Well, we are going to get around the word of God. Who loves the word of God? Yes and I want to preach from Nehemiah 4 this morning because we’re continuing the series on Nehemiah that we’ve been preaching for the past few weeks.
In chapter four, it’s a real significant time for the Jewish people because it’s the rebuilding of the wall and it’s all led up to this. So, basically, Nehemiah has gotten approval from the king to go rebuild the walls. He’s got the people together. He’s got the resource. It’s go time. It’s crunch time. It’s now time to restore the identity of the Jewish people. It’s now time after them being kind of in the wilderness and aimless for so long.
Now, they are surrounding around this rebuilding project. It’s amazing. And the interesting thing I find when I’m reading this is with modern-day eyes, we see things a little bit differently. Because for the Jewish people back then, at that point in their history, they were so worried about how they were coming off to God.
For us, these days, we say things to God like, God, where were you? God, why didn’t you come through in the way you were supposed to? Oh, God is clearly asleep at the wheel. We had this relationship with God sometimes, where we feel like God is letting us down. That that wasn’t part of the arrangement of what we signed up for.
But for the Jewish people back then, they had a very flipped view of this, where they’re like, oh, we’ve been such a reproach to God for so long. We’ve been, must be so embarrassed to be associated with us. Because we can’t get our act together. We can’t get like any wins on the board.
So when people are like oh who’s the God you serve? You’re like, oh, Yahweh, I’m really sorry. I’m like, he’s better than what he appears like to us right now, okay? We’re just like these little tiny ants and he’s amazing and we’re not doing a good job of representing him, amen?
So, it was the exact opposite for them and this is this moment of confidence, of rebuilding, of national identity again of we’re going to do the project and we’re going to succeed. But of course whenever you embark on anything significant you always have opposition and setbacks, right?
And so, they had it in the form of the governor of Horan. They believed to be the Governor Horan Sambalat who basically saw coming down the pipeline, this project would be a hit on his bottom line that the money would start drying up a little bit for him that maybe even in the future, they would be a militaristic force because they’ve together again. o, he really wanted to squash that.
While Nehemiah was trying to push everything forward, Sambalat was trying to keep everything the same and it reminded me of the story of about, oh, ages ago, years ago, I went on a tour of New Zealand, any kiwis in the room? Yes, oh, not that many, hey? Okay. About the same ratio as 8:30 service.
Anyway, I went to New Zealand and I went with my church because we were touring a bunch of churches in New Zealand and we were doing music and preaching and all that stuff. And we landed on this one town in New Zealand. I can’t remember the name of it. But basically there was this church where they had these pastors who were probably one of the most phenomenal pastors I’ve ever met.
They were in their 80s and they were going great guns for God. They were out in the community. Meeting people, loving people, preaching Jesus. But what I loved most about them was they were right their the eighties. But the mission field was going to the local skate park and skateboarding so they could connect with the teenagers. I thought these guys were absolute legends.
I loved them because they weren’t done yet. Some of you in this room, you think you’re done. You’re not done yet. Let them be the example, right? God can still do stuff through you. And I loved hearing their stories and they were such beautiful, warm people. And we were talking with them about, oh, how’s church going? What’s your church like?
And they recently had at the time, a big issue that happened in the church because they were going to repaint the walls of the church and they picked a new paint color that they wanted to do it in. And so at that church, unfortunately they have to have a quorum in order to vote on the paint colour of the church building. Aren’t you glad we don’t leave you with that?
Like, you know, after the end of worship, we’re like, isn’t that such an amazing time with God? Now, we need to do the vote on coffee beans for the cafe, okay? So, let’s talk this through. Anyway, so they did a where there was this faction that wanted the new colours and then there was this faction that didn’t. And they were very much like, no, no we’re going to stay with the same colours they did a vote. And thankfully, the vote went the way of repainting the walls, which was very exciting.
So they repainted all the walls, they did it in a nice colour. In the middle of the night, the other group broke into the church and repainted the walls in the original colour. Yeah. Thank you. That is the reaction to have. If any of you are like, yes. We are going to have a talk after church, right?
Okay and so, what happened? Well, it’s the next day, those lovely pastors walked into their church building and they’re looking and they’re just having this moment of like, we did paint this yesterday, didn’t we? Like, I’m sure we painted this. Like, I’ve got paint under my fingernails and it was a big deal and the issue was, this was supposed to be something that was new and exciting for the church. Like, we’re going to freshen up the church and it ended up causing this division there which isn’t great.
