When Ministry Grows by Pastor Abidan Shah

WHEN MINISTRY GROWS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whenministrygrowsIntroduction: This is our second message in our new series – NO BENCHWARMERS and this one is called – “WHEN MINISTRY GROWS.”

Nehemiah 4   6 So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. 7 Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, 8 and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. 9 Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.

Bridge: How many of you would agree with the statement – “Anytime something good begins to happen, the Devil always shows up”? It is true in our personal lives, in our families, in our workplaces as a Christian, and even in our church.

Nehemiah - Gustave DoreContext: The Book of Nehemiah is a perfect example of this. The Jewish people led by Nehemiah were trying to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. If you remember, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had destroyed the city of Jerusalem in 587 BC, destroyed the Temple, and the city walls. In 539 BC God had brought the people back into the land and commanded them to rebuild. They rebuilt the temple by 516 BC but the city walls lay in ruins. A city without walls is a city without security, stability, and identity. So God sent a man by the name of Nehemiah in 445 BC to bring the people of Jerusalem and Judah together to rebuild the city walls. If you do the math, that’s almost 100 years after they were back to the land! It’s easy to tear down a work but it’s very hard to rebuild one. By much prayer, Nehemiah rallied the people to begin the work but it wasn’t long before the opposition showed up. In today’s message, we’re going to see what happens when ministry grows and opposition shows up.

Question: Are you part of God’s rebuilding project at Clearview? Are you even aware of what God is doing here at Clearview? Can you see how God is rebuilding lives, homes, marriages, young people and our community? Have you asked Him where He wants you to be in His building project? Are you saved? Are you a citizen of the Heavenly City?

4 things we will learn about what to do when a ministry grows and opposition comes:

I. EXPECT OPPOSITION.

Nehemiah 4:1 But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews.

Sanballat the HoroniteBackground: Literally it means – this man named Sanballat was hot and irritated when he saw the Jewish people rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and he began to mock and make fun of the people rebuilding the wall. Who was Sanballat? Archaeologists tell us that he was the governor of Samaria to the north of Jerusalem. He was Nehemiah’s chief enemy. The wall was a threat to him. So what does he do? He begins to ridicule the Jewish people. Ridicule or mockery is Satan’s choice weapon to discourage and dishearten God’s people. Shakespeare called ridicule “paper bullets of the brain.” Scottish Philosopher Thomas Carlyle once called ridicule “the language of the devil.”

Tobiah the AmmoniteWhat did Sanballat say? 2 And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? (He mocked them physically.) Will they fortify themselves? (He mocked their construction knowledge.) Will they offer sacrifices? (He mocked their faith) Will they complete it in a day? (He mocked their determination.) Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stones that are burned?” (He mocked their resources) 3 Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him…” Who was Tobiah? He was the governor of Ammon to the east of Jerusalem. He came from a family of very powerful Jewish aristocrats. He wasn’t happy either because the wall was also a threat to him. “And he said, ‘Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.’” Chuck Swindoll remarked – “Critics run with critics.”

Application: Have you ever had to deal with Satan’s mockery? I’ve had to. Sometimes he uses people who appear very close to you. You would think that it would be easy to brush it off but its not. Warren Wiersbe said, “Some people who can stand bravely when they are shot at will collapse when they are laughed at.” Have you abandoned some God-given dreams because someone ridiculed you? Let the Holy Spirit help you refocus and get back to the task God has called you to. As a church, we have to be aware of Satan’s opposition. Be aware of his ridicule through some Sanballat or some Tobiah.

II. REMEMBER TO PRAY.

4 “Hear, O our God, for we are despised…”

Background: Nehemiah could have become angry; he could have argued with Sanballat and Tobiah; he could have believed them and given up. Instead, he did what he did when the work first began. He turned towards God. Listen to his prayer: 4 Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity! 5 Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked You to anger before the builders.

