We are easily fooled by words when we think they mean one thing and they actually mean something quite different. Demon is one such word. A demon is the stuff of nightmares and in our mind to encounter a demon is to come face to face with a hideous, disgusting, grotesque spectacle too monstrous for words. Here in this reflection the demons we are dealing with are not like these Hollywood caricatures but are ordinary human beings wedded to evil and committed soul, body and spirit to opposing all that believers stand for. Satan wants to stop us from doing our God-given duty, exercising our stewardship, and will use anyone he can to help him; even at times someone near and dear to us.
Being involved in Christian stewardship is not easy for the enemy of our souls seeks to hassle us, frustrate our efforts, divert our attention whenever he can and get us to such a low point that we just throw in the towel. These very same tactics were used on Nehemiah as he was rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem, and not only did they fail, they left us with a supreme example for all time of a dedicated man persisting in the face of stiff opposition and threats to accomplish God’s work. We need to remember the exaltation of Paul to the Galatians, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9 NIV)
Nehemiah is the subject of our reflection and the way he persisted in the face of stiff opposition is an example worthy of emulation. He lived a full, illustrious life and prior to the events in Nehemiah chapter six, which we are using to guide our thoughts, some things about him we should note.
1. Nehemiah was full of compassion and concern for his people (Nehemiah chapter 1)
2. He was willing to make the necessary commitment (Nehemiah 2:1-5)
3. He meticulously prepared for the task ahead (Nehemiah 2:7-18)
4. He withstood the verbal assault of the enemy (Nehemiah 4:1-3)
Let us now concentrate on the heart of our reflection and note some key things.
First we note Nehemiah’s dilemma; they plotted his demise
Be not deceived the enemy is always plotting our discomfort and demise and will do anything and use anybody to undermine us and destroy the work we are doing. Remember that slogan I quoted in the introduction, “When God is about to reposition your life know that the enemy will attack.” If you set out to do God’s work, to perform your duty or to assist your fellow man in this grand ministry of reconciliation then lookout for the hostility of the enemy will increase. This is precisely what happened to Nehemiah and the enemy used various tactics.
We observe that Nehemiah’s enemies appeared reasonable
This was their first tactical assault on Nehemiah; to approach him with absolute reasonableness. They only wanted to discuss the matter as our text puts it, “Come let us meet…” (Nehemiah 6:2b) They implied that talking was so very reasonable; why let us talk and it would solve the problem. This is a very familiar tactic of Satan to sow discord. The enemy was not interested in helping Nehemiah achieve his objectives but rather to get all the details and probe for weakness. This was nothing less than using diplomacy to spy on Nehemiah close up and to test his resolve.
Talking might reveal our tactics and plans to the enemy and the more the enemy knows the more trouble he is able to make. The prudent believer must be aware of this and guard against it.
Nehemiah detected that they cleverly hid their true intentions
Nehemiah was on his guard and saw right through them for he was committed to God and his spiritual eyes were open. Nehemiah perceived that their real plan was to cause mischief as this text shows, “But they were scheming to harm me” (Nehemiah 6: 2c) Lies and deceit are frequent tools of Satan and all those who follow him. Remember the words of Jesus to the Jews, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:44) The enemy never reveals his true intentions for if he did you would repulse him forthwith.
Samson’s demise as told in Judges 16:1-21 is a fitting example of concealing true intentions. It led to his ultimate destruction and the sophisticated approach by the serpent to Eve as recorded in Genesis 3:1-6 did exactly the same thing. When the enemy approaches always expect subterfuge, trickery or some kind of dirty play for such is his forte.
We notice that their scheme was comprehensively thwarted
This is the quintessential outcome for Christian stewardship for however many the schemes of the enemy God is able to make them come to naught. Their traps always turn up empty and they are left forlorn and defeated. Nehemiah was perceptive and triumphant for to meet with the enemy, even with proper security, would be time consuming and futile and this text states it thus, “So I sent messengers to them…” (Nehemiah 6: 3a) Nehemiah knew that to meet with them would call for preparation and he would have to put aside God’s work and then the actual meeting would be time consuming and cut into the time to progress the work. Christian stewardship is not about playing clever games with the enemy but devoting oneself fully to ones commitments and persisting to the very end.
Next we observe Nehemiah’s determination; he progressed the divine work
While the enemy was plotting to destroy Nehemiah he busied himself in progressing God’s work. What a wonderful example in Christian stewardship? The numerous plots hatched against us should never prevent us from pressing on with God’s work for although it is natural to be discouraged we must remember that it is God’s work and we are merely the stewards. We have to rely on God for outcomes as Proverbs puts it, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) Devotion to duty is the best act when the atmosphere bristles with hostilities as Daniel and the three Hebrew boys so clearly showed us.
We mention here that Nehemiah supported fully his given mission
This is an important aspect and it is often overlooked; that we must fully support our given mission for best results. Prior to Nehemiah, Zerubbabel was given an enormous task of rebuilding the temple but the entire work was not completed and Nehemiah knew that God had entrusted to him this important work for he says, “I am carrying on a great work…” (Nehemiah 6: 3b) We should note how Nehemiah described the work as “great work” for any work given to us by God is important and requires our fullest commitment; body soul and spirit as if our life depends on it. Nehemiah was absolutely committed, passionate and fully supportive of his mission and all those around him could see that.
We have examples of stewards who were lackadaisical and half hearted in their stewardship and stand rebuked for such an effort. We only have to look back to someone like Jonah that exemplifies noncommittal, reluctant stewardship to be warned of the perils of such service.