In Nehemiah four, we see Nehemiah have the same thought of. This is supposed to be our crowning moment. This is supposed to be our great exciting moment where we consolidate together and we do something significant but they’re met with challenges again and again and again and we’re going to dig into this chapter because there are three such challenges they face that I think we can relate to even today and I want to call this message build or break because we all have build or break moment in our lives. Where we’re in a significant period where we could either build to something greater or the enemy could slip in and cause us to break.
Actually, the three areas that they really get hit with are three areas that we can hold onto as Christians when we build. Because the enemy will want to get in and he’ll want to break you. He’ll want to break those things. And the momentum will all be lost. You with me church? Yep.
So the first area where we can either build or break is our identity. It’s our identity. And we’re going to read from verse one it says:
Nehemiah 4:1-6 NKJV But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews. And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stones that are burned?” Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.” 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! Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked You to anger before the builders. So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.
Now, you gotta love the ego on Sambalat, right? Because his main area of attack here is basically gossip. So, he gets all of his army men, his yes men, his key people together and he has a little gas bag where they’re like, oh, these feeble Jews. Oh, the fox on the wall. It’ll just destroy it. And they’re relying on the gossip getting out.
I don’t know about you but I have not seen World Wars won through gossip. Where you know, the is upset with some other country being like they said bad words about us. We like we defeat. We’re in defeat. We wave our white flag. It doesn’t work like that. But the big crescendo of the rant which actually hurt for them was them saying that the Jews were feeble. Because they were. They were. Their history was. They were feeble for so long. They were so under the pump. They were so not getting anywhere or succeeding or thriving. They were a laughing stock.
And you know there’s this famous story that happened a few years back of a lady named Cecilia Jimenez who was in a little Spanish town called Borja. And there was like a Catholic church there and there was a painting in the Catholic Church of Jesus. And it was called Behold the Man. It began over time to start flaking and peeling and it wasn’t in really great condition.
So Cecilia with no formal training whatsoever. Took it upon herself to restore this artwork. Thinking that she could do something incredible. Um so let’s just take a look at what she did.
Obviously, the first one is the original. If you haven’t figured it out and the second one was what she did. Again, the nickname, it used to be called Behold the Man but again, the nickname, Behold the Monkey because that’s really what it looked like and it made worldwide news. It spread everywhere. It was on comedy shows. It was on the news about the silly lady who decided to take it upon herself to restore this artwork and did a terrible job of it. She was a laughing stock, an absolute laughing stock and it was interesting as her name went out there and around and was associated with this terrible artwork.
On the ground, something different was happening. People were flocking to the city of Borja to check out the artwork. Tourists were flooding into the city. People were going into that chapel to actually see it and pay good money to see it. And now her artwork art restoration was on mugs. It was on T-shirts. It was on hats. It was on all these type of things. It was making a mint for the town of Borgia.
The interesting thing about the story is as people were laughing at her, the prophets of all of those things were going towards a retirement village in that city. So, by her doing this weird like half-hearted, awful job or whatever, she ended up creating something beautiful for the town of Borgia that actually helped people. She gave money to charity. It was this huge deal. She completely changed what she was associated with on the ground.
And what I find fascinating with Sambalat he was attack them on their old reputation. The old reputation. Yeah they were actually a feeble people. They’d been running to the ground for so long. But on the ground what was happening was a different story. These people who were once feeble were now banding together and they were building it almost half the height of the city at that time. And it’s like that definition no longer belonged to them.
When we go about building something significant don’t be surprised to hear some old names. Some old names. Don’t be surprise hear some names from the enemy’s camp that don’t relate to you but they still sting.
You know, if somebody described me was like in a conversation with you and said, oh, I saw the new campus pastor at Reedy Creek on Sunday. It was great and they’re like, oh, I haven’t seen him. Which one is he? And like, oh, you know, the guy is like, he’s really short, full, full head of hair, talks really slowly, you know, they’d be like, oh no, I don’t know if I saw that guy. I don’t know if I met him. I would love it if I got described as a full head of hair like I’ve reached another stage of life where that’s just not happening for me anymore, okay?