Nehemiah was a man of prayer. He prayed what is known as an imprecatory prayer, where he prayed for God’s judgment upon the enemy. That sounds awful, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t they have prayed like Jesus – “Father forgive them for they not know what they do”? Keep in mind that Nehemiah was not praying for personal vengeance. He was reminding God that the enemy had dishonored Him. They were provoking Him. Nehemiah knew that ultimately this was God’s work. And did prayer work? 6 So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

Application: At Clearview we believe strongly in the power of prayer. Every Sunday morning we have the Sunday Morning Prayer Zone where men pray for the service. Every Tuesday morning the ladies come together for a time of prayer. Wednesday evening before Bible study we have a time of prayer. Then this weekend, Friday noon to Saturday noon we will be having our prayer vigil. If you haven’t signed up, go by the welcome room and sign up. Men – we need you to sign up for the night hour so the women can come in and pray during the day hour. The only way we as a church still have “a mind to work” is because God keeps giving us the strength to persevere in the face of opposition.

III. GUARD THE MISSION. 

Nehemiah's enemies7 Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, Keep in mind that the Enemy never gives up. God is blessing Clearview. Lives are being transformed. Do you think the Enemy is happy? Absolutely not. Once he knows that we’re not going to respond to his ridicule, he will return with another weapon. 8 “and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion.” Another of the Enemy’s choice weapons is confusion. He likes to come in and get the people all confused about their roles and the direction“I don’t know what I am doing…” “I don’t know where we are going…” What happens when people are confused about those two things? They turn on each other and before you know it the work is over.

What did Nehemiah and the Jewish people do? 9 Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night. Meaning: They prayed and actively began to guard the work against any confusion from the enemy. They were clear about who they were and what they were doing.

Today we had our first annual praise team retreat. The one thing they discussed more than anything else was the mission of Clearview. Do you know the mission of Clearview? Our mission is to “lead all people into a life-changing and ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” Our slogan is “Making Christ Visible.”

Application: Do you guard yourself against the Enemy? Do you reject his attempt to bring confusion into our church family? Do you know what is the mission of our church? Do you know what your role is in the body?

IV. DIVIDE THE WORK.

Nehemiah guards vision10 Then Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall.” Who is Judah? It is another designation for the Jewish people. It was a way of saying that all the Jewish people began to lose their momentum. The task seemed too big. Plus, verse 11 And our adversaries said, “They will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease.” The Enemy is relentless, especially when people are tired.

Can this happen at church? Oh yes! The 20% gets tired and wants to quit. They start hearing a negative comment here and an attitude there and they want to give up. What was Nehemiah’s reaction to all this? 13 Therefore I positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. Nehemiah is dividing up the work and every family is involved in doing their part. But, there’s something more – 14 And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.” Nehemiah does not tell them to build the wall. He tells them to see the big picture. Fight for your loved ones.

Application: How do you see your role at Clearview? Is it “I got to teach Sunday School. I have to keep nursery. I have practice tonight. Is it Kindle again this week?” Or do you look at what you do as fighting for your brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, wives, and husbands?

16 So it was, from that time on, that half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows, and wore armor; and the leaders were behind all the house of Judah. 17 Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon. Nehemiah continues to divide the work and guard the vision.

Application: Have you been praying and asking God where He wants you to work? The title of the series is “No Benchwarmers.” Are you a benchwarmer?

Just so we don’t walk away thinking that Nehemiah was a very skillful project manager, listen to these verses – 19 Then I said to the nobles, the rulers, and the rest of the people, “The work is great and extensive, and we are separated far from one another on the wall. 20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”

In the end Nehemiah reminded them that God was going to give them victory. In the end God will work everything together for good at Clearview. Our best days are here and even better days are coming ahead.

Are you trusting God to fight for you? Do you know the Living and True God? Are you saved

The Blessing of Standing Up for What’s Right

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THE BLESSING OF STANDING UP FOR WHAT’S RIGHT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

standingupforwhatsright

This is our eighth and final message in our series on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount and today’s message is titled, “THE BLESSING OF STANDING UP FOR WHAT’S RIGHT.” Keep in mind the series called SALT AND LIGHT on the Sermon on the Mount is far from over.

