Pastor Phil Winfield
October 14, 2007
Grace Church of Des Moines, IA
4200 E. 25th Street
Des Moines, IA 50317
Online Sermons: http://gracehome.sermonaudio.com
I want to talk to you about defeating discouragement from Nehemiah chapter four. And in order to do that we had better take a peak right up here and realize that as we have studied this book of Nehemiah and we have talked about building the walls of our life or building for a successful life, many of us have had to go back and rebuild our walls. Others are young and they are just building their life. We are trying to help them. But everybody here, whether you are an older Christian or a younger Christian or whether you don’t even know the Lord at all, we have to face the fact that in front of us there are always issues at work. There are always circumstances that are happening. We need to always be on guard and building our life for success.
And the way that we looked at this with Nehemiah was first we had to face the reality of our life, take a real honest look, what is going on in my life. What is right? Are things going well? Do we have our head in the sand like an ostrich or are we actually…are we actually facing the truth?
Then after we understood that we have to face reality, there was the idea of prayer. And when do we pray? Well, we pray before we do anything else in our life. And so we pray recognizing that God has put is in position just like he did Nehemiah. We are in the right position to take action. And that first action we take is always prayer.
Third, if we are going to make progress we have to proceed through the fear by faith. Fear is always there. It is always difficult. When you start facing the truth about your life and the truth about your needs and the truth about your church, truth about your community, it is always a fearful thing because we know that any time we stir the water it makes mud. And we know that any time we push the mud is going to push back. And so we have to face our fears with faith. And faith is not the absence of fear. Faith is going on instead of our fears.
Then we had to investigate and communicate. You say, “Well, what was that all about? I forgot.” Well, there are many details that have to do with how we got ourselves in the situations we are in in our life. So we have to address them. We have got to begin untying some of the knots. We have to start taking these things to the Lord in prayer and seeing how God can begin to work things out. So we investigate and then we communicate to those that we love the most and those that love us and care. This is what I am attempting to do. Here is the direction that I am going and I want you to know about it so that you can help me in doing that.
And during that lesson and that sermon I made a statement that may be one of the weightier statements of everything I say the whole time and that is that we alone, I alone, must face my problems. I alone must face my problems, but I alone cannot fix my problems. We need the help of God. We need the help of other believers. We need the help of our family members. We need support. And so that is what that is about.
And then, number five, that was so well illustrated this morning by the small group, we need teamwork. A team is always better than an individual and two people working alone can’t get as much done as two people working together. And a three fold cord is not easily broken, Proverbs tells us. And so we are supposed to work together.
Now, we come to week number six. And, folks, we are on the downhill side of this study. This is number six. Numbers six, seven and eight, I believe, are the most important messages of the entire series. Tune in, listen and I believe God is really going to make an impact.
They key building block for today that I want you to remember, the word that I want you to carry with you when you leave is the word “tenacity.”
You say, “Pastor, is tenacity a Bible word?”
Nope, but it sure is a Bible principle and it is a Bible foundation. It takes tenacity.
You say, “Well, what’s tenacity?”
Tenacity is what my rottweiler dogs had in Peru. My rottweilers would get a hold of something. If they got a hold of it that was the end of it. I had a dog named Blitz and Blitz was a rottweiler and she loved to play and her play toy was a full sized car tire. And you think I’m kidding, but I’m not kidding.
Now, it was a worn tire. I’m not going to make you think it was a Mack truck tire with full tread. No it was a tire, but a full size car tire and it was worn.
That crazy dog could bite it right in the tread, crunch it down and you did not get it away from her. That was all there was to it. And we dragged that dog all over the place. One time we were robbed and she got a hold of somebody. Boy, I’d hate to see the person that she got a hold of.
But anyway, tenacity. Get a hold of something and just hold on. Get working on something and just not let up. Tenaciousness, tenacity. And that is the word that you need to remember this morning. And it is an idea. It is a thought and it is an absolute necessity. It is a building block in your life that you have got to have. So tenacity.
Let me read it to you beginning in verse number one. Here is what God’s Word says.
But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews. And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish––stones that are burned?” Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.”
Now that was a lie. The thing was nine to 12 feet wide and a fox is not going to knock it down.
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! 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. 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.
Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites [notice that the crowd against them is growing. They are stirring others. When they] heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night. 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.”
And, Father, add your blessing to the preaching and teaching of your Word and help us to put this key piece in our wall of our life and that is the sticktoitiveness, tenacity, dedication and commitment to the task. We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Would you be seated?
