Another great post from Curt Snyder, pastor of discipleship and outreach at Lifehouse:
The Israelites and Nehemiah had overcome the opposition of Sanballat and Tobiah and resolved to get the work of rebuilding the wall completed. Even in the face of physical harm and war they took the steps necessary to ensure the work would continue. But another threat to the work arose. However, this time it wasn’t an external threat but one from the inside.
Some of the families that had come back to Jerusalem found themselves in a tough financial position, so tough that they were mortgaging their property to pay taxes, and even selling their children into slavery just to get enough money to live. All of a sudden the threat was no longer one from strangers but one from their own families and friends.
So often when we step out to do things for God we will face the initial ridicule of people who don’t agree with us, or who hold different values. The enemy will use these people to try to discourage us. They will criticize and threaten but often when they see our resolve they either give up or it just becomes old news and they move on. And quite frankly it is easy to come together and stand against an outside threat.
However, when the enemy can’t get to us this way he often shifts his focus into trying to raise up a conflict from within, because he knows at this point the most effective warfare strategy is divide and conquer. If he can get those who are working together to disagree he can effectively stop the work.
Fortunately for Jerusalem, Nehemiah saw the problem and addressed it quickly and because of his solid leadership he was able to get the rest of the people to do what was right so the work could continue. However, there was a process. First of all he had to recognize that it was a real problem.
“What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?” Nehemiah 5:9
Then Nehemiah took responsibility for the problem himself. He realized that it was as much his problem as everyone else and took action to resolve it.
“ I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let us stop charging interest! 11 Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the interest you are charging them—one percent of the money, grain, new wine and olive oil” Nehemiah 5:10 & 11
When the people saw that Nehemiah was willing to take responsibility too, they responded appropriately, corrected their errors and took action to do what was right so the work could go on.
“We will give it back,” they said. “And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.” Then I summoned the priests and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised. 13 I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, “In this way may God shake out of their house and possessions anyone who does not keep this promise. So may such a person be shaken out and emptied!”
At this the whole assembly said, “Amen,” and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.” Nehemiah 5:12 & 13
As we, the Church, step out to be “For Our City” opposition will arise. It may come from other groups, other individuals and possibly even other churches that don’t agree with us. We may be criticized and even threatened but we must stand strong in our resolution to make a difference in the city we serve. We must also not be naïve regarding the enemy’s strategies. If he can’t stop us with outside threats he will most definitely try to stop it through infighting, disagreement and even a competitive mindset.
As we go forward may we be like Nehemiah who was listening and looking for the problems that could arise and then was quick to resolve it. May we not point fingers and make accusations but truly come together, taking responsibility for the work. May we do everything we can to preserve the unity and harmony it will take for us to really make a lasting impact on Hagerstown for the Kingdom and Glory of God. May we be a true demonstration of the love of God to and for our community. May we truly be The Church that is For Our City.