Sometimes church members hinder God’s work with the discouraging things they say to each other. There’s a warning about this in Nehemiah 4. (This is one of the chapters we skipped over in our summer series at church but it’s well worth going back to read it for yourself.)
As chapter 4 begins God’s people, the Jews, are making progress with their project to re-build the wall of Jerusalem and, inevitably, they find themselves facing ridicule and threats from the leaders of the neighbouring people.
And as if that external problem isn’t enough to cope with, they then start to wear each other down with negative comments amongst themselves. “The people of Judah said, ‘The strength of the labourers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.’” (4:10)
It’s no surprise that the builders were feeling worn-out and daunted by the work they were doing – it was a massive project they had undertaken. And in the same way building the church in our modern secular British society is a massive, daunting project.
But remember that Jesus himself tells us that we need to pray for “labourers” to be sent out into the harvest field. (Matthew 9:38). Paul describes his church work as “labour” (Philippians 1:21) and even writes of Epaphras “wrestling in prayer”. (Colossians 4:12). It should come as no surprise to us that church work is hard work. Church work has always been tough and, just like the Jews in the 5th Century BC, we live in a period of church history when it is especially tough.
But that doesn’t mean that we should talk of giving up. Of course, at times, we will feel like giving up but then we remember the loving Lord we serve and the glorious message we proclaim and so that option has to be dismissed. Instead, just like Nehemiah, we need to encourage each other to keep going: “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome.” (4:14)
Yours in Christ