Nehemiah and Opposition

Jesus said, “I will build my church” and in the same breath added, “and all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (Matthew 16:18).

When a Christian says, “I will rise up and build” the enemy says, “I will rise up and oppose.” This was certainly true for Nehemiah who wanted to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem but who also faced opposition and obstacles of all kinds—ridicule, threats, misrepresentation, and false accusation to name a few.

You and I want to build a life that honours God (1 Corinthians 3:11–13) but that desire brings opposition. From Nehemiah we can learn three strategies for handling opposition.

A Response of Prayer

From start to finish Nehemiah bathed everything in prayer. From the time he first heard of the condition of Jerusalem to every time he faced a challenge or attack, Nehemiah went to the Lord in prayer. He continually derived grace in the form of direction, wisdom, inner strength, and encouragement from the Lord. Prayer helped him keep his perspective clear on who God is and who his enemies were. It kept him grounded in his purpose.

“We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do” (2 Corinthians 10:3). The thing our enemy fears most is a believer who is continually invoking God’s presence and power through prayer. This is why prayer without ceasing, prayer in any and every situation, is critical if we are going to build a life that honours God. It is in the context of facing opposition that Paul writes, “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion” (Ephesians 6:18). Through prayer we wait on the Lord for His grace to supply what we need.

A Reaffirmation of Purpose

Nehemiah’s ultimate purpose was to honour the Lord. To that end he had a goal to rebuild the wall and he never lost sight of that goal. When Scripture says, “The people…worked with enthusiasm” (Nehemiah 4:6), it was because they were focused on their purpose of bringing glory to God by building the wall. This focus fuelled their enthusiasm. They stayed with their purpose and conquered their opposition. Nehemiah had a job to do and he did it. He and all the people kept pressing on toward the goal. After 52 days they completed the wall (Nehemiah 6:15).

God’s purpose for every Christian is to glorify Him in thought, word, and deed. But when we lose sight of that purpose, we lose our momentum and enthusiasm. We become ripe for succumbing to opposition. This is where prayer comes in again to keep us grounded in our purpose as it did for Nehemiah.

A Resoluteness in Perseverance

Nehemiah was very aware of the various types of opposition against him but continued the work anyway. He persevered in building. Instead of entering into debate with his detractors he took steps to arm the workers ensuring that the work continued (Nehemiah 4:13).

Put simply, the goal of opposition and obstacles is to stop the progress of building. Knowing this, the best response to opposition is to persevere in the work and not get sidetracked by engaging with it.

Since Satan failed to keep believers from coming to faith in Christ, his objective now is to keep us from glorifying God. Our enemy has many weapons in his arsenal. Opposition comes to us in many forms, but we need to be wise to them, as Paul wrote, “so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11). The book of Nehemiah is a great study on the types of opposition and obstacles our enemy uses.

The common denominator with every type of opposition thrown at Nehemiah were the strategies of prayer, purpose, and perseverance. The enemy of our souls wants us to stop praying, lose sight of our goal, and to stop working.