Nehemiah said, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.”

Nehemiah said, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down."The Book of Nehemiah is basically about two things:

  1. The Jews trying to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.
  2. The Jews’ surrounding enemies trying to stop them.

In Nehemiah’s day, sometimes the opposition was obvious and other times it was subtle. At one point, the opposition Nehemiah faced looked like nothing more than an invitation to a meeting. Nehemiah 6:1-2:

When Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they thought to do me harm.

Then I love Nehemiah’s response in Nehemiah 6:3…

I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?”

I have a lot of favorite verses in Scripture. Many of them serve different purposes. This is my favorite verse to tell myself when facing opposition or discouragement in ministry.

The Book of Nehemiah is a great illustration of what ministry often looks like.

You’re trying to serve the Lord while enemies oppose you. To be fair, sometimes the enemies trying to oppose you don’t know they’re hindering God’s work. They might even think they’re doing God’s work, seeing you as the “enemy” that’s opposing what God wants them to do! Confusing Christians and turning them against each other is probably one of Satan’s strongest and most successful strategies when it comes to disrupting the work for God’s kingdom.

To be clear, there’s nothing going on in my ministry that motivated this post. I’m not feeling discouraged or opposed. In fact, I’m feeling quite the opposite. I’m excited about the direction Woodland Christian Church is going. I’m thankful for the new people God has added. I’m blessed by what God is doing in our church family.

So what motivated this post? Nothing more than the reality that there’s an Enemy out there that wants to oppose God’s people. We should understand that whenever we’re doing a work for the Lord we’re going to face opposition.

When we face discouragement – and it’s going to happen – this is what we should tell ourselves: “I’m doing a great work for the Lord and I can’t stop. Why should the work cease while I deal with you?”

If you’re serving the Lord, regardless of what you’re doing, it is a great work. It shouldn’t stop because someone is trying to distract you.

Discuss: Can you share about a time you faced discouragement in ministry? How did you handle it?

Pastors (shepherds) and how they equip (feed) their flocks…

Last Sunday evening we discussed church government with a focus on the interchangeable nature of the terms elder, bishop (also translated as overseer) and pastor, learning that all three refer to the same office, with each providing a different emphasis: elder emphasizes who the man is, his office or title; bishop/overseer emphasizes what he does in overseeing the affairs of the church, and pastor (literally: shepherd) refers to an elder who’s uniquely given a heart to tend to, care for, and feed God’s flock. Here’s the message if you’re interested.

The Greek word for pastor is poimen, occurring eighteen times in the New Testament: seventeen times it’s translated as shepherd, and only one time translated as pastor in Ephesians 4:11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors (NOTE: despite the attention pastors receive, this is the only place they’re mentioned in the New Testament) and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. The Greek construction of the words pastors and teachers indicates the two terms go together; in English they could be hyphenated as pastor-teacher emphasizing the pastor’s ministry of shepherding and teaching. John MacArthur said, “The phrase is best understood in context as a single office of leadership with the word translated ‘and’ meaning ‘in particular.’ Since pastor means shepherd, the terms go together defining the shepherding teacher.  It’s related to 1 Timothy 5:17 where Paul says, “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.” The word especially shows not all elders labor in teaching, but some will have that ministry separate from the other elders and that’s the pastor-teacher.

What I kept thinking about this week is the relationship between Ephesians 4:12 and 2 Timothy 3:17: pastor-teachers equip the saints for the work of the ministry and 2 Timothy 3:17 says Scripture equips the man of God for every good work. If pastors have the responsibility of equipping the saints, and Scripture is what they’re equipped with to do every good work God wants done, then it only makes sense that pastors would shepherd or feed God’s flock by teaching them Scripture. This explains why the one time pastors are mentioned in Scripture, they’re tied to or united with the word teaching: that is how pastors or shepherds, best tend to and care for God’s flock: feeding them God’s Word.

Frustration in Ministry

Frustration in ministryRhea recently got the training wheels off her bike. She loves to come over to my office and have me watch her ride around in the parking lot. When I was growing up we always looked for exciting places to ride like hills, valleys, puddles, etc. For a while the leadership has been discussing fixing the church parking lots, but I found a great benefit to its current condition: it provides great terrain for kids’ bike riding!

I was watching Rhea race around – because in her mind the faster she goes the more impressed I’ll be – and she wrecked and scraped her knee. The rest of the day she dramatically limped around and when she overheard us talking about Beach Camp over a month away she said, “I hope I’ll be okay by then.” To her it was a pretty serious accident! We told her the only way she’d be able to completely avoid getting hurt in the future would be to completely stop riding her bike.

My counsel to Rhea made me think the same could be said of ministry: the only way to make sure you never get hurt is to make sure you never serve. Sadly this is the approach some people have taken. Whenever you’re involved in ministry whether it’s VBS, camp, a Bible study, party, play, home fellowship, etc. there’s potential for frustration and hurt usually from…

  1. People letting you down: they don’t do what they say they’re going to do…or they don’t do what you ask them to do…or they don’t show up on time…or maybe they don’t show up at all…or they don’t pay on time…or they cancel last minute…or they do things their way instead of the way you want…and the list goes on…and on.
  2. People criticizing: they don’t like the time, place, music, length, schedule, activities, and if you’d done it the way they wanted others would be unhappy.

Here’s what we need to focus on to prevent frustration:

  1. For every person that lets you down or criticizes, there are a number of others serving and working hard to see the ministry go well, being blessed by your effort, appreciating what you’re doing, growing as a result of your service.
  2. Most importantly: Colossians 3:17 & 23 Whatever you do, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for man. If we’re honest, when we’re frustrated it comes from having taken our focus off the Lord and putting it on the people around us. The reality is if our service is done for the Lord, His approval, and the blessing of serving Him, that should be enough to turn any amount of frustration into encouragement.