Greg Laurie - How to Handle Discouragement
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All right. Well let's all grab our Bibles. And we're going to really use our Bible today so get one close, pull that app up on your phone or your tablet, device or share with a friend if you don't have a Bible with you. We're going to be looking at two chapters of Nehemiah today, Nehemiah four and Nehemiah five. And the title of my message is: How to Handle Discouragement. Is anybody discouraged today? Don't raise your hand. But if you are, maybe you feel misunderstood, maybe you feel misrepresented, maybe something has happened that has just been a huge disappointment, I hope that this message will bring some encouragement to you, today. Why don't we pray?
Father, I pray now for everyone here, everyone watching, wherever they are, that as we open your Word it would impact their lives and that they would have their eyes focused on You, not on their circumstances, not on their feelings or anything else. So, speak to us from scripture, we would ask now. In Jesus' name, we pray, amen.
This is our new series we're doing from the book of Nehemiah, that we're calling: The Rebuilt Life, the title, again, How to Handle Discouragement. Last Sunday, I had the privilege of launching a brand new church in Oceanside, California. It was a lot of fun. 850 peoples showed up for this church launch. They were very excited and worshiping the Lord, and then I shared a message from God's Word and a new church is born. They're starting today. And the amazing thing was, I gave an invitation for people to come to Christ and out of 850 people, 65 of them came to Jesus. So, that was a great beginning for that church. But as I was pulling into the parking lot to get ready to speak to a new church, that was starting, and I read something on Twitter about a shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. It wasn't until after the service I realized how horrific this was.
Of course, we all know this story, the First Baptist Church, there in Sutherland Springs, Texas, gathered for worship, a lone gunman walked in, effectively shot everyone who had gathered in the church. 25 of them tragically died, another 20 wounded. Now, I have to correct this, I read in the newspaper it was 25 died, and then they said one unborn child. Excuse me, that would be 26 died because an unborn child is a person. Okay, so that's 26. Just want to make that distinction. But this is unbelievable that such a thing can happen in our country. The predictable Tweets went out: Thoughts and prayers for hashtag Sutherland Springs. One cynical actor Tweeted this out, and I quote: The murder victims were in a church; if prayers did anything they'd still be alive, end quote. Well, of course, that was a very insensitive thing to say, but it raises an issue. Where was God in all this? Why did God let this happen?
I'm sorry I don't have the answer to that, but I can say this much, I know where God was. He was right there suffering with His people and He is right there with them now as they rebuild again. There have been stories of courage and faith that we've heard since this happened. The mother, who shielded her children from the gunman, and one of her children lived, thankfully; the courageous plumber who gave chase to the gunman and shot him twice. And the plumber was quoted to say, "I thank God He protected me. He gave me the skills to do what needed to be done". Yes, that's right. So, where does prayer come in at a time like this? Listen, when you're going through suffering like this, like these folks are, prayer is your lifeline to Heaven, that and the Word of God. It makes such a difference. So, we prayed together for those folks, there.
I think of one story I read on Faithwire, a news site that said their names were Joe and Claryce Holcombe. This elderly couple lost nine family members in the shooting, and that included their son, Bryan, his wife, Carla, in addition to their grandson and their baby daughter and great granddaughter. And this man, this gentleman, this believer said, "We're strong because we'll be with Bryan and his wife and the whole family one of these days, and we look forward to that". See, now these believers have a platform to bring glory to God in the midst of unimaginable suffering. Why? Because that's how we roll, as Christians.
I saw a news segment where the cameramen got right up around a group of believers there at the church site praying, and one of the gentlemen prayed, "Lord, we're just asking you to intervene. What Satan meant for evil, we ask you to use for good". See, this is faith in action. When the devil attacks from the outside, the people of God pull together. And it's just a reminder of the simple fact, the devil hates what God loves. God loves His church, so the devil hates the church. And the devil wants to destroy the church. And he wants to destroy Christians. He wants to destroy you. Jesus said the thief, speaking of the enemy, comes only to steal, kill and destroy. But here's the good news, the devil will not succeed. The devil will not destroy the church because Jesus established it and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. But this is the way the enemy often works.
And so, we're looking at Nehemiah. And here's some of the things we learned in our last message, just a couple of recap points. Number one: When you build, you also will battle. When you build, you also will have to battle. So, we're reading about the Jewish people returning from Babylon, where they were held in captivity for 70 years, coming to Jerusalem and rebuilding the walls that surrounded the city, that now lie in charred rubble and ruin. And the moment they started building the attacks came in various forms. So, when you build you will also have to battle. Another thing we learned together, when you're doing God's work you'll be roundly criticized. When you're doing God's work you'll be criticized.
