Michael Youssef - Rebuilding Our Broken Walls - Part 4
I trust that the Lord is using these series of messages to encourage you and also to challenge you at the same time. You know, what I'm gonna be talking about is the importance of being good stewards. And we can be good stewards of our resources, which is vital, but we need to be good stewards of the truth. That's really what matters. Today, compromise is taking place all across the board in the church of Jesus Christ. We need to stand firm for the truth and learn from Nehemiah.
How many of you have heard of Murphy's Law? Good number. Well, let me tell you the story behind Murphy's Law. Back in the '40s, Dr. Stapp was doing an experiment on the effect of the g-force on the human body, the accelerating and the decelerating. And so, he got his assistant, Captain Murphy, to design a sensor. And Captain Murphy's assistant is the one who took that design sensor and placed it on a chimpanzee. Needless to say, the experiment failed miserably, and human nature the way it is, everybody was pointing fingers. Right at that point when this was going on, Captain Murphy referred to his assistant when he said, "If that guy has any way of making a mistake, he will," from which came what we know as Murphy's Law. If anything can go wrong, will go wrong.
Now you know. And if you're anything like me, you probably have experienced Murphy's Law in your life. I've experienced it many times. If you allow the slightest possibility for your plans to go awry, they will. One of the things that many of you might not have realized, and you will today, is that Murphy's Law works overtime when it comes to the spiritual life. It really does. As a matter of fact, it works triple overtime. Why triple? Because we have three powerful enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil, and they are constantly conspiring to get things to go wrong in our lives. The world, the flesh, and the devil.
Ephesians 2 will tell you all about that, these three powerful enemies. And these three powerful enemies literally were in operation in Nehemiah chapter 4. And the reason Nehemiah is such a role model for all of us to follow, whatever rebuilding we're involved in, is that with Nehemiah, there are no fine prints that you get tricked into. Everything is in the sunlight. Everything hangs out, as it were. Never blows smoke. Never put a mask and present things the way they're not. He tells you the truth as it is, with all of its failures and faults. And the truth in this case is as follows: whenever you decide to build or rebuild brokenness of any kind, the destroyer is not far behind you. Whenever you try to attempt something great for God, don't be surprised that the demolisher is right behind you. And you find that, actually, in the Word of God from cover to cover.
Any time you have victory over sin, any time you begin to triumph over addiction, any time you begin to achieve a consistent prayer life, any time you begin to make a decision and share Christ and your faith boldly with others, whenever you begin to rebuild your family altar, whenever you try to begin to do something great for God, don't be surprised at the spiritual opposition. Don't be surprised. The devil lives for one thing and one thing only, and that is to stop believers from attempting to do great things for God. That's what he does for a living. And the two most common tools that he uses: discouragement and distraction. And he applies those two like a one-two punch. You know what I'm talking about? One-two. And he often hits hard, hits fast, and hits frequently, and you're kind of left disoriented. What happened to me? What happened?
Now, look at verse 1 of Nehemiah 4, "When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and he was greatly incensed. And he ridiculed the Jews". You remember when we met Sanballat a couple of messages ago? I mean, the moment we heard of Sanballat, we knew he's trouble with a capital T. He really was. Let me tell you about him. Sanballat was a Samaritan from the town of Horon. He, and the Amorites, and the Ammonites, and all the mosquito bites were hired by the occupying force, first the Babylonians and then the Persians. They were occupying Israel. In order to humiliate Israel, they brought these guys who hated Israel and made them give them official titles. They make them in charge.
Now, being a Samaritan, you remember in the New Testament, the Samaritans and the Jews? That's why the story of the good Samaritan's such a powerful, powerful illustration. Being a Samaritan, he wanted all of the pork that's coming out of Washington D.C. to go to Samaria. But back then they did not call it Washington D.C., they called it Soso. It's the same thing. He did not want that to go to Judea. He wanted it to come to Samaria. Sanballat assembled a motley crew. You got an Ammonite, you got an Arab, and he got a real interesting group of people here. For what purpose? Why did he assemble this motley crew? For one purpose only, and that is to jeer, to insult, to mock, to ridicule, and to intimidate the people of God. It's that simple.
Let me tell you what you probably already know, and if you didn't, you must be living in another planet, that right now, in America, there is an unholy alliance between all of the haters of the Christian faith. Unholy alliance. Sometimes I sit, whether I read it or watch it, and I just sit there. I'm honestly mesmerized. I say, "Wow". I'm astounded at the alliance against those who love the Lord Jesus. The attack is so relentless that it swept some of so-called evangelical pastors off their feet. It really has. Here's how it goes. They say there is a need to erase the distinction between the church and culture. The church should not be at enmity with culture. We need the church to be accepted and well-viewed by culture, and therefore, the church should be just like another institution. In other words, they have fallen into the trap of thinking that they can convince the Sanballats of this world to stop mocking, intimidating, and jeering the church.
