John Ed Mathison headshot

John Ed Mathison

A challenge in life can either be a stumbling block or a stepping stone – it depends on how we handle it. Nehemiah gives us great insight on how to handle challenges. You remember that he and the people in Israel had been in exile in Babylon. Nehemiah was given the challenge to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the walls of the city. Some folks not only wanted to see him fail, but also see to it that he did fail. How do we handle big challenges?

First look at the opposition and how it comes into our lives? Let me list 4 tactics of the enemy! 

1. Criticism – (Nehemiah 4:2) The city of Jerusalem was in ruins. People who wanted to see him fail talked about how much it was devastated. It was nothing but rubble. He would not be able to build a sturdy wall. They said that if a fox walked on top of the wall, the fox would tear it down (v.3).

Some people always see the negative side of life. If you hang around and listen to the naysayer critics you will be defeated. They can give multiple reasons why something cannot be done. I saw a sign in a man’s office recently that said, “If the solutions to all potential problems must be solved before we start, than we will never begin.” I had a friend that sent me a text recently which said, “Over thinking – the art of creating problems that don’t exist.”

Criticism will come. If you have a challenge where there’s no criticism, you might want to evaluate it to see if it’s worth perusing. Big challenges usually produce criticism. 

2. Confusion (v.8) – Confusion always disrupts progress. It can be disastrous. The people who wanted to see Nehemiah fail started riots and raised issues that were unimportant. It was done to confuse Nehemiah.

Confusion can be a deadly enemy. In the recent college National Championship football game, Alabama was a clear favorite. They had an offence that was the best in school history. It was so good that it probably cost the quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, the Heisman Trophy because they scored so many points in the first half of games that he seldom played after half time. But Clemson had a plan – confusion. They devised a defensive scheme to confuse Alabama’s offense. They would show one defensive alignment before the ball was snapped, and then shift into a different defense. On Alabama’s first offensive play of the game, Clemson changed the defense just as the ball was snapped - the pass was intercepted and run back for a touchdown. Clemson continued utilizing confusion to lead them to a big victory.

Confusion is one of the things that Satan uses. He makes something look good, and then we discover that it’s really bad. He tempts us with one scheme, then changes the scheme before we can act responsibility. 

3. Doubt (v.10) – Nehemiah’s opponents created doubt that he and his people could meet the challenge. They told him he couldn’t do it, that there was too much rubble, and that the people would get too tired. They offered Nehemiah a war chest of reasons he would fail.

Whenever God puts a vision in somebody’s mind, the naysayers will give you plenty of reasons why you can’t do that. Successful people don’t listen to them. They turn a deaf ear. I use a term, “selective deafness” – you don’t listen to them. It’s a great defense against the “Can’t do it” crowd. 

4. Intimidation (v. 11) – When other things fail, the enemy will use intimidation. The enemy began to tell how many people they had that would come forward and kill Nehemiah and his people. That’s a tough situation in which to work effectively.

Intimidation and bullying are big problems today, not only among young people but also adults. It’s really weak insecure people who try to exert perceived power in order to get their way. Sometimes they have enough support to make it effective.

Identify the opposition. Read Nehemiah 4, and next week we will look at Nehemiah’s plan for victory!