Written by: His Lordship Bishop Andres Quow OM
For the enemy’s purpose is to kill, steal and destroy. If it left to the enemy alone I will not be here typing, you will not be here reading. For his purpose is to oppose God’s will and purpose for our lives. Beloved, the opposition is a normal part of our existence. Our dreams, desires, choices, ambition and projects at one point or another conflict with the purposes of others, and opposition arises. Opposition arises because our actions, words, or attitudes are not in accord with some around us. It is a normal part of our existence. The natural response is for us to categorize one another into classes of friends and enemies, mainly to determine those who seem to support or undermine our efforts and purposes. The question then is what to do with those we consider enemies. How do we respond to them?
Beloved, I want to encourage us from the book of Nehemiah 6. Nehemiah was surrounded by vocal opposition. The opposition Nehemiah faced had been busy throughout the wall-building project and before. It did not arise out of the dark. They had been present and visible even before Nehemiah began to gather the people and announce his vision for the rebuilding of Jerusalem by putting its protective wall back into place. Before the project began, Nehemiah knew opposition existed. If we are honest about it, we know there will always be some opposition to anything new. There are always voices who find security in life as it is. They are afraid of any change and will rally the troops to keep any kind of change from happening. Beyond that knowledge, Nehemiah was aware that there were others who were profiting from Jerusalem’s state of affairs. If the wall were to be rebuilt, it would place their influence, power, and control over the current situation in jeopardy. For them, the wall around Jerusalem was a political issue tied directly to the power and influence they enjoyed.
So rebuilding the walls would take away something on which they capitalized. The fears and insecurities of an unprotected people were in the personal interest of this opposition. They were not silent in their opposition. They contacted Nehemiah directly at least five times, they basically felt that they had something to gain by stopping Nehemiah, they find ways to intimidate him from fulfilling his objectives. The opposition knew that their best avenue for success in stopping the wall progress was in attacking the one man at the source of the motivation of the people. Nehemiah was a cheerleader. He was the one inspiring the rest to give their time, talents, energy and other resources to accomplish the task at hand. The first thing that Nehemiah did in response to the opposition was to recognize that it was not about him. It was about the task of building the wall. He had kept that distinction front and center all along the way. When issues regarding justice and feeding the people had arisen, he refocused the population on the task at hand. He made that the centerpiece, not himself. Nehemiah opposition sent him letters, and he responded to their letter. Nehemiah understood that the intent was to distract him from the mission at hand. He refused to be their enemy and deflect their anger and opposition to himself. He answered back as simply and directly as possible. He understood the purpose of their attack as a distraction from his mission. Then he turned his attention to God. ‘’ Make me strong,’’ was his prayer, the opposite of what his enemies were trying to accomplish.
Beloved, that did not end the opposition. That did not cause his enemies to stop in their struggle against the wall-building. It did, however, refocus Nehemiah on what he needed to be about. It cancelled the distraction to allow him to move forward with the task at hand.
The opposition continued. It did not simply end because of his prayers. It arose from a different angle. One of the men of the city had not shown up for work at the wall, so he went to check on him. Shemaiah used the moment to warn Nehemiah to hide with him inside the temple from a group of men coming to kill him. Nehemiah refused to be distracted from the project at hand. He determined not to allow his life to be controlled and directed from fear, but in commitment to the project at hand and reliance upon God.
Once again, Nehemiah answered the opposition directly, then turned to God in prayer for strength. He focused his attention on the task at hand, not on the opposition. He focused on the mission set before him and stuck to the course.
Beloved, the result of his strategy speak for themselves. The wall was finished in little more than seven weeks. This was an amazing accomplishment. The speed of the results was extraordinary. It was an achievement that spoke to God’s presence and supports throughout the process. It was a mission accomplishment that revealed security for a disgraced population. It spoke as well to the opposition that their enmity towards the project was not in the best interest of the people as a whole.
Throughout the project with all its opposition, Nehemiah was sure that this project was in concert with God’s intent for the nation. Nehemiah repeatedly came back to God for assurance as he continued to march forward. In such a way, he maintained his focus on the task at hand and the purposes of God. He never prayed directly against his enemies. He never worked directly against them. He answered them as needed, but rather than focus on them he focused on the mission and the One who had sent him on that mission. He focused on the people he was helping by fulfilling the call upon his life.
We can learn a lot from Nehemiah’s response to his enemies. He never stooped so low as to engage them as enemies. He engaged them only as a distraction to the mission at hand. He engaged them only to the point of recognizing their words and answering them. Then he simply moved back to God’s purpose for his life. He refused to be controlled by fear. He refused to become engaged in battle with people when the project at hand had nothing to do with them directly. He focused on the mission, he focused on God, he focused on the people he was trying to help and let the opposition do as they would, leaving that in God’s hands.
As I conclude, what is the mission God has placed before us? Whatever it is, that is much important than the opposition arrayed against us. We are not called to create and battle enemies. We are called to a mission of redemption, reconciliation, building community and establishing love and justice. When these larger issues become primary in our lives, there is little room left for engaging enemies directly. The task at hand is the one to consume our energy. The opposition must remain in the hands of God.
I pray God that we will always stay focused on what God calls us to do. Be reminded that when the enemy cannot destroy you, his job is to distract you. Distractions destroy action. If it’s not moving you towards your purpose, leave it alone.