Willing Workers

There is no greater cause to give your life for than the cause of Christ! There is no cause more urgent than the cause of Christ. In Nehemiah 11, we read of people who were willing to work for Christ, no matter the cost. They knew what was at stake!

THE PLACE OF GOD
Willing workers focus on the place of God. “Jerusalem” is mentioned almost 40 times in the book of Nehemiah. Jerusalem is the city of David, the city of God. God chose to put His name there. The House of God was there. The problem with the city is found in Nehemiah 7:4- “Now the city was large and spacious, but the people in it were few, and the houses were not rebuilt.” By Nehemiah 11, we read that for every ten people, one was committing to go live in Jerusalem.

The world is undergoing the largest wave of urban growth in history. More than half of the world’s population now lives in towns and cities. By 2030 this number will swell to almost 5 billion. How can we best reach and minister to people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ? When you read the book of Acts, and study the missionary journeys of Paul, you discover that cities are strategic for God’s plan for the world. They are places of density and diversity.

Liberty is surrounded by cities! God has called us to penetrate lostness and reach the cities of Hampton Roads with the Gospel!

THE PEOPLE OF GOD
Willing workers also serve the people of God. The people in the book of Nehemiah are people just like you and me. They had a heart for their city and community.

There are 822 serving in the Temple. Some served outside the Temple. There were those who prayed and those who sang. We are the body of Christ. We were saved to serve. God did not save you to sit. He saved you to serve. Some have the attitude, “large churches don’t need me.” The larger the church, the more workers are needed. Give yourself to the Lord Jesus and His mission. Pray for the people not yet here. Pray about what God would have you to do.

THE PRIORITY OF GOD
Nehemiah 11:2 says they “willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem.” It is tough to pull up stakes, uproot families, and start over again. Every time a staff member is called to Liberty, that is what they do. Every time a person is called to missions, that is exactly what they are called to do.

What motivated them? God moved their heart. Instead of kicking and screaming every step of the way, they took the lot as the will of God for their lives, and submitted themselves to it. Willing workers do whatever it takes to advance the Gospel. Their priorities are God’s priorities. Local loyalties are good, but the work of God is larger. Your loyalty to Christ supersedes your allegiance to anyone or anything else. The priority of the church comes before school, work, sports, etc. Patriotism can never hinder the work of the Lord to the nations. I am a Christian first and an American second. We must sacrifice and serve to see others saved.

Willingly offer yourself to Him today. The best this world has to offer does not compare to the least of things in Heaven! Winston Churchill stated, “However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” There are almost 6.9 billion people in the world. It is estimated that 758 million are believers, 2.6 billion are non-believers, and 3.4 billion have never heard the name of Jesus. Be a willing worker for Jesus!

Public Decisions

The Christian life is a series of new beginnings. There are strategic times in our lives when we need to repent of sin and reaffirm our commitments. There are times when we need to rededicate our lives or repeat our vows. Nehemiah 10 gives us four indications for making genuine decisions.

YOUR SIGNATURE
When the Bible was first written it did not have chapters and verses. These were later added to help us locate passages. So, our text really begins in 9:38 – “And because of all this, we make a sure covenant and write it….” A signature shows the intention of the individual. In this case, they wanted God and others to know that they meant business. People tend to do what they put their name to. If you buy a car or a house, you sign the dotted line! Should we not take spiritual things as seriously?

You may ask, “What is the big deal with me making my decision public? Can’t it just be between me and God?” No. Matthew 10:32-33 says, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”

YOUR SURRENDER
Nehemiah 10:29 says, “these joined with their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law… and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes….” The people joined together with their “brethren” and made a decision to surrender to God. We do ministry and life together! We help each other out! The real test of revival is not how many decisions were made, but how many had a change of heart, attitude, and direction. If you walk down the aisle, pray a prayer, and go out unchanged, your decision was not real.

People come to church, hear the Word of God preached, and leave with the attitude, “I will live that way if I want to, and if I don’t want to, I don’t have to.” The Word of God is the final authority for faith and practice. You cannot read the Bible cafeteria style, just picking and choosing the parts you like best.

YOUR SEPARATION
In verses 30-31, the people decide they will be set apart despite what everyone else was doing. They were surrounded by pagan people who did not know God, however, Nehemiah and the people said they were going to march to a different drumbeat.

