IV. The Faith that Overcomes (Nehemiah 4:1-23)


IV. The Faith that Overcomes (4:1-23)

4:1 When you are the most determined to fix your life, your family, your church, or your society, people will show up to tell you why it shouldn’t and can’t be done. When Sanballat heard that [they] were rebuilding the wall, he became furious. He mocked the Jews. There will always be people who’ll find it in their self-interest to keep you from succeeding in building what needs to be built in your life because they are threatened by it. That, in fact, was Sanballat’s problem. He knew that the prospering of the Jews would be a threat to his own status. But, when you are in the will of God, what is yours is yours—God protects it until you get it.

4:2-3 Sanballat and his friends ridiculed the Jews. The last thing they needed was someone sitting on the sidelines telling them how big the job was and how they really couldn’t do it, and Sanballat’s critique was partially true! The Jews really were pathetic. The original wall had been built by many more people and was more impressive-looking. Tobiah said, If a fox climbed up what they are building, he would break down their stone wall (4:2-3), which was an exaggeration, but still discouraging.

People can only criticize you when you are doing something. If you are never being criticized, then, it could be that you are just sitting around. When you take a right stand, you are going to be criticized. Some men need to be criticized for being home with their families too much. Some women need to be criticized for prioritizing marriage. Some teenagers need to be criticized for having high moral standards.

4:4-5 Nehemiah did not retaliate. The Lord says, “Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay” (Deut 32:35). When you do the repaying, then, you cancel out divine benefits that may have otherwise been received. Nehemiah called on God to defend his people.

4:6 That the people had the will to keep working means it was in their hearts and minds to persevere. When I hear a husband and wife tell me, “We can’t make it anymore,” I know divorce is in their minds. When a drug addict says, “I can’t kick the habit,” I know that refusing to try is in his mind. When you say, “I can’t keep my morality under control,” living below God’s standards is in your mind. When you say, “We can’t turn the community around,” defeat is in your mind. So, the greatest task that God has in people’s lives is changing our minds to trust that, with his help, we can do anything. When people come together with this and a will to work at whatever task is ahead, we will get a better end scenario.

4:7-9 Nehemiah’s enemies’ criticism did not work, so they upped the ante and plotted against the Jews (4:8). Thus, everyone prayed to God and stationed a guard (4:9).

The people’s actions here are a reminder that the way you know whether you prayed in faith is by what you do after taking a matter to God. You can’t say, “I’m praying that God gives me a job,” without going job-hunting in the meantime. When you pray, you are trusting God so much that you feel confident that you can do something. Prayer is the preamble to action.

All you need is faith the size of a mustard seed and you can move mountains (see Matt 17:20). So often, our underlying problem is not that we need great faith, but that we have a small God in our minds. You need a little bit of faith in a big God, not a lot of faith in a little God. You and I exercise faith all the time. When you fly, you trust the mechanics, engineers, and pilots. But, why place faith in two or three men to take you to 36,000 feet and not have faith in God who created the resources and natural laws from which the plane was created and is able to fly? Nehemiah knew that the job was big, but he also knew that his God was bigger.

4:10-11 The enemies had a conspiracy, but God could hear what was happening in their camp. When Nehemiah prayed, the conspiracy was revealed (4:11), and he set a watch. God can lead you to safety when you did not even know you were in trouble. He sets watch over you and frustrates the plans of the evil one.

4:12-14 Satan wants us to forget the Lord. That’s why Nehemiah encouraged the people not to be afraid but to remember the great and awe-inspiring Lord. Then he said, Fight for your countrymen, your sons and daughters, your wives and homes (4:14). The people of God need a shared vision: we, too, are brothers and sisters in arms, facing a shared enemy in the spiritual battle of the cosmos.

4:15-23 Prayer must be balanced with prudence. That’s why the workers held spears, shields, bows, and armor (4:16), while saying, Our God will fight for us! (4:20). They were dependent on God. But, because God had given them weapons, they trusted him to use those means he’d provided to do whatever fighting needed to be done. To use available means without prayer is to be self-sufficient. To pray and not use available means is to be irresponsible. Prudence utilizes the resources that God has given to maximize our ability to do what God has called us to do.

The Bible says God feeds the birds. When was the last time you saw a bird on a branch with his mouth open toward heaven, just waiting for worms to drop? Birds go worm-hunting. So, does God provide the worms? Absolutely, because every worm that any bird finds, God made.

Nehemiah gave the people this big vision in verse 20: “Our God will fight for us!” I like being put in impossible situations because it’s then that I will call on God to do the supernatural. So many of us never see such things happen because we do our fighting for ourselves.

Icebergs will never be pushed in the direction of the wind because the current of the water is stronger than the power of the wind, and the water has access to nine-tenths of the iceberg. Most of us react to the winds of life that are blowing against us, when we have the current of God’s power available to us. You don’t have to go with the wind if you flow with the current. “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).