My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called by our Creator to be a holy priesthood and His ambassadors in this world. The book of Nehemiah is full of strong and profound spiritual messages. It is a book written for those whose hearts are passionate for God’s work. We live today in difficult times, times of spiritual wilderness and the Lord is calling His faithful, godly people to make a difference.
We will look now into the life of Nehemiah and seek to discover the causes and the cure for discouragement. The book of Nehemiah is full of strong and profound spiritual messages. It is a book written for those whose hearts are passionate for God’s work. We live today in difficult times, times of spiritual wilderness and the Lord is calling His faithful, godly people to make a difference.
In the first chapter we read about the shameful physical and spiritual state of Israel after their return from the Babylonian slavery. This was a consequence of their choice of serving and worshipping other gods. The book is showing the condition in which people find themselves when they turn their hearts from God. We read in the book about shame, ruins, disgrace, miserable lives, deception, spiritual and moral compromises, broken walls and burned gates. It is practically the same tragic image that we see in the world today.
Like in so many other occasions in the history we see that the Lord God choosed one man to make a difference. His name was Nehemiah
In chapter two we find Nehemiah inspecting the walls of Jerusalem and making the plan of rebuilding the city. He wa willing to give up the luxury in Susa for the dust in Jerusalem. Chapter three is a beautiful image of how people can work together to fulfill God’s plan.
When we get to chapter 4 we find Nehemiah in a tough moment in his life. This is the chapter that I will focus on today and hopefully we will learn some important lessons from which we can all be encouraged.
God had given Nehemiah a vision and a plan to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and to renew the faith of the people. However like any project that God gives us, Nehemiah faced some huge obstacles. There were people that did not want to see God’s work completed, they did not want to see Jerusalem strengthen and they did not want to see the walls rebuilt. As a result they did everything in their power to stop it. They wanted Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem to become so discouraged by all their efforts that they would give up and surrender God’s plan.
Discouragement is a highly contagious and an easily transmitted disease. It doesn’t matter if you are a Christian for a year or fifty years. Every Christian can find himself attacked by discouragement. And when it gets a hold on our life it can drag us down into despair and eventually into depression.
But there is good news: Discouragement is beatable. If we learn to guard our hearts well we can ensure that when the time comes we will be prepared to face it.
In verse 6 disappointment appears and it comes at a very predictable moment. Let’s read please vs.6. Let’s focus a little on the phrase, “half its height”.
Isn’t that the way it always happens? Right when you come to the halfway point discouragement sets in. When we start something new our excitement and enthusiasm for a project/ for a relationship/ for our faith carries us forward. But when we reach the mid-way point, negative thoughts often begin. We begin to examine our progress. What once seemed possible now looks so hard to finish, almost impossible. The results that at first encouraged us now appear small and insignificant, the help we had in the beginning has started to fade and the finish line seems so far, even farther than it was when we began.
Discouragement loves the mid-point. It’s the place where it is so hard start over or quit. When it comes to our faith, once you make a new commitment to God (to pray or to give or to serve) and begin taking steps to fulfill God’s plan Satan is waiting to attack. In verses 10-12 we read about four things Satan will use to cause us to be discouraged and to keep us from reaching the goal given to us by God.
Let us read vs.10-12.
1. The first cause of discouragement is TIREDNESS that results from a loss of strength.
The number one cause for discouragement is often tiredness. We are just too tired, too worn-out. Many bible teachers believe that the reason the rebuilding of the wall caught so much attention was because of their initial success. Nehemiah put together a work force that was so highly motivated that it caught the attention of everyone watching. Their speed and efficiency was remarkable and news spread quickly. Their enemies became afraid and sought to halt their progress.
The other result of their success was an overworked labor force. In their excitement to protect themselves they did not recognize that their speed and enthusiasm could become their greatest enemy. They were physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. They did not plan for a time of rest. If we look back in chapter three we’ll see that Nehemiah didn’t hire a construction team. Nehemiah team of builders had girls, boys, slaves, priests, youth and elderly. Many of them were never involved in a project like this. They had no idea what it meant to work hard from sunrise to sunset.
We need to be careful and to learn to create barriers in our lives so that we can check our energy level: spiritually, physically and emotionally so that tiredness does not set in. Take time to rest. Spend some time away from everything that causes you stress. If we allow tiredness to set in that will take us to second cause of discouragement.
2. The second cause of discouragement is FRUSTRATION that comes when we lose vision.
Nehemiah said the problem was their perception; they believed there was too much rubble. The people had lost God’s. Instead of seeing the big picture the workers focused on the mess/rubble of their lives.
I wonder how many of you have the kind of job where your work is never finished? If you do, you understand what frustration is like. The feeling that you are never free, you are always under pressure. And because of all the deadlines you’re never able to relax. Those feelings can cause you to loose sight of God’s plan for your life.
The goal of frustration is to break you or to divide you. Satan wants you to feel lost and abandoned by God. He wants you to feel worthless, helpless and insignificant to accomplish anything.
But that is just the devil’s lie! As a child of God no matter what you have done in the past you are valuable. God has a purpose and a plan for my life that exceeds anything that the world can offer. We need to be very careful and not get caught with our eyes in the rubble and forget what living for God means.
3. The third cause of discouragement is SETBACK resulting from a loss of confidence.
Once tiredness had taken over and frustration set in, the people failed. They lost confidence in themselves, in each other and ultimately in God. At the end of verse 10 they said to themselves “we cannot rebuild the wall”.
