Amazing Chapters in the Bible for All of the Chapters in Our Lives
Study Guide, June 6, 2021
Pastor Clay Olsen
We thought it would be great for us as a Church family to go on a scenic tour through some amazing chapters of the Bible, as in ‘Amazing Chapters in the Bible for all of the chapters in our lives.’ So roll down the windows and lets enjoy the ride. And remember: Wherever there is building, there is battling. So let’s look.
We turn our attention to a chapter in Nehemiah where Nehemiah teaches us: ‘Since wherever there is building there is battling, don’t be surprised by the battles of life.’ Battles are normal for ‘builders’, and that’s what we are – Builders of God’s Kingdom.
I have always thought the way that the Apostle Peter put it was so helpful: 1 Peter 4:12-14- “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in His suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing His glory when it is revealed to all the world. So be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you.” NLT
So if we are not to be surprised by trials in this world, it means, instead, that we are to expect trials in this world, and therefore prepare for facing trials in this world by fighting the good fight of faith. Remember, that’s how the Apostle Paul put it, along with also helping us further in how to think about trials and sufferings in this world. Phil 3:10- “…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” NASU
Actually, even the sufferings of this life cause us to separate more from this life and bond more with Christ’s life. It’s when we die a little more to the self-life that we experience a little more of our Savior’s life. Even stories we hear from the persecuted church are often filled with expressions of the effects that the persecution has had on those who love Jesus Christ. They often tell of how the more the world persecutes them the more they experience a deepening closeness with Christ, a deeper fellowship with Christ’s Spirit. They powerfully experience the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, deepening their sense of their union with Christ, affecting them not only spiritually, but also mentally and emotionally as well. Remember, the effect that pressures from the world has on followers of Christ is that it presses them even deeper into the fellowship of Christ and into the bond of Christ, along with Christ’s promises of great rewards and blessings from Christ. Persecution from the world is a ‘lose, lose’ effort for the world, but it is a ‘win, win’ effect for God’s people. So let’s take a look at a great chapter in Nehemiah that teaches us how to effectively handle and deal with the pressures of the world around us.
Let’s take a look: Neh 6:1-5- “Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies found out that I had finished rebuilding the wall and that no gaps remained—though we had not yet set up the doors in the gates. So Sanballat and Geshem sent a message asking me to meet them at one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But I realized they were plotting to harm me, so I replied by sending this message to them: “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?” Four times they sent the same message, and each time I gave the same reply.” NLT
Now, first of all; if you know that your enemies are planning to harm you, and they ask you to meet them somewhere in a place called ‘OH! NO!’…that’s a tip off right there that you shouldn’t go! Don’t ever meet an enemy at a place called “OH! NO!” That’s a red flag, right there! Don’t go to OH! NO! Well, I stretched that name and application a little there…but, anyway, Nehemiah still knew what they were up to. They intended to physically harm him. Remember, like we previously saw, ‘loving your enemies’ does not mean to not defend yourself or your loved ones or your country from the harm that your enemies plan to inflict on you. ‘Love your enemies’ means that you are not to be the aggressor in seeking to do others harm. Rather, you are to be willing to serve and help others no longer be enemies. However, that depends upon their willingness to stop their aggression towards you. You can’t help those who are intent on harm. Instead, like we learned from Nehemiah, you have to prepare for defend yourself, your family, and your country against those who intend harm. God blesses the doing of justice just like He blesses the doing of mercy. Remember, when mercy is spurned, justice steps up. That’s the way God deals with people and that’s the way God’s people are to deal with people… Mercy first, but justice when mercy is spurned.
So then Nehemiah’s enemies tried another tactic. Look at this one: Neh 6:5-9- “Then Sanballat sent his servant to me in the same manner a fifth time with an open letter in his hand. In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Gashmu says, that you and the Jews are planning to rebel; therefore you are rebuilding the wall. And you are to be their king, according to these reports. You have also appointed prophets to proclaim in Jerusalem concerning you, ‘A king is in Judah!’ And now it will be reported to the king according to these reports. So come now, let us take counsel together.” Then I sent a message to him saying, “Such things as you are saying have not been done, but you are inventing them in your own mind.” For all of them were trying to frighten us, thinking, “They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands.” NASU
So another tactic the enemy uses against God’s people is ‘Social Misrepresentation’. How ironic that the world often interprets the good works of God’s people as ‘rebellion’ against the existing culture. The people of the land were the ones that had been living in open rebellion against God, but in their minds, it was God’s people who were rebelling. The thing is, you cannot define what ‘rebellion’ is until you establish a standard for it. Until you have established a standard, how do you know who is in rebellion or what is being rebelled against?
A number of years ago a very helpful book on the state of our society was written by Francis Schaeffer, called; How Should We Then Live? And in it he gave one of the strongest warnings to all societies that could be given. Francis Shaeffer warned: “Whenever any society rejects the absolute authority of God, then that society itself becomes absolute.” And friends, not only had that society around Nehemiah become absolute in their own thinking and judging, so has our society around us today. Our society has taken on a mindset of being absolute in judging what is right and wrong. And one of the worst judgments being made by our society is this toxic idea that no such absolute standard even exists that can be used as the authority that determines right from wrong. That’s why the literal understanding of the Bible has been under attack for over a hundred years now in America, and why the culture has been trying to eliminate it from civil life. But just like the physical laws of nature, you can go ahead and live in denial that no such laws exist, but if you step off a cliff, gravity will take you down whether you believe in gravity or not! So it is with the spiritual laws of the universe…you can live in denial that no absolute standard of God exists, but if you walk in the ways that seem right to man, the end of that walk is the way of death…spiritual death as well as physical death. The end result is eternal spiritual separation from God, and the immediate results are moral, mental, and social decay.
