Resolute Faith in Dissolute Times
Text: Nehemiah 4:1-12
Proposition: Resolute faith is based on a resolve, a resolution that has been proven and tested even as it was in Christ whose face was resolute to the cross.
Introduction: In 1953 as part of the High Arctic relocation effort to assert sovereignty in the Canadian High Arctic the Government of Canada forcibly relocated Inuit people from the eastern shore of Hudson Bay to an island 648 kilometers from the magnetic north pole. The first group of Inuit people included one RCMP officer who became the community's first teacher. They were landed on the south shore of Cornwallis Island in rough and cold conditions. It was called Resolute Bay. Today, 63 years later, there are about 220 people who live there, it has become home to them even though the process was severe. Resolute, it’s a word that means ‘firm in purpose or belief; a noble determination’. Synonyms for resolute are ‘bold, relentless, purposeful, tenacious, unflinching’. Perhaps the opposite of resolute is the word, ‘dissolute’. It means indifferent to moral restraints; given to immoral or improper conduct; lack of moral direction, without self-discipline. This morning I’d like to talk with you about resolute faith in dissolute times because that’s exactly what we are about to read. It was about 440BC, Nehemiah had been sent back to rebuild the ruins of Jerusalem, He finds the people who first returned from the exile in Babylon living there, the walls and gates were rubble, the city defenseless. Last week we read how he called the people to tackle what seemed to be an impossible task. Then comes chapter 4, dissolute times confronting resolute faith. Have a look at Nehemiah 4.
I. Resolute Faith Needs To Diffuse Discouragement.
Look at verse 1 of chapter 4, “But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews.” The rebuilding had been going on for a while, perhaps a month or more as the things began to take shape. That can often be a time when discouragement is felt the most, when your half way and there’s no turning back. Discouragement is a tool Satan uses a lot because just a little goes a long way. The thing about discouragement is that it’s designed around truth which is what makes it so effective. The very reason discouragement gets into your head is because to some degree it’s true. You aren’t strong enough, rich enough, capable enough, confident enough. Look at Sanballats’ use of mockery in verse 2, “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?” These words of discouragement obviously filtered back to Nehemiah and the people. It said to them, ‘You’re feeble, you don’t have what it takes. Will they fortify themselves, it’s an impossible task. Will they offer sacrifices, do they think somehow God will just do it for them? Will they complete it in a day? Do you know how big a challenge this is? Will you be able to use burnt stones? The very things that you have to build with are burnt out, they’ll crumble under the weight of the wall. I would submit to you that all of what he said was to some degree true and yet Sanballat and Tobiah the Ammonite made a critical error. It wasn’t Nehemiah’s wall, it wasn’t even the people of Jerusalem’s wall. It’s not ‘their stone wall’ (verse 3). It’s God’s wall around God’s city for God’s people for God’s glory. When you experience discouragement learn to see the truth that is hidden in it, see where the sting is coming from. Then see that it is this very truth that God uses, ‘for when I am weak then I am strong.’ Discouragement is like a small thistle in your finger, see it for what it is, then remove it by agreeing with what it says, confess your inability in its presence and then in the presence of God confess your willingness and need to trust in Christ to see your way through.
II. Resolute Faith Needs To Pray.
The great, dark cloud of discouragement rolls in and what does Nehemiah do, he prays. Look at verses 4 and 5, “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.” It is a statement of agreement that says we have been despised, looked down on. We are just a bunch of people living in a land of captivity, but hear our prayer O God. Though that’s what we are in this world, this moment, we are at this same moment your builders. Unbelief directed at God’s people when they are doing God’s will is always an unbelief directed at God. Nehemiah in his prayer acknowledges the inseparable connection between God and a people of resolute faith in Him. There’s this peculiar courage that occurs when we pray this reality of God’s presence. Do you remember those words in Romans 8, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Do you believe this? This is the rock on which resolute faith rests, Jesus Christ and the reality that we are inseparably connected to Christ by faith. It is a belief that God’s love for us in Christ Jesus is greater than any created thing. Resolute faith prays because it needs to, not just to bring the struggle before God but so that God’s answer to it can be known and God’s glory seen. I think there were very few people who realized that God answered Nehemiahs prayer, an answer that was not what they were expecting. It was an abiding miracle meaning it didn’t just come for a moment and go, it stayed. Take a look at verse 6, “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.” That’s the miracle , the answer to prayer, that despite the mocking and impossible challenge, the people had a mind to work, and they did. One month in and the entire wall was connected, half the height of what was needed was already in place… after just 30 days! When resolute faith prays because it needs to, things happen quickly. Look at what also happened quickly. The enemy galvanized against them, an ungodly coalition of Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, the Ashdodites (vs7) were stirred up. Their intent was to come and create confusion. Then Judah, the people themselves, began to say there is too much rubbish and trash getting in the way, we can’t do this. Then the Jews who lived further out in the country heard the talk of the enemy and they come. Look at verses 11, 12, “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.” This what dissolute attack looks like. It can come from outside the walls and it can come from inside the walls. In dissolute times the question is not, ‘Is the cup half full or half empty’, it’s ‘the cup isn’t there anymore and what’s in the cup is on the floor.’ Checkout Nehemiah’s response in verse 9, “Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God…”. That word ‘nevertheless’ has a resolute quality to it. Despite dissolute times resolute faith nevertheless prays because it needs to. In 1892 Charles Spurgeon spoke on this very passage in London, England. This is how he described the ‘nevertheless’ kind of prayer: “It was a prayer that meant business… it was a prayer that overcame difficulties… a prayer that came before anything else… a prayer that was continued…a prayer that was home-made… a prayer saturated with faith.” Resolute faith in dissolute times will demand of you that you pray like this for this is how Christ prayed for you.
Diffuse discouragement through truth and a desperate dependence on Christ. Overcome dissolute times with a resolute faith that prays in a nevertheless kind of way.