January 29, 2023
Dealing With Opposition
Nehemiah - “Sanballat was very angry when he learned that we were rebuilding the wall. He flew into a rage and mocked the Jews, saying in front of his friends and the Samarian army officers, ‘What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they’re doing? Do they think they can build the wall in a single day by just offering a few sacrifices? Do they actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap - and charred ones at that?’ Tobiah the Ammonite, who was standing beside him, remarked, ‘That stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked along the top of it!’” (Nehemiah 4:1-3)
One of the greatest challenges in life is dealing with difficult people. Nehemiah had his share of opponents, ready to ridicule him at a moment’s notice. Ridicule is a powerful, effective tool, even today. It is not difficult to even find books and podcasts about how to do psychological warfare with others. People everywhere constantly use these techniques against each other and against the church. They strike up arguments with Christians, characterizing us as weak, ignorant, fanatical people.
People ridicule others because it has proven to be effective. Ridicule attacks our sense of self worth and acts as a substitute for reason. People who ridicule us are afraid they’re going to lose control or that someone else will succeed. Ridicule overstates the case at hand, sets up a straw man so the ridiculer can knock it over. Ridicule is contagious. Notice in the scripture that when Sanballat makes his initial ridicule that Tobiah chimes in and adds to it. Cowards are always ready to ridicule others when someone else takes the lead.
Those who oppose God’s people will always seek to rally others to their cause. Nehemiah writes, “When Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs, Ammonites, and Ashdodites heard that the work was going ahead and that the gaps in the wall of Jerusalem were being repaired, they were furious. They all made plans to come and fight against Jerusalem and throw us into confusion.” (Nehemiah 4:7-8) Sanballat and Tobiah were gathering all the disgruntled parties to resist the rebuilding of the wall. Those rebuilding the wall were suddenly surrounded by others conspiring against them. Negative people always gravitate together.
Opponents often attack Christians by spreading rumors. Nehemiah writes, “Meanwhile, our enemies were saying, ‘Before they know what’s happening, we will swoop down on them and kill them and end their work.’ The Jews who lived near the enemy came and told us again and again, ‘They will come from all directions and attack us!’” (Nehemiah 4:11-12) The quickest way to feed a rumor is to feed on the fears of others. Rumors are often spread by those closest to the enemy and they are usually exaggerated when repeated. Whenever something good is happening, those wishing for dissension will always spread vicious gossip, hoping the rumors will become true.
Christians should never swallow rumors. We can listen to them, review them, even examine them closely, but we should never swallow them because they are merely exaggerations. Opponents will always rise up to ridicule us, to resist our efforts, and to spread rumors about us. Like Nehemiah, we must continue to move forward, trusting in the Lord instead of the negative exaggerations.
FOLLOW UP ACTIVITY
Make a list of three people who you have noticed serving in a good or enthusiastic manner. Make a plan to recognize them in the next few days. If you’re leading your family through this devotion, spend a few minutes acknowledging each family member for the things they do well. Then encourage them to do the same with others over the next few days.
PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, help me to always do my best. And help me to honor others who deserve recognition as well. In the name of Jesus, Amen.