It was the British author G.K. Chesterton who once said, “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and
also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.” If you have lived
very long at all you have come to realize that Chesterton’s words are right on target. Often, those
closest to us can present the biggest challenges to our success. There is something about the
progress of one person or group that motivates another person or group to act as a stumbling block to
that progress. For those of us seeking to advance the kingdom of God we know all too well the
challenges that often arise to our efforts, and thus are in need of biblical advice in order to persevere.
The story of Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem is illustrative of this pattern.
Nehemiah, cupbearer to the king of the Medo-Persian empire carried a burden for his ancestral home
of Jerusalem and was given a calling by God to go and rebuild the city walls that had been thrown
down and the gates that had been burned (Neh. 1:1-3). Receiving the support of the king, and the
supplies to carry it out, Nehemiah begins the project of rebuilding the city’s massive walls and gates.
But he quickly encounters resistance from the surrounding cities and nation-states who are opposed
to a rebuilt and secure Jerusalem. Nehemiah’s response to adversity is programmatic for our own.
First, we see that throughout the rebuilding of the city walls, Nehemiah demonstrated dependence on
God by being in constant prayer. At each step of the project Nehemiah came before the Lord to seek
his guidance, his provision, and his protection. Nehemiah knew that the job of kingdom building was
ultimately the responsibility of God, and he was simply the agent God would use to bring it about.
God is still building today, and we as his agents must demonstrate our dependence on him by
constantly seeking his will for our work through prayer.
Second, even though we recognize that it is tempting to give up when things get difficult, especially
when we encounter resistance from those closest to us, we must consistently trust God. The
rebuilding of Jerusalem was a threat to the nations that surrounded it, creating a shift in the balance
of power in the region and producing a threat to the men in power in each of those nations. The
people of Jerusalem were few and would have been tempted to quit to protect their own safety. But
Nehemiah encourages them to remember the power and majesty of God (Neh. 4:14) and to trust that
God himself would fight for them and give them the victory over their enemies (Neh. 4:20). Trusting
God when things are difficult is the greatest challenge many Christians face but it is also the most
Third, we must be continually ready for the attacks the enemy will bring against us. Nehemiah faced
enemies on all sides who were plotting against the work, and they never knew when or where the
attack might come. So, they put themselves in a state of continual readiness by working on the wall
with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other (Neh. 4:17). We too must be prepared to advance
the kingdom at every opportunity while being continually ready to defend it against all opposition.
Finally, while Christians may be tempted to abandon the work of kingdom building until the difficulty
passes, we must remain committed to the effort. Even though Nehemiah and the wall builders were
under constant threat of attack, they never gave up on the work, they just kept building (Neh. 4:15).
Nehemiah recognized that commitment to the work suppresses the fear of opposition while advancing
God’s kingdom building program.
Kingdom builders know that constant prayer, consistent trust, continual readiness, and committed
effort produce results. The wall of Jerusalem was rebuilt in only fifty two days because of the activity
of God and the attitude of the builders. May we follow in their footsteps by overcoming our fears and
advancing the kingdom in the power of the Lord.