From Garden to City reading: Nehemiah 6
I've been looking at "enemy" passages in the Bible lately.
Jesus tells us that our enemy is like a thief; he wants to steal, kill, and destroy us. Peter instructs us to always be self-controlled and alert because our enemy is roaming around, looking for opportunities to "devour us." And Paul tells us that we don't fight against flesh and blood, but the against spiritual forces in the heavenly realm.
We tend to exist in extremes. On the one extreme, there's a devil behind every rock and every struggle is a spiritual attack. On the other extreme, none of it is spiritual warfare.
My own tendency is to underplay what's going on in the spiritual realm, and I think that may be the wrong attitude. However, spiritual warfare seems designed to keep us from pursuing God and pursuing his mission. And if I think of it that way, it's a little easier.
What's keeping me from pursuing God with my whole heart?
Inability to accept his love?
Pursuit of my own desires?
What's keeping me from doing the things that God has asked me to do?
Is it fear? What kind of fear? Fear of the unknown? Fear of failure?
Is it anger? Resentment? Unforgiveness?
Our enemy uses targeted strategies. That is, he finds our vulnerable areas, and he hits us there. Do you think you are a failure? He's going to use fear of failure, or memories of past failures, or images of future failures. Do you think you're not good enough or not smart enough? He'll send people in your life to remind you of when you weren't quite good enough or smart enough. Or he'll get you to question yourself and your abilities.
You'd think we'd figure out his strategies after a while, but unfortunately, we tend to fall prey to the same strategies over and over again.
Fear of the unknown is one the enemy throws at me repeatedly. I avoid doing things I have never done before. Or things where the outcome is uncertain. I'm not sure why. I haven't figured that out yet.
That's where being self-controlled and alert (1 Peter 5:6-8) comes in. When I realize that I'm avoiding a task that needs to be done because I don't know how to do it, I can turn that over to God. Trust him with the outcome and move forward.
Sometimes I think I'm just not good enough or smart enough. Apparently I maintain the delusion that anything less than perfection is failure. And that if I'm just good enough or smart enough, then the results will be guaranteed. When I remember to depend on God's strength and trust him with the results, I depend less on my own abilities and intelligence. Apparently he's omnipotent and omniscient.
Such great words. They just mean that God is all-powerful and all-knowing. My Sunday School teacher taught them to us in second grade, which seems a little odd, but we were Presbyterians, and they're really into words like that.
But back to Nehemiah. And I really do have a point about spiritual warfare and strategies and being alert and watchful.
God sent Nehemiah to Jerusalem to build the wall. But his enemies (God's enemies) want to stop him from fulfilling this mission. So they try all kinds of things. Fortunately, Nehemiah sees through every one of them.
First they try diplomacy. "Hey, we're living side by side. Let's get together." Nehemiah responds, saying, "I'm busy. Maybe after the wall's built." He doesn't have time for polite gestures. He's on a mission. Anything that takes him from that mission is disobedience. (I need to think about this one.)
Then they act like they want to be helpful. "We heard a rumor that you all are planning a revolt and that's why you're rebuilding the wall. Plus you want to be king. Let's get together so we can dispel these rumors." Nehemiah tells them they're just making that stuff up and they should go away. Sometimes rumors distract us from our mission.
Then they enlist one of Nehemiah's friends, who warns him that his enemies want to kill him. He promises to protect him. But Nehemiah refuses to succumb to fear. Incidentally, sometimes our enemy uses people we trust to get to us. Sometimes they know they're being used. But more often they don't.
Awake. Alert. Self-controlled. Wearing the armor of God. Truth. Faith. God's righteousness. God's word. Prayer.