We observe that Nehemiah scoped out the enemy’s ultimate purpose
The world and all the agents of evil will do anything and everything they can to achieve their objectives and we need to be alert to their slight of hand and subterfuge if we are to overcome them. Nehemiah was on to them for what they really wanted was to bring God’s work to a standstill and he wisely declared, “…why should the work stop…” (Nehemiah 6: 3c) When God gives us a mission we need to press on with that mission without fail for few things delight Satan more than causing disobedience among the flock. In situations like these we should always remember the untimely death of the disobedient prophet who allowed a false prophet to deceive him into doing what God had told him not to do as recorded in 1 Kings 13: 1-32.
The world would be so different had Eve learned that valuable lesson as told in Genesis 3:6 and prized out the true intentions of the serpent.
King Saul was forcefully reminded of this by Samuel, “And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)
We witness that Nehemiah vigorously sustained his fervent endeavour
Progress in doing God’s work is never smooth and often tempestuous but God prepares his workers for all such tribulations. Nehemiah knew that progress comes through unswerving commitment to duty. Twice he asserted that fact to his enemies. First he said, “I...cannot go down now” and later in the same verse, “why stop…and go down to you.” (Nehemiah 6:3) This did not stop his enemies and they persisted again and again only to find Nehemiah just as adamant and all the more determined to press on as this text shows, “Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner.” (Nehemiah 6:4) Against all obstacles, from whatever source, the work of God must go on and it is our duty not to yield however hard we are pressed. The classic example here is the Apostle Paul for he was pummeled and pressed sore but refused to be deflected and he tells it thus, “Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.” (2 Timothy 3:11) What a superb example of committed stewardship?
As Nehemiah asked, “why stop…and go down to you” should remind us that when we step down from doing God’s work we are turning away not only from the chance to help our fellow man the but often from the path of truth and righteousness.
Finally we see Nehemiah’s victory; he perceived changed tactics
When Satan fails in his plans one way, he always resorts to other means for he has in his reserve a number of dirty tricks, but his intentions are always the same, i.e. to oppose God and frustrate the work of the gospel. Good stewardship requires that we be aware of the whole panoply of subterfuges and be on our guard from every quarter. Nehemiah was well prepared for everything thrown at him for he knew the critical importance of his mission to the people of Israel and the Lord was with him.
In desperation Nehemiah’s enemies tried smear and fear
The tactic of smear and fear has been used repeatedly by the enemy to try to stop God’s work from progressing. Remember how they used just such a scheme to try to frighten Daniel; it failed. The same tactic was used against Joseph by Potiphar’s wife; that also failed. Now here are the enemies resorting to the same desperate tactic for they fabricated a scheme of a Nehemiah-led Jewish revolt against King Artaxerxes and they warned, “Now this report will get back to the King” (Nehemiah 6:7b) A revolt would be ruthlessly crushed by the King and all the participants would either be killed or imprisoned, so its revelation was meant to be terrifying as Nehemiah observed, “They were all trying to frighten us” (Nehemiah 6:9a) As good stewards let us not fall prey to this tactic of smear and fear for there is too much at stake to let this happen.
In despair they ultimately resorted to peer intimidation
Getting ones fellow peers to undermine and mislead and ultimately destroy the achievement of ones God-given objective is perhaps the most subtle and debilitating tactic of the enemy. Nothing quite takes the wind out of our sails like a fellow believer whom you trust that dupes you into wrongdoing or disobeying a God-given command. In Nehemiah’s situation the enemy’s cupboard was bare for all their machinations had failed, so finally they used a fellow prophet as a dupe as Nehemiah observed, “He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin” (Nehemiah 6:13)
Peer pressure to do wrong, is one of the most insidious ways Satan tries to weaken and defeat God’s people and as stewards we must see that we are not deceived for failure to perceive dupes comes at great cost. Just remember the untimely death of the disobedient prophet who allowed a false prophet to deceive him into doing what God had told him not to do. Read again the relevant scripture in 1 Kings 13: 1-32.
In summation their bag of tricks all failed most shamefully
Success is not prevented by the number of attacks suffered but by allowing the attacks, even a single one, to cause us to lose focus on our goal. Nehemiah was mission oriented, zealous and determined to achieve the objectives of his assignment. In spite of all their heinous schemes, Nehemiah completed his mission and this text states it thus, “So the wall was completed…in fifty two days” (Nehemiah 6:15a). Nehemiah persisted, refused to be sidetracked or be diverted, refused to be discouraged or to be fearful, refused to delay the project or in anyway accommodate the enemy and thus he completed his task. In this situation we see that God honoured Nehemiah’s persistence and gave him the success his valiant effort deserved.
We know that throughout history and even today God still honours and rewards those who persist in Christian Stewardship. Our sacred duty is to continue to fight the good fight of faith, refuse to listen or compromise with Satan and God has promised to see us through. Only then can we identify with the words of Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4: 7-8).
Jesus reminds us that “In this world ye shall have tribulations, but be of Good cheer, I have overcome the world”. Doing God’s work great or small is a magnet for vicious assault from the enemies of the Cross who misguidedly believe that they can derail God’s plan for the salvation of humankind. All Christians, everywhere, need to follow the inspiring example of Nehemiah whose persistence in the face of deadly and determined opposition helped him to complete his mission and so safeguard the Jews in Jerusalem.
We, too, need to remind ourselves of the importance of the work we are doing in building God’s kingdom and in witnessing to an unbelieving world and endeavour with God’s help to persist in our Christian stewardship. We should learn this lesson well for much depends on it.
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