When you watch a film or read about ancient battles, people usually had two things with them, a sword and a shield. Hand to hand combat was the norm. With one hand they attacked in order to advance, with the other they defended from the bows of their enemy. Shields came in all sizes too. One of the things I think is important to note is that when a shield got struck, the person carrying it felt the weight of the blow. They save your life and protect you from most or all of the damage, but not the pressure. As you hold that shield, you have to exert pressure back toward your opponent so that you’re not overcome.
In the book of Nehemiah, a small group of Jews were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem to create a shield from their enemies. While building the wall, their enemies tried to persuade them to quit building it. When that failed, they tried intimidation. In chapter 4, the Bible says that Nehemiah had half of the people continue their work on the wall and the other half stand ready for battle protecting the work. They carried swords and shields. The situation was tense. Everyone felt the pressure, but they continued to work. Their enemies saw the swords and shields and chose not to attack. They knew their plans would be thwarted.
Psalm 84:11 says, “The Lord God is a sword and shield” (AMP). Later, Psalm 119:114 says, “You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope” (NLT). You and I are constantly entrenched in battles because our enemy wants to stop our progress. He tries to intimidate us into stopping, but the Lord is our shield. You’re going to feel pressure in the battle. You’re going to grow tired as well, but stay in God’s Word during those times. As this verse says, the Bible is a source of hope for us when all seems lost. God is fighting for you and protecting you as you continue to do what He called you to. Don’t let the pressure get to you. Find someone who will stand on the wall with you in prayer holding their sword and shield. It won’t be easy to complete, but with God as your shield you can continue.
In 2021 a series of videos were released on Tik Tok of Tom Cruise that went viral. He flashed his classic smile, walked around and talked with the camera that was recording him. Everything looked like him and sounded like him, but the things he was saying didn’t seem like things he would say. Even though that part felt off, people shared the videos with others believing it was him saying and doing those things. The image, the walk and the voice were all computer generated by artificial intelligence showing how technology can recreate anyone saying and doing things that your brain will believe. It’s called Deep Fake technology and can fool just about anyone. The people it didn’t fool were those who knew Tom Cruise wouldn’t say those things.
In the book of Nehemiah we read about the rebuilding of the wall in Jerusalem. The Jews were happy to get their security back, but people in the area were against the project. They did whatever they could to thwart the completion of the wall and intimidate the Jews. In chapter 6, one of the prominent workers was visited by Nehemiah in his home. He told Nehemiah that there was a plot to kill him that night and that he should hide out in the Temple. Nehemiah almost fell for it, but he realized that God had not spoken to this man. Nehemiah wasn’t a priest and it would have been a sin for him to go where they were sending him. He would have been tricked and discredited as a leader had he not known what the Law said. Shortly after refusing to go, the wall was finished.
2 Timothy was Paul’s last letter written in the Bible. In chapter 3, he was warning Timothy and us about deception in the last days. He said that evil people will deceive many. Then in verse 14 he said, “But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you” (NLT). We must know and trust what we have been taught from the Bible. Today’s world is trying to deceive us into thinking that God’s Word is incorrect, out of date or that it means something other than what we’ve been taught. We must remain faithful to what we have been taught though. Unless we know the truth of God’s Word and hide it in our heart, we will fall for the deceptions that will try to cause us to sin. God’s Word doesn’t change. We must stand on it, believe it and be unmovable no matter how convincing others may be.
After speaking to a group, a young lady came up to speak to me. She asked, “How do I know what God’s burden is in my life?” It’s a great question that many of us want to know. I asked her if there was an injustice in the world or problem that she saw that breaks her heart or causes her to lose sleep. If there’s a burning desire to remedy it, that’s usually God laying His burden on our heart. It could be an un reached people group that needs the Gospel or the hungry needing food. When we start losing sleep over it and being consumed with it, that’s God wanting to use you in that area to make a difference.
Nehemiah was a man who was minding his own business and doing his job when God gave him a burden. In Nehemiah 1:3-4 he wrote, “They said to me, ‘Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.’ When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven” (NLT). He didn’t ignore that desire. He went to Jerusalem and rebuilt its walls so that those who lived there would have protection. It wasn’t easy, and he faced opposition, but he kept at it until it was done.
In Matthew 11:30, Jesus said, “For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light” (AMP ). God’s burdens are different from the ones we put on ourselves. The ones we place on ourselves look inward, but God’s look outward to help others. For some, they come suddenly like Nehemiah. For others, you may have been carrying it for years. God’s desire is to partner with each of us to do His work in this world, to make a difference in the lives of someone. What has God been showing you that needs to be repaired or corrected. It may be large or small, but either way, it needs you. I don’t know that you’ll feel qualified or ready to do it, but don’t let that stop you. Accept His burden and get started making a difference.