Everybody loves the start of a thing. Being on a high school football team, joining the Marines, getting a medical degree, finishing the basement or even running a marathon all have lots of participants at first and up to a point. Somewhere between the over romanticized idea of being a marine or scoring a winning touchdown we face the troublesome facts that it will require work and that there will be opposition.
That is a funny little detail of anything that you are trying to accomplish in your life. It is that hated part. It is you start moving forward and try to accomplish anything, whether you are trying to get a high school or college degree or whether you are trying to repair your home and reestablish the lines of communication with your wife, it is going to take two things. There are going to be two issues to face. Number one, there will be work involved. Number two, you will face opposition. It is axiomatic. You are not going to be able to get by without it.
To keep going at the halfway point in the marathon is the great battle. To keep going half way to the goal is the battle that we always fight. Getting beyond, getting beyond half way is the difficult place.
It is very interesting to me that just about the half way point of this wall, they have got this thing up to the half way point. I don’t know what half way was. It might have been…maybe it was an eight foot, 10 foot, 12 foot wall, but do the math. It is going to be either here or here or here. It was a big wall they were building and they got it up to about half way and just about when it became noticeable that they were making progress, the opposition, the difficulty, the tiredness, it started to set in. And so it works that way.
There are people in this room this morning that time and again you have made a commitment or you made an emotional decision. “It’s time to change my life, time to turn it around, time to start…”
And, boy, you start making progress and just about the half way point you get difficulties and you get discouraged and people stand up against you and people say things. Well, to keep going we have to have tenacity.
After a concert someone had told a world famous pianist, “I want to learn to play just like you do with the same ease and accomplishment.”
He said, “Great. You need to go back to being six years old and then you need to choose beginning at six years old to always choose practice over pleasure, discipline over leisure. Forget baseball, basketball, football and other time consuming hobbies and work through the hard times, the boring times, the lonely times and the times that people thought that you were a social misfit. And when you get good at the piano and you get a little bit accomplished at the piano. Don’t quit. Redouble your efforts and you will go from good to great.”
That pianists, Dino. Just about the time when we begin to see progress in rebuilding our lives something in variable happens. Old Testament figures like Ezra and Nehemiah, New Testament Christians like Jesus and like Paul faced this problem, faced this situation and you and I will face it, too. And that is, at the half way point we run into discouraging circumstances and discouraging people. And people and circumstances team up to try to stop you in your tracks. Don’t let it shock you. Don’t let it be something that you weren’t anticipating. Jesus said in John chapter 16 and verse 33:
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.
A lot of people hear that part, but they don’t read the rest of the sentence.
In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
Did you get that? In the world you will have trouble. In the world you will have tribulation. In the world you will have trials. In the world you will face difficult circumstances. And when the forewarned opposition heats up as we continue rebuilding we have got a choice to make. I have got a decision to make. I have decided to try to start changing my life. I am obeying the Lord. I know the Lord as my Savior, but now then I am setting about to let him have the lordship in my life. I have turned around.
“And, pastor, just as soon as I start to do that, that’s when the difficulties arise.”
Well, you can choose to do one of three things. Number one, you can give up and say, “What’s the use.”
“Well, I tried. I made a turn. But, you know, what’s the use? Nobody is helping me. Everybody is criticizing me. I’m just going to have to give up.”
Or you can do number two. You can slack up and you can say, “Well, not now. Now must not be the time. I’m just going to have to back off on this and not get so wild eyed about the whole thing and I am going to have to do this at a more paced manner.”
Or the third think you can do—which is the correct thing—and that is we can look up and confess that we cannot do it alone.
Here in Nehemiah’s book God has given us an example, an inspired true life example of what to do when discouraging opposition shows up in our journey to building a successful life. How do we do it? How do we defeat discouragement? You defeat discouragement with tenacious faith.
Voice: Hey, pastor Phil, you know, that’s really easy for you to say. At the same time you don’t live in my world. Every day I go to work. Guys criticize me for being a Christian. You know, I do try to walk the walk and not just talk the talk all the time. But, you know, they are after me. They are slamming me. They are bringing me way, way below down. I get discouraged at work. Well, not only that. I’ve got other bomb throwers in my life. They want to throw grenades of ridicule, grenades of malice; whether it be my family, my friends I just feel like sometimes they are all out to get me whether it be from my sister, my mom, my dad, my mother, even my wife. The shrapnel of what they say tears at my spirit and, quite frankly, it is starting to destroy my soul.
You know, I hear from them, too, “Oh, Bechtel, you’ll never change, you’ll never amount to anything. You never, you haven’t.”
I just can’t take it anymore. I don’t know what to do. I can’t measure up. It’s all fine and good what you say here in the Word and what we have learned in Nehemiah, but, you know, you don’t know about this because you don’t live in my world.
