Today’s readings are from Genesis 15, Matthew 14, Nehemiah 4 and Acts 14.
In the first verse of Genesis 15, Yahweh said to Abram:
“Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.”
This was an assurance to Abram who had recently defeated four powerful kings and rejected any of the booty from the king of Sodom.
When Abram questioned whether his servant Eliezer could be considered his descendant, but God said, “No, look at the stars. Thus shall your descendants be.” Then comes that famous verse which Paul uses to establish that justification is by faith in Romans 4:
And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
Yahweh then seals that promise with a covenant ceremony (Genesis 15:9-21).
Because of the death of John the Baptist (Matthew 14:1-12), Jesus wanted to get away for awhile (Matthew 14:13). But great crowds followed Him. He healed them and fed them (5,000 men!) (Matthew 14:14-21).
Then Jesus (Matthew 14:22-33) made His disciples get into a boat, while he went to pray. A storm came up and He walked to them on the water. John Ortberg wrote a great book on this passage titled If You Want to Walk on the Water You Have to Get Out of the Boat. While Peter took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink, at least he had the courage to step out of the boat! Once again, these miracles pointed out the “little faith” of the disciples.
Nehemiah 4 begins three chapters of opposition which Nehemiah faced:
|Opposition from outside||Opposition from inside||Opposition from outside|
|Sanballat and Tobiah conspire against the work with a planned attack||Jewish nobility taking financial advantage of their Jewish brothers||Sanballat and Gesham plan to assassinate Nehemiah|
The real test of a leader is how he or she faces crises and respond to opposition. Nehemiah’s enemies use ridicule (4:1-6), as well as armed resistance surrounding them (4:7-8) to oppose the work. Nehemiah’s response to both was corporate prayer (4:4-5 and 4:9).
One of Rick Warren’s Leadership Lifters that I received yaers ago had this information:
4 SETBACKS THAT CAN CAUSE DISCOURAGEMENT
1. WHEN SOMETHING TAKES LONGER THAN EXPECTED
This causes FATIGUE
“They said ‘We’re tired and worn out. We can’t keep up this pace!” Nehemiah 4:10a
“Never forget how the Amalekites . . . attacked you when you were exhausted and weary, and they struck down those who began to lag behind . . .”
Deut. 25:18 (NLT)
2. WHEN SOMETHING IS MORE COMPLICATED THAN EXPECTED
This causes FRUSTRATION
“Besides that, there is so much rubble and trash to be removed!” Nehemiah 4:10b
“Come, Lord, and show me your mercy, for I feel helpless, overwhelmed, and in deep distress.” Psalm 25:16 (LB)
3. WHEN I START TO DOUBT MY OWN ABILITY
This causes a sense of FAILURE
“The people said, ‘We now realize that we cannot finish this wall.'” “We will NEVER be able to finish it.” Nehemiah 4:10c
4. WHEN THE OPPOSITION GROWS STRONGER
This causes FEAR
“Meanwhile our enemies are threatening to kill us in order to stop this work” Nehemiah 4:11
“Then, those of us who lived closest to our enemies kept reporting over and over – ten times – that our enemies kept saying “It doesn’t matter where you go, we’ll attack you!” Nehemiah 4:12
WHAT SHOULD I DO WHEN I FEEL LIKE GIVING UP?
Do the 3 things Nehemiah did
1. REORGANIZE WHATEVER IS NOT WORKING
“So I stationed armed guards at the most vulnerableplaces of the wall and assigned people by families with their swords, lances, and bows.” Nehemiah 4:13 (Mes)
“Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting with other believers, but we must not do that. Instead, we should keep on encouraging each other . . .” Hebrews 4:25
Action Plan: Pray this week about the things in your life that don’t seem to be working. Ask God for clarity on your goals, making sure your goals align with his will, and ask for guidance in making them fruitful, meaningful and sustaining.
2. REFOCUS ON GOD
“Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the leaders and the people and said to them, “Don’t be afraidof the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious.” Nehemiah 4:14a (NLT)
(Jonah) “When I had lost all hope I turned my thoughts once again to the Lord.” Jonah 2:7 (LB)
(David) “I’m completely discouraged. Revive me by your Word!” Psalm 119:25 (LB)
Action Plan: Start a new season of refocusing on God by joining a Bible study or small group.
3. RESIST THE DISCOURAGEMENT
(Then I told them) “. . . Fight for your brothers, and your sons and your daughters, and wives and homes!” Nehemiah 4:14b (NIV)
In Acts 14 the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas is continued. Ministries at Iconium (Acts 14:1-5) and Lystra (Acts 14:6-19) both met with opposition and expulsion. They went as far as Derbe (Acts 14:20), then backtracked through Lystra and Iconium (Acts 14:20-21),
22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. 23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
Making disciples and appointing elders–this is the way they strengthened the fledgling churches.
24 Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. 25 And when they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia, 26 and from there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had fulfilled.