TODAY’S READING: Nehemiah 6–7
The nations around broken Israel watched as Nehemiah attempted to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls. Not liking what they saw, they attempted to get Nehemiah off pace through distraction, fear, and bullying. In our globalized world, the nations are now more able than ever to watch and bully, more determined to get us off point. Nehemiah’s reaction to threat is exemplary for missionaries and God’s missional people everywhere.
The enemy begins his assault through invitations, opportunities that would take us from focused work to pleasant opportunities. The old adage, “the good is enemy of the best,” comes to mind here; Nehemiah saw through the invitation to the harm intended. Some great opportunities will only do us harm. The inability to say “no” has diverted many a missionary. We must have deep within our psyche a single-eyed focus on making disciples among every people, and when good opportunities come our way, we must say with Nehemiah: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” (Neh. 6:3). May Jesus help us be so focused on establishing His beautiful church where it doesn’t exist that we have the resolve to turn down what turns up—even the good, attractive, and defensible ministry opportunities.
If opportunities don’t divert us, the devil devolves to deceit. He slanders. Nehemiah responded succinctly and did not seem to linger in his denial (v. 8). If the enemy can’t get us to physically leave the work, he will attempt to drain our energy from it by dragging us into the court of private opinion and an imagined appeal court. We lay in bed at night going through scenarios, figuring out how to respond, framing arguments, thinking through our justification strategies. We daydream through our work wondering how we can be vindicated. Our emotions are raw and our stomachs in knots—and the work of making disciples suffers. Missionaries and ministers must determine to refute slander at once, turn the page, and focus back on the work.
If slander and infighting don’t cripple us, the enemy then tries to terrorize us, sending in his hired guns that we might become afraid and act in a way that is sin (vv. 13, 19). The enemy excels at stretching Goliaths to twice their size. For all the terror of the giant, it was a little stone and little youth that felled him, a boy with no fear and great zeal for the glory of God. The enemy delights at making real opponents of the gospel bigger than they actually are and then bullies like communism seem to fall overnight. The enemy can take the thought of places like Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, North Korea, Afghanistan, or Libya and make them seem unassailable, until you arrive and realize they’re like the land of Oz. Behind the curtain the giant is anything but. Fear turns small enemies into monsters. Faith sees that all enemies are tiny in the shadow of the Almighty.
Refusing distraction to opportunity, ignoring slander, and fighting for faith over fear, Nehemiah stayed true, and “all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God” (6:16). As the Bible demonstrates from every page, God is glorified among the nations. If we stay true, He will be glorified in Libya and beyond.