One of the common causes of burnout in ministry is criticism and opposition. For whatever reasons it seems that some pastors have to deal with more than their fair share of it. But, for all pastors, it is something that comes with the territory. We have to learn to deal with it. If we don’t, we’ll burn out.
Nehemiah was one of the greatest leaders in the Bible, and he had to deal with opposition in a big way as he led the Jews in rebuilding the walls of the city of Jerusalem. In the previous post, we saw that the first key to dealing with opposition is to take it to God in prayer. Through prayer we invite God into our struggle and in doing so, we put the opposition in proper perspective. We are able to evaluate it from God’s perspective. If there’s something we need to learn from it, and sometimes there is, God will help make that clear to us. Through prayer, Nehemiah was able to keep his focus on the vision of rebuilding the walls.
I wish I could say that when you take it to God in prayer that your opposition will all go away. But, sometimes it doesn’t. In fact, sometimes the opposition intensifies. That’s what happened to Nehemiah. After Nehemiah rebuffed his initial opposition, we read; Chapter 4: 7-8, But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. 8 They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it.
The conspiracy against the Jews grows! Now the Arabs and Ammonites and people of Ashdod are brought into it- people groups whose locations meant that Jerusalem was now surrounded! And, once again, Nehemiah responded with prayer. But, this time was different. This time, he was not the lone prayer. This time the people followed his lead and joined him! V.9a, But WE prayed to our God… And, in addition to praying, Nehemiah said, V. 9b, and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.
Some people may try to make a big deal out of the posting of the guard and say that Nehemiah was demonstrating a lack of faith. But, that’s not the case at all. God gives us the gift of prayer. But, He also gives us the gift of common sense. Think about it. If you received word through your neighborhood association or the local authorities that thieves were frequenting your neighborhood and had already robbed two houses, how would you respond? Certainly, you would pray for God’s protection. But, is that all you would do? Absolutely not! You would also make sure you kept all your doors locked and the alarm set.
When opposition comes, trust God and pray. But, use your common sense to also respond as needed! Common sense may dictate certain actions you can take that will provide practical protection. Pray and respond with appropriate common sense.
(To be continued…)