Matthew 5 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Overall Background: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” This final beatitude is very different from the rest. It deals with a subject that is very painful and has brought great sorrow to the people of God through the centuries. It has tested the reality of their faith and the firmness of their convictions. In fact, I don’t like to talk about it much because I had to experience it growing up. The subject is Persecution. Simply defined, it means – “any form of harassment and aggression against you because of your faith in Jesus Christ.” I’m sure we’ve all heard of the persecution of the early church and through the Middle Ages, and even now in Russia, China, and the Middle East. Unfortunately, persecution is not that far away anymore. It’s already on your doorstep. Ask Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of the Oregon-based Sweet Cakes by Melissa, who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple and were fined $135,000. Eventually, they were forced to close their business.

Aaron and Melissa Klein

Aaron and Melissa Klein

Sweet Cakes by Melissa

Sweet Cakes by Melissa

Klein Family

Klein Family

Application: What would you have done? Would you have stood up for righteousness or would you have given in? How would you handle persecution? Here’s a deeper question – Is there enough evidence in your life for the world persecute you? Are you saved?

Many of you have told me how much you have enjoyed this series. If you ask me, this is the most important message in this entire series on the Beatitudes. It is important for us individually, for our children, for our grandchildren, for our church, and for our nation’s future. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you like never before. 3 questions again:

I. WHY DOES PERSECUTION COME? 

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake…”

Background: Jesus makes it clear that persecution comes for righteousness sake. Now, what is righteousness? Remember, the fourth beatitude – Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” In this context, righteousness is not just the imputed righteousness of Christ – the righteousness that is accounted to us as Paul talks about it in Romans 4, the forensic righteousness – but it is the daily practical righteousness. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that brings about an external change. Because we are saved we begin to live a life that day-by-day pleases God, that step-by-step obeys His word, and that moment-by-moment looks more and more like Jesus Christ. There’s a difference in the way we walk, talk, see, and hear. There is a difference in the way we work, play, shop, and live in this world. There is a difference in the way we treat our friends and families. There is also a difference in the way we treat our enemies and our opponents. In short, it’s not the righteousness that saves but the righteousness that shows that I’m saved.

How does the world react to this kind of righteousness in us? Some people admire us. Some people aspire to be like us. But, there are others who avoid us and even attack us. This is persecution for righteousness sake. Jesus was actually quoting the Old Testament when He gave this beatitude. Psalm 37:12 The wicked plots against the just (righteous), And gnashes at him with his teeth. Psalm 119 157 Many are my persecutors and my enemies, Yet I do not turn from Your testimonies…161 Princes persecute me without a cause, But my heart stands in awe of Your word. But Jesus gave a deeper reason for this hatred. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In other words, if you are persecuted for being godly, it’s because you have the kingdom of heaven. What is the kingdom of heaven? Do you remember the first beatitude? “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The Kingdom of Heaven is the rule of God through the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who have received Jesus as their Savior. Remember what Paul said in Romans 14:17 “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Persecution is the assurance that the Holy Spirit is in your life. Listen carefully – “The real reason the world hates you is not you but the one who is in you.”

For e.g. I used to work at a job laying Cat 5’s all over the state. The guys I worked with knew what I was doing. Some of them were fine with me but others hated me and I never understood that. Maybe its because I wanted to go home rather than drink and go to the doll house.

Application: The question is not “Are you facing persecution?” The real question is “Are you godly?” 2 Tim. 3:12 “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Here’s a different way of asking that question: “Do you have the Holy Spirit in your life?” If you’re not saved, then you don’t have the Holy Spirit and there’s no reason for the world to hate you.

II. HOW SHOULD WE HANDLE PERSECUTION? 

Background: Unfortunately, most messages end with – “Persecution proves that America is not a Christian nation anymore.” “It’s just gonna get worse and worse.” “It’s just the signs of the times.” The problem with these statements is that it is contrary to what the Bible says. Thank goodness Jesus told us what to do! Listen to verse 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Who are the prophets before you? We don’t have time to recount each of them but here are just a few:

Moses – Exodus 17:3   And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!”

Jeremiah – Jeremiah 20 1 Now Pashhur the son of Immer, the priest who was also chief governor in the house of the LORD, heard that Jeremiah prophesied these things. 2 Then Pashhur struck Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the high gate of Benjamin, which was by the house of the LORD.