Somewhere in this process of building our lives, rebuilding our lives, somewhere about half way to victory, discouragement sets in. The people of our life and the stuff of our life begins to get in the way. We begin to listen to the criticism. We begin to feel the pressure and as we have already stated when a person is motivated to rise up to repair their life Satan will always rise up to oppose those repairs. Count on it. Discouraged people abound in all walks of life at all ages of life and everyone’s life at some time or another. Don’t think we are talking about a couple of speed bumps along the way. No, indeed. Doing the right thing for yourself, for your family, doing the right thing for your culture, it can be dangerous. And only tenacious commitment and unyielding faith will keep you going. Don’t get the wall half built and just quit. Keep on going.
“And so how, pastor? What do I have to do?”
Well, write it down in your sheet. The first thing you need to understand and that is the first major point is that we need to anticipate discouragement. You can attribute half the victory or half the defeat to the anticipation of an obstacle that you will encounter.
A few years ago on one of our Indian treks that we do in the mountains we noticed that there was one man that was lagging behind and he seemed to really be afraid when we get on narrow mountain paths. He would hug the mountain and move really slow. Beads of sweat would pop out on his head.
After a couple of hours on the second day of walking I finally asked him, “Are you afraid of heights?”
And he said, “Yes.”
And he was afraid of heights and he was very upset about not being informed concerning the dangerous heights included on the Andean mountain trek. He was not from this church so I asked him and I said, “What were you told?”
And he said, “Well, the way I understood it I was told it was as simple as taking a walk across the pasture.”
I said, “I’m sorry. This is the Andean mountain trek, you know, 20,000 foot mountains and so on. And they are very tall. And none of these mountains are like a pasture.”
What he did not do is he did not anticipate the difficulty. I want to tell you from the very start of everything that I say today that half the battle is being able to keep going when you come under attack is knowing that the attack is coming. Whenever you are making the right choices and following God in your life and you decide to rise up and build or you decide to make changes or you decide as we said last week to make a trip to the refuse gate and get rid of some of the things of your life so that you can begin the right things in our life. Just as soon as you decide to do that, anticipate it, count on it, take it to the bank, you will be opposed.
Aspiring pianists don’t know what they are really going to expect unless somebody shares it with them. People headed for Marine boot camp are not really ready for what might come. And, sadly, people trying to build and rebuild their homes and lives need to anticipate that there will be difficulty, there will be opposition.
The first thing you are going to face—and write this down—is people may put you to derision. They may laugh at you and mock you. And it is a very discouraging thing for people to make fun of what you are trying to do. Ridicule and mockery is hard to take.
A little by word for you parents when your children are learning how to do something and you have a daughter that is learning how to make a cake, don’t make fun of it. You have got a son that is trying to learn how to mow the lawn and he can’t cut a straight line, don’t worry about it. Help him. Don’t mock him. Don’t make fun of him.
But in this story we are talking about right here as we look at this, here are some people that are rebuilding Jerusalem. They have gone back there to the walls and they are digging out of the rubble. It is a difficult task in the first place. They have gone to this wicked web that they have weaved in their history and they are trying to pull the rubble out. They are trying to take away the stones, put them back on the wall, build it up. They are trying to do something positive. And just as soon as they begin doing it their enemies show up and they begin to ridicule them and mock them. And people will put you to derision.
Sanballat the pagan represents the pagan world around us. Many times foolish friendships do that. We formed many friendships through our lifetime that we thought were friendships, but they weren’t. They were acquaintances and, perhaps, leashes. Perhaps their lives were being spurred on in the evil they were doing by the life that you were living. And so they weren’t really friends at all. And we find out that when we begin to change and repentance begins to take place in our life and the wall starts coming up to half height, people that are enslaved by drink, people that are enslaved by drugs, harmful habits, those full of anger or those that have just decidedly anti Christian. They begin to laugh. They begin to mock. The Bible says that that person is a scorner and a mocker. And what should you do with them? Ignore them. Just keep on building. Just keep on going forward. Just keep doing what the Lord has led you to do. Just keep going for your future.
Like Tobiah, the Ammonite. Now, he was a distant family member that…he had decided he was going to rise up and cause them pain and cause them problem and ask they what is the use? Why do you think you are doing that? He should have been encouraging them, but he was discouraging them. And so what do you do even when distant family members [?] you have tried this before. You have done this before. Why don’t you just give up? You are who you are. People don’t change.