Nehemiah and his people were and we will be, too. Opposition and criticism just go with the turf. In fact, Jesus said, in Luke 6:26, Beware when all men speak well of you. So, someone's criticizing you right now, it might be a good sign you're on the right track. So, the devil has two basic ways he attacks a church: Number one, he attacks outwardly. That's what he often does, historically. That's what's happening to Nehemiah and the folks. And that's what happened to the early church that Jesus started. The Pentecost happened, the Holy Spirit was poured out, they were just thrilled at what God was doing, and now the persecution comes. And what did it do? It drove the church out of Jerusalem and they fanned around the world.
And here's the problem, if the persecution had not come, they may have never left Jerusalem. Because that's where all the action was. But now, they went out and they began to share the Gospel as Christ told them to. Otherwise they probably would have stayed there forever in a little holy huddle. But now, the Gospel is getting out. So, what the devil meant for evil, God used for good and the Gospel went out. So, instead of making the church weaker, this persecution made the church stronger and the same happens to us. The devil will attack us outwardly, and this is what will happen as we seek to do the word of God.
So, Nehemiah now has everyone on the wall, and everyone has a part to play in the rebuilding process, but it was an overwhelming task. And then, to make matters worse, now they're threatened by Sanballat and Tobiah, two guys. Sanballat and Tobiah. If you translated their names from the original Hebrew, it would translate out to our English words Beavis and Butt-head. I made that up. Or Dumb and Dumber. Or Tweedledee and Tweedledum, if you like. But these crazy guys were joined by others that opposed Israel rebuilding the wall, like Geshem, and the Arabs, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites. And they tried to stop them, so look at Nehemiah 4:7, and when Sanballat and Tobiah, and Arabs, Ammonites and Ashdodites heard the work was going ahead, and the gaps in the wall of Jerusalem were being repaired, they were furious, and they made plans to come and fight against Jerusalem and throw us into confusion. But look at what they did. But we prayed to our God and guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves.
So, I told you, there are two ways the devil attacks. One is outwardly, and that's what was happening up to this point. Now, the devil changes his tactics, and that's point number one of this message. The next attack he will use, if he can't get us from the outside, he'll try to get us from the inside. Again, if the devil can't get us from the outside, he'll try to get us through the inside. It's inside infiltration. Instead of conquer and destroy, it's divide and conquer. So, the devil stirs division. They're getting discouraged. They're halfway through and they just got overwhelmed. Look at Nehemiah 4:10, the people of Judah began to complain, saying, "The workers are getting tired, and there's just so much rubble to be moved. We'll never be able to build the wall by ourselves".
You feel that way, right now? You're trying to fix something. You're trying to repair something. Maybe it's your marriage, maybe it's your family, maybe it's your ministry, maybe it's your own life, you're just trying to get closer to the Lord and it seems like you take one step forward and take three steps backward and you don't understand why that's happening, you're just a bit overwhelmed. Well, just know this: Even the best and most godly people get discouraged at times. So, if you're discouraged, just know you're in pretty good company. Moses was very discouraged on multiple occasions. And it's recorded in the Bible. David, oh man, he got discouraged. You read about it in many of his Psalms, where his heart was overwhelmed. Elijah was so discouraged he wanted to die. Paul, the apostle, was discouraged. And the list goes on. You get discouraged, I get discouraged. It often happens when a project or a plan or a relationship is not going the way we want it to go.
Because it's easy to start something; it's not as easy to finish it. Right? Like going on a diet. How many of you have ever gone on a diet. Raise your hands. Okay, a few more of you should be raising your hand. I'm not going to say who, but... You know who you are. I'm just kidding. Actually, not. But anyway, I've gone on many diets over the years, and my favorite of all diets is the Adkin's Diet. Do you know what that is? The high-protein diet. Ah, man. There is not a better diet on the face of the earth than the Adkin's Diet, for one day. Maybe two, but one for sure. Because it's a high-protein diet, it's a great diet for guys because we usually like to eat a lot of stuff, you know? So, you can have protein, you can have meat, you can have fish, you can have chicken, you can have cheese! Lots of cheese! You can eat bacon, you can have a big giant omelet with a big side of bacon, isn't this making you hungry, right now? It's making me hungry. But don't eat toast. Don't eat starch. Don't eat carbs. So, avoid potatoes and things like that.