But for me, I would like, well, that doesn’t relate to me. That’s not my name. Like, obviously, you’re talking about some other Shaun because that’s not me and for some of us, we need to actually speak to the enemy and be like, that’s not my name. That’s not me enemy. I don’t relate to that anymore. Some of us are holding onto old definitions, an old names, and actually, they have no business being a descriptor of who you are or what you can do right now. Amen.
We need to let go of some things that maybe they stung but you know what? They don’t relate. They don’t relate and hopefully over time, the sting will go. The sting will go. In John three verse thirty, it says
John 3:30 NKJV He must increase, but I must decrease.
That means, old descriptions, old capacity, old ways of doing things, out the door, and he needs to come fill the place. The only way we can let go of names that sting an old identity is to take on the new identity we have in Christ. And I know sometimes we read the Bible and it says things like, you’re blessed you’re more than conquerors. All this type of stuff and we read it and we go oh that doesn’t really sound like me. That doesn’t really sound like me.
We need to get in our word and speak some things over us that sound so foreign until they sound exactly like us. We need to adopt what he has spoken. The identity we have in Christ. Amen? I want to encourage you. When you read the Bible and it makes promises and you look at it and you say, I don’t know if that relates to me.
I’m going to declare right now. Yes, it does. Yes, it does we need to stop acting like we’re reading some book that we’ve just picked off the shelf at the local bookshop. We’re reading a book that declares some actual things about us. And when we declare it over our lives again and again and again and again. Don’t be surprised if you start to relate to them. We need to push back the names of the enemy and claim the names of God. Are you with me?
I love at the end of that passage in Nehemiah four. It says that they built the walls up to half the height and they built it with enthusiasm. So, it’s like they heard all the gossip and made its way into the camp about what they thought of them and they’re like, you know what? We’re going to build even harder. We’re going to go even stronger and we’re going to do it with enthusiasm.
Sometimes, the best revenge to the enemy is to just go harder at what he’s called you to do. The things that we think we’re discounted from actually, I’m going to do it with enthusiasm. Amen? So, the first area that can either build us or break us is our identity.
The second one is our resilience. You know, in verse ten, it says:
Nehemiah 4:10-15 NKJV Then Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall.” And our adversaries said, “They will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease.” So it was, when the Jews who dwelt near them came, that they told us ten times, “From whatever place you turn, they will be upon us.” Therefore I positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.” And it happened, when our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work.
You know, recently, up until before we came to the Gold Coast, some of you may be aware. Jess and I planted a church in the northern beaches of Mackay, which was a couple of years ago. I remember we got told where we were kind of going to plant was going to be the school hall. So like this indoor basketball stadium that does not look like a church. And so when I heard that we were going to have to basically convert this into a church every single week to make this happen. A little part of me died inside right?
Because for if you’ve never done church planting before it means early morning sometimes getting in there, setting up walls, putting out chairs, all of these things. and we’re just like, oh I don’t know if I can do this. And so I remember our first day where we were going to do a preview service. Where we were going to put on a service and invite the community to come.
I spent eight or nine hours that day with the team setting everything up. Because we’d never done it before. And it was on my birthday so I spent my whole entire birthday just setting up church. And it came to the previous service. We had about over 200 people come which was wonderful. We loved it. And then at the very end of the service we had this one lady from our church who’s quite prophetic, come up to me, make a beeline for me and she said, hey Sean, I’ve got a word to share with you. And I’m like, yes, this is going to be great. Who loves that
When someone comes up and they’ve got a smile on their face saying, I’ve got a word to share with you, not like, I’ve got a word to share with you. You worried about those ones, right? Just flick them off, run away. Anyway, but she came up and she said to me, hey, in 5 years, this church is going to have its own building, in 5 years. And I on the inside went Oh no. 5 years, five years of doing this week to week. I don’t know if I can do this.
I don’t know if this is for me and I came home to Jess and I’m like, Jess, guess what? I got a word that we’re going to be doing this like set up pack down for five years straight and both of us are just like, oh I was hoping I was hoping she means like within five years. Sometime within the span of five years you will get a building and hopefully it’s on the sooner end than the later. But anyway the next week came. We did church. I arrived at 5:30 in the morning. I set up.
The week after that came I set up again and again and again. There will be times where I woke up at four o’clock in the morning and I thought you know what? I’m awake. I may as well go in and start church. So I went in and I did it again and again and again and I was surprised and it was very good for me that my resilience that across that two years I never grew tired in doing it. I was never over it. I loved doing it every single week to week. That’s what resilience does, right?
