How to Deal with Discouragement

neh-titleHave 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

neh-titleWhen 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!

How to Work Well with Others

neh-title“Works well with others” can be found on a kindergarten report card. How adults get along with co-workers will be reflected on their performance evaluation at work. Working together will determine the success of a team or a department. Just think of the many things we can do working well together at home and at church! Here are three principles of how to work well with others:

PARTICIPATION
“Next to him” is a phrase found in verses 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, and 10 of chapter 3. The people chose to participate. They chose to join hearts and hands together to serve the Lord, and they became co-laborers with God.

Some went the extra mile. Verses 11, 19, 21, 24, 27, and 30 include the phrase “repaired another section.” Some worked over and beyond the call of duty. They did not say, “Well, I finished my section of the wall. I have done my part.” They finished and said, “What else can I do?” Baruch is the only one who the Bible says did his work “earnestly” (NIV zealously, v. 20). The Hebrew word means to burn or glow. Too many people do as little as they can get by with. We need to get rid of the “get-by” attitude!

Being a Christian starts at home. Verses 10, 23, 28, and 29 say “in front of his house.” They worked where they lived. It starts at home. Start in your neighborhood. Reach your neighbors. Anyone else want to be like Baruch? Are you willing to go the extra mile and burn with zeal and passion in your service? Are you tired of going through the motions? Friend, kick it up a notch! If the truth were known, most all of us could do a lot more, with a lot more passion, than what we’re doing right now.


COOPERATION
It is one thing to participate, but it is another to cooperate. If you are going to work well with others, it takes teamwork! Talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships! Not all can sing, preach, or teach. We do not have the same talents or gifts, but we can work together, cooperate, support, and encourage each other.

It was a diverse group rebuilding the wall. They came from different occupations and different towns. Some moved debris, some built, some stacked bricks, etc. The church is a diverse group, but we must move in the same direction. Henry Ford said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” He also said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

DEDICATIONn
“Repair” is used 35 times. It means to make strong. We want to build a strong and lasting work.
We want to be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. All dedicated themselves to a place of service! They all had a work station.

One day we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of those things done in the flesh, whether it be good or whether it be bad. Live every day ready for the Lord to return. Live a life pleasing to God for eternal rewards. “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). In verse 5, the nobles would not work. Don’t ever let it be said of you that when a great work for God was being done, “He would not help.”

As you glance over Nehemiah chapter 3 you will notice that there are 100 personal names in 32 verses. God knows your name and He does not forget faithful workers!

Build Together

neh-titleNot only does Nehemiah 2 illustrate the providence of God, but it also says a great deal about working with people. You cannot build alone. Nehemiah went to Jerusalem and led the people to build back the walls of the city. Together, they did it in only 52 days! Building together takes the following:

ISOLATION
People see leaders and think, “they have it made!” Leadership is a place of honor, but it is also a place of humility. Nehemiah did not arrive and say, “Let’s get started.” He was there three days and didn’t tell anyone where he was or what he was doing.

“It’s lonely at the top” but God can use those lonely times. When Moses was alone, God spoke through a burning bush. When Mary was alone, an angel told her of things to come. When John was alone, he authored Revelation. Character is what you are when no one else is looking, and what you are willing to stand for when everyone is looking. Successful leaders know not only how to handle themselves in public, but in private. A leader cannot be effective in public until he has prepared himself in private. Moses spent 40 years preparing on the back side of the desert. Paul spent three years in the Arabian desert.

INSPECTION
After Nehemiah’s time alone, he took a few men with him and they began to inspect the condition of the wall. The Hebrew word means to look carefully at the extent of the damage. Do your due diligence. Before you start, do your homework! Answer the questions of why, what, when, and how. Before you can lead, you have to know where you are going! The old Chinese proverb is still true. He who thinks he is leading when no one is following is really just out for a walk! Inspection is so important at the beginning, and all throughout, the project. People tend to do what you inspect not what you expect.