Daniel – Daniel 6  4 So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.”…16 So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions.

Application: This is a hard one to apply because many of us haven’t faced hard-core persecution. Let me ask in a different way – how do you respond when you get slighted, mistreated, and neglected? Do you rejoice? Are you exceedingly glad? Do you consider your great reward in heaven? Or do you pitch a fit? Do you pay back ten fold? Our response to our trials is just a precursor of our response to persecution.

III. HOW DOES THIS BLESSING WORK?

13 “You are the salt of the earth;

Background: Keep in mind that this is all one message. Just when you think that the message is over, the most important point is about to come. We use just a pinch of salt in our food. That’s all we typically need. What’s the point? Persecution has a way of thinning out the crowd down to a pinch. What’s happening in America is that God is weeding out the imposters from the real deals. The problem in America is too many people are pretending to be something they’re not which is hindering those who are really searching for God from coming to Him. That’s why I believe that the greatest revival and awakening is coming very soon to America.

Now the crowd is down to a pinch but the pinch becomes indispensable. Just like salt – it’s a very small in proportion to the whole meal but it changes the flavour and the taste of the meal. “but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?” What happens to those who have lost the flavour of Christianity?It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. Churches are closing all over America but that’s not a bad thing. Too many sincere people are stuck because of some obligation and some loyalty but it’s killing the cause of Christ. But a new day is coming!

What will happen in this new day? 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Have you ever driven towards a big city at night? You can see the glow towards the sky. Those who’s truly have the light will shine brightly in this dark world and people near and far will come to them. By the way, I love it when people refer to our church as “the church on the hill.” This is not the time to hide your light but to shine it even more. Our job is not to hunker down and wait for the storm to pass. But listen to verse 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

Personal Illustration: As a 9-10 year old, I remember coming back home from school and trying to turn on the lights and the fan and nothing happened. Imagine 115° temperatures in the hot summer and not having any electricity to turn on the fan, forget about any air condition. I went to the kitchen and asked my grandmother if the power was out and she told me that our electrical connection has been cut. “Why?” “Because we’re on the same line as the church. They cut the power to the church and so our power is out as well.” I remember that night my mom crying as she went around the house lighting candles and oil lamps. We ate in the dark by candlelight, not something unusual because when power would go out, we would do that. But this time it was different. There was no estimated time when services would be restored. We went to bed early that night obviously, hoping against hope that somewhere in the middle of the night the fan would start blowing but it never did. The next morning, no hot showers. This was for real. Later that week, my dad was able to talk to a so-called “Christian” neighbor who was kind enough to run a single line to our house, just enough to turn on a light bulb. At least, we could have light. Unfortunately, some time later he got upset with us for some reason and cut the line. I think that hurt much more than the first time. But that experience and many more shaped me into the person I am today.

Home church in India (1)

Home church in India (1)

Home church in India (2)

Home church in India (2)

Home church in India (3)

Home church in India (3)

Home church in India (4)

Home church in India (4)

People have a lot of false ideas about persecution in America. Some think that it’s going to get worse and worse and it’s time to fly out. Others think that it automatically grows the church. Neither is true when you study the Bible carefully. First, God thins out the numbers to those who are truly godly. But He doesn’t stop there. Then, He holds them up like the pinch of salt and a little oil lamp to change the world for the better.

Listen to verse 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Imagine once again people in America praising your Father in heaven!

Persecution is not what God is doing to Christians in America but what God is doing through Christians for America.

Are you saved? Are you living a godly life?

WHEN YOU ARE NEAR THE FINISH LINE

WHEN YOU ARE NEAR THE FINISH LINE by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Three Examples:

1. A young girl grew up in church, great potential, wonderful goals in life. Next thing, she gets around people who pretending to be her friend lead her astray. Now she is no longer focussed and heading to her goal but has gone off the deep end.