We are living in the worst state of moral, mental, and social decay that our nation has ever been in. We are living in a culture of open rebellion against the Creator and Redeemer of mankind. So again, do not be surprised by the accusations of the world toward any God-fearing person that they are the rebels that are threatening our society and culture. Rather, get ready to face more and more social mis-representation whenever you try to honor God and God’s standard for life by standing for things like the life of the unborn; and by standing for the Biblical definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman only; and by standing for the truth that there is such a thing as absolute truth, and that this truth is found in the Bible, which is itself, the final authority and standard for all morality, all beliefs, and all behaviors.
We must be prepared to give an answer for the hope that lies within us. Because the questioning is getting louder and louder. And the other really ironic thing about that, is that this line of questioning all stems from the very first question that was ever asked in the Bible: “Oh, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?’” Note carefully: That question was not asked with the intention of reinforcing the truth. No, that question was asked with the intention of planting doubt about the absolute authority of God. And this same enemy of God’s is still behind this same question that is still being asked over and over again about the Word of God today… “Oh, has God said?”…all with the intention of creating doubt and casting doubt about God’s Words and making the words of man become the only thing that people should consider as absolute.
Remember, every battle begins with a rebellion, a rebellion against the absolute authority and truth of God. And either a person will bow to God’s authority or rebel against that. And of course, we know that rebellion against God is futile and it is foolish and it is also self-destructive. Rebellion against God and God’s Word only results in the ruination of the one who is rebelling! But none of that seems to stop the foolishness and selfishness of man’s sinful heart. And therefore, do not underestimate the schemes of the devil, who is having his way with much of the direction that our society and culture is going. Instead, prepare for more and more social persecution because of it.
So Nehemiah’s enemies had tried to the tactic of inflicting physical harm and then social harm on him, but without the results they wanted. So they next tried the tactic of trying to inflict spiritual harm on him…trying to trip him up in his walk of faith. Notice: Neh 6:10-“Later I went to visit Shemaiah son of Delaiah and grandson of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home. He said, “Let us meet together inside the Temple of God and bolt the doors shut. Your enemies are coming to kill you tonight.” But I replied, “Should someone in my position run from danger? Should someone in my position enter the Temple to save his life? No, I won’t do it!” I realized that God had not spoken to him, but that he had uttered this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. They were hoping to intimidate me and make me sin. Then they would be able to accuse and discredit me.” NLT
What a plot of treachery this was! They knew that the laws of Israel only permitted priests to enter the Holy Place, and Nehemiah was not a priest. So if they could get him to disobey this command and thus sin, then they could accuse him of breaking his own religious laws and try to ruin his faith walk and testimony. Remember, Satan knows what the Bible says about how followers of Christ are to live. So what is he going to do to you? He’s going to try to ruin your testimony and to discourage your walk of faith? He’s going to come after you with whatever temptation he thinks you are susceptible to in order to make you disobey God’s Word and to fall in your walk of faith. We are warned about that in the New Testament as well: 1 Cor 10:12- “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.” NASU
At first, this suggestion to Nehemiah sounded pretty reasonable, like Shemaiah was actually trying to rescue him. But it was only by Nehemiah knowing and trusting in the revelation of God’s Word about what he should do that he could make the right decision. If he had just gone with what seemed right to him at the moment, he would have publically sinned and then given his enemies reason to blaspheme him and God.
Again, and over and over, Satan will try to get you to act on your own reasoning instead of acting on the revelation of God. That is another reason we must each study the Scriptures so that we can accurately divide truth from falsehood. As we said, Satan knows the Bible and he will try to twist it just like he did with Jesus in the wilderness temptations. And the only way to defeat him is with ‘It is written!’ And then count on God enabling you to do what is written in order to defeat Satan’s temptations and to endure them victoriously. That is what Paul went on to tell us in verse 13 – “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” NASU
We often use the ‘application’ of this verse to be encouraged about the fact that God will provide a way and will enable us to endure any and all the trials that come our way. And that is great to know and that is a good application. But the primary interpretation of this verse has to with giving us encouragement and assurance about the fact that God will provide a way to escape any ‘temptation’ that the enemy throws at us. And on top of that, God will also enable us to endure the temptation, and also have victory over any temptation that comes our way. It was like Paul reminding us that whenever we are faced with a temptation to sin, we are to immediately look for the way God is providing for us to not just escape the sin, but to also endure the pressure of the temptation to sin. God always enables us to do whatever He has commanded us to do. God is good and will enable us to do good, especially whenever we are faced with any temptation to do bad.
Like Nehemiah, by the grace of God and the power of God’s Spirit we can not only overcome the schemes of the devil and overcome the battles that go along with them, we can also be ‘builders with God’…building God’s works and building God’s people around us.