Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: When You Are Doing God’s Work, Expect Opposition

Monday, July 8, 2013

When You Are Doing God’s Work, Expect Opposition


          The enemies of righteousness live in unbelief.  Therefore, they always fail to enter the God-factor into the equation of existence.  They evaluate the work of righteous believers according to numbers and according to the physical strengths.  They are willfully blind to what is added to the circumstances of life when the God-factor is entered into the equation.  We should expect that of unbelievers.  However, it is quite sad indeed when the righteous live in fear and trembling before the threat that the unrighteous pose to the Christian life.  The fact is they pose no threat at all.  When true believers are exposed to the threat of worldly onslaughts, they should simply be consumed with knowing and doing the will of God.  In that reality they can be confident that God is sovereignly involved in every intimate detail of their existence.  They can faithfully pray – “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” 

1 But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. 2 And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned? 3 Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall. 4 Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity: 5 And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee: for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders. 6 So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work. 7 But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth, 8 And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it. 9 Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them (Nehemiah 4:1-9).

          Sometimes it amazes me how easily Christians get defeated in their “work of the ministry.”  It seems as if we expect to do the Lord’s work without any opposition.  At the first sign of resistance, we dash back to our comfort zones and cower in the shadows until the moment of conflict passes by.  The other scenario is that we get on the defensive against the opposition and the opposition accomplishes their goal anyway.  The work stops.  The first is an act of cowardice, the second an act of foolish pride.
          Satan has learned to use our fears and pride against us.  Sin made fear and pride a major part of our fallen nature.  Many Christians are so spiritually crippled by fear and pride that they are rendered useless as partners with God in His “work of the ministry.”  As Christians, we should never forget that as soon as God’s people begin to get involved in the “work of the ministry,” Satan becomes involved in opposition.  (Of course, Satan uses fear and pride to keep us from getting involved in the first place.)  David gives us the God-inspired twenty-seventh Psalm to confront and reinforce our faith with the God-factor. 

1 <<A Psalm of David.>> The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. 3 Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. 4 One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:1-4).

“To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.>> Hear my voice, O God, in my prayer: preserve my life from fear of the enemy” (Psalm 64:1).

14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; 15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17 Because thou sayest {out of pride}, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see” (Revelation 3:14-18).

In order for a local church to maintain any momentum in the “work of the ministry,” its people must possess two things: VISION and PASSION.  They must possess a vision of God’s missional purpose and a passion to win souls and make disciples (the “work of the ministry”).  Neither of these things can be manufactured.  They come to the believer when he finally owns and accepts the realities of Heaven and Hell.  God’s missional vision is that men everywhere repent and be saved.

22 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. 23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. 24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; 25 Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; 26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; 27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him {as blind men that grope in the darkness}, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: 28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. 29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. 30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: 31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained {Jesus Christ}; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:22-31).

The passion to win souls and make disciples for Jesus Christ comes when the believer finally understands that the means God has chosen to realize His missional vision is through a partnership (“fellowship”) with professing believers in getting the message of the Gospel to lost sinners (that is why the epistle of I John is so important as well as Romans chapters six, seven, and eight).  Believers have been given spiritual sight (faith) to lead their fellowman out of the darkness and into the light of the knowledge of God and His wonderful salvation by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ.
Someone has said most Christians are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.  Let me plainly say, I have never seen that phenomenon in all my years as a Christian.  In fact, most Christians are so earthly minded that they are no heavenly good.
A vision without a work to accompany it makes a person a visionary.  A work without a vision to accomplish it makes the work drudgery.  A work of ministry accompanied by God’s vision of ministry makes a person a missionary.
Nehemiah had both a VISION of the work God wanted done and a PASSION to get it completed.  We call that kind of person DRIVEN.  That is why God called him to lead. 
Satan filled men’s hearts to oppose Nehemiah, redirect his vision, and quench the fire of his passion for God’s work.  Nehemiah was raised up by God during a particular time of need to direct the people of God in their “work of the ministry” and to lead God’s people in a stand against the opposition.  There are certain truths that must be emphasized in this scenario.

1. God raised up a man, not a committee.
2. God raised up a man, not an angel.
3. God raised up a man who could grasp onto His vision and who had a passion to get that vision realized.
4. God raised up a man He had chosen that He could use and bless.