2. Last Thursday I received an email from a friend. In the email, he mentioned a famous person whom I have admired for sometime. Most of you would know who he is if I were to mention his name. But I won’t. This friend mentioned this famous person and used the adjective “fallen.” Immediately, I went on the Internet and typed his name. Sure enough this man whom I had admired had left his wife of twenty years and was living with a mistress. He had a very high-profile position; he had influenced thousands of people for good; he had run very well; He was near the finish line but he had fallen.

3. A church that is doing great things for the Lord. Next thing, there are terrible problems. Now the church has gone through several splits. It no longer has any vision or direction.

Nehemiah 6:1-4 Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they thought to do me harm. So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” But they sent me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner.

Overall Background: Nehemiah had to overcome incredible odds to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.

  • He had to get permission from the King of Persia.
  • He had to travel 700 miles across the desert to get to Jerusalem.
  • He had to deal with the taunts and threats of the enemies.
  • He had to deal with the lack of motivation of some people.
  • He had to deal with internal problems among the people.

When You Are the Near the Finish LineIn spite of all the obstacles, Nehemiah led the people to finish the wall around Jerusalem but then listen to what happens in verse 1: Now it happened whenSanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they thought to do me harm. Knowing that the work was almost done, Nehemiah’s enemies did not stop their attacks. Instead, they rallied together for one final, ultimate assault.

Listen carefully—Just because you can see the finish line of your life, marriage, work, and ministry does not mean the race is over. In fact, the greatest attack of the enemy is usually right before you cross the finish line. He knows that he cannot stop the work; he knows that he has failed before; yet he still believes that he can get you and he launches every weapon in his arsenal to bring you down. Just like the person I mentioned earlier, many people forget that the last quarter of the race is just as important as the first quarter of the race.

This morning, I want us to see how Nehemiah handled these attacks. First, I want us to see how the attacks came against him.

I. LET’S PUT THE PAST BEHIND US.

Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, Who were these two men?

Background: If you remember, thus far, Sanballat was the chief enemy of Nehemiah. He was the governor of Samaria to the north of Jerusalem. He hated Nehemiah from Day One. While Nehemiah wanted to help the people of Jerusalem, Sanballat wanted to advance his own agenda. He knew that if the Jewish people were successful in rebuilding the wall, he would no longer be in control. So he did everything he could to sabotage the project. He was not a friend but the ringleader of the opposition.

Geshem, if you remember, was also a major opposition of Nehemiah. Some archaeological discoveries describe him as the governor of Dedan; others describe him as the king of Kedar. That being the case, Geshem controlled the eastern desert region of Syria, northern Arabia, Sinai, and northern Egypt. He was a very powerful ruler and he was afraid that rebuilding the wall and empowering the people would interfere with his lucrative trade in myrrh and frankincense, besides many other things. He was not a friend but a huge opposition.

What did they want? “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” Ono was halfway between Samaria and Jerusalem. It was a kind of a neutral ground but it was away from Jerusalem. It was closer to the enemy territory.

How did Nehemiah respond? But they thought to do me harm. Nehemiah felt in his spirit that this was a mistake. “Why would these people who have opposed me so far want to be my friends?” More than likely their plan was to lure him away from Jerusalem and then kidnap him or kill him or just say, “he had an accident.” Nehemiah had what the world calls a “sixth sense” but what we know to be a sense of discernment.

So what did Nehemiah do?So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” But they sent me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner. Meaning: Nehemiah knew that unless God had changed their hearts, they were up to no good. Unless the grace of God through Jesus Christ breaks and molds the hearts of the people, they don’t change.

How did Nehemiah have this sense of discernment? Because he was a person of prayer. Every step of the way he had prayed and trusted God and the time he spent with God made him aware of the enemy. Just like King Solomon prayed before God – Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil.” (1 Kings 3:9) Some people consider their bad experiences as their sense of discernment. But your past can make you a bitter recluse. Some people consider their suspicious personality to be their sense of discernment. But your personality can leave you looking over your shoulders all your life. It’s only the Holy Spirit through prayer who gives the most accurate discernment against the enemy.

