fight for your families ... and don't forget God ... He is great and awesome!
III. CLEAR FRUIT 4:15-23; 6:15-I6
A. Triumph of Faith! 4:15-23
1. Notice how the table had turned, the enemy had first discouraged them and created fear ... now it was the other way around!
a. While it was Nehemiah that had found out the plans and had made plans to post guards, notice however who he gives the credit to: "we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it..." 4:15
b. The original vision of just building a wall seemed so simple, they didn't know there was going to be so many complications along the way, but they stuck to the vision in spite of the surprises that came!
2. Notice that when the people realized that God was on their side, and that they could fight together and still finish the job that they "returned to the wall, each to his own work."
a. A renewed strength gripped them!
b. You will note that in all this time, they didn't seek to quit their work and just go after the enemy ... they left the enemy in God's hand and prepared to take on the enemy's attack, but not to become sidetracked away from the work of the wall!
c. They don't lose sight of their vision or get sidetracked!
3. Note too that the leaders get down in the trenches with the people to work!
a. This alone was inspiring!
b. If the enemy made good on their threats Israel had a plan ready to go. But until then, they would continue building!
c. Sometimes the enemy can win if he just gets us to leave off our work for God to go chasing after the enemy!
d. Some adjustments had to be made to the original vision ... working in shifts with a sword in one hand and a block in the other wasn't the original idea, but they would get it done one way or another!
4. All this new stuff would only make them stronger and more united when the wall was done ... something better than just ending up with a wall!
a. Though there had been these new snags, those snags were strengthening them in ways they could not know right then!
b. God often takes us down paths with new twists we didn't expect, all to make us stronger!
ILLUS: IF YOU WATCH A LOGGING OUTFIT WORK ON THE RIVERS YOU WILL SEE A MAN WITH A LONG PICK OCCASIONALLY JAB A CERTAIN LOG AND SEPARATE IT FROM THE OTHERS. TO THE OUTSIDE IT DOESN'T SEEM THAT THESE "CHOSEN" LOGS ARE ANY DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHER ONES COMING DOWN ... BUT THERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCE! TO AN EXPERT EYE THE DIFFERENCE CAN BE SEEN. THE OTHER TREES ARE FROM THE VALLEY, THESE HE LETS PASS, BUT THE "SPECIAL" TREES ARE FROM THE MOUNTAIN TOPS WHERE THEY ARE EXPOSED TO SEVERE CONDITIONS. IT IS THESE TREES THAT ARE SO VALUABLE IN MAKING FINE FURNITURE. THE HARSH CONDITIONS CAUSE THEIR GRAINS TO GROW CLOSE TOGETHER AND FORM A VERY TIGHT PACK MAKING THE WOOD UNUSUALLY STRONG. THESE TREES ARE TOO GOOD FOR ORDINARY USES! -- Source Unknown
B. Trophy of Faith 6:15-16
1. Incredibly, they finished the walls in 52 days! Walls that had been broken down in rubble for 100 years went back up in 52 days!
a. What a trophy to their faith!
b. Not one family in Jerusalem after this could look at that wall and not be inspired by what God and His people can do if they don't give in to fear!
2. They could have quit, they could have mumbled around in fear, they could have felt sorry for themselves, but they didn't, they pressed on in faith until they had their trophy for all to see!
3. The tables are turned! Look at what this verse says about the enemy!
a. 6:16 "their enemies were afraid..."
b. "their enemies lost their self-confidence..."
c. "their enemies realized that Israel had had God's help!"
4. Because they remembered the Lord He remembered them! No more fear!
5. It is amazing what God can do with someone that will not cave in to fear.
ILLUS: CRIPPLE HIM AND YOU HAVE A SIR WALTER SCOTT. LOCK HIM IN A PRISON CELL AND YOU HAVE A JOHN BUNYAN. BURY HIM IN THE SNOWS OF VALLEY FORGE AND YOU HAVE A GEORGE WASHINGTON. RAISE HIM IN ABJECT POVERTY AND YOU HAVE AN ABRAHAM LINCOLN. STRIKE HIM DOWN WITH INFANTILE PARALYSIS AND HE BECOMES FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT. BURN HIM SO SEVERELY THAT THE DOCTORS SAY HE'LL NEVER WALK AGAIN AND YOU HAVE A GLENN CUNNINGHAM WHO SET THE WORLD RECORD FOR A ONE MILE RUN IN 1934. DEAFEN HIM AND YOU HAVE A LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN. HAVE HIM BORN IN A SOCIETY FILLED WITH RACISM AND YOU HAVE A BOOKER T. WASHINGTON, A MARIAN ANDERSON, A GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER. CALL HIM A SLOW LEARNER OR RETARDED AND WRITE HIM OFF AS UNEDUCABLE AND YOU HAVE AN ALBERT EINSTEIN! LIFE IS 20% WHAT HAPPENS TO US, AND 80% OF THE WAY WE RESPOND TO EVENTS! ! -- Source Unknown
6. When you are afraid, do two things:
a. Remember the Lord!
b. Post a guard, plan and work!
7. These two things will make you invincible and can cause the enemy of your soul to quake in fear instead of your quaking in fear!
8. Keep building, even if this means new responsibilities that you didn't anticipate when you first began in faith. Remember the Lord and be ready to fight!
CONCLUSION: What do you do when the voices of discouragement and fear shout louder than the still small voice of faith? Nehemiah repeatedly attacked fear with a two pronged angle:
(1. Remember the Lord ... and
(2. fight! ... in other words, FAITH and ACTION! If we do this we don't have to be afraid - but the enemy sure will be!