Well, people can change. How many of you are witnesses to the fact that the grace of God changes people? Will you raise your hand? Me, too. Oh, he does. God’s grace is sufficient for any need and he changes people. He doesn’t just change our destination, he changes our disposition. Let me say that to you again. God is not only going to change our destination about where we are going to live in eternity, he will change your disposition. He will take that sourness out. He will take that crankiness, meanness. He will take away that disposition of attack away from you so that you can be a different person.
The Bible says that in Christ all things are made new in 2 Corinthians 5:17. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” especially the disposition and the attitude of a person.
Ands so people, they are going to mock you. But that is not all. And as we look at verse number seven and eight there:
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, and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion.
What did they conspire to do? Go on the attack. They decided that they were going to do more that ridicule, mock and laugh at. It wasn’t enough that they could just be the butt of a joke. That wasn’t enough. Now then they have got to go over there and do something physical. They have got to go over there and just make some real effort.
I shared in the first service that I had a man in our church that while going through the Nehemiah series and had made some decisions, he is a man of character for man years, but he was working somewhere in a so called Christian boss told him, “Here is what I want you to do. I want you to write down some numbers and I want you to do something crooked and I want you to do something that is a lie and I want you to help me line my pockets and line the pockets of this business by a little bit of fancy work there with some accounting.”
This Christian member of our church says, “Nope.” He says, “I can’t do that. I cannot participate in that. It’s wrong.”
He appealed to him. He explained to him. The boss—quote, unquote, a Christian—became very, very upset, fired him on the spot because he would not do it.
Well, I am here to say that God took note of that and God is watching and God is going to watch over those that are his. The Bible says that I have never see the righteous forsaken or his seed begging bread. And God is going to take care of that person.
but I want you to know that there are those out there will that will try to get you sidetracked. People will put you in danger. When words of ridicule are not enough, when words of mocking and jest are not enough they will come after you.
There is at least one person that is after every one of us and that is Satan himself. I have said it. You rise up to make change, Satan will rise up to oppose you. And how does he do it? Well, one way he comes is like a roaring lion the Bible says in 1 Peter 5:8, full frontal attack, scare you to death, just come right at you trying to scare you. That’s what these folks did. They came right at the children of Israel.
Now, you have to understand this little rag tag group of people that are trying to rebuild this mammoth wall around this city. You have got to understand this picture. In your Scripture sheet that you have for your grace groups that you are going to study later there is a map right on the front of it and it shows the approach of these armies coming from these other places that were going to attack. They were surrounded.
How many of you have ever felt surrounded even when you are trying to do the right thing you feel surrounded by people that are not giving you much help? Would you put…yes, that’s the way it is, isn’t it? That’s the way they work. They were surrounded. They were threatened. They were mocked, ridiculed, laughed at. Now it is getting serious. “We are going to attack you.”
Well, Satan is going to make a full frontal attack. He is going to come like roaring lion and just try to scare you out of your wits. If that doesn’t work he is going to do like he did in the Garden of Eden in Genesis chapter three. He is going to slither in.
Imagine them working with those rocks and there they are working and here a snake sticks its head out here or there and scares them to death while they are working.
Do you know Satan slips in? Satan slithers in? He slithered in to the Garden of Eden? And do you know he even slithered in there to the garden where Jesus was praying before he went on to Calvary? He slithers in. He tries to tempt and test and to discourage. And that is the way he is.
And then he does something else even more dangerous. It is like a faithful friend or like an angel of light. Satan likes to present himself—2 Corinthians 11:14. And I have got to tell you that whenever you hear somebody that has been an acquaintance or a friend or even a distant family member with you, you are making changes, you have got your wall up to the half height. You have got your life on the road to mend and you are starting to grow, you are in the Word of God. You are communicating with your family. You have said no to a drug or said no to alcohol or you are changing, you are getting a hold of that anger. All of the sudden some of the people that you have been around, that have been running with you, all of the sudden they look at you and they come along like this faithful friend, put their arm around you and say, “Hey, man. Don’t got at this too hard. Listen, you just, you know, you’re going to really discourage yourself and you just can’t do that. And, you know, people don’t really change, they just start speaking to you and start talking to you like an angel of light,” like they are trying to really be your friend. Well, that’s not the kind of friend that you need.
You know what? People are going to put your in danger. People are going to put you to derision. Something else people are going to do—and this is such a difficult thing—is people are going to disappoint you.
How many have ever been disappointed in anybody? Could you raise your hand up? Me, too. How many people have ever been disappointed in you? Could you raise your hand up? Yeah, me, too. People disappoint us.
This next one is really hard to take. Look at verse number 10. “Then Judah.”
You say, “That’s only two words.”
That’s right, but make sure you understand who Judah is. Then Judah rose up and here is what Judah said.
“The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall.” And our adversaries said, “They will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them [notice the danger] and cause the work to cease.”