Well, here's the problem with the Adkin's Diet: If you go off of it and cheat a little, it isn't a weight-loss diet, it becomes a weight-gain diet. And I know this from experience. So, it's great for a day or two and then you start dreaming of bread and pizza, and potatoes or anything else you can't have. It's easy to start, not easy to stay on. It's easy to join the gym. A lot of people do that at the beginning of the year, "I'm gonna join the gym"! But the problem is, most of them never go back. Do you know that gyms actually build their business models around people signing up and never returning? One gym chain I read about, in a business magazine, called Planet Fitness, is one of the biggest in America and one of their gyms had the capacity to only accommodate 300 people, but they signed up 6,000. And they were asked, "How were you able to do it"? They said, "No problem. Most of the people never come back".
See, we sign up. It's easy to sign up. It isn't easy to stay with it. It's easy to say, "I do," on the day of your wedding. And pledge your love and state you vows to your husband or wife to be. It's another thing to hang in there month after month, year after year, decade after decade. It's exciting to volunteer for a new ministry. You're heart was touched for the little kids and there you are with the four-year-olds and you just taught them the story of Joseph and how he was betrayed by his brothers. And the little kids have tied you up and they're looking for slave traders to sell you to. It's not going well.
That's what's happening, here, in Nehemiah. Beavis and Butt-head, excuse me, Sanballat and Tobiah, they start mocking, chapter four, verse four, And I prayed, "Hear, our God, for we are being mocked. May their scoffing fall back on their own heads, and may they themselves become captives in a foreign land! Do not ignore their guilt". That brings me to my next point, when you're being discouraged, this is a big one now, don't miss it: When you're discouraged, put your eyes on the Lord; put your eyes on the Lord. See, when we take our eyes off of the Lord, we will get discouraged because there's going to be times when you're misunderstood, misrepresented, unappreciated, people may impugn your motives, and even say things about you that are not true. So, what do you do? Give up? Well, if you want to do what the devil wants you to do, by all means, give up. The devil's two favorite words are: give up. Some of you have been thinking about giving up, today. Some of you are thinking about giving up on that marriage, giving up on that ministry. Some of you have even thought about giving up on your Christian faith because you've been disappointed by things that have come your way. But what I want to say to you is: Don't give up; get up and keep your focus on Jesus Christ and you'll get through this.
What does Nehemiah tell them, in Nehemiah 4:14? "Don't be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious". Remember the Lord, guys. We're doing this for the Lord. Get your eyes off your circumstances, get your eyes off the half-built wall, get your eyes off your enemies who mock you and hassle you, and put them back on the Lord. Now, Hebrews 12 talks about running a race. We dealt with this text not too long ago in our series that we called: World Changers. And the writer of Hebrews 12 says: Lay aside the weight and the sin that so easily beset you, and run with endurance a race that has set before you, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith, who by the joy that was set before Him, endures the cross, despising the shame, and now has set down on the right hand of God.
So, basically, Paul's saying, man, get your eyes on Jesus and run this race for Him. And then he goes on, well, I'm saying Paul; I don't know that Paul wrote Hebrews, but I think he probably did, but regardless, then in verse three he says: Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; and then you won't become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives up for your struggle against sin. "But, Greg," you're saying, "It's hard for me. You don't know what I'm going through". No, I don't know what you're going through. I think it's hard for the believers in Sutherland Springs, at First Baptist, today, too, but I know the Lord is with them and I know He is with you, as well. Take your eyes off of yourself and put them on Christ.
Corrie Ten Boom, how many of you have heard of Corrie Ten Boom? You need to know who she is. Wonderful lady, been in Heaven for awhile now, but she survived the Holocaust. And she was not a Jewish lady, she was actually a Dutch Christian lady, but her crime, in quotes, was hiding Jewish people in her home, along with the rest of her family, during World War II, from the Nazis. So, the Nazis warned the Ten Boom family: Stop hiding these Jews. And they said, "We will keep doing it because they are the apple of God's eye". And so, the Nazis came one day and arrested Corrie's father, who was named Casper, her sister, who was named Betsie, and they were all thrown into concentration camps. The father died quickly; he was an elderly man. Betsie and Corrie were put in a place called Ravensbrück, horrible, awful place, where they were literally sending Jewish people to the crematoriums. But Corrie survived that and spent the rest of her life bringing encouragement to people who had the privilege of hearing her in person, a couple of times. But I love this quote from Corrie Ten Boom, she said, quote, "If you look at the world, you'll be distressed. If you look within, you'll be depressed. And, If you look at Jesus, you'll be at rest". So True.
