Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

29 – Dealing with difficult and discouraging days – Part 3

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Nehemiah 4:1-20

4 Sanballat was very angry when he learned that we were rebuilding the wall. He flew into a rage and mocked the Jews, 2 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?” 3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was standing beside him, remarked, “That stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked along the top of it!” 4 Then I prayed, “Hear us, our God, for we are being mocked. May their scoffing fall back on their own heads, and may they themselves become captives in a foreign land! 5 Do not ignore their guilt. Do not blot out their sins, for they have provoked you to anger here in front of the builders.” 6 At last the wall was completed to half its height around the entire city, for the people had worked with enthusiasm. 7 ut 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. 8 They all made plans to come and fight against Jerusalem and throw us into confusion. 9 But we prayed to our God and guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves. 10 Then the people of Judah began to complain, “The workers are getting tired, and there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves.” 11 Meanwhile, our enemies were saying, “Before they know what’s happening, we will swoop down on them and kill them and end their work.” 12 The Jews who lived near the enemy came and told us again and again, “They will come from all directions and attack us!”[e] 13 So I placed armed guards behind the lowest parts of the wall in the exposed areas. I stationed the people to stand guard by families, armed with swords, spears, and bows. 14 Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said to them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!” 15 When our enemies heard that we knew of their plans and that God had frustrated them, we all returned to our work on the wall. 16 But from then on, only half my men worked while the other half stood guard with spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. The leaders stationed themselves behind the people of Judah 17 who were building the wall. The laborers carried on their work with one hand supporting their load and one hand holding a weapon. 18 All the builders had a sword belted to their side. The trumpeter stayed with me to sound the alarm. 19 Then I explained to the nobles and officials and all the people, “The work is very spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. 20 When you hear the blast of the trumpet, rush to wherever it is sounding. Then our God will fight for us!”

Last time we saw that the first internal cause of doubt and discouragement was fatigue and now we come to the second:

  1. Frustration

In verse 10 the people complain that “there is so much rubble to be moved.” They became discouraged because of the dirt and debris in their life. The people were frustrated because they kept tripping over the trash. So let me ask you, is there junk in your life that keeps getting in the way of God’s work? Hebrews 12:1 challenges us to get rid of it. “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race marked out for us.” The trouble with rubble is that it can impede our progress. What is interesting to note is that while they are now complaining about the rubble, this rubble has been there all along. It was there when Nehemiah first went around the wall on his midnight ride to survey the damage and it was present at the beginning of the building. Yet somehow they were able to build the first half of the wall so why is the rubble a problem now? Because before they were focused on rebuilding now they are focused on rubble before they focused on the Father now they are focused on the frustration. What about you are you focusing on the junk or on Jesus? As Believers we have a choice, we can focus on the frustrations or on the Fathers faithfulness. What we need to remember is that focusing on the frustrations leads to throwing in the towel, where focusing on the Father leads to walking in the truth. The third internal cause of doubt and discouragement was:

  1. Focus on Failure

It’s here in verse 10 that they declare, “We will never be able to build the wall.” Failure is a major cause of being discouraged, but failure is familiar to us all. We are all going to have setbacks in this life. The question is how are you going to respond to failure? People who have learned to win in life, have learned how to get back on the horse after it’s bucked them off. John Wayne said, “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.” The truth is failure can fortify because we will learn more from our failures than our successes. The point is we need to stop focusing on our failure and start focusing on the Father. Lastly, we see the fourth cause of doubt and discouragement:

  1. Fear

In verse 11 we see the people listening to and repeating the words of their enemies, “our enemies were saying, “Before they know what’s happening, we will swoop down on them and kill them and end their work.” When we focused on the threats instead of the truth we will fall prey to fear. Interestingly verse 12 tells us who gets afraid the quickest, those who are closest to the problem. It causes them to spend their time and energy on worry instead of on the work. Worry will wear you down and cause you to stop work on your wall, instead of building and believing you will end up bailing. Fear puts us in a frame of mind where we are not only susceptible to discouragement but also deception.  The reality is that the enemies never do attack Jerusalem. Look at all the wasted energy spent on fear when it could have been put into walking by faith. What are your fears today? Fear of failure? Fear of rejection? Fear of health problems? Fear of being criticized? The reality is that many of our fears are unfounded. Discouragement will cause you to want to desert, to pack your bags and run away. While this may seem like a solid solution to your difficulties, the problem is that while you desert, discouragement doesn’t, it will follow you. Have you fallen prey to fatigue, are you focusing on the frustrations, failures, and fears? If so then come back to Christ and start resting and relying on Him and trade your worry for worship.

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