Sunday School Lessons
Commentary by Walter Albritton
Nehemiah Completes the Work despite the Opposition
Key Verse: When all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God. – Nehemiah 6:16
Some of us, who pride ourselves on never running from a fight, could benefit from Nehemiah’s example. He knew when to engage the enemy in battle, and when to back away, not in cowardice but in faithfulness to God.
He had the wisdom to understand that his work on the wall was far more important than wasting time debating his enemies. We are blessed whenever we know, beyond a shadow of doubt, that our ministry for God is worth the investment of our time and energy. To work without this confidence is to risk becoming “weary in well doing.”
Nehemiah, like all of us, had to face raw fear. As any normal man would have been, he was troubled by the accusations of his opponents. He did the best thing he could have done, however, by turning to God in prayer.
He knew the source of his strength. Like the Psalmist, he could say, “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
When our ministry is successful, we are apt to think too much of our own strength. Pride in our own cleverness and resourcefulness can set us up for a fall. Not Nehemiah, however. He realized that his ability to keep on working was entirely dependant upon God. So, wisely, he called on God to strengthen his hands.
In doing the work of God in our local church and community, we will inevitably face opposition. The enemies of God are always at hand. Sometimes they are even within the household of faith.
When our work is opposed, we must resist the temptation to complain and feel sorry for ourselves. Self-pity is a waste of precious energy that could more wisely be applied to the task at hand. To complain will allow us to be distracted from our work, and give our enemies the upper hand.
Nehemiah used his strength to persuade the people to focus on God’s mission. By looking to God, he persisted in completing the wall. God rewarded him finally by giving him, and his co-workers, that golden moment when they could stand with pride and see that the wall was finished.
In her fine book, A Path Through Suffering, Elisabeth
Elliot writes about Lilias Trotter. As a young woman, Trotter studied under
John Ruskin in
Ruskin was impressed with Trotter’s ability to learn quickly. He said, “She seemed to learn everything the instant she was shown it, and ever so much more than she was taught.” But her heart was not in painting.
She had put her life at God’s disposal and Ruskin was greatly disappointed when Trotter decided to give herself wholly to missionary work.
Elisabeth Elliot pays a beautiful tribute to Trotter with this powerful sentence: “She was criticized and even ostracized, but her enthusiasm was fed, not quenched, by scorn.”
Would to God that we might so deal with our opposition that others might say of us: “Our enthusiasm for the work of God was fed, not quenched, by the scorn that we endured in the service of our Lord!” + + + +