The two specific areas mentioned in these verses are relationships and business. They declared they would not marry unbelievers and that they would not work on the Sabbath. These are great guidelines for us today! If you are single, don’t date unbelievers. Only date the kind of person you would marry. Also, don’t work on God’s day. Find a job that permits you to go to church and worship. Life revolves around worship not work. Make God your priority!

YOUR SUPPORT
Nine times this passage refers to “the house of God.” How we take care of His house indicates what we think of God. Verses 32-33 declare they would give financially to support and maintain the work of the ministry. In verse 34, they brought a wood offering, and in verses 35-37 they brought their “firstfruits.” They gave their best to God, not their leftovers! Every time God puts something in your hand, put it back in His and ask what He would have you do with it. Let us declare, just like those in the passage, “we will not neglect the house of our God” (v. 39).

Nehemiah and the people had a great revival. It was a real move of God! They made a public, fresh, genuine commitment. What do you need to make a new commitment to?

How to Improve Your Prayer Life

Nehemiah 9 contains the longest prayer in the Old Testament. Prayer takes time! We can learn several things from this chapter on how to improve our prayer lives.

PRAYER ACKNOWLEDGES GOD
They came together publicly to recognize the greatness of God. Prayer focuses on God. They are recounting all the Lord has done in these verses, starting with creation and continuing to the present.

One key to improve your prayer life is to pray Scripture. God speaks to us through Scripture. We talk to God through prayer. You will never run out of something to pray about this way. You know you are praying the will of God when you pray the Word of God.

The key to any relationship is communication. Christianity is all about a relationship with God. As you read your Bible, talk to God. It is not just information, but transformation. Prayer is God-centered. Most of the world has no idea who God is. Who you pray to matters. You learn who God is through the Bible. God is love. He’s holy and good. He will never leave you. He is Creator, Savior, and our Provider. He is merciful and is our hope.

PRAYER ADMITS GUILT
They came together to confess the sinfulness of man. Look at verses 16-17 and 26-29. “You” refers to God and “they” refers to sinful man. Man is sinful. Israel’s past was like a roller-coaster. God is a giving God, but the more He gave them, the less they gave Him. They were not thankful. They turned away from God. People today are just as quick to turn away!

You can be honest with God. If you are mad at God, you might as well tell Him. If you’ve messed up, tell Him that too. I’ll let you in on a secret… He already knows it. We don’t like to talk about our own sin. We rename and redefine sin as “just a mistake.” We blame others. Be honest about yourself. Prayer leads to repentance. It is more than confession. It is change. Worldly sorrow is not repentance. Feeling really bad for what you did is not repentance. Being sorry you got caught is not repentance. Stop excusing your sin! Sin is against people, but it is also against God. Take time to repent every day. Confess your sins the way you commit them- one by one. Admit your sin and abandon it.

PRAYER ACCEPTS GRACE
They came to receive the mercy of God. Look at some of the phrases we read in their prayer:

– “You are God, ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and did not forsake them.” (v. 17)
– “In Your manifold mercies You did not forsake them…” (v. 19)
– “You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, and did not withhold…” (v. 20)
– “You sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing…” (v.21)
– “You gave them kingdoms and nations…” (v. 22)
– “You also multiplied their children…” (v. 23)
– “For many years You had patience with them…” (v. 30)
– “In Your great mercy You did not utterly consume them nor forsake them; for You are God, gracious and merciful.” (v. 31)

As part of the conclusion, we read, “For You have dealt faithfully, but we have done wickedly” (v. 33). God was long-suffering and merciful. He spared them. God did not give them what they deserved – He showed mercy. God did give them what they did not deserve – He showed grace. The cross says sin is serious. Sin will kill your joy, marriage, family, business, career, church, etc. The only hope is the death of Jesus.

God is close and will hear you if you call on Him. Go to Him in prayer. Acknowledge Him. Admit your guilt. Accept His grace.

The Results of Revival

Thanks for visiting the blog today! We are currently going through a series on the book of Nehemiah. Today’s post picks up about halfway through Nehemiah 8. There is a revival in the city of Jerusalem. It was the Billy Graham Crusade of the Old Testament! Here are three results of revival that we see in this chapter:

LOVE THE TRUTH
Verse 13 says, “Now on the second day the heads of the fathers’ houses of all the people, with the priests and Levites, were gathered to Ezra the scribe, in order to understand the words of the Law.” They loved the Word so much that they came back a second day! Many people today who claim to be Christians are spiritually anemic. They get all they want at Christmas and Easter. In other countries, time means nothing. People have a hunger for the Word! I preached in India and Nepal and some traveled by bus, bike, train, or on foot for days to get to the service! They did not say, “Preach only 25 minutes.”