This is the third stage of discouragement, a stage that always begins the same way. It begins with words like: I can’t do it, it’s impossible, I will fail, I never succeed. Words that convince us there is no hope for the future. The truth is failure is never final. Failure is just an opportunity to try again.
The question is not if we will fail The question we need to ask ourselves is, How well do I fail? When something is not accomplished on time or I don’t live up to my expectations, how do I respond? Do I give into self-pity? Do I blame myself for things that I can’t control? Or do I blame others?
The need to learn that failure is never final and with God it is always a door to new opportunities.
4. The last cause of discouragement is Fear due to a loss of security, vs.11-12.
When we decide to build something for God there will always be someone who wants to discourage or stop you. When the wall began to go up Nehemiah’s enemies tried to stop the work. They started with jokes continued with criticism and when that failed they threatened them with death. However it wasn’t their enemies actions that produced fear, it was how they responded to the threat.
In verse 11, notice that it is says, “And also Our enemies said.”
The first step towards fear is listening to people who don’t speak for God. When we stop listening to God and start listening to God’s enemies we loose our sense of security. No one likes to be ridiculed, no one likes to be criticized or threatened. Yet when it happens we always need to consider the source. If it is not from God, it is a lie! God is on your side. Our Lord Jesus that the only one we should fear is our God. If God is for us who can be against us?
Also notice in verse 12 who becomes afraid first. Then the Jews who LIVED NEAR THEM came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.”
The ones who were afraid were the ones surrounded by negative people. Not everyone giving advice is worth listening. There will be people in our life that would love to see us fail. Their goal is keep us from experiencing God’s best. The only way to overcome people like that is to cut them from our lives or to distance ourselves from them.
There is a pattern to discouragement, it begins with tiredness, it translates into frustration, it is multiplied by failure and it results in fear.
Lets look at how Nehemiah responds to discouragement, vs.13-15. The answer to discouragement is found in understanding these verses. There are four things that God wants us to do when we find ourselves in situations like this.
1. The first step in overcoming discouragement is to REPOSE and REORGANIZE our lives.
In order to stop the spread of discouragement Nehemiah had to reorganize his work force and in the process he had to stop the work. Sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is to get some rest. To stop what we are doing, to take a break from what is bringing us down and rest. To just go into our room, close the door and enjoy the silence. Put aside the negative and begin thanking God for all the good things He has put in your life.
And once you have rested you need to reorganize. Discouragement does not mean you are doing the wrong things, but it might mean that you are doing them the wrong way. The tendency when we get discouraged is to give up on the dream/ the hope/ the vision and do something else. Nehemiah did not give up, he just tried something different.
2. The second step in overcoming discouragement is to always Remember that God is with us, vs.14
The best way to overcome your discouragement is to focus on something bigger. It is easy to get caught with our eyes in the rubble. It’s easy to get lost in the responsibilities and duties of life. But that is not where life is found. Your life is more than making money, your life is more than being a good parent, husband or wife, your life is more than being a good Christian at church, your life is found in your personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Take your eyes off your fears and with all your strength focus on God. When Jonah was discouraged because of his own failure he said,
“When I had lost all hope, I turned my thoughts once more to the LORD.”
Apostle Peter was able to walk on water as long as he had his eyes on Jesus. When he let himself distracted by what was happening around him he started to sink.
The things that we focus on will determine our feelings. Am I focused on myself? On my problems? Or on Christ?
3. The third step in overcoming discouragement is to Fight back, end of vs 14.
“FIGHT for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” Don’t give into discouragement without a fight. We can’t always choose what we experience but we can choose how we respond. Discouragement is a disease that is easily caught but it does not have to become an epidemic. It can be resisted!
We are at war. Satan will use everything in his power to keep you from experiencing God’s best gifts. To accomplish the task he will send discouragement into your life. Don’t let her in! Your are a child of God, you are an heir of the kingdom, you have been made perfect in Christ. Reject discouragement and resist it!
4. The fourth step in overcoming discouragement is to Return to work.
Once the people had rested and reorganized their lives, once they had focused on the Lord and once they had strengthened their defenses, they returned to work. The goal of discouragement is to convince you that all hope is lost: that all your efforts are in vain and your God is small! We need to demonstrate our commitment and faith in Christ by returning to work.
The angel of God says in Rev. 2:4-5, “you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, repent and do the deeds you did at first.” Return to work.
Discouragement is universal and no one can escape it. Though some of us have a harder time overcoming its effects, we all have to learn to resist it. There is a difference between being discouraged and discouragement having a hold on you. When you are discouraged you are still in control of your emotions but when discouragement has you, it begins to take control of your life. The goal of discouragement is to make you unproductive for God and drag you down.
Remember that discouragement is not from God. God might use your discouragement, but He does not want you to stay discouraged. Instead discouragement is an instrument of Satan. He will use the criticism of others, difficult circumstances and your own weaknesses to convince you that you are worthless and you will never be able to do much. If we don’t learn to reject and resist these thoughts, we will eventually begin to believe it.
Brothers and sister we are God’s team of builders in the 21st century. This world is in ruins and the people live in shame and disgrace. As it was the case of Israel, maybe we are not the best builders or the most qualified but I pray that when God looks down at us from Heaven he will see His people working with all their heart.
The Lord God called us to be the living sacrifices and testimonies of His amazing grace and power of transformation for the people in this world.
Israel needed a miracle to come out from the darkness in which they were. And that miracle was Nehemiah. I urge you be today the miracles of God that this world so desperately needs.
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all who love Him with an undying love. Amin!