For e.g. I can give you plenty of negative examples but let me give you a positive. When Nicole’s dad began as a pastor, there was a man in his church by the name of George. This man opposed him every step of the way. Later, Nicole’s father left and went on the mission field and pastored some other churches. About 10 years later, he was asked to help plant a church in one of the fastest growing areas in the country. They began meeting in a high school auditorium and one Sunday morning guess who walked in? George. Pastor Jerry said to himself, “Oh no!” Little did he realize what God had done in George’s life. He was not the same man. Long story short – George became his right hand man until the day he died and the church had several hundred in just a few months.

Application: Let me ask you a question – would you like to be a bitter recluse or a suspicious person or would you rather have the Holy Spirit’s discernment in your life? It only comes through prayer.

II. LET’S GET EVERYTHING OUT IN THE OPEN.

Then Sanballat sent his servant to me as before, the fifth time, with an open letter in his hand.

Nehemiah open letterBackground: In those days, letters were written on papyrus or leather sheet, tied with a string, and then sealed. Only the person addressed could break the seal and open the letter. Sanballat send an open letter so that everyone who saw it could read its contents.

What was in the letter?In it was written: It is reported among the nations, and Geshem says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their king. This was a psychological tactic. “Everybody knows what’s going on. Even if they didn’t, they do now with the open letter.” The Persian kings did not tolerate people pretending to be kings. Nehemiah worked for the king and he knew that very well.

What’s the solution? 7b Now these matters will be reported to the king. So come, therefore, and let us consult together. Meaning: Let’s straighten things out. We’ll hear both sides of the story and then we’ll get all this sorted out. They were using the “guilty unless proven innocent” approach. How tempting it was for Nehemiah to say—“ I don’t want these rumors to go any further. Let me clear up my name.”

For e.g. I see this on Facebook – people trying to clear up their name. “You know who you are and I know what you said about me.” Why do people fall for this foolishness?

How did Nehemiah respond?Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart.” Meaning: Thanks but no thanks. Nehemiah was a man of prayer and he knew that they were making this up. He had no need for anyone to take care of his reputation. He trusted God with his integrity.

For e.g. I’ve been there myself. Someone was talking trash about me. Another person wanted to play the mediator – “I will sit with both of you and help you work this out.” This person wanted to play the mediator but they couldn’t work out their own relationships. About the same time, another person came to me who had known me for sometime and said, “I trust you. I don’t need to know the other side.”

What else did Nehemiah do? For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, “Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done.” Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands. He went back to his work and went back to prayer.

Application: May I ask you – “Who is trying to distract you from your work?” Who is trying to play the mediator in your life?

III. LET’S PROTECT YOU FROM THE ENEMY.

10 Afterward I came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was a secret informer; and he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you; indeed, at night they will come to kill you.”

Background: This was a very shrewd tactic. This man Shemaiah pretended to be a friend and pretended to be a prophet of God who wanted to protect Nehemiah from the enemy. His plan to Nehemiah was to go hide in the temple. What’s wrong with that? Only the priests were allowed to enter the sanctuary. According to Numbers 18:7c “the outsider who comes near shall be put to death.” In II Chronicles 26 we hear about King Uzziah who tried to burn incense in the temple and God struck him with leprosy. Shemaiah plan was two-fold: Get Nehemiah in the temple and then have him killed according to the Law or to let God strike him with leprosy.

How did Nehemiah respond? 11 And I said, “Should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!” 12 Then I perceived that God had not sent him at all, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me. Being a person of prayer and integrity Nehemiah recognized the true intent of Shemaiah and he refused his offer.

Listen carefully: A true friend will not lead you to disobey God. A true friend will lead you to trust God more and obey Him and reject fear.

Let me say this as your pastor: If I ever teach you to live in fear, I don’t need to be your pastor. 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

The enemy used everything possible to attack Nehemiah. 1. Let’s put the past behind us. 2. Let’s get everything out in the open. 3. Let’s protect you from the enemy. At first glance, they all seem legitimate and harmless. But when you pray, you can see the beady eyes of the devil behind every one of them. Nehemiah prayed and trusted in God.

What was the result? 15 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days. (just two months) 16 And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God.