My beloved friends, please listen to me. If we erase the distinction between the world and the church, we have erased everything that makes the church to be the church of Jesus Christ. We need to take a stand, regardless of the cost. Think long and hard about this. Today, we have so many Sanballats. In fact, we have an army of Sanballats that are going and combing every corporation and company in America and finding out anybody who ever took a stand, even the CEOs, and they get fired. It's in the news. We have an army of Sanballats at every professional sports arena. They're looking. Anyone who takes a stand for Christ. Look what they did to poor old Tim Tebow. We have an army of Sanballats within the military.
Look what they do to a chaplain who dares to name the name of Jesus. We have Sanballats on every university campus. There's an army of them. There are Sanballats on every school campus. And the natural thing... now, you notice I said, "The natural thing," because there's a world of difference between the natural thing and the supernatural thing. The natural thing is to be discouraged and give up, because that's exactly what the enemy wants you to do. I can't do this. I can't stand. I'll let go. What did Nehemiah do in the face of discouragement? Look at verse 9. He said, "We prayed to our God". How many times? I didn't count. How many times? He said, "When we got into trouble, we prayed to our God. We prayed to our God. The God, the awesome God. We pray". And then posted guards in the night and the day to meet the threat.
The Bible said that we are to watch and pray. Prayer is never an excuse for doing nothing. We are to watch and we pray. We are to guard and petition God at the same time. We are to be vigilant, but on our knees. We are to stand up, stand out, and kneel down all at the same time. Look at Satan's weapons of discouragement, verses 10 all the way to 14. Follow with me. Verse 10, "The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there's much rubble and we can't rebuild the wall". They got halfway through, halfway point of building the wall. Halfway. Halfway. Remember that. Halfway and they got discouraged. They were discouraged because of the debris. There was just too much of it. The enormity of the task. They got discouraged because of the jeering of the enemy. And to top it all, they began to lose heart.
I have experienced severe discouragement. What discourages you may not discourage me, and what discourages me might not discourage you at all. But discouragement is Satan's most effective tool against the believers, because that's how he gets you to surrender. Particularly those who have just had a high spiritual experience. Particularly those who have just come from a mountaintop experience. Watch out. That's the time. That's the time. You remember in 1 King chapter 18 and 19, I mean, Elijah was literally had a mountaintop experience, literally and figuratively speaking. And there on Mount Carmel, he called upon the Lord and the Lord supernaturally sent fire from heaven, licked everything in sight, destroyed all of the prophets of Baal. Mountaintop experience, on spiritual high. And then you read a few verses down the road, it says he had his head between his knees and says, "God, kill me. I don't want to live anymore".
The same thing happened with Jonah. You remember when Jonah, after God had to deal with him, finally said, "Okay, I'll go". And God sends him to Nineveh, and he conducts... or God uses him to conduct one of the greatest revivals in all of history. And in chapter 4, verse 3, he prays, "O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live". Be careful with the mountaintop experience and the spiritual high. Now, here's a fact. We all face discouragement at some point or another, but if you surrender to the spirit of discouragement, you rob yourself of hope. If you surrender to Satan's will in your life, you will miss out on the blessings that can only come after taking a stand. But I want you to listen very carefully.
I don't believe for a moment that the Lord wants you to put on a happy face and mask your discouragement. That is not in the Scripture. I am not even suggesting that you try to ignore your discouragement, because ignoring discouragement in your life can be no more ignored than the gauge of the gasoline in your car. No matter how much you ignore the sign that says empty tank, it's not gonna give you more gas. If you keep on accelerating and pushing hard, it ain't gonna put gas in your tank. God does not say to us, "Oh, even though your tank is empty, pretend that it is full". No, but God wants to fill your spiritual tank with encouragement. We see it right here in the Scripture, and that's what God did in Nehemiah. He did this to the team, to Nehemiah himself, and to the others. Look at this example.
First of all, Nehemiah recognized that the folks were stretched to the limit, to the breaking point. They were discouraged. Nehemiah realized that the folks have lost sight of the vision. They took their eyes off the awesome God and placed them on the rubbles and on Sanballat. They have taken their eyes off the vision of rebuilding the wall. All they could focus on is that rubble and the taunting of the enemy. Have you ever done that? Have you ever taken your eyes off the vision that God has given you for your life, a vision that he placed in your heart the day you came to Jesus and gave your life to Christ? And he placed that vision in your heart of reaching the lost, equipping the saints, and you begin to focus on the problems. Here's a fact. Problems will always be with us. Every one of us will face them. But if you get sidetracked into what program, who's doing what, and who's doing where, and who's doing that, and who's doing the other thing, you're gonna get discouraged. But focus on how heaven rejoices every time you're an instrument of bringing someone to the Lord.
Focus on that. Focus on the joy of heaven when you do not come to church alone, but bring somebody with you to hear the gospel. Focus on that. Focus on how pleased the Lord is every time you restore the fallen. Focus on how God is honored when you lift up the weak, and disciple the willing, and help the needy. As soon as you do that and the problem's gonna appear to be nothing but smoke screen. There's something else here. In fact, there are two things that I want to share them with you. The first thing here is in verse 10. The worst part of discouragement came from the tribe of Judah. You say, "What's so big about that"? That's huge. That's a biggy. That is not a small potato. This is a big kahuna. This is the leading tribe of Israel. It's one thing when all those mosquito bites are jeering you, and mocking you, and try to discourage you.