Verse 12: “So it was, when the Jews who dwelt near them came, that they told us ten times, ‘From whatever place you turn, they will be upon us.’”
Judah. Who was Judah? Well, Judah is one of the 12 tribes. In fact, Judah is the location in the tribe in which Jerusalem is located. The city of Jerusalem, the rebuilding project is located in the territory of Judah and who are the people that were coming along to point out some things to them to discourage them? They were their own relatives.
Did you know people can be disappointing? Do you know what they did? The first thing they did was point out the problems in verse number 10. I call them the rubble rousers.
You say, “Rubble rousers. Pastor, it is rabble rousers.”
I know that, but for my purpose this morning it is the rubble rousers. And what are they doing? Well, they are rousing them up about the rubble. Here is what they said to them. They said, “First of all, you just don’t have enough strength. You have little strength.”
Look at verse number 10. “Judah said, ‘The strength of the laborers is failing.’” “We’re tired. We have been working on…look at all these people. They are just tired. They have got their own homes to take care of.” Of course, that is what we are trying to do here. “They have got their own jobs. They have got other things. They have got other issues. They have got other things going on. Everybody is tired. Why don’t you just take a break?”
Can I tell you what Satan would like to get you to do in your road to recovery, in your road to growth, in your road to rebuilding your life? Do you know what he would like to get you to do? He would like to get you to take a spiritual vacation. Take a rest.
You say, “What are you talking about? Aren’t we supposed to take a vacation?”
Yep. Take a physical vacation. Your body needs rest. But don’t you even think about taking a spiritual vacation.
You say, “What’s a spiritual vacation?”
It’s a time when you decide that you don’t need to be in the Lord’s presence. You don’t need to talk to the Lord. You don’t need to read his Bible a little bit. You don’t need to pray over it. You’re just fine. Everything is going to be ok. You just can’t keep up this pace. You need to back off and just take a rest, just take a vacation. It is wearying.
Well, the Bible says just the opposite. The Bible say that they that wait upon the Lord shall do what? Renew their strength, “they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
But do you know what the world would like us to think? “I mean, this whole spiritual thing, this whole God thing, this whole church thing, this whole living for the Lord it is just so cumbersome and it is just so wearying and it is just going to wear you out.”
Folks, it is going to do just the opposite for your soul. You never take a spiritual break. You never take a spiritual vacation. I can tell you of the shipwrecks of people and people’s lives that I have known that have taken a spiritual vacation. Let me just give you an example. I was talking to somebody in this church and I was talking to them and I said, “Say, you have decided you are going to walk away from your wife and walk away from your children. You are going to abandon your home. You are going to go do something else. You have gotten involved with somebody else. Let me just ask you one question. I’m just curious about something.”
“Ok, go ahead.”
“Well here is my question. In the process of going through this thing and being tempted and giving in to the temptation…”
“Well, I don’t look at it as temptation. I look it as I just want to be happy.”
“Well, ok, however you want to look at it. In the process of doing that I have just got one question. While you were thinking about it, while you were contemplating, while you were considering the sin, while you were considering leaving your wife, leaving your children, leaving your home, one question: Were you carrying on a daily relationship with God in heaven and fellowship with him through a little bit of Bible reading, a little bit of prayer and waiting before the Lord and seeking his guidance?”
“Well, no. I’ve got to be honest. I really haven’t been doing…”
I have never in my entire ministry—going on 29 years—I have never talked to one single person who has made life changing decisions that were destructive in nature who did so while he was on his knees. You never take a spiritual vacation. You just don’t do that.
You say, “Pastor, what is this study all about? What are you talking about in the book of Nehemiah? How am I going to build this wall?”
Not near as hard as you think. But it is going to take tremendous tenacity. You are going to have to build into your life. Listen to your pastor. You are going to have to build into your life. You are going to have to build into your life the good habits of getting before God daily.
You say, “Wow. That’s real legalistic and everything.”
It is not any more legalistic than brushing your teeth everyday. It is not any more legalistic than eating three meals a day. It is not any more legalistic than going to sleep every night. It is not any more legalistic than getting up every morning. It is not any more legalistic than taking a bath every day. There is nothing legalistic about it. It just makes good sense that if you are going to have connection with God, know his will, have his protection, his guidance in your life you are going to have to be in contact with God.
This is not the Christianity of the 21st century. The Christianity of the 21st century is flash and splash and big stars and wonder and some guy over here with some big story in a book and all that kind of stuff and this seminar and that conference.
And you say, “Pastor, don’t you ever you go to seminars?”