One of the coolest things to see is a city like Jerusalem that still has walls around it. They’re high, thick and wrap completely around the city. You can imagine how formidable the city must have been thousands of years ago to an invading army. Cities had to have walls back then to protect themselves from enemies and nomadic warriors who went around stealing food. The size and strength of the walls were a measurement of their ability to withstand attacks. There are places in the wall around Jerusalem where you can see evidence of attacks on the city and how the wall protected its people.
If you go back a few hundred years before Jesus was born, Israel had been in captivity for about 70 years in Babylon. Cyrus became king of Persia and had it in his heart to rebuild Jerusalem. He sent many Jews back, led by Ezra, to begin the process. After about twenty years, one came back to visit family in Babylon. His brother, Nehemiah asked how it was going. When he told him that the rebuild wasn’t going well, Nehemiah wept, and God put it in his heart to return and rebuild the walls. After he arrived, he went out at night to assess the situation. He called the leaders together. In Nehemiah 2:17 he said, “You see the bad situation that we are in—how Jerusalem is desolate and lies in ruins and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, and let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that we will no longer be a disgrace” (AMP).
As Christians, we have an enemy that seeks to steal, kill and destroy what’s important to us. How are the walls in your life that are to protect you from his attacks? Are they in shambles making you vulnerable? It’s time to rebuild them so you can be a strong Christian who is a refuge for others as well. You build them through reading the Word of God that increases your faith as a shield. Remember that Jesus used the Word of God as a wall of defense against Satan when He was tempted. You also need to partner with other believers who will sharpen you. Work together, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to bring healing and restoration in your life in the broken down areas. You will still be attacked, but you will be fortified against it.
Take an assessment of where your walls are broken down, seek God’s help in rebuilding them and begin the work of restoration.
One of the traps that I fall into is thinking that if I’m doing what God asked me to, I won’t find resistance from others. I mean if I’m doing God’s will, others, especially Christians should be on board, right? Not necessarily. The things that God calls us to do are often for us alone to do. Other people won’t necessarily see or run with the vision God has given you, and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean you didn’t hear God, or that they’re not. The enemy doesn’t want you to be productive for the Kingdom, nor does he want you to complete the work God has given you to do. He will use whoever and whatever he can to slow you down, discourage you and wear you down so that you lose your zeal, doubt your calling and give up.
Even though God had burdened Nehemiah with rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and other people had caught on to that vision, it didn’t mean it was going to be easy. The people were joyful and started off strong, but then resistance came. People began to hurl insults at them to keep them from their work. Day in and day out they were verbally attacked. The verbal attacks turned into threats and plots against them to stop the work. They took their eyes off the goal and began to look at the enormity of the project, the size of the mess and lost their joy realizing it wasn’t in their strength to complete it. Nehemiah 4:10 says, “The people of Judah had a song they sang: ‘We grow weak carrying burdens; There’s so much rubble to take away. How can we build the wall today?’” (GNT) They became weary and discouraged like we do.
Galatians 6:9 says, “So let us not become tired of doing good; for if we do not give up, the time will come when we will reap the harvest.” If you’re getting discouraged because of the grind or the attacks from others in doing what God has called you to, pick your head up and look to the One who called you to it. Keep your focus on the end goal and not on the size of today’s problems. God will strengthen you and give you wisdom in how to handle today’s issues of you ask Him to. Pray for people who will run along side of you, who will catch the vision and who will share the load. Remember how big your God is. He is able to make a way where there seems to be no way. Keep pressing forward with the end in mind and you will reap a harvest for the work you’re doing.
Earlier this year I was speaking at a chapel service for a Christian school. Afterwards, a girl came up and asked, “How do I know if I’m called to do something for God?” It’s a great question that so many of us want to know, but it’s not the right question. My response was simple, “I believe everyone is called to do something. The question is, ‘What are you called to?’” I then told her that each of us are created on purpose with a purpose from Heaven. I began to ask her what she loves to do and when is her heart broken for things that break God’s heart. God has wired each of us differently and positioned us perfectly to serve purposes that only we can fulfill. He also gives us His burden for brokenness in the world. Our calling lies in it.
Take Nehemiah for example. He was the king’s cup bearer. God had uniquely positioned him with someone who could fund his calling when it came. The story tells us that some Jews had returned from Jerusalem and he asked how the Jews who remained were doing. When they told him that things were in bad condition, his heart broke and he wept for days. God birthed a burden in him. The king sent him to Jerusalem to rebuild it. When he got there, he went to inspect things. Nehemiah 2:12-13 says, “I did not tell anyone what God had inspired me to do for Jerusalem. Then in the middle of the night I got up and went out, taking a few of my companions with me… As I went, I inspected the broken walls of the city and the gates that had been destroyed by fire” (GNT). He then communicated the burden to others and got them on board to rebuild the city.
