Lesson 12 -- second quarter 2008
May 18, 2008
© Copyright 2008
Did you know that?
It's true! No good we set out to do will go unopposed. All around us exist adversaries, most of whom we cannot see, who will do all they can to resist us personally and impede any good our hearts determine to accomplish. These enemies will attack and undermine. They will try to discourage, distract, and dissuade us. They will not give up easily, refusing to give in just because one tactic fails.
Did you know that?
It's true! Yet so many Christians seem caught by surprise at the opposition, having neither expected it nor planned for it. They allow distractions to draw them away from their rightful endeavors. They permit discouragement to lead them to giving up the noble project. They let down their guard and too late discover they have been lured into an ambush. Being spiritually and mentally unprepared, they quit before they finish, they fail before they succeed, and they lose before they win.
Did you know that?
It's true! So what are we going to do about it?
Remember the importance of the task. When Nehemiah's enemies tried to lure him into a trap where they could bring mischief upon him, he began his response to their invitation by saying, "I am doing a great work" (Nehemiah 6:3). To that he added, "Why should the work cease?" He put his assigned task above anything else. He knew it was an important job. He also knew it was his duty, which meant that he was important to the success of the project. So he refused to consider giving in to the opposition of distraction -- "I cannot come down...to you." Nehemiah would not leave his work for something of less importance and of suspect character. We must learn from that. When any type of opposition comes, we need to remember the importance of the good task which God has given us.
Maintain personal integrity. When guile and enticement failed, the enemies of Nehemiah assaulted his personal character. They attributed to him ungodly motives, purposes, and tactics. Then, having attacked his integrity, they pretended to be on his side, saying, "Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together" (Nehemiah 6:7). Because Nehemiah had carefully guarded his integrity and character, he saw through their plan. He not only knew that the accusations were false, he also knew that everyone else knew them for the fabrications they were. Since he had kept his heart right, he did not have to worry about his reputation. Can we learn from that as well? Beware of giving the enemy solid ground from which to attack us! We must keep a careful guard over our own character and integrity in all things. It is never right to allow wrong, no matter how small the issue. How foolish to breach our own integrity, especially with something "little"!
Recognize human weakness and divine power. Nehemiah did not deny that "they all made us afraid" (Nehemiah 6:8). He knew that as a result of that it was entirely possible that he and his crew would grow weary and quit before the work was done. So he turned again to the One who had given him the assignment in the first place: "Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands." (Nehemiah 6:9). May we reject cocky self-assurance and independence. They will certainly guarantee our failure!
Negative people live everywhere, and sometimes it seems they outnumber all the rest of us. These naysayers complain, criticize, and condemn. They are bleak and make others that way. They have eyes and ears that quickly pick out the failings and shortcomings around them. They have lips and tongues that diligently pick apart almost anyone about them. They are insensitive prophets of discouragement. To listen to them, you would think we have no reason to smile, to hope, and to go on.
Many negative folks believe and proclaim that they are not being negative, just realistic. They insist that an honest look about demonstrates the reality of their views and concerns. They declare that a good dose of realism will justify their negativism and pessimism.
And aren't they correct? After all, man is naturally evil. Nature is gradually deteriorating. Human events are highlighting the collapse of people, families, churches, nations, and cultures. Sin is becoming bolder. Deception is increasing in number and effectiveness. All of this does represent the reality of the times in which we live, doesn't it? Therefore, it would seem that reality both vindicates and gives license to all those negative people.
I agree. If that is the only reality a person knows, negativism is understandable and justifiable.
But that perception of reality is a woefully incomplete view! Encouragers know that, see that, and believe that. The encourager is well-acquainted with the realities so aptly pointed out by the naysayer. Both of them live in the same world and go through many of the same experiences. But the encourager's perception is keener. He sees God and, therefore, he sees good. That allows him to hope, to have faith, to see possibility. So instead of tearing down, he builds up.
My friend, you can be a grump, a complainer, and a critic if you wish. But please don't! Choose the grander view! Be a builder! Be an encourager! Be the personification of a positive attitude!
Moses sent twelve men on a reconnaissance mission through the land of Canaan. These men did not volunteer for the assignment nor were they "just anybody." All twelve of them were rulers in their respective tribes. They were proven men, trusted men, tested men. By the commandment of the Lord, Moses sent them to Canaan.
Judging by the two extremely opposed reports brought back by this group of men, one would think they hadn't all stuck together in their exploration of the Promised Land! You would think they had seen different things, situations and circumstances. I am certain, though, that all twelve of them traveled together and shared the same sights and experiences. What the ten saw was no different than what the two saw. How they saw was different. The data processed in their heads and in hearts was the same, I am sure. How they processed that data was worlds apart.
As a result of those differences, the two were the only ones in their generation to possess the Promised Land. The other ten had to wander about and eventually be buried in the wilderness . . . outside the Promised Land.
One of the challenges for us lies in making certain we always strive to see through the eyes of faith . . . in God and His promises. When we see flooded rivers between us and the promised goal, we must see beyond the rivers and see the One Who said we would reach the other side. When we see huge opponents in secure fortifications, we must look up and see the One Who said He would fight our battles for us.
How we see makes such a difference! If we content ourselves to see solely from our perspective, then we must also content ourselves with unbelief and defeat. But if we see God above it all, then we can also see it all as He does. Just how impressed do you suppose God was by Jordan, Jericho and the giants? Well, are you intimidated by a trickle in the sand, by a house of cards and by a thousand gnats huddled on a tablespoon? Hmmmm.
Do not misunderstand me, please. This is not an appeal for being unrealistic or for playing games with the facts as they are. Those giants, Jericho and Jordan were every bit as real to Caleb and Joshua as they were to the other ten spies. (By the way, do you have their names on the tip of your tongue?) Jordan, Jericho and the giants were just as real to God as they were to the twelve men. But of those thirteen people, three saw differently. They didn't just see the physical facts, they saw all the facts. They saw God.
How do I see? How do you see? Of course there are adversaries, obstacles and contretemps. Shall we live life on the basis of our limitations against them? Or shall we believe that greater is He that is in us?
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