MPGC35- HOW DO WE OVERCOME OUR ENEMY - PART 2
By Colleen Donahue
We are going to look at the last step in overcoming our enemies as a study on its own. Too many of us that call ourselves Christians are ignorant. We may have come forward at a special service to "receive Jesus Christ" but many of us have not gone on to learn about our true position in Christ.
Many Christians are ignorant that we have a personal enemy that is constantly looking for ways to drag us back to a life of sin and self. God has given us spiritual armor but we are ignorant of how to use it and therefore don't even put it on. Many of us are not diligent to read and study God's word. Therefore we aren't confident in what it says. We don't know for sure what God has promised us and therefore we don't know what we can claim.
Many of us are ignorant of one of the greatest privileges that we have -- prayer. We can go before the God of the universe at any time, any place and we can talk with Him about any thing. Yet, we don't make prayer a daily, moment by moment habit. We consult our fellow men before we consult God and stay busy -- busy serving Him without finding out what He even wants.
Is there any wonder that many Christians are losing their battles because they are weak and defenseless? On the other hand there are some that have applied the effort to take their position in Christ. They do study God's word, they do pray, and they do use the armor God has provided. They have become strong and have seen many victories. They are over-comers and feel confident and steady.
But -- one day they come crashing down from their victorious pedestal into some sin that completely surprises them. They are shocked that it could happen to them. They plunge into confusion and discouragement. They are in despair that they could have done such a thing. How does this happen?
It happens because they have ignored the sixth step in overcoming. Daily -- moment by moment -- we need to be vigilant and on guard. A soldier on the field of battle can't afford a quick "cat nap" if he wants to stay alive. He must be prepared at all times.
We're going to look at this sixth step in overcoming by studying an important event in history that is found in the book of Nehemiah and it will show us what it means to be vigilant and on guard.
How To Overcome the Enemy - Part 2
NEHEMIAH - SOME BACKGROUND
In Jewish history, during the reigns of Saul, David and Solomon, Israel took on worldwide significance. But in the final years of Solomon's reign he trafficked in much compromise and God judged him. Under Solomon's son there was an irreconcilable national split in 931 B.C. The ten northern tribes formed one nation called Israel and the two tribes in the south became Judah.
In 722 B.C. Assyria invaded Israel and destroyed their nation. Israel had been indifferent to God and God judged them. Likewise in around 606 B.C. Judah experienced God's judgment when Babylonian troops marched on Jerusalem destroying the city and taking the citizens there plus the surrounding territories captive. For 70 years the Jews lived in Babylon under the Persian kings Cyrus and then Artaxerxes. Both kings were actually sympathetic to the Jews.
In 536 B.C. they allowed the first band of Jews under Zerubbabel to return home to rebuild their capital, their homeland and to pick up the pieces of their lives. 80 years later (457 B.C.) another band of Jews returned under Ezra. Then a final group returned 13 years later (444 B.C.) under Nehemiah.
Nehemiah was the cup-bearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia. This meant that he tasted all the wine and food before the king consumed it. Next to a king's wife, the cup-bearer was the man closest to the king and they had a relationship of trust. These two men knew each other well. When the king saw Nehemiah's sad face one day he asked him why he was so sad. The king perceived that since Nehemiah wasn't sick it must be because there was sadness in his heart (Nehemiah 2:2).
Nehemiah was alarmed that his sadness had been noticed but nevertheless he proceeded to tell the king about Jerusalem lying in ruins and its gates burned by fire. When the king asked him what he wanted, Nehemiah prayed first and then requested that he be allowed to return to rebuild the city. The king honored this request because God's gracious hand was upon Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:8).
Here is where we start our study and where things get exciting.
THE BATTLE BEGINS
Day 1- Whenever we set out to do God's will we have a part in advancing the Kingdom of God. We can be sure that this advance will be noticed by our enemies.
After carefully studying the situation Nehemiah rallied the people to begin rebuilding the walls.
Day 2- No sooner had they started to rebuild when their enemies started to attack. What did they do first?
Notice there are two questions that were posed from a moral standpoint of committing rebellion against the king.
TRUST IN GOD + CLARIFYING WORDS
Day 3- Nehemiah's answer has two parts. He first expresses total confidence in God and then he clarifies for these mockers two things. What are these two things?