If you’re not sure what God has called you to, you may have to walk in the broken places of this world to see what God gives you a burden for. Begin to look at the scars of your past and ask Him how He can use those to help others find healing. Look at your life for themes throughout it for clues. God prepares us and positions us to heal the broken in this world. We carry His healing, His hope and His love inside of us and we need to give it away like we’re made of it. Even if you don’t know the specifics of your calling yet, you can start by doing that. Don’t let your lack of knowing what your specific calling is to prevent you from our overarching calling to show God’s love to this world. Look at where God has positioned you today and start there. You’ll find that everywhere you go is someone who needs hope, healing and love.
I remember as a kid trying to sell my parents on letting me get a puppy. I told them, “I will feed him, play with him, and care for him. You won’t have to do anything.” I brought Spike home and put him in our back yard. I did everything I told my parents I would do… for a while. As Spike got bigger, he got harder to care for. My parents had to pick up the slack. Before too long, I didn’t even look out the back window. Then one day when I did, he was gone. I neglected my responsibilities and as a result, my parents gave away my dog.
That was a hard lesson to learn as a kid. I did love that dog, but I didn’t comprehend the long term commitment to him I’d made. It’s like in the Old Testament when Nehemiah rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem. Soon afterwards, people moved back into the city for protection. Nehemiah called for a meeting at the Temple to read the law written by Moses. In Nehemiah 10, they promised to obey the law. When it came to the portion of the law regarding the temple in verse 39, they said, “We promise together not to neglect the Temple of our God” (NLT)
In Nehemiah 13, It was about 20 years later, and they fell into the same trap I did. They began to neglect the Temple. Nehemiah had gone back to his job in Babylon, but had now returned to Jerusalem. In verse 11 it says, “I immediately confronted the leaders and demanded, ‘Why has the Temple of God been neglected?’ Then I called all the Levites back again and restored them to their proper duties.” Instead of getting rid of it (like my parents did to Spike), he restored order and reset expectations.
I’ve found that his method is useful to all of us in the parts of our lives that we are neglecting. When we neglect our prayer time, our Bible reading, our service to others, our going to church, or any other area of our life, we need to confront the situation, reset expectations, and restore the things in our lives that helped us to do those things before. Over time we can slip away from the positive things we were once doing, but we will have consequences just like the Israelites did. Having a Nehemiah in your life who can point out the areas you’re neglecting and help you to reset and to restore things is a must.
Today’s a good day to look in the mirror of your life and ask, “What have I been neglecting? What do I need to do to reset and restore?”
Over and over again as I talk to people, I hear the same thing. They say, “I want to do something that matters. I want to be fulfilled.” I think God put in each one of us the desire to live a life of significance. He designed each one of us for a purpose. You can always tell when people have found theirs. They have passion and vision. People want to help them accomplish it too. I’ve met people whose passion is waiting tables and others whose passion is rescuing orphans in third world countries. God gives different passions to different people.
In reading the book of Nehemiah, I found three questions we can all ask ourselves to find our purpose and to start fulfilling it.
1. What breaks your heart?
God often uses brokenness to deliver His purpose. For Nehemiah, it came when he heard that the walls around Jerusalem were torn down. Nehemiah 1:4 says, “When I heard all this, I sat down and wept. For several days I mourned and did not eat. I prayed to God” (GNT). When God breaks our heart, He’s preparing us for our purpose. I’m not sure Nehemiah understood why He was weeping at the time, but He knew God was doing something in Him. God was planting a dream in the broken soil of his heart.
2. What inspires you?
After his brokenness, he prayed for several weeks about it. In our brokenness, we need to ask God, “What do you want me to do?” God put it in Nehemiah’s heart to rebuild the walls. I’m sure he struggled with thoughts like, “I’m the king’s cup bearer, not a construction worker.” While the inspirations God gives us are usually different from our current occupation, God uses where we are to give us what we need to accomplish our purpose. For Nehemiah, God used the king to fund his inspiration.
3. Who do you need to tell?
God often puts great dreams in our hearts that we could never accomplish on our own. God rarely gives us something we can accomplish on our own. Nehemiah had to tell the king. Then he had to tell the leaders of Jerusalem. Before he shared his vision with them, he showed them the problem. Afterwards, in Nehemiah 2:28, they responded, “Let’s start rebuilding!” Because he shared this impossible vision with others, they caught it and rebuilt the walls in less than two months. You can’t find people to help you unless you share your purpose.
I don’t know what God has put in your heart to do, but I believe He has a purpose and a plan for each of us. He makes no accidents. He formed you in your mother’s womb, called you by name, and creates you for a purpose. If you will find what breaks your heart and ask God what He wants you to do about it, I believe He will inspire you to accomplish His will. You’ll need to share that vision with the right people, and God will help you accomplish it.
