If we never have resistance, we never become stronger.
Have you heard the saying “Whatever doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger” (or some variant)? I have. Sometimes I wonder why folks say that in the midst of a trial or some type of tribulation. Sometimes I wonder if they think they’re being profound. They sure don’t seem to care much about what I’m going through. Perhaps you have heard the same thing in similar circumstances and felt the same as I. But you know what? I’m wrong in my feelings.
The truth of the matter is that trials and tribulations enter our lives because God chooses them to enter our lives for the purpose of refining us and strengthening us (James 1). If we never have resistance, we never become stronger. But when we face resistance with the right attitude and meet it head-on, strength for our journey of faith is increased and God is glorified.
We just saw what discouragement can do to us through the example of Nehemiah and his builders. They were fatigued, frustrated and fearful. But did they stay there? Or did they find the result of the resistance to doing God’s was better – much better – than their initial reactions. Let’s take a look and see.
When our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had frustrated their plan, then all of us returned to the wall, each one to his work. From that day on, half of my servants carried on the work while half of them held the spears, the shields, the bows and the breastplates; and the captains were behind the whole house of Judah. Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon. As for the builders, each wore his sword girded at his side as he built, while the trumpeter stood near me. I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is great and extensive, and we are separated on the wall far from one another. At whatever place you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”
So we carried on the work with half of them holding spears from dawn until the stars appeared. At that time I also said to the people, “Let each man with his servant spend the night within Jerusalem so that they may be a guard for us by night and a laborer by day.” So neither I, my brothers, my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us removed our clothes, each took his weapon even to the water. Nehemiah 4:15-23 NASB
The first way we are strengthened by opposition is that opposition makes us resilient.
When our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had frustrated their plan, then all of us returned to the wall, each one to his work. Nehemiah 4:15 NASB
Notice the progression here in verse 15. There enemies heard that their plans had been revealed to the builders and that God had frustrated their plan. The result was that the workers – all of them – returned to work on the wall. While the builders were initially frustrated at their circumstances, their circumstances made them resilient enough to bounce back – with faith and reliance on God – and continue the work they had been called to accomplish.
Nehemiah didn’t give lectures to the workers. He didn’t try to guilt the workers into returning to work. Nehemiah simply reminded the people that God was for them, not against them. That God had brought them to this point not to break them but to build them. God was making them into a resilient bunch!
How are you doing in being resilient in spite of opposition? I know this is an area where I struggle quite a bit. Sometimes I just want to hide when opposition to my serving God occurs. Does that ever happen to you? When it does, remember this lesson from Nehemiah –
God is for you, not against you. Bounce back and get back to building your wall.
Rethink and Reorganize
Another way we are strengthened by opposition is by the opposition making us rethink and reorganize our priorities. Nehemiah had already organized the people in chapter 3 and they had finished half of their task. Now, however, a new situation had come about that required a change in organization.
Nehemiah had to rethink his strategy for building the wall. Before this opposition, Nehemiah had organized the builders in teams and everyone built their portion of the wall. Now that there was some serious opposition rearing its ugly head, Nehemiah revisited that strategy. He had to think anew – rethink – the best way to accomplish this task in light of changing circumstances. We shouldn’t let this get lost on us. When our circumstances change and we are opposed by the enemies of God, we need to rethink our strategy. We need to be flexible enough to change how we are going about doing God’s work. So Nehemiah thought and came to a conclusion: if the enemies were going to attack they would most likely do so at the weakest places. So Nehemiah put guards at all the vulnerable spots. This served two purposes – it discouraged the enemy and it encouraged the people because it dealt with their fear.
When we’re discouraged, one of the things we can do is to reorganize our priorities. You can look at your life. You can adopt a change in approach instead of becoming so discouraged that you quit. Do you have a problem in your marriage? In your job? Church? Walk with God? If so, don’t bail out! Rethink your problem, reorganize your thoughts and keep moving toward the goal to which God has called you.
In verse 16 the workers reorganized again by dividing responsibilities – half worked and the other half kept watch. Those who worked used one hand for pushing the wheelbarrow, and with the other hand, they carried a weapon. And, they worked together as a team.
Now let’s back up and look at this passage as a whole. Do you see what I see? The workers did not flee. They remained at the worksite, they remained building the wall. That is the final thing I think we can glean from this passage in Nehemiah. When opposition comes (and it will), remain where God has called you.
When I was a pastor of a small church, there were times where I just wanted to flee. I just wanted out. Why? The opposition had planted a Sanballat and Tobiah in our congregation. They stirred up trouble and discouragement. It was difficult to be sure to get in the pulpit each week knowing – KNOWING – that I was going to be criticized for how I preached that morning or how I failed to do something according to the expectations of the enemies of God’s work. But I remained. It wasn’t comfortable. It wasn’t fun. I focused myself on what God had called me to do and not my circumstances. God eventually peeled the veneer off my Sanballat and Tobiah. He revealed them for who they are. Now it took the death of the church I pastored for that to happen. But is was a worthwhile price to pay for others to be warned about these folks and their unrepentant divisiveness.
Remember and Redouble
Are you experiencing opposition in your service to God? Perhaps it is from a friend as it was in my case. Maybe your government is acting against you. Maybe it someone else. Whomever is opposing your work, remind yourself that they are opposing God, not you. If they hate you, they hate you because of your relationship with Jesus Christ. Let the haters hate. Let them say what they want. Redouble your effort to be resilient in your response, rethink and reorganize your priorities and method of doing your work and remain at the task God has given you.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. I Corinthians 15:58 NASB