“Second” is used a number of times in Scripture. God spoke to Abraham out of Heaven a second time. God gave Jacob a second son. In the story of Joseph there was the second dream. The Bible says the first Adam got us in this mess, but the second Adam came to regain what the first Adam lost. Aren’t you glad Jesus came the first time? I have good news for you today… He is coming a second time! Are you ready for the second coming of Jesus? The people in Nehemiah came back a “second” day. Aren’t you glad God is the God of a “second” chance?

Do you love the truth? Do you want more of it? If not, pray for a revival in your own heart today!

LEARN THE TRUTH
Verse 14 begins by saying, “And they found written in the Law….” They were reading the Old Testament.
They realized they were to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, which had not been kept in decades. Doctrinal truth can be lost in just one generation, yet through Bible study, a new generation can learn the truth. Revival can come in the last days. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (Jn. 8:32).

The mind grows by taking in. The heart grows by giving out. There must be a balance of both. That is why we must not only learn the truth, but…

LIVE THE TRUTH
The people obeyed what they read. In this case, they made the booths and kept the Feast. For centuries it had not been done, yet they welcomed the change. Can you imagine what Sanballat and Tobiah must have thought? If you live for God the world is going to think you are crazy. Your own family may not understand. The experts tell us the church needs to be seeker friendly. The Bible tells us to be Scripture friendly, Spirit friendly, sermon friendly, soul friendly, and Savior friendly.

In this text, obeying was not convenient. The people left their comfort zones. They moved into inconvenient, uncomfortable booths with gladness. James says to be a doer of the word. Your view of God will determine whether or not you are going to obey Him. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

The goodness of God leads to repentance. Throughout history God has burdened His people to pray, search the Scriptures, and confess sin. Revival came in Nehemiah’s day and it can come in our day. May we love, learn, and live the Truth!

Finding Joy

If one word characterized the Christian life it would be joy. Joy should be the testimony of every Christian and every church. The Gospel is not bad news, it is Good News. Joy to the World the Lord has come! Has this joy come to you? Here are three ways, found in Nehemiah 8, that we can find joy:

JOY IN THE WORD OF GOD
“Now all the people gathered together… and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses…. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding… Then he read from it … from morning until midday… and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law” (Neh. 8:1-3). People want to experience God. You cannot experience God apart from His word. You have to get in the book and the book has to get in you!

How many came? “All.” Church attendance is not optional for the Christian. They read from morning to midday! It was a 6-hour sermon! All the people. Standing. Hot. Sweating. Outside for 6 hours. Most today can’t take 30 minutes to 1 hour. They stood for the whole time!

Nehemiah preached the Word, not opinion polls. What they read brought joy! What some of you read brings lust and fear. If you will read the Bible, it will bring joy.

JOY IN THE WORSHIP OF GOD
Verse 6 says, “And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. Then all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen!’ while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.” What is real worship? Worship attracts God. God attracts people. People leave not talking about a great preacher, but a great God. Worship gives God what He likes.

In this chapter, their worship was verbal and visible. People got excited! Is God dull, boring, cold, indifferent, or dead? Then why should church ever be that way? It may not be your way of worshipping, but it is biblical. Don’t ever look down your nose at someone who expresses themselves this way. It is not Baptist… it is Bible! They lifted up their hands. Many have never done it before. Maybe you wanted to, but you were self-conscience. 50,000 people did it here! Try it. It is painless!

Hands with palms up show all sin is confessed and you have nothing to hide. The Bible talks about lifting up HOLY hands. Hands raised show you are expecting an answer. Fill my cup, Lord. I have nothing of my own. I come empty handed. Worship is biblical, sacred, and expressive. We also read in this passage about submission – they bowed down. Picture 50,000 people doing this all at the same time. There is coming a day when every knee shall BOW and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!

Worship means worth-ship. Consider Him worthy. Whether or not you say “Amen,” you lift your hands, or you bow, it all depends on what Jesus is worth to you.

JOY IN THE WILL OF GOD
Verse 10 says, “…Do not sorrow, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Verse 12 says, “And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.” A new job, man, woman, house, car, or clothes will not, and cannot, bring you joy. They found joy in doing the will of God. What is the will of God for your life?

Joy is found in the Word of God, the worship of God, and the will of God. Joy is found in Jesus!

How Will You Be Remembered?