I go to all kinds of them. None of them build my inner being. Only presence before the Lord can do that. You are going to have to build it into your life. And that is what we are talking about, building this wall. People can put you in danger. People can disappoint you. Even the people that you really do love and love you mistakenly can point out that you are tired, that you have little strength. Take a break. They will point out that there is a lot of junk. I call them the rubble rousers, remember. They say, “Oh, man, your life is…you just got to be happier with small stuff. You just can’t expect that God is going to change all of your life. How about if you just…”
No, it is what we do is we make the assumption that I just got to be satisfied with just a very little bit of God’s will for my life and not a completely radical change in my life. There is lots of junk. It is a large task they said. The people are tired.
Not only did they point to the problems, they were rubble rousers, the pointed to the opposition. They were trouble rousers.
You say, “That’s not a word either.”
But will you give me just a little license here this morning? Rubble rousers and trouble rousers, the people who like to stir up trouble. The men of Judah should have been working, but they were spending too much time looking at why they couldn’t build and conversing with the enemy about it. They warned them 10 times. “Oh, man, the enemy is strong. The enemy is coming.”
They got to consider… you know what? They spent more time contemplating failure than they did working on success.
Do you know what losers do? Losers worry about failing. Do you know what winners do? Winners plan on succeeding and they keep to the plan and they keep going forward.
Do you know what Judah did? He conversed with the enemy about defeat. Do you know what Satan would like to do? Get you off track, stop you from working, get you to take a spiritual vacation so he can sit on your shoulder and tell you, “You will never change. You are never going to be different. You are always going to be the same. You are a flunky. You are a jerk. You are a fool. You will never make it.” He will just tell you that over and over and over. And as long as you are listening you are not changing.
And so they point to the opposition. People disappoint you. They point out problems. They point to the opposition. And, folks, don’t listen to the riff raff of your life. They don’t care about you. They care about themselves. They are against you and your change because it puts the pressure on them.
Lots of people hate you because of the light that you shine upon them when you begin to change. Do not listen to the people who think they make themselves brighter by blowing out your candle.
You know it is a dog eat dog world out there and that happens every day in the work place. It happens in schools. It happens on football teams and baseball teams. Instead of rejoicing in somebody else’s success what do we think? “Well, if they are successful, that means I have got to put them down in order for me to go up.”
Do you know why people really have a hard time when somebody begins to change and their life starts taking order and all of a sudden God starts getting active in their life and where they were angry they are not so angry anymore and where they didn’t have self control they now have self control and where they used to be a drunk they walk away from it and where they used to be involved in all kinds of addictions and all kinds of behavioral difficulties? They begin to change. Do you know why they get so upset and they begin to criticize? Because, let me just say this to you. As your life changes and we begin to be salt and primarily when we begin to be light, the light of our life casts light on their life. Say it again. The light of our life casts light on their life and light always shows up where the darkness is and it runs it away.
Do you know what people have a hard time with when your life starts changing? You are changing and they know that they should, too. How many of you know what I am talking about? Oh yeah. Don’t let it stop you. Don’t let it stop you. You are going to do more to help them by you changing than by you staying like you were.
Listen. When God saves somebody in a family an that person becomes a new person in Christ, that family, even though it creates a rift in the beginning, that family is far closer to hearing the gospel and coming to Jesus because somebody got saved and somebody began to change in that family than if that person never would have gotten saved.
And I will take it further. If you are in your family and you have an extended family in which every one is going the wrong direction, you go ahead and make up your mind to serve the Lord with all of your heart because he can turn it around and he can use you as an influence to turn the light on in that family where all of the sudden yeah they will be angry, yes they will fight against you, yes they will criticize you, mock you, deride you, cut you out of the will. They may do all kinds of things. But sooner or later the light that you are shedding on them may draw them to Christ.
Please don’t give up. I have got to finish. Listen to this verse of Scripture. I love this. Hebrews chapter 12, verse one:
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.
Do you see that right there that there is a great cloud of witnesses? I thought for many years that that meant that all the people in heaven are watching everything we do here on earth. Man, wouldn’t that be embarrassing. No, I don’t believe that is what that is talking about. I believe that these are witnesses of the grace and goodness of God. And I believe they are out there screaming and saying, “Oh, just tell them, Lord, tell them, Jesus, tell them, Holy Spirit. Don’t give up. Keep fighting. Keep going forward. Keep doing the right thing because it is worth it. We are in heaven. We are in the Lord’s presence. It is unspeakable and full of glory and I cannot even describe it to you. And if you will just be faithful on earth the rewards are beyond wonderful in heaven. Be faithful.”
It is a cloud of witnesses that are saying, “Just keep on going.”
