Love overcomes opposition podcast notes

I will never put a bumpersticker on my car. I personally don’t believe my bumper is the best place to express a life philosophy. But I am addicted to reading them. Anybody else a bumper sticker addict. I read them all the time. Let me give you a short list of my favorites.

Please don’t hit me
Honk if you’re amish
We ate your stick family
Very funny scotty, now beam down my clothes
26.2 oreos I can eat
On the advice of my lawyer my bumper has no comment at this time

There is one bumper sticker I read regularly that sticks out more than any of them. I used to go by it every day I went running. But every time I see it, my heart aches. It reads simply… I’ve got nothing against God, it’s his fan club I can’t stand

Every time I run past that I think to myself, what happened. Who hurt this person. Was it a TV preacher spewing fire and brimstone. Was it a parent who could talk Christianity but couldn’t walk Christianity. Was it a friend who tried to shove the bible down his throat. It breaks my heart.

Every time I read that bumper sticker I am also reminded that just by the mere fact that I call myself a Christian, I am going to face opposition. It’s a guarantee made by Jesus himself.

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

That’s probably my least favorite promise in the bible. So let’s do the math here. If you try to love people you will face opposition. If you are a Christian, you will face opposition. If you ever try to lead people, you will face opposition. Love plus leadership plus Jesus equals, opposition and lots of it.

Now, why would we look to him for leadership advice. Let me give you a quick recap. For 140 years the people of Israel had wanted to rebuild the walls of around Jerusalem and for 140 years no one had succeeded. But God laid a passion on Nehemiah’s heart to rebuild the walls and after God had opened up some doors, Nehemiah got the kings blessing to rebuild the walls as well as all the funding he needed. In Nehemiah chapter 3, the building begins and in Nehemiah 4, here comes the opposition.

1) We can love through opposition by being ready for it.

There are three kinds of opposition we typically face.

Outside opposition

When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, 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?” Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!” Nehemiah 4:1-3

The first question that pops into my mind when I read these verses is why would Sanballat and Tobiah oppose Nehemiah so strongly. Here’s why Sanballat made such a stink. Sanballat was the governor or Samaria, which is just north of Jerusalem. Samaria was made up of Jewish people who had intermarried with people of other cultures. Because of this the Jewish people and the Samaritans hated each other. It’s the way Raider fans feel about Charger fans.

Same thing often happens when someone decides to give their life to Jesus. All of a sudden they are making all these life changes and cleaning up their act and helping people and loving more, but still people take shots. They start to criticize. They put pressure on you to go to movies you don’t want to go to and drink and do all the things you used to. Why would anyone do that. Again, they feel threatened. They feel guilty about who they are and the decisions they make and it’s easier to bring you down then make changes themselves.

There are several ways that threatened people can oppose us. They can oppose your decision to stay pure sexually. They can oppose you for trying to get out of debt. They can feel threatened by the high standards you want to raise your kids by.

When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes. As they danced, they sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. “They have credited David with tens of thousands,” he thought, “but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?” I Samuel 18:6-8

What was the problem. Saul felt threatened. Because of that he would pursue David to try and kill him for the next ten years. Folks, it is a reality that if you attempt something great and climb the ladder and make a difference in the life of people some people that will feel threatened and will oppose you.

Inside opposition

Nehemiah responds with prayer.

Hear us, O our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. 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. So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart. Nehemiah 4:4-6

(Then Sanballat turned up the heat.)
But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the men of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat. Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.” Nehemiah 4:7-10

The two most important and most difficult points in any leadership journey are getting started and the half way point. Would you agree. Have you ever gotten the idea one Saturday to clean your garage. The day after Christmas my sisters and I decided to help my mom clean out her garage. It’s fair to say that my mom is a pack rat so this garage was about 30 years overdue for cleaning. But that wasn’t the worst of it. There were rats living in her garage. And not just a few. It was a rat metropolis.

The worst is Internal opposition.

We will face opposition. We will face threats. As leaders we will face whining. But we can face whining, threats and opposition as long as it stays outside. But when it gets in here, that’s when we have trouble. When it gets in our head. This passage shows us a few ways that happens.

2) We can love through opposition by evaluating and responding to criticism

This list is circulating among Forest Service employees. These are actual comments on Forest Service registration sheets and comment cards.

“The places where trails do not exist are not well-marked.”

“Trails need to be reconstructed. Please avoid building trails that go uphill.”

“Too many bugs and leeches and spiders and spider webs. Please spray the wilderness to rid the area of these pests.”

“Need more signs to inform the people to keep the area pristine.”

“A McDonald’s would be nice at the trailhead.”

“Chair lifts need to be in some places so that we can get to wonderful views without having to hike to them.” (I like that one. How many of you agree with that)

If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. Proverbs 15:31

To one who listens, valid criticism is like a gold earring or other gold jewelry. Proverbs 25:12 

Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be destroyed beyond recovery. Proverbs 29:1

Nehemiah prays

Hear us, O our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. 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.

I love this prayer. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Who wants to join me in a prayer for those people who criticize us. Let us pray. Oh lord, smack em!

Don’t waste time on unwarranted criticism

Love takes valid criticism seriously

They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat. Nehemiah 4:8,9

Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. Nehemiah 4:13

Brian Regan was talking about how parents treat their kids when they lose a balloon. “Don’t worry about it kid. It’s just a balloon. We can get you another balloon” Then he went on to say, “But what if one day your wallet started floating away.” How would you react if someone said, “Don’t worry about it. It’s just a wallet. We can get you another wallet.”

3) We can love through opposition by remembering all God’s done for us already

After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” Nehemiah 4:14

Underline that word. Remember. Nehemiah has deal with the opposition, has heard their fears and responded, and now comes the pep talk and it revolves around this one word. Remember. Remember who God is.
Remember who you are in Jesus Christ.
Remember all the things God has done for you
Remember his promises to bless you and take care of you
Remember he has bigger plans for you than you can ever know
Remember that even when hard times come he can bring great things.
Remember the people around you in your family that love you. When you face opposition, remember.