October 30, 2008

Slaying the Enemy

At church we’re studying Nehemiah (which, to my surprise, I’ve found is extremely relevant to our lives.) Nehemiah had a bold plan, blessed by God, to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. The Jews had many enemies who wanted them to fail—at anything. Threatened by the possible success of such a grand project, Sanballat, Tobiah and company gathered their resources and took aim. At first they hoped to squash the plan before it got off the ground. When this didn’t work and construction began successfully, they upped the ante and launched a full-scale verbal assault complete with public humiliation. They attacked the Jews’ self-image. Questioned their ability. Mocked their faith. Deflated their hope. Scoffed at their vision.

Any one of the arrows could have discouraged Nehemiah and his people. Surely a full onslaught would cause massive doubt, prompting the Jews to run back to the safety of the status quo.

It might have if Nehemiah wasn’t sure of one thing: He was living firmly in God’s purpose and God’s blessing was upon them. Instead of waging a battle on his own Nehemiah “prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.” (Neh. 4:9). And then, in full confidence he faced his enemies. Armed with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other, workers continued to build the wall.

In this country we don’t often receive physical threats for carrying out God’s work. But that doesn’t mean warfare isn’t very real. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Our own Sanballats stand on the sidelines and criticize:
“Shouldn’t you wait until you get more experience?”
“I never let
my children do THAT!”
“Haven’t you tried diets before?”
“You want to start a new business in THIS environment?”
“Ever since you stopped drinking you’re no fun anymore.”
“Do you realize how difficult it is to get published?”
“Maybe you didn’t pray enough.”

Often our worst enemies are the ones inside our own head (my personal favorite):
“Who am I kidding, I’ll never be able to accomplish that…”
“There are so many others more qualified…”
“If I were a better mother/wife/friend…”
“What will others think?”
“I can’t, it’s too risky/scary/dangerous.”

Some of the barbs meet resistance and fall away. But, others find our weakness and penetrate. Ouch! Soon we’re disabled, disheartened and disillusioned, willing to settle for the status quo. Ah, it’s so much safer and more comfortable there!

But is this what God desires of us? To play it safe? Avoid risks? Pursue the sure thing?

God created each of us for a unique purpose. But finding and fulfilling that purpose requires movement. Often it requires we travel off our map into unfamiliar territory where it’s risky and uncomfortable. Like the Jews we feel threatened. The enemy attacks. We begin negative self-talk. Doubt our ability. Waver in our faith. Lose hope. Or question God’s calling. Satan’s happy because he knows if he can just keep us focused on ourselves, we’re rendered useless for the Kingdom.

We learn from Nehemiah there is a way to fight this battle: with a trowel (God’s work) in one hand and a sword (God’s word) in the other. For the question isn’t “if” but “when” the battle will happen. And we need to be prepared. “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground...Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

There is real power in God’s word. Whatever you’re experiencing, there is a verse of victory. Find it. Claim it. Tape it to your bathroom mirror. Memorize it. Say it aloud. Stand firm in its truth. “With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.” Psalm 108:13

In Him we can be brave.

"Brave" by Nichole Nordeman. This song is so empowering and victorious.


Kelly Graham said...

Hi Kelli -

The book of Nehemiah is my favorite book in the Bible...and one book I haven't visited in a while, but needed today...Thank you!

I am off to WOF in Greensboro this weekend...and your message has paved the way.

Blessings and Love my friend!


Chatty Kelly said...

I enjoyed your post and the video! I want to be brave! I have been praying more bravely lately, that God would disipline me, mold me, transform me to make me who he wants me to be.

Thanks for the encouragement.

Dan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan said...

Great message, Kel. My Achilles heel is worry. Want to get me to lose heart? Don't attack me directly - it won't work. Just get me tied up in knots worrying, and I'll never get around to starting! My "verse weapon" is Matthew 6:26-27.

Keep the great blogs coming!

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

First, love Nehemiah. Second, love the song (one of my favorite's of hers). Third, the enemy has been prowling around my house this week. Thankfully, I'm on to him and have been able to combat his wiley ways.

Thank you for the wonderful truth contained within your words.


Peggy said...

Wonderful words from you and from Nehemiah and God. The enemy is always knocking on my door, but I know that "My Reedemer Lives" and will help me through the jungle of this world.
I feel another BIG test coming on, and tell Dan I have a friend who can supply him with a new Achilles, just give me a call, and give his old one to God.
Today I visited my old study group at church, and came away with so many new and wonderful insites into Nehemiah and now with yours...
I am truly ready for the new battle when it comes.
Thanks for the mid-week lift.
See you Sunday......
Blessings and Love.....Peggy

apowers said...

Great read so thank you. It is so nice to be armed with his word and ones faith, but I find it so hard that most of us have not found our "wall." Sometimes I wish that there was a huge pile of rubble in front of me so that I knew exactly what I needed to do and when to do it. Then I would have no trouble standing my ground when needed.


Cheryl Barker said...

You're so right, Kelli, about Satan wanting us to stay focused on ourselves -- it steals our time away from doing the work God has for us. It's one of the main tactics he uses against me. Gotta have that armor on all the time, right?

Tiffany Stuart said...

Love this song.
Love Nehemiah too.

God is victorious!

Runner Mom said...

Wow! Kelli this was great! YOur posts are so inspiring and uplifting to me!!

My worst enemies are inside of my little 'ol head! Satan can have a field day with my fears and inadequacies. But, we have to trust in God and hold fast to His truth to step out in that faith that He longs for us to do.

Love you!

Sue J. said...

It's been a while since I've studied Nehemiah, but I remember his prayers and his persistence, and his trusting in God for everything. It's a very inspiring book!

And I'm learning I really have to keep a tight grip on the trowel and the sword, because the enemy has this way of coming back at you, even after you've gotten help to stand up again. Living firmly in God's purpose is what makes the difference!

Great guy to bring up to the forefront with a message we all need--thanks!