May 04

Opposition Isn’t the Enemy. Self-Reliance Is.

Often in our lives we face obstacles we simply can’t see a way around or over. We’re stuck. Sometimes it’s a person. It may be a disease. Often it’s ourselves. We don’t know what to do—but we know we have to do something. But that feeling of despair frequently immobilizes us. It ensures our feet are firmly planted in insecurity and fear.

I felt that way this week. Just yesterday I was standing in the kitchen, looking for something to eat at lunchtime. I was particularly annoyed about something in my life I’ve been trying to navigate for several years. My wife was sitting on the couch patiently listening to me as I vented my frustration. When I finished after several minutes of ranting, she simply asked: “Have asked God about it?”

My first thought was “why would you say that? I just want you to listen, not tell me what to do.” Luckily that lasted about a tenth of a second. I quickly realized I was defensive precisely because I hadn’t prayed about it. I hadn’t taken the time to speak with God about it & seek His wisdom and strength.

Isn’t it true, though, that as I realized when my wife pointed it out: prayer isn’t often our first reaction? More often its self-reliance: understand the problem, find a solution, resolve the issue. Life is rarely that simple.

In this week’s message, Talbot says “Opposition isn’t the enemy. Self-reliance is.” We see this in the life of Nehemiah. Rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem was not a popular decision outside of those walls. Several people wanted to thwart him and his task—even if it meant physically harming him. Nehemiah had every opportunity to be self-reliant in the task. He had money and materials from the king, he got the laborers moving on their task, and seems to be a pretty charismatic leader by all accounts. He could have claimed responsibility for the rebuilding of the walls and the protection of the people. However, this would have been a grave mistake.

One of the main reasons Jerusalem and her walls were destroyed by Babylon in 586 BC was because the people ignored God. They tried to do things on their own. You find this charge consistently throughout the prophets. The people forgot the Lord their God. This sin is one of the first Joshua and the Israelite leaders committed when they came into the promised land. They didn’t ‘inquire of the Lord’ (Joshua 9:14) when deciding to make a treaty with a nation they weren’t supposed to. While there are bright spots in Israel’s history—this trend continues throughout their life as a nation in the Old Testament accounts. They forgot the Lord. They relied on themselves. They chased after other Gods.

Nehemiah in reaching out to God for help in the midst of opposition—in turning his back on self-reliance and relying instead on Yahweh—is reversing the very trajectory of so many of Israel’s leaders. Where others relied on themselves, he turns to the Lord. He knows that outside of God, there’s no hope for the future—much less the building of walls. Where is your hope? Is it in your self-reliance? Or is it in The One who doesn’t want to be ignored?

For Further Conversation

1.) Other than Sanballat the Horonite, who are some famous “opponents” of well-known heroes?

2.) What characterizes modern day Sanballats?

3.) In your own lifetime, have you had a Sanballat? What was your big idea and how was it opposed? How did you respond?

4.) Here’s time for some Solutionists personal inventory: as you look in the rear view mirror of your life, when have functioned as a Sanballat? What motivated your opposition?

5.) When you are opposed, do you spend more time defending yourself or depending on God?

6.) The message claimed that what we think pitiful God regards as beautiful? Do you agree with that assessment? When have you turned failure into faith?

7.) Who will you invite next week to Solutionists, Week 5: “The No Name Offense”?



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