Monday, June 4, 2012

6/3/12  FBCRB

“Rebuilding the Walls”  Pt. III

How many of you have ever done anything to validate the old idiom that “No good deed goes unpunished”?  You have probably at least heard the term if not seen it in action.  Many times it seems that when we try to do something good, it turns around to bite us.  It could make a person become cynical if you let it.

There was a man who worked for the post office whose job was to process all the mail that had illegible addresses. One day, a letter came addressed in a shaky handwriting to God with no actual address. He thought he should open it to see what it was about. The letter read:

Dear God,
I am an 83-year-old widow living on a very small pension. Yesterday someone stole my purse. It had $100 in it, which was all the money I had until my next pension payment. Next Sunday is Christmas, and I had invited two of my friends over for dinner. Without that money, I have nothing to buy food with, have no family to turn to and you are my only hope. Can you please help me?

The postal worker was touched. He showed the letter to all the other workers. Each one dug into his or her wallet and came up with a few dollars. By the time he made the rounds, he had collected $96, which they put into an envelope and sent to the woman. The rest of the day, all the workers felt a warm glow thinking of Edna and the dinner she would be able to share with her friends. Christmas came and went. A few days later, another letter came from the same old lady to God. All the workers gathered around while the letter was opened. It read:

Dear God,
How can I ever thank you enough for what you did for me? Because of your gift of love, I was able to fix a glorious dinner for my friends. We had a very nice day and I told my friends of your wonderful gift. By the way, there was $4 missing. I think it might have been those creeps at the post office.

Stuff like that could make you cynical.  Stuff like that makes you wonder why you should ever do anything nice for anybody, right?  We saw last week in Nehemiah evidence of the fact that when people are obedient that God blesses.  And when the people are obedient and then God blesses, what happens?  Satan attacks.  We have seen that in our own lives and in the life of this church.  Over and over again I have seen this church be obedient to what God calls you to do and then He blesses us in all kinds of ways but then Satan comes along and whacks us upside the head.

For some of you it starts getting old.  You start to wonder in the middle of Satan’s attack whether it is all worth it or not.  It seems like you don’t get attacked near as much when you just do the bare minimum.  Just come to church when it’s convenient.  Tithe when you have extra.  Don’t drink (at least not the hard stuff) …on church property.  You know, the bare minimum.  That way Satan doesn’t care about what you do and he won’t cause you grief.  What’s wrong with that thinking?

Go ahead and turn to Nehemiah.  It is between Ezra and Esther in the Old Testament.  We are going to look at several passages; not long ones but that is why it only says Nehemiah in your bulletin without chapter and verse because we didn’t have room.  We saw in Ephesians 6 all of the armor we have to protect ourselves against the schemes of the devil.  Now we are going to look at some common ways he attacks. 

If we are obedient, we see God blesses that and when God blesses that makes Satan mad and he attacks.  He is not going to attack by knocking on your door and declaring war.  He is going to use people and circumstances to attack you and since we know that our battle is not against flesh and blood we will see how he attacks and how to respond and what our motivation is for continuing to be obedient.

We will start in chapter 2 verses 17-20.  Read.

If you remember, I ended last week’s sermon with a hint as to what we should expect when Satan attacks by reading a previous verse that said Sanballat and Tobiah were very disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.  Now they found a buddy and have actually started making fun of Nehemiah and the workers.

Why do you think they did that?  Why would somebody ridicule you when you try to do the right thing?  Well, these 3 guys were rulers over parts of the country; small parts, sort of like mayors or governors and they were concerned that Nehemiah was a threat to them.  Also, later on some of the workers are described as being men of integrity and people who live their lives with integrity will always be a threat to those who don’t.

It makes people uncomfortable to be around someone who doesn’t wink and nod at their inappropriate behavior.  Light will always war with darkness.  In fact, it’s to be expected so much that if your integrity doesn’t offend some people every now and then, you may not have that much integrity.  We should expect to be ridiculed.  It happened to Nehemiah and it also happened in Matthew 27:27-31.  Read.

Jesus hadn’t done anything to those men.  He hadn’t broken any laws or done anything wrong.  But they despised Him.  In fact, in 2 Corinthians 2:16, it says we as Christians are the smell of death to non-believers.  To God we are the very aroma of Christ and of life but to others we are the smell of death.  Expect for people to make fun of you when you try to rebuild the walls of democracy, decency and doctrine in this country.

Not only does Satan try to hinder us by ridiculing us, we should also expect him to try to distract us.  Read chapter 6, verses 1-3.  Sanballat and Gesham had no real reason for wanting to carry on a conversation with Nehemiah.  They just wanted him to stop working.  They wanted to distract him from the work he was doing.  And what would have happened if he had left the other workers and went to talk to them?  What would happen if you saw somebody else working next to you just stop and go talk to some guys down the street?