Nehemiah 7 has 73 verses and is primarily a list of names. It’s like the Jerusalem phone book! Most authors skip over it or combine it with chapter 8, but there is so much there. I just couldn’t skip over it!

LEADERSHIP
The first subject addressed in the chapter is leadership. As I have said throughout this series, the book of Nehemiah is a classic on leadership.

“Then it was… that I gave the charge of Jerusalem to my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the leader of the citadel, for he was a faithful man and feared God more than many” (Neh. 7:1-2). Nehemiah put the right people in the right places. He appointed leaders and even chose his brother. He was not afraid of the accusation of nepotism and did not give the job to his brother because of favoritism. Hanani was faithful and trusted.

Leadership cannot be left up to a popularity vote. Note the criteria for choosing leaders in verse 2. They had to be faithful. The greatest ability is dependability. 1 Corinthians 4:2 says, “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.” Regardless of your place of service, your greatest ability is dependability! Don’t be hit and miss, hot and cold, on and off. Be faithful.

PARTNERSHIP
In verse 5, Nehemiah gathered the people together. Why did they build the wall? So people could come into the city of God and find a place of safety. Why are we building a multi-generational, multi-ethnic, multi-site church? For people. Buildings and new campuses are tools to help us reach people. 1.7 million people are not driving to one address. We want to wrap our arms around Hampton Roads and take the Gospel to them! The names in chapter 7 were there to help build the city. We are here to help build the church. We are here for those who are not yet here!

Not only did the people partner together to build and to worship, but Nehemiah partnered with Hanani and Hannaniah, faithful men of integrity who feared God. Think of other examples in Scripture: Aaron and Hur holding up the arms of Moses to win the battle, Joshua and Caleb believing the promises of God, Ruth and Naomi committing to make the journey together, David and Jonathan committing to friendship and protecting each other, Paul and Silas praising God even in adversity, and Paul and Timothy encouraging one another. It’s important who you partner with!

STEWARDSHIP
The Bible talks about money. In verses 70-72, the Governor, leaders, and the people all gave. Money follows your heart. Mathew 6:21 says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If you love something, you give your money to it. At the end of our text, the people make a major offering, nearly $5 million. God’s work is not second-rate. He does not want our leftovers. He wants our best. God put a dream in Nehemiah’s heart and he gave it his very best!

As I conclude this post on Nehemiah 7, remember God knows your name! We know the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. We know the names of David’s mighty men. In Romans 16 we have a list of names of those who worked with Paul. In Hebrews 11 we have a list of the heroes of the faith. Today, we read a list of names in Nehemiah 7. These are people God used to accomplish His work.

God is keeping records of where we came from, who we belong to, what we give, and what we do for Him. Is your name in God’s Book – the Lamb’s book of life? How will you be remembered? What will you be remembered for?

Doing a Great Work

We have been going through the book of Nehemiah in these posts. Just like the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, we live in a broken world. We are surrounded by broken lives, marriages, families, relationships, countries, systems, and governments. Our only hope is Jesus! No matter what work we put our minds to, we can be assured of two things: the unending harassment of the enemy and the unfailing help of the Lord.

THE UNENDING HARASSMENT OF THE ENEMY
Up to this point in the book of Nehemiah, the enemy has used disagreements, disrespect, discouragement, disappointment, division, and distraction. In Nehemiah 6, he continues attacking. You and I are not exempt from his schemes!

Don’t dialog with the devil or the enemy. In the beginning of this chapter, Nehemiah’s enemies wanted to meet with him, but he knew they intended to do him harm (v. 2). They wanted to hurt, hinder, and harm the work of God. He would not meet with them. He did not give the enemy an open door.

Because Nehemiah would not stop the work to meet, his enemies attacked him personally. They said things that were not true. They questioned his motive. Nehemiah became the target of careless and wicked tongues. The Bible says the tongue is set on fire of hell. They accused him of building his own kingdom. Any Godly leader will be criticized and slandered. Nehemiah worked for the king, but he was sent and supported by the King.

When you are attacked, do what Nehemiah did. He did not go off in the corner and worry himself sick! He did not call or email every friend he had and waste their time or his. He prayed! Sometimes you need a holy HUSH! Pray verse 9- “…therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.” Lord you hear what they are saying. You know it is not true. You know that you sent me. You know they are trying to stop the work. Lord, strengthen the work.