See, we have to do it for the Lord, we can't do it for the applause of people. Because if you do it for the applause of people, you'll fold when you have to face the criticism of people. So, it's not about applause, it's not about criticism; it's about doing it for the Lord. I wanted to let you know, I think you're aware of this, but last week, Billy Graham celebrated his 99th birthday. He's almost a hundred years old. And Billy lives in his mountaintop home, there in Montreat, North Carolina. He's being cared for, but earlier in his ministry, in the early '90s, I had the privilege of spending quite a bit of time with him and helping him. And so, I remember one time, we were in Portland, Oregon, and he did a crusade. And that's a wild place to do an evangelistic event, Portland, Oregon, not the most church city in America, we'll put it that way. And it was a wonderful event and many people came to Christ.
And I remember, when Billy was walking out of the stadium, there were crowds lined up on both sides; they wanted to reach out and touch Billy Graham. And I was walking right next to him, he just kind of had his head down, he was just sort of looking, he would acknowledge people, but he wasn't waving and he was just moving along. And we got in the car, we're driving out, and you know preachers like to be encouraged, and so I thought, "I'm going to say something encouraging to Billy about his message". And so, I was in the front of the car, riding shotgun, his long-time aid, T.W. Wilson, was driving, next to Billy was sitting his son, Franklin. So, I turned around and looked back over the seat, and there was sitting Billy. I said, "Billy, great message, tonight". Billy looked at me with those steely blue eyes, and he said, "It's just Gospel".
I turn back around. I'm thinking, "I know, just trying to compliment him". Then, I thought of something else to say, a point he made in his message. I turned back around and I said, "Billy, I loved the point you made when you said, Christ can re-sensitive your conscience". And he looked at me and he said, "Well, he can". "I know"! But you know what I learned that day? Billy didn't want to be complimented. He didn't do it for the applause that people are, the compliments of someone else. He did it for the Lord. In Billy Graham's home, there's a little sign hanging on his wall. I've walked around in his home, amazing home. Not a fancy home, but just a lived-in home, decorated by his wonderful wife, Ruth, who's been with the Lord about 10 years now. But this little sign hanging on the wall in his home says, "What is that to thee? Follow thou me".
And that's based on a conversation that Jesus had with Simon Peter after the Lord rose again. Remember, Peter had denied Christ three times, so they talked about it, Jesus said, "If you love me, feed my sheep". And then, Jesus went on to say to Peter, in so many words, "You're going to die the death of a martyr". Well, Peter didn't like that. He looked over at John, the apostle and he said, "What about this man"? And then, Jesus said to Peter, "Hey, if I want him to remain until I return, what is that to you? Follow me. Follow thou me". In other words, Peter's saying, "Whoa, that's not fair". It's like my grandkids. And if I do one thing for a grandchild, that is perceived as being a little more than what I do for the others, they all start in with an "It's not fair, Papa"! And here is Peter, saying, "It's not fair". Jesus is saying, "Hey, what's it to you? You follow me".
And that's what He's saying to you. "Well, it's not fair, Lord, they got more than I got," or, "There are things going better than my". "Hey, what's it to you"? You're in your lane, in the race of life, run your race; you're not competing with fellow Christians. Your competition is not other believers. We're not in competition, here at Harvest, with other churches. Our enemies are the world of the flesh and the devil. We need to run this race for Christ. And we need to do that as individuals, as well.
So, here's another point, if you're taking notes. We need to make our stand in our own homes first. Make our stand in our own homes first. Look at Nehemiah 4:14. He says: "Don't be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes"! See, each person, for the most part, was to build the part of the wall that was nearest to their home. So, think about it, here you are, you're off building the wall and here's your house, right here. Now, do you think you're going to do a good job of securing the wall. Well, of course, because that's your house and in that house is your family, so you do a good job. Everyone worked around their own house, and really, that's where this begins, a spiritual life, it starts with us as individuals, then it's our family.