IDENTIFICATION
Nehemiah identified himself with the problem. He was not born there and could have said, “I’m new here and you need to go to work. Y’all have made a big mess!” When he was finally ready to present the need to the people and discuss it, he chose his words carefully. He says, “you see the distress we are in… let us build the wall…” (v. 17). We must all do our part. We must all build together!

INVITATION
There are no lone rangers in ministry. Nehemiah could not build the wall by himself, nor could he do it with a few leaders. He had to appeal for everyone’s help. He gave the invitation, “Let us rise up and build…” (v. 18). Too many churches, businesses, marriages, and parents are not pulling together. BUILD TOGETHER! God can use anyone who does not care who gets the credit.

INTIMIDATION
People will try to discourage you. People began to mock, but Nehemiah did not back down or pull out. He confidently said, “The God of heaven will prosper us” (v. 20). Every leader must be able to handle criticism. Every time God is at work, the devil will oppose it. Just remember that Jesus, too, was despised and rejected. There are not enough demons in Hell to stop the church of the Lord Jesus Christ! Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

The devil may be the prince of this world but Jesus is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords! The King is higher than the prince! When God calls you to lead a project and bring people together, remember Nehemiah. God was faithful to him, and when you rely on Him, He will be faithful to you!

Good Hands

neh-titleToday’s theme is found in Nehemiah 2:8 – “the good hand of my God upon me.” Providence is the unseen hand of God guiding human destiny. It is illustrated clearly in Nehemiah 2. Know that God is working now, even if you can’t see it!

PROVIDENCE ARRANGING OPPORTUNITIES
God is arranging opportunities for you. Nehemiah prayed and he waited. Between chapter 1 and chapter 2 there are four months. What was Nehemiah doing for four months? Praying! Nehemiah 2:4 says, “Then the king said to me, ‘What do you request?’ So I prayed to the God of heaven.” His prayer was not a long prayer. Nehemiah was caught up! He quickly asks God to give him the words and wisdom, and He did. God puts a premium on prayer and patience!

One day Nehemiah could hide his sorrow no longer. Why that day? God had been preparing the king’s heart. God is the God of the open door! He opens doors that no man can shut, and he shuts doors that no man can open. Nehemiah could only build when God gave him the opportunity. In Ephesians 5:16 Paul said, “making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” You cannot run ahead of God and neither can you lag behind. Be prayed up so that when God gives you the opportunity, you are ready!

PROVIDENCE ADMINISTERING ORGANIZATION
God had prepared the king’s heart and he granted Nehemiah’s request! God was in control. Where God guides, He provides. Where God directs, He protects. The king said in essence, “If you mess with Nehemiah, you are messing with me.” Nehemiah had God’s protection and God’s provision.

Every child of God has been sent by God. There is a purpose, a work for you to do for King Jesus. Nehemiah knew that he had been sent by the king and he had a plan. For four months he was not only praying, but he was planning. He knew the time he needed, he knew the letters needed to pass through lands, and he knew he needed a request for timber. He had thought it through!

If we fail to plan, we are planning to fail. Good leaders plan ahead. If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time. “A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). God honors good organization and planning. Look around at creation. God is a God of order.

PROVIDENCE ANTICIPATING OPPOSITION
Can you believe it? God sent Nehemiah to build the walls and the city, but there were people who were not for it! They were “deeply disturbed” over what Nehemiah wanted to do (v. 10). Paul said that opportunity and opposition go hand in hand together. “Because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me…” (1 Corinthians 16:9). There were those who did not like the apostle Paul. There were those who did not like Jesus. That makes me feel better!

Don’t ever think that everyone is going to like you. Anytime God is doing a great work, GET READY for Satan’s attack. Opposition will come from both the outside and inside. There will always be those who minimize and criticize you if you are trying to do something for God. The Chairman of Deacons at my first church was an older man. One day he encouraged me with these words, “Grant, anything that moves ahead will face friction!”

Nehemiah was a man of vision and vocation. He was prayed up and He trusted the providence of God through his opportunities, in his planning, and as he faced opposition. Rest assured, God is working and you are in good hands with Jesus!