THE UNFAILING HELP OF THE LORD
No matter what you face, the Lord will be with you. He never fails! Go to Him in prayer, rely on Him, and He will come through!

In verses 11-13, Nehemiah was tempted to sin by going to the holy of holies. Only the priest and the Levites could go there. He knew he was not a Levite and to do so would be to disobey the word of God. James Dobson said, “If a man falls you can always trace it back to his devotional life.” How did Nehemiah know that their suggestion would be a sin? He had read his Bible. There is no situation in life to which the Word has not already spoken!

The most important statement is in verse 15 – “So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days.” The wall was finished. That was no small work! The devil knows that his days are numbered. His time is coming to an end. He has launched an all-out attack on the church. Satan wants us out of business. Think of how many lives have been changed. Think of the influence this church has had over the past 116 years. God has raised Liberty up to be a lighthouse on the east coast. Stay focused and determined to finish building the work.

Nehemiah had decided to do the work and will of God. Even enemies could see that this was the work of God. That is what we want people to say about Liberty! We are part of a great work. The devil will try to get us down and distracted, but the Lord is our Helper!

The enemy will attack. Decide today to turn it all over to God. Decide today to trust Him. Decide today to do right. Whether I live or die, succeed or fail, I am going to obey God and live for Him. What about you?

How to Survive an Economic Crisis

Nothing puts more pressure on a marriage or a relationship like money problems. There is no pressure like financial pressure! For some couples, the more they have, the more they have to fight about. Here are six action words from Nehemiah 5 that will help when financial pressure comes:

TALK
Nehemiah and the people found themselves in a bad economy. They had lost their houses and lands, and to pay their debts, their children were sold into slavery. People were mad, hurting, and desperate.

The first step to solving a problem is to address it. Talk about it. You can’t ignore it and hope it goes away. Husbands and wives should learn to talk about everything!

THINK
Verse 7 says, “After serious thought….” Nehemiah was so angry when he heard about the situation that he had to take some time to cool off. Sometimes we need to walk in the other room. The Bible says, “Be angry and sin not. Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath.” Tammy and I have never gone to bed mad. We have stayed up all night a few times!

TURN
The people had violated the Word of God. It was not unlawful or wrong to borrow money. It was not unlawful or wrong to charge interest; however, God told the Jews that they could not charge another Jew interest. God set them free from slavery in Egypt and Babylon, now they were enslaving each other. God does not want His people in bondage. Jesus came to set the captives free!

Tithe
Verse 9 says, “Fear the Lord….” They were robbing, taking from each other, and that is bad. What is worse is to rob God! “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:8-10)

The first thing a young couple says is “We can’t afford to tithe.” Tammy and I have been there. Don’t tell me you can’t live off love. We did it! When we married I made $150.00 a week. Both of us were in college. You can’t afford not to tithe. A blessed 90% is better than a cursed 100%.

TEACH
If you take care of His business, He will take care of your business. My parents were working class people. I did not know we were poor growing up, but now as an adult, looking back on my childhood, we were poor. We did not have a lot materially, but we were rich toward God. My parents put God first. They tithed. They paid their mortgage, car payment, and we never missed a meal. Praise God my dad never wasted money on alcohol and he did not gamble it away. Husbands and wives, teach your children and the next generation to put God first. Teach them to “seek first the Kingdom of God.”

TRUST
It really all comes down to trust. Don’t panic. Don’t be pessimistic. Economic recession is a fact of life, part of the ebb and flow of the economy. There are times of great economic growth, times of little change, and periods of recession. Times of economic crisis do not have to be frightening, especially if you are prepared ahead of time. Stay focused, streamline, simplify, and tap into God’s supernatural economy. God can be trusted!

Overall, these financial problems diverted attention from the main objective. No current work on the wall is mentioned in this chapter. Don’t you know the enemy was thrilled to see the work stop. The devil would love to see the Lord’s work stop. The devil would love to see your marriage end. In Jesus’ name don’t let that happen!

How to Deal with Discouragement

Have you ever been discouraged? Ever felt like giving up? This post is for you! You can live without food, money, and water, but you can’t make it without hope. There are several things we can learn from the second half of Nehemiah 4 about dealing with discouragement.

REMEMBER THE LORD
In verse 10, we read “the strength of the laborers [was] failing.” They had been working a long time and they were worn out! In the second half of that verse, the people complain, “there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall.” Not only were they tired, but they were frustrated. All they could see was broken stones and rubbish. They had lost the vision of a completed wall. They began finding fault with one another and were afraid of their enemies.