I want you to notice something very significant, here. These words are addressed to the men. He says, "Remember your brothers, your sisters, your daughters, your wives, and your homes and fight for them"! Well, why wasn't it addressed to the women? Because the men were told, "Fight for your family". Look, if someone breaks in your house, guys, are you going to defend your wife and children? Of course you are. You're going to stop the intruder, do what needs to be done. I know you would do that. But what about spiritual attack against your wife? What about spiritual attack against your children, or your grandchildren? Will you be there as well? See, the idea here is that men need to be the spiritual leaders in their home. We need more men of God leading their families and setting an example. Stop being a slacker! Get up and lead. I know you'll lead in other areas. Lead in this area. And lead your family in Bible study, lead your family to church, lead your family in prayer. Be that man of God. You'll be so blessed if you will do this.
And so, here now, the devil sizes things up and says, "Okay, this isn't working, this outward attack stuff. I know how to get these guys". And so, he brings division in. The first four chapters of Nehemiah show the enemy trying to stop them through derision and danger. Now, he comes with division. Jesus said, "If a house if divided against itself, it cannot stand". As one of our founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, said after he signed the Declaration of Independence, to the other founding fathers in the room, quote, "Gentlemen, now we must all hang together, or surely we will all hang separately," end quote. And that's very true. Franklin knew that the greatest threat to this new nation, called the United States, was not the British coming from the outside, it was division and internal strife from the inside.
And that's exactly what we see happening now as we go to Nehemiah five, starting in verse one. About this time some of the men and their wives raised a cry of protest against their fellow Jews. I'm reading from the New Living Translation, by the way. They were saying, "We have such large families. We need more food to survive". Others said, "We have mortgaged our fields, vineyards, and homes to get food during the famine". And others said, "We've had to borrow money on our fields and vineyards to pay our taxes. We belong to the same family as those who are wealthy, and our children are just like theirs. Yet we must sell our children into slavery just to get enough money to live. We've already sold some of our daughters, and are helpless to do anything about it, for our fields and vineyards are already mortgaged to others". We'll stop there.
So, these folks, these Jewish people have left Babylon at great sacrifice. They've left the comfort of their homes. They get there, they're rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and by the way, these people were not builders, they weren't construction people. They were just regular folks that saw a job that needed to be done and wanted to do something about it, but they were being taken advantage of by their own spiritual family. To make matters worse, there was a famine. According to verse two of chapter five, they're paying these insanely high interest rates, charged by greedy relatives. It's so bad that their children are becoming slaves. They're losing their properties and this just ticked Nehemiah off.
Look at Nehemiah 5:6. When I heard their complaints, I was very angry. And thinking it over, I spoke out against these nobles and officials. And I told them, "You're hurting your own relatives by charging interest when they borrowed money"! "So, we called a public meeting to deal with the problem". So, Nehemiah is taking the bull by the horns, here. And there's something that needs to be done. These other folks, these other Jewish people, were taking advantage.
Here's what I've come to know: There are people that say they are Christians that do not behave as Christians. And it's hard for me to believe they're believers, but they profess faith. And sometimes, I wonder. I mean, how do I know you're a Christian? Hey, how do you know I'm a Christian? Because I stand here and preach? No, that's not how you know. I mean, maybe it's one indication, but you know by my life, you know by the choices I make, you know by my reputation or by fruit. I know the same from your life. And it is possible to be in a church, to read a Bible, to know a few verses, and not know the Lord at all. At best, these people were very disobedient Christians, at worse, or, disobedient believers, this is the Old Testament, and at worse they were people pretending to be believers, but whatever it was, this was a bad situation. So they complained, the people that are being hurt complained.
And by the way, there is a place for complaining, there's a place for criticism. Sometimes, you might see something that isn't right and you think it should change so you need to bring that to the attention of those who are in leadership. There's a difference between constructive criticism and destructive criticism. Constructive criticism sees a problem and wants to help. Destructive criticism sees a problem, amplifies it, and wants to hurt. One wants to help you and build you up and the other wants to destroy you and tear you down. So, if you have an issue with someone, don't talk about them, talk to them. I've had people come up to me and say, "Have you heard about so-and-so"? "What"? "Yeah, so-and-so just did this". "How do you know"? "I read it on the internet". "Oh, then it must be true because everything on the web is true, right"? Everything that's tweeted or posted, it's all true.
There's so much fake news out there it's a joke. And so, I'll say, "Well, have you talked to that person"? "No". "Well, why not? You should go to the person and give them the opportunity to tell you their side of it. You may find that thing you heard was not true at all". Listen, when you hear rumors or negative talk, you can throw one of two buckets on that fire. You can either throw water or you can throw gasoline. You can either try to put it out or you can flame it even worse. But here's what the Bible says, Ephesians 4:3, Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace.