In the Bible, it has, we go from the previous chapter where they built with enthusiasm to suddenly they’re now complaining about a lot of things. Suddenly, they’re like, there’s too much rubbish and rubble in the way that we have to clear. There’s too much charred ruins. We know that the enemy is closing in and they’re going to attack us and starting to get exhausted.
Have you ever had an experience and I know I’m believing this is everyone in this room where something that didn’t get to you before now really annoys you or frustrates you. Something you are putting up with is now really getting in. Has anyone had that before? Was something that was fine, fine, is now just really really tiring? What can happen is we lose our resilience. We lose our resistance.
And the thing about resilience and resistance actually is. It’s not so much about what we guard and keep out. It becomes about what we let in. because when we lose our resilience, it’s fair gain. Everything’s for taking. We drop our guard, our faith, our joy, our strength, everything goes. And the enemy can swoop in and just pick it all off. Amen?
In Proverbs four twenty-three, it says,
Proverbs 4:23 NKJV Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.
An unguarded heart means that we are in trouble. The Jewish people dropped their guard and it was open season. But God really highlights and underlines our vitalness of being on our guard. When we drop our guard, discernment goes out the window, our work ethic sometimes goes out the window. We lose heart, we lose patience, we lose zeal. And that’s not a good place to be in.
You know, let me ask you these questions. Right now in your life, do you feel like nothing is really building right now? Is everything bothering you? Are we questioning why some things are getting to us when previously they didn’t? Maybe we lost the building block of resilience and resistance. Maybe without realizing that we’ve dropped our guard and allowed some things in and where we need to do some business this morning to get rid of it.
You know in Habakkuk three verse seventeen to 18, it says this,
Habakkuk 3:17-18 NKJV A Hymn of Faith Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
Those counter to those moments where we feel like our resilience and our resistance is gone is and yet. Because you know how it says all of these things are happening. All of these bad things and all of them are true. They are true. I’m not trying to undermine your situations that you’re going through right now. They are true. And yet we still have a God who gives us joy. Who is still our salvation. Who we can still lean on. We have that. There is a reason to keep our guard up and our resilience strong.
Yes that is coming at me and that’s not good and I’m not enjoying that. But you know what? I’m still going to keep my resistance and my resilience push through because I have the God of my salvation on my side. Amen. Some of us don’t have our end yet. Nehemiah even reminds them to say the reason we’re doing this is for your brothers, your sisters, your family, for our future. This is why we keep our guard up. That is why we’re resilient and resistant to what the enemy wants to do.
Some of us in here, the reason why we’ve dropped our guard is because we’ve forgotten why we’re fighting. We’ve forgotten what we’re fighting for. Sometimes when we drop our guard, that affect people around us and actually we need to lift our God because we need to fight for them. Are you with me? Let’s get our resilience back up. Let’s get the walls back up. Let’s keep building. Don’t allow the enemy to sneak in and break your resilience. Keep your resilience up. Amen. And we will build great things.
The final area where we can either build or break is our unity. Is our unity. In verse sixteen, it says,
Nehemiah 4:16-22 NKJV So it was, from that time on, that half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows, and wore armor; and the leaders were behind all the house of Judah. Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon. Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built. And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me. Then I said to the nobles, the rulers, and the rest of the people, “The work is great and extensive, and we are separated far from one another on the wall. Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” So we labored in the work, and half of the men held the spears from daybreak until the stars appeared. At the same time I also said to the people, “Let each man and his servant stay at night in Jerusalem, that they may be our guard by night and a working party by day.” So neither I, my brethren, my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me took off our clothes, except that everyone took them off for washing.
It’s funny reading that and thinking about what they initially signed up for. He’s like yeah we’re going to rebuild the walls. It’s going to be great Come on, guys. It’s going to be a party and then, they’re like, now, at this position where they’re like not changing their clothes, they have to like build with one hand and have like their hand on the weapon in the other hand. Like, these conditions have diminished greatly over time, you know?
And the interesting thing was, they were becoming more and more separate from one another. That as they built, they had to build out. They were going outwards and now, they were worried that the enemy was going to come in and attack them all. They’re building their part of the wall. I’ve never really built a brick wall guys. Okay, cut me some slack here. Anyway, so they’re building their part of the walls and they’re worried that as they’re building, maybe down the end or somewhere further out, there’s going to be an attack down there and how will I know?