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to see these cheering crowds? Wouldn’t it be great to hear the cloud of witnesses that have gone on? They are witnesses of the fact that God is faithful. Victory is worth the fight. They know that tenaciously pressing forward will pay off in eternal rewards and earthly blessings. And they say in a unified chorus, “Just keep running.”
And to do so you have to deepen your commitment to reconstruction of your life, deepen your commitment to your home.
Voice: How, pastor Phil? How? You say deepen my commitment and reconstruct my home and my life and I try. But I can’t do everything that is asked of me. I take kids to school in the morning. I go to work, PTA. I take kids to practice. We come home. I cook. I clean. I do laundry. I pray with my children. I be a wife. And that’s on an easy day. Too many things are pulling me too many different directions. And I know that those who have gone before are cheering, but sometimes I can’t hear it. And I know, by faith I know that the victory will be worth the fight. But sometimes I am too tired to stand, let alone fight.
And I know you say we need to tenaciously press forward. But sometimes I don’t even know how to press forward or what the fight even is. But still I will try to press on, to fight the good fight, to take a stand. But often I feel like a solitary warrior alone, uncertain of the battle plan, not even knowing how to begin. So how, pastor Phil, how?
How? Write these things down on your sheet just as quickly as you can. We must deepen our commitment. How do we do it? How do we keep going forward? Well, it is to remember that any one individual with the Lord on his side is not in the minority, but the yare in the majority. Me plus God makes a majority in any situation. God is fighting for us. And that is the first thing we need to do is remember who fights for us. Verse four and five talks about God fighting for us. Verse number 15 says, “And it happened, when our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work.”
We have to remember that the Lord has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” The Bible…we have to understand that God is good. He is good all the time to his children. We have to understand that he is our strong tower. He is our hiding place. He is our refuge. He is the place of safety and those that run into him are safe. And so we have to remember who it is that fights for us. This rag tag group of people building a wall couldn’t build a wall if God had not been with them. And I want you to know that God has put you in a world as if it were a river and the river is going one way and you are swimming the other. And you cannot do it by yourself. You have to remember who fights for you.
The second thing you have to do is remain committed to the wall. Verse number six mentions a little word that is irreplaceable. It is not fun. It is not enjoyable. It is not the word we all want to hear, but it is the four letter little word, a dirty little word we think. And it is the little word “work.” And that is that they returned to the work. They were dedicated to the work.
And, folks, I just want to say to you in your relationships, in your homes as difficulty comes in relationships you must understand that it is not going to be three easy lessons and snap your finger and that is going to be the end of it and your relationship is going to be restored. It is going to take work. It is going to take diligence. It is going to take humility. It is going to take bowing before the Lord. It is going to take keeping the best…what is best for you, for your family, for your loved ones and mine. You have to remain committed to the wall.
Next week’s sermon really, really zeroes in on that one.
Then the next thing you have to do is you have to remind yourself of the cause of what you are doing in the first place.
Do you know what the greatest lack of understanding is concerning the Christian home today? And that is that God’s great purpose for the home, of course it is that we would have our needs met as human beings in the world. Of course it is so we can bring godly offspring into the world. But the real reason for a Christian home is so that the world could have a picture of the love that Jesus has for his church. That’s right. A Christian home is supposed to be the best illustration on planet earth of what the relationship between Jesus Christ and his church is. And what was that relationship? The Bible says that Jesus calls the church his bride and that he gave himself for her, that he washed her with the Word, that he bled and died for her, he sacrificed himself for her.
Oh, it is that self sacrificial, full, no cost too great dedication that it takes to make a home work. There is no cost too great. There is no commitment that is too great to make the home work, to make your life change and to serve the Lord.
Do you know what the real cause and real purpose of your home is? Verse 14 talks about the Lord who is great and awesome. Do you know what the world needs to see? It needs to see some homes that are built on the Word of God. It needs to see some homes with great commitment one to another. It needs to see some homes where we remember those words that we said before, a pastor, a priest, a minister when we said those words “I do” concerning, “Do you promise to keep only unto her, do you promise to keep only unto him?”
We need to keep our promises. And we need to understand that the one who wrote down the promise and was present and was a testimony to the ceremony was God almighty himself. He is great and he is awesome and God wants glory in our home. And that is the place that he is seeking glory.
And we remind ourselves of that cause.
The next thing is—and this may be the most important of all—we need to reclaim the purpose of God in your home and be willing to fight for it. Look at verse number 14. “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.’”
Oh, you know what? I believe that we have just lost the fight. I believe that there is not any fight left in us. I believe that in the middle of our situations of our homes and our families and we see the difficulties, I think that flight has become far easier than fight.