Well, Nehemiah was mad. He says, in verse six: When I heard their complaints, I was very angry. Now, generally, anger's not a good thing. Right? Not usually. Now, we've all done things when we're angry. It's almost like, when you have an angry brain, you lose touch with reality. Just get out in the road, look at the crazy things people do in cars if you dare to use your turning signal and go into their lane and turn legally, they take it personally and they get angry or they tailgate you, or scream at you, or extend a certain finger in your direction. "What was that all about"? Or, maybe you're angry with someone, your spouse makes you angry so, you just unload, you let him have it with both bells, you feel really good about it, and then about five minutes later, the adrenaline wears off and you're thinking, "What? What did I just do? Why did I even do that"?
Or maybe you're mad at someone, you're mad at your boss, "I'm going to send him an email, or her, and I'll tell them what I really think". Type, typing, you're typing hard. And then, when you hit send, it's like that! And off it goes. Bweep, the little sound it makes, bleep. It's out there. Then the adrenaline wears off and you're Googling: How do I get my email back. Answer: You don't. Should've given it some time, thought about it, prayed about it. There have been times I've written emails or letters and never hit send. I'll say, "I'll just see if I feel that way in the morning". I get up the next morning, "What was I thinking? No way am I sending that crazy thing".
Yeah, so generally, anger's a bad thing, but sometimes it can be a good thing. And in the case of Nehemiah it was. It was righteous indignation. And look what Nehemiah did, verse six, he's angry and he consults with himself. That's very interesting. He consults with himself, that's King James Version, which literally means to give oneself advice or counsel oneself. Have you ever counseled yourself? You know what I'm talking about? You say something out loud, "This person said this or did that, and I'm going to do this and get him back". And then, you say, "Wait". And then you quote a scripture to yourself, you're almost like correcting yourself. That's what Nehemiah did, he thought this through, but then he did take action as he was led by the Lord.
Nehemiah 5:9, "What you're doing is wrong," he says to the leaders. "Is there no fear of our God left in you? Don't you care what the nations around here, or our enemies, think of you? I and my brothers and the people working for me have also loaned them money. But this gouging with interest has to stop. So, give them back their foreclosed fields, vineyards, olive groves, and homes right now. Forgive your claims on their money, grain, new wine, and olive oil". And they said, "We'll give it all back". Nehemiah says, "Don't you care what your enemies think of you? Listen to this, nonbelievers watch you each and every day. They don't tell you they're watching you, but they are. And you know what they're looking for? They want you to slip up so bad. They're thinking, "I just want them to do something or say something, so I can say: You hypocrite, you phony". And when you live a godly life, when you bring honor to the Lord despite suffering. Or when you do something kind for somebody, or you forgive someone who has hurt you, it drives them insane.
And this is really what Nehemiah is saying, "Don't you guys even care what the outside world thinks about you? Does it even cross your mind, what the other nations would think, or what our enemies would think"? And I wonder sometimes, if people in the church think about this, how they just go out and disobey God. Christian couples getting a divorce. What, what, what? Christian couples divorce. "Yeah, we're divorcing". "But wait, you pledged your love to each other". "I know. We're divorcing". "Okay, why are you divorcing"? "Irreconcilable differences". "Really"? "Yeah". "What are they"? "They're just irreconcilable". As I've often said, I've had irreconcilable differences with my wife for 42 years. But you know, "You can't forgive"? "You can't work this"? "No, no, can't work it out, we're getting a divorce"! Well, what's going on there?
Or how about this: When one Christian takes another Christian to court and sues them? Paul actually brought this up in 1 Corinthians 6. He says: When you has a dispute with another believer, how dare you file a lawsuit and ask a secular court to decide the matter instead of taking it to other believers! He says: one believer sues another right in front of unbelievers! Get his point, like, "What are you doing? Do you even think about your witness," or lack thereof? This is why the prophet Nathan came to David after his sin of adultery with Bathsheba, and really, his hand in the murder of her husband, Uriah. And he said, "You have given the enemies of God an opportunity to blaspheme the Lord".
