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A central theme running throughout Scripture’s story is that of a war between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. The attempt to rebuild the city of God runs into problems from a number of sources. The first is the surrounding inhabitants who resent the work. They mock the people and threaten them. The second is the hard labour itself and the fatigue it brings on. Then there is the people’s fear of their enemies.
But Nehemiah and the people prayed to a sovereign God, who was great and fearsome (v 14) and who would fight for his servants. After praying they posted a guard and went back to work. One half of the people worked and one half were positioned to defend. Even those who worked had a sword strapped to their waist, ready to fight when necessary.
As the people of God today we must realize that our work will encounter opposition. We must not be naïve. The evil one goes about like a roaring lion seeking to discourage and defeat God’s people with every method, whether through fear or fatigue or any other strategy (1 Peter 5:8). The apostle Paul writes in his ministry that he was not unaware of the designs of the enemy (2 Corinthians 2:11)
The answer is not a blithe naïveté, a stiff stoicism, a prayerful pacifism, or a discouraged defeatism. The answer is to remember that we have a sovereign God, and to pray knowing that this sovereign God can make a difference. At the same time we must use our minds to take necessary precautions while continuing with kingdom work.
In the conflict against the evil one, we must pray as we act, and act as we pray.
Dear God of Heaven, Help me to realize that you are the fearsome and awesome one who promises to fight for us as we engage in the fight for your kingdom in the world. Deliver me from a naïveté about evil and a mindless optimism. Help me to commit to a sober realism, arming myself with the power of prayer and the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, for the fight to the finish. In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.