What about you? Are you tired of burning the candle at both ends? Are you frustrated with where you are in life? The people you least expect can be critical and discourage you. Are you afraid? Fear is NOT of God. “God hath not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind” (1 Timothy 1:7).

Nehemiah told the people, “Remember the Lord, great and awesome…” (v. 14). Remember the Lord! Remember who He is and all that He has done for you, and worship Him.

Don’t focus on the Sanballats, focus on the Savior. Don’t focus on the Rubbish, focus on the Redeemer. Don’t focus on the Criticism, focus on Christ.

RESOLVE TO FIGHT
Nehemiah said, “Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses” (v. 14). Victory comes when we remember the Lord and rally around our loved ones. There is strength in the family unit and strength in the church family. Never quit! We have to defend what we work hard for, defend what we build.

You are going to face spiritual resistance. Satan is real and is the accuser of the brethren. He does his best to convince you that you are a failure, your past is too dark, and your situation is hopeless. Satan is a liar! Combat him with the truth, the Sword of the Lord. Make sure you are reading scripture; hang it in your home. Do daily devotions, be in a small group, spend time in prayer.

What are you building? Are you defending it? You have no way to defend yourself from the world, sin, Satan, and Hell, apart from Jesus.

RETURN TO WORK
The people remembered the Lord, resolved to fight, and returned to work! They were confident saying, “Our God will fight for us” (v. 20). When you are discouraged, do the same! Get back to work and trust the Lord to fight for you! Don’t let the enemy get you distracted or off course. The work must go on!

There is strength in numbers. Don’t try to fight alone. You need close friends, the right kind of friends, your family, and your church family. We need each other.

The beginning of verse 20 says, “Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there.” No matter what may be discouraging you today, remember one day the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more. He will gather His workers and His people to Himself, and He will defeat the enemy once and for all. If you are in Christ, you have hope! What a day that will be!

How to Cope with Criticism

When you work with people, you will be criticized. We have all been there. I remember a panel in which Adrian Rogers asked Ron Dunn, “How do you deal with criticism?” He responded, “Not too well!” Criticism is hard to take. People can be mean. Here are a few tips from Nehemiah 4 on how to deal with criticism:

BE PREPARED
If you are going to live for God and serve Him, you need to be prepared for criticism and opposition. It is inevitable. I heard Jerry Falwell say, “If you do not want people to criticize you, just say nothing, have nothing and do nothing. People will leave you alone.” If you try to make a difference and do a great work for God, expect criticism.

In the service of the Lord, there is no place for wimps and weaklings. You must be secure in who you are and in what God has called you to do. There is no greater joy than to know that you are in the will of God, doing what He has called you to do. Nehemiah was called to the work. You have to make up your mind, regardless of what comes your way, you are going to be faithful.

Why is it that a servant of God is surprised when there is opposition and criticism? Jesus said in John 15, “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his Lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.”

BE PRAYERFUL
When Nehemiah faced criticism, he prayed. “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” (v. 4). This is an imprecatory prayer. He is praying the judgment of God down on his enemies. The psalmists sometimes prayed this way. The worst thing you could wish on another person is that they would get what they deserve. Nehemiah prayed that God would give them what they deserved.

Nehemiah realized that the criticism was not against him alone, but ultimately against God. He prayed in accordance to the will of God. He did not allow himself to be distracted or to reply to their words. He just talked to God about it. Nehemiah did not take the law into his own hands. He put it in God’s hands. I have prayed, “Lord, you hear what is being said, so in your balance of justice and mercy do what is right.”

Take every compliment people give you and give it to Jesus. Then, you can take every criticism people give you and give it to Jesus as well. Remember, the Lord says, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay” (Romans 12:19).

BE PERSISTENT
Nehemiah kept praying and building! You can’t answer every critic. Abraham Lincoln said if he tried to answer his critics, there would not be time to do anything else. The worst thing you can do is try to answer every critic. Every hill is not worth dying on. Some things do not deserve a response. Nehemiah didn’t give them a piece of his mind. He didn’t tell them off. He didn’t seek unanimous support. It takes two to fight. The way to stop a fight or argument is to close your mouth. Commit the criticism to God in prayer and get back to work!

In verse 6, they were at the half-way mark. It is exciting when you start and finish, but it is easy to be discouraged halfway through the project. No matter the criticism you may face, don’t stop serving the Lord! Be prepared, be prayerful, be persistent, and finish what God called you to do!