Nehemiah 4:1-3; When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, 2 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?” 3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!”
YAC… a term in the NFL that stands for Yards After Contact by the opposition. An effective running back is one who learns how to keep his legs moving in such a way that he is able to continue to gain yards after contact by his opponents.
As I said in the previous post, when you pursue God’s vision for your life or for your church, you are going to encounter opposition. And it will be your ability to make “YAC” that will make all the difference toward fulfilling that vision. Nehemiah learned how to keep his legs churning in the face of opposition. How did he do it?
The first thing that he did immediately upon being hit by the opposition was what he had already been doing every step along the way… he prayed! Nehemiah 4:4, Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. 5 Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.
That’s quite a prayer, isn’t it? Not what you might expect. It’s funny, some commentators just refuse to accept this for face value and go through all kinds of interpretive gymnastics to try to explain it away as not being what Nehemiah really meant. Well, I think this is exactly what he meant! Because I’ve prayed prayers like that too! And I’ve thought much worse! Nehemiah is angry! He’s been working hard night and day for what he knows to be the right thing- he doesn’t need this!
When you’re as deeply committed as HE was, emotions are running high, and nothing sticks in your craw more than criticism or ridicule at times like that! Especially when it comes from the cheap seats… from people who have little or no stake in the process… from what I call, “OPPOSER HOSERS. ” That’s people who don’t have the spiritual or moral courage to personally talk to you- so they attack from the outside or undermine clandestinely from within. Like Sanballat and Tobiah they usually run in two’s because they need at least one other person to validate them. And, there’s no better place to let off steam than with God!
But, notice something else very important here that Nehemiah does! Upon hearing the criticism, he IMMEDIATELY prays! I don’t know about you, but when I’m criticized, prayer is not always my first reaction! Our most natural response to personal criticism is what??? We want to defend ourselves! We want to fire back! Proverbs 26:4; Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself. Only a fool fires back!
It’s hard to be hit like that- to be criticized- and especially ridiculed. It riles you up big time! But to fire back at your critics is to play their game. It makes you no better than the person firing all the ridicule and criticism at you. But, worse than that, when you start firing back, your focus shifts away from what is most important and onto your critics instead.
Don’t fire back… and, don’t bottle it up either- that takes you down the road of depression and stomach problems, etc. And certainly don’t go home and dump it all on your wife and kids and kick the dog. The best (and healthiest) thing you can do with those emotions is to take them to God- to pray! Prayer is the only way to keep from firing back. God can handle it! He sees it as an act of trust on our part, a part of developing real intimacy with God.
Prayer helps you put criticism and ridicule in proper perspective… you’re able to evaluate it from God’s perspective. If there’s something you need to learn from it, and sometimes there is, then God will show that to you! Nehemiah didn’t fire back or suppress it or dump it, he prayed! Through prayer, he is able to keep his eyes on the vision of rebuilding the walls. He prayed, and then he went back to work: V. 6, So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.