How will I know that we’re under attack? But then, Nehemiah says, we’re going to sound the trumpet and you need to rush to the sound and we’re all going to be together and God will fight for us. You know, it reminds me a little of nature documentaries. Who loves nature documentaries in this room? Yes, oh, not that many. Okay, but who’s heard of David Attenborough, right? Yes. I did a terrible impression this morning. I’m just going to do it again.
Here we see, the fish of the sea, that’s my David Attenborough impression. Sounds good, right? Anyway, so what those documentaries do is they have those beautiful, soothing montages of like fish jumping out of the water and going back in and you know, birds flapping, you see little pandas like eating bamboo and rolling around and you’re like, this is a nice documentary. This is really nice.
And then it gets to suddenly the wilderness. And the music switches. And it’s all like dark and scary. And they show these deers like little bambis in the field and they’re just munching on some grass or something. And they’re just unaware. Unaware. Just enjoying their time. And you see this wolf out in the reeds or something just looking at them. Just staring and you know something bad is about to go down. Who like hates those parts of the documentary? Where you know someone’s going to get eaten and you’re like I don’t know if I can do I don’t know if I like this.
Anyway, so the deers catch on to the fact there’s a wolf and so they spring to action. They’re in this little huddle, this group huddle and now they’re running out in the field because they know they’re being chased and there is always one little one like a young one or an injured one who just can’t keep up with all the rest of them. And so the wolf is like, I’m going to go for that one.
So, he tries his best to split them off from the group so that way, it can have like a little bit of a dinner on a little baby deer but thankfully, I saw in the latest documentary I watched. The deer somehow manages to evade the wolf and pushes back right into the dead centre of the group. And then the group is surrounding it keeping it safe and they keep moving onwards and the wolf isn’t able to get in or get anyone or take anyone away. You with me? Yeah.
Now when I was preparing this word I really felt like the word for the people today in this point especially is it’s time to push to the centre. It’s time to push to the centre. Some people in this room and judgement on my part have been existing on the periphery of church life, on the periphery of what God’s doing, and we’ve been run down, maybe we’ve lost our identity a little over the time, we’ve lost our resilience, and God is saying, I need you in the centre of what I’m doing. I need you to push to the centre, it’s time to not exist on the periphery.
There is power and unity, there is strength and unity. It says in the word, where two or more are gathered, he’s been in the midst. He’s in the midst. And so the sound goes out for the Jewish people and they rush and they thought. You know what? When we rushed together as a church community, when we stand together as Christians, our God fights with us. Our God fights with us. Some of us are over on the far corners of the wall and God’s saying it’s time for you to come in. Because when we come together, there is great building that can happen. We can build incredible things. But when we’re desperate, it’s hard. Are you with me?
The church is stronger together. It is at its stronger when we together. When we care for one another, when we care about one another, when we pray and intercede for one another, when we, someone’s carrying a huge burden, you’re like, I’m going to carry it with you. There is great unity. I find I can build so much better when someone’s doing it with me. Yeah?
You know, I painted my office this week. I was talking to a painter who goes to our church and I said, you were not allowed to visit my office because you’re going to judge me straight away and it’s it takes a while doing it yourself but when someone says to me, hey, I’ll do it with you. things happen and spring up and go quicker. For some of us in this room, we’ve been struggling to push something up a hill but actually God is saying, you need to do this with someone
You’ve been struggling in your circumstances. It’s been a weight on your shoulders and now, it’s time to reach out and allow someone to do it with you and you’ll see it build. The way the enemy gets in is he says, you can do it alone. You can do it alone. You’re fine. You’re good. You got this but we find ourselves getting exhausted and losing our faith and losing everything and giving up but when we do it together, it’s stronger. Are you with me?
So, I want to ask you a question this morning and it’s oh, it’s a tough one. What’s our trajectory? What’s our trajectory? Are we moving right now towards the centre? Or are we moving towards the periphery? Are we on the outskirts we feel? And we’ve kind of been keeping ourselves there and it’s time to push in or do we see ourselves drifting back?
Because I want to encourage you right now. Your place where you belong is right at the center. No matter what you’ve done, no matter what you’ve been through, no matter what the season of life has been, where you think you don’t belong in the middle, or you can’t get there. There is room for you at the center.