As the pastor, my heart’s desire is very simple: When all is said and done, no one should say, “Oh that church grew because of the preaching or music or programs or leadership or building.” Instead, the world should say “This work was done by God.”

When the dust settles, people should see Jesus Christ and no one else. Do you know Him? Are you looking to Him or are you looking at the enemy?

HOW TO HANDLE OPPOSITION

HOW TO HANDLE OPPOSITION by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Nehemiah 2:15-20  17Then I said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.” 18And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me. So they said, “Let us rise up and build.” Then they set their hands to this good work. 19But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they laughed at us and despised us, and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?” 20So I answered them, and said to them, “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem.”

Overall Background: By now you should be familiar with the story of Nehemiah. He was a Jewish man, serving as the cupbearer to the King of Persia—a very powerful position. But one day he hears about the suffering of the people in Jerusalem—the wall is broken down and the gates are burned with fire. He is deeply moved. He mourns and fasts and prays and finally musters the courage to go before the king and ask for his help. Amazingly the king promises to help him with everything he needs. In Nehemiah’s own words, “the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me.” (Nehemiah 2:8) There is a lesson here for all of us—“Where God guides, He provides.” In the words of Hudson Taylor of the China Inland Mission – “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.” When God is at the helm of your life, no problem or no need is too much for Him.

With that assurance, Nehemiah set off on the 700 mile journey and came to Jerusalem. You can imagine he is a little stiff. After 3 days of rest, he arose in the night with a few men and went to survey the destruction. At first he did not tell anyone what God had put in his heart. Again, there is a lesson here for all of us—Why? He did not who to trust. “When God gives you a dream, be careful who you share it with.” If you share it with the wrong person, they will try to quench it or they will try to sabotage it.

Nehemiah - Gustave DoreNehemiah 2:13And I went out by night through the Valley Gate to the Serpent Well and the Refuse Gate, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were burned with fire.” Just as a side note, the walls you see around the city of Jerusalem are not the walls that David or Solomon or Nehemiah built. These walls were built by the Ottoman emperor Suleiman in the 1530s. The other walls have been found by archaeologists.

After he had surveyed the wall, he revealed the reason for his coming and challenged the people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. How did the people respond? They responded with enthusiasm. They said, “Let us rise up and build” and they immediately went to work. How do you think Nehemiah felt at that point? After months of fasting and weeping and praying and planning and traveling, He finally saw his vision come true! How awesome to finally see it all coming together!

But, it’s never that easy, is it? Listen to Nehemiah 2:19 “But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they laughed at us and despised us, and said, ‘What is this thing that you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?’”

Anytime you do anything that is worth doing, there will be opposition.

We are building new Sunday School rooms and a bigger fellowship hall. Do you think it makes everyone happy? One person is definitely not happy – the Devil. He has been trying every possible way to quench and sabotage this project. Ask the people who have been involved in it.

Application: But this message is not just about the building project, it is also about your own lives. There are people in this room who have abandoned their dreams and given up their goals because of some opposition in their lives. What you need to realize is that opposition is part of the process.

This morning I want us to see how Nehemiah handled the oppositions that came against him so we too can renew our vision and reignite our God-given passion.

WHO WERE THE OPPONENTS?

OPPONENT #1 SANBALLAT THE HORONITESanballat the Horonite

Background: He was the chief enemy of Nehemiah. The reason for this becomes clearer when we examine his name. Sanballat was not a Jewish name. It was a Babylonian name that meant “the moon god Sin has given life.” Just look at the contrast between his name and Nehemiah. Nehemiah means “the Lord comforts.” More than likely, his ancestors were among the foreign people who were resettled in Samaria by the Assyrians when the Jewish were taken into exile to other places. Archaeologists tell us that he was the governor of Samaria to the north of Jerusalem.

Sanballat represents the world in our lives. These are people who live according to worldly principles and mindset. They don’t walk by faith but by sight. They are what the Bible refers to as “the natural man.” They don’t understand the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to them. Every church has a few Sanballats. They can’t see what God is doing.

Application: I am sure you have some Sanballats in your life right now. You share with them what God is showing you and they will look at you as if you are crazy. You share your passions and dreams with them and they can’t see it. They will only discourage you.

