A highway leads to a sunrise.

Faithfully serving God in a hostile environment

Harvest Partner — January 12, 2024

Early on in my years of ministry I learned important lessons from Nehemiah, and I still draw encouragement from his outstanding leadership.

Nehemiah was devoted to God’s service and relied completely on his help for the massive task that was ahead of him. The wall of Jerusalem was broken down and its gates burnt with fire. The remnant was suffering distress and reproach, and the city was defenseless. As Nehemiah prayed, God put a plan in his heart, and he went to work. (Nehemiah 2:12)

As I was reading several chapters of this book recently, my attention was drawn to the development taking place in chapter four. It begins with adversaries who are angry that God’s people are rebuilding the wall and reducing their vulnerability to outside enemies.

Immediately the verbal assault began with rounds of ridicule and insults. It’s an old tactic used to intimidate, discourage, and immobilize.

In response, Nehemiah turns to God in prayer. With the help of the Lord and of willing workers, the work continued until the wall was halfway up. Then came the second wave of assault. Enemies plotted together to come against the remnant, fight against them and stir up trouble against them.

How similar this is to what we see in the New Testament and in the world today—opposition coming in waves to thwart the plan that God puts in the hearts of his servants.

Once again Nehemiah responds with prayer, strategy, and practical action. He also has a message for the people: “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and daughters, your wives, and your homes.” (Nehemiah 4:14)

There are important lessons for us today in this book. We too face a great challenge, and some would say impossible odds as we seek to fulfill the task that Jesus assigned to his followers.

The waves of verbiage constantly coming against the Word of God and his people have one underlying source with the ultimate purpose of preventing the fulfilment of our mission. We see it here in Canada and around the globe. Attitudes, pretentions, and arguments come in volleys to undermine what God has said and weaken the resolve of his people.

In a much larger look at the book of Nehemiah we note many characteristics of this godly man, characteristics that must be ours today. These can carry us forward in the worst of times.

Nehemiah had vision, but he was not a dreamer. He was pragmatic about his mission. He was faith-filled, persevering and responsible. He knew the value of repentance, consecration, consistency, and continuation until completion. He led the people to do what they could do and trusted God to do what only he can do. He knew God and his long history with humanity. He knew that he can be trusted. He believed in the importance of prayer and had learned to speak with God and to listen for his guidance.

In teaching from Nehemiah over the years I’ve often summarized his depth and practical approach this way: He knew how to pray with faith in God, how to think with faith in God, how to plan with faith in God, and how to work with faith in God.

Today, as we look ahead to a year of unknown and a world in turmoil let’s take heart, stay close to Scripture, pray, think, plan and work toward the fulfilment of God’s great desire for humanity. Let’s also receive the instruction of Nehemiah: Don’t be afraid; remember the Lord; fight for your homes and families and people. For us, our fight is not against flesh and blood. We fight for others through praying, caring, and sharing the gospel of salvation, always with the Lord at our side.

As we consider the mission that God has given us to reach people across the world, our nation, and neighbourhoods with his glorious gospel, we have something to pray about, think about, plan for and work toward. As we do, may the God of hope fill each of us with joy and peace as we trust in him!

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