It's crazy. We need to think about these things. That's what Nehemiah is bringing up and he asks a powerful question, verse nine: Is there no fear of God left in you? Do you guys not fear God? The fear of God; where did that go? You don't hear much about the fear of the Lord anymore. We used to say, "He is a God-fearing man". That was positive, by the way. Now, we hear so much about the love of God, and believe me, the Bible teaches the love of God, and we should preach the love of God, but it seems to me, in the days in which we're living, we hear a lot about the love of God, but we never hear about the fear of God. We hear a lot about the glories of Heaven, but we never hear warnings about Hell. We hear a lot about forgiveness, but we don't hear much about repentance. And all of that is the Gospel, you see, and it all needs to be proclaimed.
You know, criticism of days gone by was, "I'm sick of all these Hell, fire and brimstone preachers". My response is, "Where are they? I want to hear one"! I hear preachers talking about health and wealth and prosperity and free parking spaces and blessings, galore, no matter what. I'd like to hear a Hell, fire and brimstone message and I would like to hear something more about the fear of God. You say, "Well, what does that mean, the fear of God"? "Not everybody's clapping, what does he mean, what does he mean"? What do I mean by the fear of God? Let me say what I don't mean. When we talk about the fear of God that doesn't mean cowering in fear before God like, "Oh, God, don't hit me, don't beat me," that's not the fear of God. Take out the word fear and put another in, the respect for God, the reverence for God, the awe of God, the honor of God.
Why is that important? Because the Bible says: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It was because the Hebrew midwives feared God, we read in Exodus 1:17, they did not obey the authorities and kill the little Jewish baby boys. It's because the Pharaoh did not fear God that he brought the judgment of the Lord upon himself. Solomon went on a binge of excess and chased after everything that this world offers, the sex, and money, and possessions, and power, and all the rest, and he said, "Okay, after this little experiment, here's my conclusion: Fear God and keep His commandments. Here's what I learned: Just fear the Lord, respect the Lord".
One definition of fearing God is, a wholesome dread of displeasing Him. Thinking about the repercussions. See, a person who fear God says, "God loves me, I'll do whatever the heck I want to do, and God will forgive me and it's all cool". A person who fears God says, "Oh, I love the Lord, and I know He loves me, but I reverence Him and I don't want to bring dishonor to His name and if I did that, that could keep people away from Christ or stumble a younger believer, therefore, I won't do it". See, you need to know the love of God and you need to have the fear of God. They're both really important.
Oswald Chambers, who's best known for his devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, made this statement about the fear of God, quote, "The remarkable thing about fearing God is when you fear God, you fear nothing else; whereas, if you do not fear God, you fear everything else," end quote. Well said. One last thing. Nehemiah told these disobedient believers to take action then and there. He says, "I want you to forgive their debts now. I want you to return their properties now. I want you to take action now, not tomorrow, not in a week, now, right now". And they said, "Will do". And he said, "You'd better do it because you just made the statement before God, in fact, sign on the dotted line, to confirm it".
And the same is true for us. If we need to do something, do it now. Maybe someone has been hurt by you. You hurt them. You slandered them. You said things that were not true about them. And then, you realized they weren't true. So, you sheepishly said, "Well, I'm sorry". Well, that's nice, but you still damaged their reputation. How about this for an idea: Let your repentance be as widely known as your sin. So, you did your sin and everyone saw, now let everyone know about your repentance. It's called making restitution. We don't think about that. "Well, I'm sorry". Well, wait, make restitution. "What does that mean"? Give it back and maybe give a little something extra to make up for the misery you caused them.
Let's say I stole your car. And I had your car for a month. You really needed your car. Then, one day I came back, "Sorry, stole your car. Here's your car back". Had dents all over it, flat tire. "Uh, thanks, could you, like, fix my car? Hey, maybe get me a new car"? See, that's restitution. So, it's not just saying I'm sorry. Make it right. That's what these people were being asked to do, to make restitution.
One day, Jesus showed up in a little town called Jericho and He's walking through a crowd of adoring people, and there's a little dude up in a tree, named Zacchaeus; he was a tax collector. Nobody wanted to hang out with Zacchaeus because they hated him, they thought he was a turncoat working for the Romans, taking advantage of them, not only taking taxes for Rome, but pocketing extra that he put on top of it. So, here comes Jesus in the crowd, everybody wants a moment with Jesus, everybody wants to talk to Jesus. He's looking around, he's looking for Zacchaeus. He looks up, there he is. He says, "Hey Zacchaeus, come on down. I'm coming over to your house for lunch". Zacchaeus couldn't believe it. He scurries down the tree, runs ahead of Jesus, prepares a meal for Christ. And Christ walks into his house and the door shuts. So, pretty much the whole city is just standing there, waiting. Why is Jesus hanging around with a loser like that? Why would Jesus spend time with a guy that rips off other people? Doesn't Jesus know how evil he is?
