Nehemiah was encouraged when the people quickly helped him rebuild the wall in Jerusalem to half its height as we read in Nehemiah 4. Lots of progress was made in a short amount of time. The people had a mind to work as it implies. But their adversaries wanted to stop them. So Nehemiah setup a guard—not because he didn’t trust God, but he wanted to be smart with the resources God trusted him with.
So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.
But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.
In a series of sermons that senior pastor John Stange of Core Creek Community Church has been teaching, the life of Nehemiah can provide some terrific insight into our lives and struggles today.
Stange explains that if you are a follower of Christ, you are secure and cannot be snatched away by the devil. You are sealed with the Holy Spirit. But that doesn’t mean our common adversary will not try to devour you at all costs…
1 Peter 5:8-9
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
A common way the devil tries to defeat us is by re-enticing us with the sins we have overcome in the past. Stange warns that just because we haven’t been subjected to these little temptations recently doesn’t mean they can’t still have the same potency and destructive effect on our lives today. Other tactics can include distractions, discouragement, or division amongst your family and friends.
So Nehemiah didn’t just wait until he was attacked; he set a guard to anticipate the attacks coming from Satan (through Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod). Stange outlines four ways to set a guard against our spiritual adversary learning from Nehemiah…
1) The first form of defense, and the best way is prayer. This is above all else, the most important, as it is our direct connection with God to provide in our daily needs. Don’t undervalue it. Use it. Embrace it. And be amazed at how effective it truly is. My friends can attest to this when they have used it in their own lives. I’m overjoyed when they can see it working for themselves. So don’t take my word for it, find out for yourself too!
2) Set a guard against things that seek to drift us into undesired territory. Pay attention to particular areas of weakness that you find yourself vulnerable to, because that is where the enemy will enter first. It could be through the mouth, the hands and feet, or even the mind. The more you surround yourself with ungodly things now or allow yourself to be in seemingly small, yet sinful situations by choice, the harder it will be to fend off the larger attacks. And trust me when I say this, based on personal experiences—the enemy creeps in little by little until it has you in its grip. One day might be something small you allow, but then before you know it, a couple weeks later, you’re right back in the addiction zone of the stronghold you thought you had once defeated.
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.
3) We have a habit of nurturing sin instead of killing it. Providing excuses for continued sinful behavior like, “well, I’m trying” or following small steps to ween ourself off of an old nature still allows the enemy to dwell inside. A more effective technique is just to kill it right then and there—stopping “cold turkey” so to speak. Sure, it’s not an easy thing to do by any means, but we have the strength of Christ to help us through!
By acknowledging sin for what it is and stopping it in its tracks before it slides back in is a powerful way to confront the enemy from taking a stronghold upon your life. Even if it is a painful sin, avoid keeping it as a “secret sin.” We have brothers and sisters within the church here for us who often struggle with the same things we do. Coming forward and exposing it to the light might even provide encouragement for them to do the same.
4) Forgive yourself as well as others. Stange says that on a theological level, we accept Christ’s forgiveness, but on a practical level, we easily dismiss it. We never let our own shortcomings go. But Christ died for us so we can be free. Not to be burdened down by our past failures in life. We also need to do the same with others. Forgive those who have hurt you, even if they don’t deserve it, because after all, none of us deserve it. Take the initiative and forgive someone. Why? Because Christ did that for you.