Tobiah the AmmoniteOPPONENT #2 TOBIAH THE AMMONITE

Background: Unlike Sanballat, Tobiah was not an outsider. He was an insider. The name Tobiah’s is actually Hebrew. It means “Yahweh is good.” But even though his name is Hebrew, Nehemiah describes him as an Ammonite. Tobiah came from a family of very powerful Jewish aristocrats. Even though he was Jewish by nationality, he was not one of them. He was the governor of Ammon to the east of Jerusalem.

Tobiah represents the flesh in our lives. It is part of us but it is our worst enemy. Every church has a few Tobiahs—Saved by the grace of God but still living according to the flesh. Every church has a few Tobiahs. All you have to is to bump against them a little and out comes the flesh with all the anger, bitterness, resentment, envy, and the rest.

Application: I am sure you have some Tobiahs in your life right now. By the way, sometimes it is your own flesh that is your worst enemy.

OPPONENT #3 GESHEM THE ARABGeshem the Arab

Background: An inscription with that name was found in northwestern Arabia. It described Geshem as the governor of Dedan. Another inscription found in Egypt described him as the king of Kedar. Dedan and Kedar occupied the eastern desert region of Syria, northern Arabia, Sinai, and northern Egypt. That being the case, Geshem must have been a very powerful ruler who was afraid that Nehemiah’s coming would interfere with his lucrative trade in myrrh and frankincense.

Geshem represents the Devil to me. He is at church every morning. He wants to bring disunity and division in the body.

Application: There is a Geshem working in your life. His purpose is to destroy your life, your marriage, your family. He wants to expand his territory. He works by intimidation and ridicule.

There you have it – the World represented by Sanballat, the flesh represented by Tobiah, and the Devil represented by Geshem. They all come at you from different angles and sometimes they come at the same time.

HOW DID THEY OPPOSE HIM?Nehemiah's Opponents

  •  They mocked him. they laughed at us and despised us, You are so foolish; you don’t have what it takes. Personal example: Some people wrote a letter to our church leaders without my knowledge, asking us to merge.
  • They questioned his motives. and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? What are you going to get out of this? If people only knew who you really are…
  • They threatened him. Will you rebel against the king?” We will go to the King against you.

Jerry Falwell once said “You do not determine a man’s greatness by his talent or wealth, as the world does, but rather by what it takes to discourage him.”

HOW DID NEHEMIAH RESPOND TO HIS OPPONENTS? It was in three clear steps.

1. HE CHOSE TO LOOK TOWARDS GOD.

20So I answered them, and said to them, “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us;

Nehemiah could have been all frazzled but He appeals to God. Not just any God but the God of Heaven. Many people give up at the first sign of opposition because they fail to look towards God. That’s why prayer is so important. It puts things in perspective.

Application: Are you facing opposition in your life? Are you looking towards your opposition or are you looking towards God?

2. HE RENEWED HIS VISION.

 therefore we His servants will arise and build,

Nehemiah could have gotten distracted and stopped the building for a more opportune time. Instead, he reminds the people not to lose sight of the vision.

For e.g. When we began the process of transition, I called Ike Reighard. He helped me understand the value of vision.

Application: What is your vision in life? Are you so focused on the negatives that you have lost sight of God’s vision for your life?

3. HE DISTANCED HIMSELF FROM HIS OPPONENTS.

but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem.”

Nehemiah could have tried to compromise and tried to keep peace. Instead, he drew the line in the sand and said, “This is where we stand.” Are you with us or against us?

The reason many churches, ministries, and individual dreams fail is because somewhere they are cuddled up with an opponent who is sabotaging and vandalizing God’s vision.

Application: Who in your life is discouraging you from fulfilling God’s vision for your life? It’s time to either fish or cut bait.

Nehemiah kept his eyes on the vision. Our vision at Clearview is to lead all people into a life changing, ever growing relationship with Jesus Christ. We will compromise on many things but we will not compromise on that.

Without Christ – this church/community/nation/world is hopeless. Without Christ – you are hopeless. Do you know Him?

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