TRUST IN GOD + ACTION
Day 4- Sanballot and Tobiah (enemies of the Jews) thought their mocking and ridicule would put a quick stop to the small band of builders but they were wrong. The Jews were rebuilding slowly but surely. How did their opposition increase?
Day 5- Nehemiah didn't pretend there was no opposition. He took immediate steps to get some help ....
and --- the wall kept getting built!
TRUST IN GOD + HIGH ALERT
Day 6- Opposition kept increasing. What did the enemy add to their anger?
Notice in verse 7 that the list of enemies has increased. It's no longer just Sanballot and Tobiah but also the Arabs, the Ammonites and the men of Ashdod.
Day 7- What two immediate steps did Nehemiah take to meet these threats?
Day 8- Meanwhile, a new threat was moving on the Jews who were valiantly trying to build and be on guard all the time.
This is called discouragement and it's a spiritual hindrance to God's work from the inside. If discouragement is allowed to thrive in the heart it quickly spreads and the enemy wins because God's will and His work stops. Besides the hindrance from within there was a new threat from without.
The Jews themselves were spreading this alarm as discouragement and fear started overcoming them.
TRUST IN GOD + READY TO FIGHT
Day 9- What three things did Nehemiah do in response?
and -- the wall kept getting rebuilt!
Day 10- With the enemy's plot exposed, and the people back at work, Nehemiah had to continue with a new vigilance. As you read these verses list for yourselves how this heightened alert translated into action.
This meant that they were ALWAYS ALERT and READY TO FIGHT even when they did the most mundane task such as going to get water.
STANDING FIRM + PRAYER
Day 11- The wall was now rebuilt with the gates just needing to be put into place. Clearly it was time for the enemy to take a new tack. What did they do?
Nehemiah saw through the ruse.
Nehemiah then sent messengers with his response and that response is an important example for us today.
When God gives us a task we are to stay focused on it. Distractions are a very useful and successful tactic of the enemy. He will do anything to pull us away from the work at hand. He will provide very good reasons why we should stop work for God and attend to something else. See distractions for what they are -- part of Satan's arsenal of tactics.
Day 12- Be clear that the enemy will not take "NO" for an answer.
And if we are standing too strong he will alter his request to get us to lose our footing.
Notice the vagueness in this slanderous letter.....
- "It is reported among the nations..." - which nations and by whom?
- "Geshem says it is true..." - one man in the enemy camp.
-"according to these reports..." - how many and written by whom?
-"Now this report will get back to the king..." - how will that happen? Who will give it to him?
Vagueness is the language of the enemy. He speaks so that we will be plagued by questions that get us to lose our confidence. The goal here was to frighten the Jews.
Day 13- Nehemiah's no nonsense reply is exactly what we must do.
Notice Nehemiah's clarity in response to their vagueness. He knew what they were trying to do.
DISCERNMENT + PRAYER
Day 14- The enemy had lost another round but quickly found a weak willed ally within the Jewish camp to try a new tactic.
Shemaiah uses religious means (prophecy) to alert Nehemiah that he is going to be killed at nightfall and that he should hide inside the temple and keep safe.
Now all along we have seen Nehemiah as a man close to God and a man of prayer. When we walk in close dependence upon God He gives us discernment -- an ability to perceive truth even though we don't know all the facts. God clearly gave Nehemiah discernment regarding this prophecy (which certainly sounded plausible).
The information in verses 12 and 13 came to Nehemiah because of discernment. But verse 11 shows us another important principle. When God calls us to a task he doesn't then turn around and prophecy our doom for trying to do that task. Nehemiah knew without a doubt that God had called him to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. Therefore should he now run away and hide in fear of his life? No. When God calls us to something he gives us the means and strength to bring it to completion. We can count on it.
Day 15- If Nehemiah had heeded this prophecy, believing it was from God, he would have committed a sin by hiding. This would have given him a bad name and discredited him. He handled this intimidation tactic the same way he did all the others.
Day 16- Notice from verse 14 that others also had tried the prophecy tactic and failed. Religious tactics are especially powerful because God's children whom they are used against want to obey God and if they don't walk in discernment they can be easily swayed. How do we get this discernment?
1 Corinthians 2:14-15
God speaks to us through his Holy Spirit who resides in our heart. Without the Holy Spirit we will not accept the things that God speaks to us. But with the Holy Spirit, what do we have?
