What did you learn from last week’s sermon?
Q1: What are the means of grace (practical actions) that God gives you to face your enemies?
Q2: Are national and personal self-defense Biblical concepts or just American concepts?
Q3: Can a Christian compromise on spiritual matters with an unbeliever? Why or why not?
Q4: Is it ever okay to cut off communication with an enemy who mocks and ridicules your Biblically-grounded beliefs, decisions, or actions?
Q5: What is it called when someone tells you something about another person (good or bad) when they are not in the room?
Q6: Is gossip a sin or just socially unacceptable among Christians?
Q7: Is listening to gossip a sin?
Sermon Summary & Answers
Last Sunday, Pastor Wilson reflected on the different types of opposition that Nehemiah had to endure while doing his work on the wall. The first was the very effective tactic of mocking the people of God. Enemies often start here because weak leaders tend to crumble under initial ridicule, and many a Christian weakens in their effectiveness for the same reason. Seeing that Nehemiah and the Jews overcame this particular opposition, the enemy took a more aggressive approach, organizing and threatening physical violence toward the Jews. So, they prayed and prepared with weapons and guards.
Our takeaway thus far is…
“We pray for spiritual strength – – and we act to acquire that strength through a study of God’s Word – through the spiritual disciplines that lead to strength. We pray for our faith to be strengthened – – and we work to apply ourselves to the means of grace by which that faith is made strong.“Pastor Steve Wilson
Can he get an “Amen?” Being a Christian under attack is not a passive-wait-and-see activity. If turn-the-other-cheek is all you ever learned about the opposition, then stay tuned because Nehemiah will be an excellent education for you. Putting on the full armor of God (Ephesians) is a tangible strength-building activity in the face of our enemies.
There is no indication that the threat of violence against the Jews happened. Perhaps this was because they did mount such a strong self-defense presence that it deterred the outsiders. A peace-keeping force, if you will. We know that national and personal self-defense is a Biblical concept taught even by Jesus.
Then the threats to the Jews come from within their own people and camp. They had loansharking, famine, and parents selling their children. Nehemiah stops everything and calls for repentance and compensation for all that was lost. Nehemiah knows that he lost sight of God’s people’s care while doing the practical part (building the wall) of what God assigned him to do. A good leader learns, takes ownership, and pivots.
As we transition into chapter six, we get to put the microscope back onto the enemies (Sanballat, Tobiah, etc.) and learn what their next evil trick will be. They extend what appears to be an invitation to talk, as good ambassadors for peace would do, right? Ha! The enemy always wants to say they extended the olive-branch when really it is just a trap to escalate their evil. When the enemy is openly opposing the will, word, work, and people of God, they will not stop. If one thing doesn’t work, they’ll try another. Nehemiah knew they meant to harm him because they were openly against God’s plan.
“Enemies are enemies, and the tactics of the enemy don’t change that. Unless or until these enemies showed themselves aligned with the plan and purpose of God – – they were enemies of the plan and purpose of God. There is no summit of alliance [peaceful get-together, ecumenism, summit of compromise] between the purposes of God and the purposes of man.”Pastor Steve Wilson
Enemies simply can’t understand the principles, commands, and directions God gives us in His word. The Bible tells us they are blind and deaf to it. Believing that we could ever talk enough or witness enough to get them to understand or care about God’s intentions is just fruitless activity. Nehemiah knew this and was smart enough to say no to their request to meet. In the New Testament, Jesus tells us that we are not to cast pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6) and should shake the dust from our feet when the word of the Lord remains rejected and mocked (Matthew 10:14).
This movement away from people (not against) is God’s instruction so that He can do His will in those enemies’ lives. We can be at peace with that decision, and we can behave peacefully towards that person as best as we can (Romans 12:18). We can’t have an attitude of belligerence. We have in us the gift of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness (Galatians 5:22). Stepping away from a person doesn’t mean that you are stepping on or over a person. It means that you are lifting them up to a Mighty God for His glory and His predetermined good in their life and yours. Unbelievers see this as mean. It just isn’t because God isn’t! We can’t just talk about God-things; we have to declare God and His word through our words and actions. Now, that’s a real witness to our REAL GOD, not the appealing-god of each man’s own making.
“Just keep the point the point – – the point is the work of God – – it is directing my response – – and no matter how many times you ask me – – how many different ways you ask me – – the point will still be the work of God and I am still not coming down off this wall.”Pastor Steve Wilson
Bottom line: if your enemy doesn’t want to advance the cause (of Christ), move on, but be prepared, they will come at you again. Remember, opposition to God and His people will never stop.
In true, God-hating fashion, Sanballat and his minions go for the gold. They use every enemy’s favorite and most destructive weapon, GOSSIP. They wrote an open letter for all to read, accusing Nehemiah of lies. One of those salacious lies was that he would make himself a king and rebel against the current king (his friend). This high-level-stakes-lie was purely to manipulate Nehemiah into doing what they wanted, which was to meet so they could kill him.
Let’s not mince words; if the person you are talking about isn’t in the room and something is said about them, the other person didn’t know (good or bad), it is GOSSIP. It is a SIN. What is hard to swallow is that the person listening to the sinful-gossip is equally to blame. We must shut gossip down fast for that reason. I know that can be scary. It only makes sense to assume that your good name will be up next on the chopping block. Look at it this way; it will be your glorious opportunity to “pick up your cross” for the sake of Christ, but do it nicely. “I’d love to have this conversation with you, but why don’t we wait until Tom is in the room so that we can get his side of the story?”
Boy, am I preaching to myself here. May God grant us all the strength to avoid gossip and the strength to endure the fallout of gossip. Amen.
Nehemiah responds to the gossipers only because he sees their gossip as a threat to God’s plan to rebuild the wall and restore the Jews. He flat out tells them that they are liars. He didn’t respond because he was worried about his reputation. Think about why Jesus didn’t respond to the accusations against Him. The allegations were not inhibiting God’s plan – it was all His plan.
When the gossip didn’t work to frighten Nehemiah, the enemies sent in a paid, covert spy to lure him into doing a sinful thing to save himself, all the while compromising his integrity for all to see. Nehemiah was smarter than that. He could not be provoked or lured into sin for his own sake. He would fall as the leader God had appointed to do a critical job. Leaders have to be above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2). The real threat in all of this is FEAR.
Courage is not the absence of fear; courage is the presence of faith in God who is greater than all I might ever fear.
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- prayer and study of the word of God
- no, because the things of God are not revealed to them.
- Yes, absolutely – but you must weigh these things carefully using the tools God gives us in His word (Matthew 18).
- It’s a sin no matter where it happens.
- You bet your burning-little-ears it is!