Well, why am I still working when he’s not?  That’s not fair.  I’m working hard and he’s not.  Who does he think he is?  And Satan breaks out laughing.  Not only has the work stopped but now everybody has a bad attitude.  It’s the same with us even today in this church.  Whatever attitude you have is contagious and when you stop pulling your weight, when you stop rowing toward the goal of furthering the kingdom with prayer and scripture as your oars, it makes the people around you think maybe they should do that too.

When you don’t show up for church others think, “Well maybe it’s not as important as I thought.”  And when you can’t get along with somebody in the church it makes others say, “You know, I don’t like that person either.”  Your attitude is contagious and now everybody is distracted from doing what we are called to do and Satan’s side is hurting from laughing so hard.

We should expect to be ridiculed.  We should expect Satan to try to distract us and according to verses 5-8 we should expect to be slandered when we are obedient.  Read 6:5-8.

Sanballat sent that letter unsealed because he wanted everyone to read his made-up words.  He wanted Nehemiah to know that now everybody thought he was leading some kind of revolt.  Sanballat is ramping up his attacks just like Satan does to us today.  I was talking to somebody in the community just the other day who said, “I heard all y’all do down at that church is argue.  That’s why I don’t go there.”  That hurt my feelings.  In fact, it made me mad because I know that’s the opposite of the truth.  So I started arguing with him about it.  No, I’m kidding.  But that’s to be expected.  Samuel Johnson said “Slander is the revenge of a coward.”  It’s sort of like, “If you can’t say something nice about somebody, make up something bad.”  Satan is a coward and he wants other people to think poorly of you so don’t be surprised when your good name or the good name of the church or even the name of Jesus is slandered.

Now read 6:10-13 and see the next way Satan likes to attack.

If ridicule doesn’t work and slander falls short of Satan’s goal don’t be surprised if people try to intimidate you when you try to be obedient to what God has called you to do.  Tobiah and Sanballat hired this guy Shemaiah to intimidate Nehemiah.  First, he told him a lie that people were coming to kill him.  Then he tried to get Nehemiah to go into a part of the temple he was not allowed to as a layman.  Only priests could go into the sanctuary part of the temple but Nehemiah would not be intimidated into stopping his work or doing something wrong.

II Timothy 1:7 says, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”  If you are doing what you are supposed to do;  if you are rebuilding the walls that need to be rebuilt in this community then you have God’s own Spirit living inside of you and nobody can do anything to you that God doesn’t allow.  When you stand up against gay marriage somebody is going to try to quiet you by saying you are going to hurt somebody’s feelings.  When you tell your neighbor about the relationship you have with Jesus they are going to tell you that is for the weak and simple-minded.  And some day soon, Satan is going to come to you, maybe when you are alone, maybe when you are tired or discouraged and he is going to whisper in your ear that it’s ok, everybody does it.  He is going to tell you that this isn’t all that bad.  Nobody will ever find out.  And if you don’t then everybody is going to laugh at you. 

Don’t be intimidated!  He’s a liar and a coward and he wants to kill you.  He wants to distract you and he will ridicule you and slander you and if you let him he will intimidate you into missing out on God’s blessings for obedience.  You say, “But Todd, what are the blessings of obedience?  Every time I try to do my part in rebuilding the walls, Satan attacks me and I have to won der sometimes if it is even worth it.  Sometimes it seems that no good deed goes unpunished.  If there are benefits of obedience, what are they?  I’m ready for them.”

That’s a good question.  I’ll start by saying that our first blessing is knowing that God is there with us.  There are more passages and illustrations in the lives of Biblical characters than we have time for to prove that.  In the Old Testament He was with Joseph and over and over God made that obvious.  In the New Testament God was with Paul and over and over again He made that obvious.  It is also true in your life and in the life of this church and every day God makes that obvious.

And while God makes Himself known to us in real ways every day by showering us with blessings, gifts, mercy, grace, forgiveness and even with physical, tangible things, nowhere in the Bible does God promise that if we are obedient He will bless us with stuff in this life.  He does not promise wealth.  He does not promise good health.  He doesn’t even promise you another breath.  But to close I want you to turn to one last place in the Bible.  Turn to Matthew 5:11-12. 

When Satan attacks you with insults, persecutions and slander I want you to see what Jesus promises us.  Read.

Rejoice when this happens because your reward in Heaven is great!  Todd, what does that mean?  What kind of reward?  I don’t know but Jesus says it’s great and Jesus doesn’t go around saying a lot of things are great.  So I trust Him and instead of thinking that no good deed goes unpunished, I know different because I know Jesus.  Do you?

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