I love the book of Nehemiah. To me, it represents the struggle of life. It shows the emotions of a life that has its share of ups and downs. It lets us know that one person can make a difference in a city and a nation. It gives us hope that we can accomplish great things when God gives the vision and the burden. It gives a great example of teamwork and how people can work together for a common goal. It also challenges our faith and pushes us to a deeper trust in God through fasting and prayer.
In chapter 4, the people were working to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. They were making great progress, but there were those who were angry about it. They plotted to attack and confuse those who were working to rebuild. They remind me of the people who want to keep you in a state of ruin. They fight progress in your life at all costs. The old saying goes, “Misery loves company.” Those who are miserable will do everything they can to keep you from rebuilding. They want you to stay in the shambles of your life and prevent you from moving forward. They stand in the way of what God called you to do, but you can’t let them.
Nehemiah wasn’t going to let people like that deter him. He knew God had called him to rebuild. Verse 9 tells us how he fought against those who wanted to hold back progress. It says, “But we prayed to our God and kept men on guard against them day and night.” He didn’t pray alone and he wasn’t a watchman alone. He used the word “we”. In rebuilding, you’re going to need a team around you who can pray with you and for you as well as to help stand guard over your life against those who would drag you down and slow your progress. You’re going to need someone who can be honest with you and stay up all night praying if needed.
Even though Nehemiah had the help, the people still got discouraged from the attackers. They started focusing on the work instead of the vision. In verse 10, the people began to sing, “We grow weak carrying burdens; there’s so much rubble to take away. How can we build the wall today?” When we lose sight of God’s vision in our lives, our daily work becomes a struggle. A wall or life isn’t rebuilt in a day. It’s rebuilt one bag of rubble at a time. It’s rebuilt one brick at a time. Even though it can be destroyed in an instant, it takes time to rebuild. Don’t get caught up in the burdens of rebuilding wanting quick progress. Remember God’s vision of what could be and continue the work.
Helping people remember the vision and who gave it is how Nehemiah rallied them. In verse 14 he said, “Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers and sisters, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!” He had to remind them how great our God is and why it’s worth rebuilding. In the next verse, it says that they returned to their work. They quit worrying about those standing in the way of progress and quit focusing on the day to day operations because they remembered it was God who called them. That same God gives us the increase when we pick up a brick and start to rebuild.
When we do what God wants us to do and live how God wants us to live, there will be others who oppose us. They will do everything in their power to prevent your growth, your rebuilding or your ministry. When you get opposition, you know that you are where God wants you. The enemy doesn’t try to thwart the plans of people who aren’t making an impact for the Kingdom. They aren’t a threat to his control. The ones who are taking light into the dark places, the ones who build themselves and others up, the ones who are on the front lines of ministry are the ones who face opposition.
Nehemiah was trying to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. They were working hard when Tobiah found out about the work they were doing. The Bible says that he was displeased that someone was helping Israel. In Nehemiah 4, he began to mock those who were rebuilding the wall. He criticized their work and made fun of it. Verbal abuse is one of the greatest tactics of the enemy. He knows that if he can get in your head, he can slow you down or stop you from doing why’s God has called you to do. You can’t listen to the voice of the enemy that says you are going to fail. It will say that your work is worthless and meaningless. Nothing God calls you to do is meaningless.
The first thing Nehemiah did when Tobiah and his friends started mocking him was to pray. Prayer gets your mind back on God. Prayer causes God to move. It waters the seeds that you have sown and causes them to grow. It thwarts the plans of the enemy. It is powerful and needs to be your first response when the enemy comes in and starts playing mind games with you. Don’t get into a battle of words with him. Don’t get slowed down by arguing. Keep working on what God has called you to do and pray for God to help you.
When Tobiah learned that his mocking didn’t stop the work, he then threatened to harm the workers. Instead of panicking, they continued to work, but were prepared to fight. The had a sword in one hand and worked with the other. When that didn’t stop the work, Tobiah tried to trick Nehemiah into not working. He pretended to be his friend and ally. He made a false accusation to try to get Nehemiah to stop the work. In Nehemiah 6:9, Nehemiah said, “They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued with even greater determination.”
No matter who your Tobiah is or what tactics they are trying to use against you, don’t stop doing the work God has called you to. Don’t let their tactics get to you or keep you from doing what you are supposed to do. Do not be intimidated by others that the enemy would use to keep you from going where God has called you, from building what you know you are to build or from saying what God has placed on your heart. The enemy wants nothing more than for God’s people to be silenced and dormant. In the face of intimidation from the enemy, we should continue the work with greater determination. Pick up your sword and keep building, God is on your side.