Time passes and now here comes Jesus and Zacchaeus, probably standing there on the front porch. And Zacchaeus says, "I'm sorry for what I've done. I'll restore anything that I've taken unjustly, and I'm even going to give you something on top of it". Jesus says, "Truly salvation has come into this man's life, today". Why? There was evidence. There was evidence. He wanted to make it right. And the same Jesus that wanted to come into the home of Zacchaeus wants to come into your life right now. Back in biblical time, having a meal was something that they took their time to have. There were no fast food restaurants. You didn't pull your chariot through In-N-Out falafel, or whatever. No, you would get together with family and friends, you would sit down and eating was the time to talk, it was the time to share, time to be together.
So, when Jesus says, "I stand at the door of your life and I knock and I want to come in and sup with you," King James, or "have a meal with you". He's saying, "I want a relationship with you". I mentioned earlier, you can be in the church and never know Jesus. You can be a religious person and never know Jesus. This is not about a religion, it's about a relationship with God. And I ask you: Do you have that right now? Do you know that your life is right with God? And if you don't, would you like that to change? Jesus Christ, who came into that little house of Zacchaeus, years ago, can come into your house. He probably had a big house, come to think of it, but He can come into your home, right now. And He can come into your heart and into your life and forgive you of all of your sin and start changing you. And so, you can leave today, knowing your life is right with God. What did Nehemiah say to these people? Do it now. Do it now.
And I'm going to ask you to do it now. Today, everything can change for you. Yes, there is a Hell. And the last thing God wants is for any man or woman created in His image, to spend eternity separated from Him in this horrible place prepared for the devil and his angels, called Hell. God wants you to join Him in Heaven, but you have to say, "I'm a sinner". And you have to understand Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sin and paid the price for all the wrongs you've ever done. And then, He rose again from the dead and you need to say, "Jesus, come into my house. Come into my heart. Come into my life". And He will. He'll do it right now. He's just a prayer away.
Why don't we close in prayer and let me give you this opportunity to ask Christ into your life. Everybody praying with me, please. Father, thank you for your love for us and sending Jesus to die on the cross in our place. Now, I pray for any that are here, or any that are watching, that do not yet know you. Help them see their need for you and help them to come to you today and be forgiven. Now, while are heads are bowed and our eyes are closed and we're praying, how many of you would say today, "Greg, I want Jesus Christ. I want my sin forgiven. I want to know that when I die I will go to Heaven. I want this relationship with God you've been talking about, pray for me". If that's your desire, wherever you're sitting, or standing, or wherever you are, if you want Jesus to come into your life, if you want Him to forgive you all of your sin, would you raise your hand up, right now, and I'll pray for you. Just raise your hand up where I can see it. God bless you, God bless you.
You may be a religious person, you may be a church-going person, but that doesn't mean you know Jesus. There has to be a moment when He comes into your life and only you can open that door. Anybody else? Raise your hand up. Let me pray for you, today. God bless you. Some of you are watching the screen. Of course, I can't see you, but the Lord sees you. Would you raise your hand, saying, "Yes, I need Jesus. Pray for me". Let me pray for you, wherever you are, raise your hand up if you want Him to come into your life, you want your sin forgiven. God bless all of you. I'll wait one more moment. Maybe you need to come back to the Lord and make a recommitment. Raise your hand up, let me pray for you, today. God bless you. God bless you.
Now, I'm going to ask everyone of you that has raised your hand, I want you to stand to your feet and I'm going to lead you in a simple word of prayer. Stand up. Everyone of you who raised your hand. Even if you did not raise your hand, but you want Christ to come into your life, you want Him to forgive you of your sin, you want to go to Heaven when you die, or you want to come back to the Lord. Stand up. Let me pray for you. Anybody else? Stand up. We're going to pray together. Wherever you are, stand now. All right. Now, all of you that are standing, I want you to pray this prayer out loud, after me. This is a prayer where you're asking God to forgive you of your sins. Again, as I pray, pray this out loud after me. Okay? Pray this prayer, out loud.
Lord Jesus, I know I'm a sinner. But I know you're the Savior who died on the cross and rose again from the dead. Now, Jesus, come into my life. Be my Savior. Be my Lord. Be my God. Be my friend. I choose to follow you, Jesus, from this moment forward. In Your name, I pray, amen.