January 31st, 2018
Years ago, we had three mares—an older one and two younger ones. At 20 years old, the older one was very old and very slow, but she was still clearly the boss. When I would go to feed them, she would block the food and water so that the two younger mares couldn’t get near it. For hours on end, she would stand guard, not letting them eat or drink.
I would think, You two are idiots. You’re both stronger than her. Why don’t you show her who’s the boss so you can eat?
Instead, I’d have to separate the two younger ones and give them separate food, all because they had accepted the pecking order.
The sad thing is we all know people who act like those two mares.
Sometimes it’s even us.
Because, maybe, somewhere in our pasts, a pecking order was established and our minds got stuck there. We were placed in a position of inferiority; we were intimidated.
And that’s exactly what the enemy wants.
In fact, intimidation is just one tactic the enemy uses to distract you from your assignment.
In Nehemiah, the nation of Israel had just been taken into captivity and the city burned. Nehemiah was a cupbearer for the king of Persia, but he felt a burden for his fellow Jews, so he prayed to the Lord and asked permission from the king to go to Jerusalem to begin rebuilding.
That’s when we see the tactics of the enemy as clearly as ever.
But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. "What is this you are doing?" they asked. "Are you rebelling against the king?" — Nehemiah 2:19
When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, "What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?"
Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, "What they are building—if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!" — Nehemiah 4:1-3
Like Nehemiah, the first thing you’ll likely face when you stand up to do something for God is mocking. They’ll be people who think they know you, your family, your history, your past, and what you’re capable of or not capable of. They may say you can’t do it. They may think you’re not qualified.
Of course, the goal is to intimidate you—to make you feel inferior—so you quit.
Pray for them, and keep building.
When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates—Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: "Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono." But they were scheming to harm me; - Nehemiah 6:1-2
Here’s the thing: Your protection is always in your assignment, and the enemy will always try to pull you out, sometimes even politely. He’ll invite you to do things that sound like good things, but they won't be what’s best for you.
And he will persist.
The Bible tells us that they tried to distract Nehemiah with the same message FOUR times.
Just like Nehemiah, the enemy is looking for a weak spot. He’s looking to catch you on a day that you’re tired, when you feel overwhelmed or sorry for yourself, or when you’ve lost your focus. He expects you to accept his invitation on one of those days.
Remind the enemy that you’re working on a great project for God, decline every last one of his invitations to be distracted, and keep building.
Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter in which was written: "It is reported among the nations—and Geshem says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: 'There is a king in Judah!' Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us confer together." — Nehemiah 6:5-7
This tactic is probably the most harsh. It’s when the enemy stirs people up to accuse you, misjudge you, misalign your motives, tear you down, or murmur against you, and it’s all in an effort to steal your courage and destroy your confidence in your relationship with God.
Just like with mocking and distraction, you should respond as Nehemiah did:
I sent him this reply: "Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head."
They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, "Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed." But I prayed, "Now strengthen my hands." — Nehemiah 6:8-9
That’s exactly how you should reply. Call his bluff. Confront the people doing the dirty malicious work. Don’t put up with it. Because if you don’t stop it, it will only get bigger and bigger and will drastically hinder your assignment.
Then, pray for strength. And keep building.
Watch for part two of this post next week.