I Gave Them The Same Reply

When Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall and that no gap was left in it — though at that time I had not installed the doors in the city gates — Sanballat and Geshem sent me a message: “Come, let’s meet together in the villages of the Ono Valley.” They were planning to harm me.

So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing important work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” Four times they sent me the same proposal, and I gave them the same reply.

(Nehemiah 6)

Have you ever noticed that when you start to move in a positive direction, that’s when distractions and roadblocks seem to appear? As long as you are just drifting along, not making any waves, things seem to be so much easier. Sure, you might bump into a rock every now and then, but you can just go with the flow and move past it. But when you decide that you’re not going to just let life come to you, when you set a goal and start moving towards it, that’s when things get difficult.

As is illustrated in today’s passage, people will array themselves against you and try to stop you from accomplishing your purpose. Some will be enemies, as in Nehemiah’s case, but even more perplexing is when it is your friends and family are the ones speaking negativity into you! Let’s explore some of the reasons why you might experience pushback:

1. Fear of Change

Humans are creatures of habit. It helps us make sense of the chaos around us when we can recognize patterns of circumstances and behaviors. When you decide to change the status quo, it throws things off and can create anxiety for others.

2. Jealousy

Some people cannot bear to see someone else content, happy, and fulfilled when they are not feeling those things in their own life. They would rather tear you down or hold you back than to see you receive a blessing that they desire but lack.

3. Control

Some want, consciously or unconsciously, to manipulate others. When you choose to acknowledge God as the Lord of your life, and submit to him, it threatens their desire be in control. When you are heeding and moving with the Holy Spirit, people will see they don’t exercise power over you any more.

4. Conviction/Guilt

When you decide to improve yourself or obey a call of God on your life, it can spark conviction in the heart of others who know that they also need to make some changes. Maybe they aren’t ready to up their level of commitment, so seeing you make strides in your life or walk with God makes them see the need in their own life, and it makes them feel guilty.

As I mentioned above, it’s not always our enemies that attempt to frustrate, dissuade or discourage us, but Nehemiah modeled the perfect response for both friend and foe — “I am doing important work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” — He was confident that he was doing the right thing and would let nothing get in the way of accomplishing his goal. They were persistent in their attempts, but Nehemiah was consistent in his responses.

Someday, we will all stand before God and answer for our actions. We will be called to account for our responses to his leading. When God placed a prompting in your spirit, or an opportunity to be busy about his business, what was your reply? What did you say to those tried to stop you? I hope that we will also be able to say, “I gave them the same reply.”

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, you have called us to grow in wisdom and righteousness, and we want to be faithful to that call. When others do not understand the call on our lives or are working counter to it, help us to shrug off the distraction and stay focused on what is important. Give us the confidence to be steadfast in our obedience to you. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen!

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