1 Corinthians 2:16
Day 17- But discernment also requires time in God's word -- reading, meditating and studying. What does this help us to do?
(Note: "Solid food" refers to God's word in the Bible)
As we study what God says, the Holy Spirit translates that word to apply to our daily life.
Day 18- Getting discernment is also to be a matter of prayer.
1 Kings 3:9
Who best can teach us to recognize right from wrong, good from evil, than our God who knows the hearts of all men?
THE WORK COMPLETED BUT VIGILANCE CONTINUED
Day 19- Nehemiah was able to finish the rebuilding of the wall in 52 days. His focused and determined effort had allowed them to complete their task in record time. What results did this have for their enemies?
But could Nehemiah and his company just sit back and admire their work? No. Trouble still lurked from within and from without.
Day 20- If we have stood against our enemy time and again and won we might feel we have reason to relax -- even just a little. If we do, that will surely be our downfall. Nehemiah did not relax. He put new rules in place for the gates.
And notice how many men he appointed to be gatekeepers.
BEWARE OF EVIL ASSOCIATIONS
Nehemiah had gone back to serve King Artaxerxes since the wall was finished. A structure was in place to keep and protect the city while it moved forward with rebuilding.
Day 21- During Nehemiah's absence one of the temple priests took some liberty. Read what happened.
Day 22- Why did this anger Nehemiah when he found out and what did he do about it?
After all they had been through, this priest, (who should have known better) had allowed the enemy (Tobiah) to have storage space in the house of God! When we know the enemy, and then let him in the door of our life we are looking for defeat! It is no wonder Nehemiah took swift and decisive action.
BEWARE OF SLIPPING BACKWARDS
Day 23- When we give place to the enemy -- even just a toe hold --we'll soon find ourselves slipping backwards. What did Nehemiah also learn?
How did he handle it?
And who did Nehemiah look to back him up?
Day 24- How else were they slipping backwards?
How did Nehemiah handle it?
And who did Nehemiah look to to back him up?
Day 25- How else had they slipped backwards?
How did Nehemiah handle it?
Nehemiah 13:25-28, 30-31a
And who did Nehemiah look to to back him up?
If there is any false thinking that servants of God are pushovers, I hope that Nehemiah has dispelled that from our thinking. We are to be focused, diligent, courageous and discerning. And ALWAYS and FOREVER we are to be VIGILANT and ON GUARD!
Now let's look back over our last three studies to remember and summarize what we have learned.
1. Satan became a defeated foe when Christ rose from the dead. The risen Christ is alive and this time multiplied all over the earth through his Holy Spirit living in believers.
2. While the earth exists, Satan is the ruler of it until each believer takes his rulership back through Christ. Satan's main task is to keep men blind to the truth and to deceive those who do know the truth. In this way he can keep men and women in bondage to sin and self.
3. Satan as a defeated foe is like a toothless lion prowling around looking for someone he can devour. We can always be in victory over him and his demons if we stay "in Christ". The only power he has over us is what we choose to give him.
HOW DO WE RECOGNIZE THE ENEMY?
4. Learn to recognize the enemy by studying the truth. Jesus is the embodiment of truth and the Bible is the truth in written form.
5.Take your stand for truth and against the world and its systems controlled by Satan.
6. Be prepared all the time with the armor that God has provided.
A. The belt of truth -- knowing what and why we believe.
B. Breastplate of righteousness -- putting on Christ's righteousness so we can stand against injustice and corruption.
C. Feet prepared with the gospel of peace -- we walk through life prepared to give the good news that we can have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
D. The shield of faith -- Faith is built by the solid foundation of God's word. The more we know the thicker that shield becomes and the easier it is to speak the truth and stand our ground.
E. The helmet of salvation -- by wearing this helmet Satan recognizes us as belonging to God's ranks. He knows we are under the protection of Christ's blood.
F. The sword of the Spirit -- we use the only offensive weapon we have when we speak the word of God against a lie that has been shot into our mind.
7. Submit to God daily. This means walking in obedience to God's will with our lives surrendered to Him.
8. Resist the devil. Although Satan is a defeated foe he still tries to fight whenever he thinks he can win. We are to use the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God) to resist him.
9. Stay vigilant and on guard all the time. We work with one hand on the sword of truth ready to wield it when temptation comes.
Next Study: MPGC#36