Understand this:  when God opens the windows of Heaven to bless us, Satan opens the gates of Hell to blast us.  “God’s smile means the devil’s frown.”
Nehemiah was a prophet of God.  That means he was preoccupied with “Thus sayeth the Lord.”  The prophet’s job is to communicate God’s vision to God’s people without compromise.  The prophet’s job (in partnership with the Holy Spirit) is to stir people to do what God wants them to do, his way, and without compromise.  When that happens, some people will get mad.  Some people do not want to come out of their comfort zones and even the pressure to do so angers them.
Most people want to go with the flow, but the prophet knows God has called him to go against the flow and to lead as many people against the flow as he can.  The prophet’s main goal in life is to exalt the God he serves by strictly keeping himself focused on God’s vision and by carefully keeping his passion in the perspective of that vision.  The prophet of God understands that work is not about him, or for him.  The “work of the ministry” is about God and for God.
          The man of righteousness understands that when he gets sidetracked and leads people away from God’s missional purpose, it is God Who is robbed of the glory He deserves.  He understands that when people are sidetracked due to his misdirection that it is the Lord Jesus Who is ignored.  He understands that when people fail to do what he tells them that God wants them to do, it is God’s laws and commandments they break, not his.  He understands that when people choose to live in sin and selfishness, it is God’s Name that is taken in vain, not the prophet’s.
The man of righteousness understands it is God’s Book that people ignore, not the prophet’s book.  He understands it is God’s house of worship that is ignored, not the prophet’s house.  He understands all those things, yet he is DRIVEN.  He has a PASSION and he will join himself to any other person sanctified to God who is intent on doing things God’s way.  If no one else will join him, he will do what he can with what he has by himself. 
The prophet of God understands some things most people never understand.  He understands that the world’s problem is not Communism, or Romanism, or Modernism, or even Liberalism.   Therefore, he does not spend all his time opposing them (being on the defensive).  The prophet of God understands that the world’s problem has historically remained unchanged.  The world’s problem is the problem of dead fundamentalism that fails to live the Spirit-filled life.  The world’s problem is the problem of professing Bible believers being dead to conviction, dead to obedience, dead to prayer, dead to worship, dead to evangelism, and dead to living faith. 
          The man of righteousness understands he can only tell others of God’s vision.  He cannot make them accept it or follow his leadership.  Most people give themselves to realizing only possible hopes and possible dreams.  The prophet of God understands he is called to give himself to a task that (by all human measurements) is impossible to accomplish and to convince others to follow him in the work.  That will not happen if he does not have a VISION and PASSION.
          The prophet of God is confronted with the problem of trying to lead people doped up with the pleasures of this world, whose main focus in life is where they will get their next fix, and whose concern for God’s vision (missional purpose) is at the bottom of their itinerary.  He understands that before God can use people to accomplish the impossible task before them, he must teach them the Truths of God’s Word to correct the accumulated pseudo-intellectualism the world has been pouring into them for a lifetime.  He understands he will be trying to lead a volunteer workforce who, in most part, have spent their lifetimes insulated against spiritual realities by large doses of cultural indifference to the will of God.
Our churches are filled with people who like to appease sin, but refuse to oppose it.  Then they stand in amazement as they watch their children grow up to shake their fists at God’s demand for holiness.  It ought to amaze every Christian that we can be as simple-minded as to think we can get others to follow the righteous standards of Jesus Christ when we live in such a sub-standard way.

The prophet of God understands the many forms of opposition.

1. There is opposition by ridicule (Nehemiah 4:3).
2. There is opposition by hostility (Nehemiah 4:7-8).
3. There is opposition by discouragement (Nehemiah 4:10).

The prophet of God has a biblical way of dealing with all forms of opposition.  Opposition is dealt with through prayer (Nehemiah 4:9).  The opposition of discouragement is dealt with through the process of rubbish removal.  Nothing drains our spiritual strength more than having to constantly deal with problems.  House cleaning, garbage removal, and weed removal are part of a regularly maintenance routine.  Do not expect to make forward progress until the obstacles (problems) are removed (Nehemiah 4:10b).
“Small foxes spoil the vines.”  One of the reasons why forward spiritual progress is stopped in many local churches is because they are forced to spend all their time dealing with church mice when lions devour the land.
          Can you imagine what would happen in our cities if Christians everywhere began to pray - “God move upon my heart in such a way that I cannot resist your will.  God expose any area of my life to me that is a hindrance to your using me for your glory.  God purge me of pride and open my eyes to see your face in the light of your glory.”
          It is our attitudes towards God that hold back His revival.  It is the attitude of hearts hardened against the working of the Holy Spirit.  God is a consuming fire.  The Church where the Spirit of God is active will be hot.  The pulpit will be regularly ablaze if the prophet has God’s missional vision and a passion to see it realized.  At the same time, opposition will be raising its ugly head intent on putting out any fires of revival God starts because that will force them out of their comfort zones or expose them for the hypocrites they really are.  True people of faith need to learn to live in the midst of the fire!  That is the lesson God wants us to learn from Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3:19-27). 
          The Church with the fires of revival burning in the hearts of each of its members will be like the “burning bush.”  It will be a living testimony to the wonders and powers of God, but yet it will never be consumed.  The emphasis of that Church will be on re-creation, not recreation, prayer not promotion, propagation not propaganda, and holiness not happiness. 
          It is said of these people in Nehemiah 4:6, “For the people had a mind to work.”  God’s call to all Christians is a call to the work.  I must raise the challenge of Joshua of old.  “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).  Who will you chose to serve?  When God dismisses us from a church service, we are dismissed to “the work of the ministry.”  To the work should be the marching cry of all true believers. 

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Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at: http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/ 
Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist. 
He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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