But I am here to tell you this morning that there ought to be a holy and ambitious fight in the heart of every man and in the heart of every woman. You had better be ready to fight for your children.
You say, “Well, what am I fighting against?”
This culture would like to pervert your children. Did you know that? Did you know that this world…Hollywood would like to pervert your children and the culture of this world and maybe even the culture of the grade school and grammar school and high school where your children go to school. They would like to get them to conform to their image instead of the image of God.
Have you got any fight left in you? Do you have any will to fight for your children, for your homes? Do you have any will to fight for your mates?
You know, the very first thing I think about and we think about that is where is the enemy? You show me the enemy and I will fight him.
People ask me all the time, “Pastor, are you aggressive?”
Am I aggressive? Yeah. I am. When I think about fighting for my children and fighting for my home and fighting for my family and fighting for my country and fighting for my nation and fighting for the Word of God, well, I want to… “Where is the enemy?” And we can talk about that. Hollywood is an enemy. And we could point at all of these different things but I am going to tell you the greatest enemy. Listen to your pastor. The greatest enemy that I am going to fight, the greatest enemy that you are going to fight…and if you are man here this morning the greatest enemy you are going to fight is the one you shave every morning because the Bible says that we sin when we are drawn away of our own what? Lusts. I am going to have to win the battle with self. I am going to have to stop asking: What is it is going to make me happy for the next five years? And I am going to have to start asking myself: What is going to be the best for my family for the next five years, 10 years, 20 years. I am going to have to stop asking: Well, what would I really like to do with this money and how would I like to invest this money over the next five years?
You better start asking: What would be the best thing for me to do for my family and for my children and for my…you had better start fighting the fight with yourself. Fight the fight of self indulgence. Fight the fight of lustful thinking. Fight the fight of pornographic minds. Fight the fight. You are going to have to fight because Satan is going to put up a battle.
Are you aware that you are going to build and battle the rest of your life? You can never stop. That is the last point. I don’t even have time to look at on your sheet. But do you know what? For the rest of our lives we are going to have to build. Do you know what they did? They had to have a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other because the enemies were everywhere. The enemies came at them and they couldn’t lay down their sword just to build because if they did they would get stabbed in the back. And they couldn’t lay down their trowel just to fight with the sword because if they did then there wouldn’t be any building going on.
And so what do you have go to do? You have got to fight the enemies of your soul at a continuous clip and then you have got to be building the right things into your life all the time. You never stop doing one to do the other and you never stop doing the other to do the one. You never quit. You are building and you are battling in your life for the rest of your life.
Do you know that is what they did? The enemy surrounded them. They came at them to attack them. They tried to test them unawares, but they did not do it because every man strapped a sword on his side and held a trowel in his hand. And while some were working, others were watching.
Are you understanding what I am saying to you this morning? It is a full time task of building into your life the character of Jesus Christ and it is a full time task of being alert and watching the devil may want to slip in.
Just about the time you think you have got the whole thin whipped and licked the Bible comes along with a verse, “If any man thinks he standeth, let him take heed lest he what?”
“Oh, I’ve got that whipped, pastor. Everything is ok. My kids are fine. I’m fine. We’re all fine. I’m just going to take a spiritual vacation.”
You just left the door open. You just laid your sword down.
“Pastor, what is this study all about? What would you like us to go home with?”
I want you to put the building block of tenacity in your heart. I want you to tenaciously build the habit of coming before the Lord into your life. I want you to not look for an excuse. Don’t look for an excuse to miss your time with the Lord. You look for a reason to be with the Lord. Don’t you let other people, don’t you let your schedule, don’t you let the business of your life…here is the best thing you could do. I am going to tell you right now. The greatest thing on earth you could do to make sure you spend time with the Lord every day. Shut that box off at about 9:30. Go to bed so you can get up in the morning. And spend a little bit of time.
I have been saying this over and over, haven’t I? Am I becoming a drum that is just sort of driving you people crazy? I’m sure I am. But I want you to grow. I want you to be built up so that when you pick up a sword to fight you will have something to fight with. You will have some strength. I want you to build up your soul in the presence of God by seeing a little bit of what God’s Word has to say, by praying over what…and asking some questions. “God, what does this mean? God, what do you want me to do with it? And God how can I put it in practice today? Lord help me today.”
Will you please tenaciously build the character of Christ in your life by going into God’s presence every day? Will you tenaciously stay alert? Watch out for the devil because he is going to slip in a temptation when you are least expecting it.
Would you bow your heads and close your eyes?
Nehemiah 4:1-3 (All Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless indicated otherwise).
2 Corinthians 5:17 (King James Version)
Isaiah 40:31 (King James Version)
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