It's another thing your own leadership begins to surrender to discouragement. When that happens, a nation is in double trouble. When the people you count on and look up to become wobbly at the knees, when your heroes begin to faint from discouragement, oh Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy. These folks reached the halfway point, according to verse 6. Halfway. Halfway is always a dangerous point. Did you know that? Halfway is the danger point, and that is why they call it midlife crisis. Here's the good news. Here's the good news. Listen carefully. Wherever you are today, wherever you are, wherever you are, listen to the voice of God saying to you, "Trust me. Have confidence in my power. Hang on to my promises. I'll never leave you nor forsake you. I will deliver you from your trouble. All of your trouble".
Now, someone might say, "Well, Michael, I'm really having difficulty hearing the voice of God. I don't hear God. His voice is muffled because of all the other voices that I'm hearing". And in addition to that, what makes it worse is that God always speaks softly. Did you know that? Seldom do you ever hear God shout. And so today, I want you to quiet in your heart. Quiet in your heart right now wherever you are and say to him, "Lord, speak to me". Now, here's the second thing that I don't want you to miss. It's of uttermost... I don't want you to miss it. It's hidden in the text and you could easily miss it. Verse 12, Nehemiah said that, "At that time the Jews who were living nearer to the enemy". Don't miss that. "Those who were living closest to the enemy came from all directions and they said to us," how many times? Did you get that? How many times? Ten times. Ten times. I mean, he's making the point. This was not just once or twice. Ten times. They came again, and again, and again, and again, and they said, "We are discouraged".
Question: who were the most fearful of the Jews? Where did they live? Nearer to the enemies. It is still true today. I know it experientially. It is still true today. When you live closest to the enemy, when you are flirting with the enemy, when you are fraternizing with the enemy, when you get cozy with the enemy, you will be the most discouraged when the enemy attacks you. Nehemiah said, "Don't be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, the great and awesome, and so fight for your brothers, fight for your sons, fight for your daughters, fight for your wives, fight for your homes". Here's a reading assignment if you're looking for one. Read this chapter in Isaiah once a week. Isaiah 53. And every time you get discouraged, "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrow, and familiar with suffering". Read it often, again and again. God knows your discouragement, God knows your fears, and he has cures for both.
Nehemiah did something else. Verse 13, he posted people in groupings of family. Nothing help you overcome discouragement like being a member of the family of God. Are you ready to overcome discouragement? Are you ready to rebuild? Well, look what Nehemiah did, verses 15 all the way to the end, 23. They were building and defending both at the same time. The sword was in one hand and the trowel in the other. They were doing both. Unfortunately, I meet a lot of people who always repeat this mantra: "We don't need to talk about what we're against, we need to talk about what we are for". Wonderful. Sounds great, right? But under the guise of this stuff, I have seen with those eyes many Christians refuse to battle with the Sanballats of secularism, and the Tobiahs of immorality, and the Geshems of false religions. They just wanna hold hands and sing "Kumbaya".
Nothing wrong with that, as long as in the other hand you have the sword. If Nehemiah teaches us anything, he teaches us that we must do both. We cannot create this false dichotomy between watching and praying. We must not create this false dichotomy between defending and working. Otherwise, these folks who refuse to stand, sooner or later, and I've seen it, sooner or later they become casualties in the spiritual war. Let me illustrate what I'm trying to say for some true story about a football legend by the name of Reggie White. Sadly, the year 2004 he died of lung disease. He was an amazing human being, and he was called "The Minister of Defense". And the reason he had this title is because he was a committed minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but he also was a defensive end for both the Eagles and the Packers.
During one of those games when Reggie was playing for the Eagles, he was rushing through the offensive line play, after play, after play. The offensive lineman that was assigned to Reggie could not even slow him down, let alone stop him. And Reggie ran over his opponent, leaving him on the ground flat on his back. After the play, Reggie rushes back to his opponent team, and he put his hand out to him, and he pulled him up, and he said, "Jesus loves you and I love you too, but man, you better learn how to block". You better learn how to block, because, my beloved friend, listen to me, listen to me, this is same truth for you and for me today as God's people.
We better learn how to block. It is not enough to know how to rebuild. We better learn how to block. Block for your family, block for your children, block for your faith, block for the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, block for the church of Jesus Christ. We'd better learn how to block, because we have a three-fold enemy: the world, the flesh, and the devil, and they all conspiring against us. We better learn how to block because there is a moral and spiritual Murphy's Law which says if we permit an opening of anything to go wrong in our spiritual lives, it will go wrong. And that is why Nehemiah said, "We're scattered, so when you hear the trumpet, rally. Rally to us. There, our God, he'll fight for us". This is true back in the time of Nehemiah as it is true in the 21st century. We need to rally together, to pray together, to fight together, because that way God will do the fighting for us, amen?