SATURDAY, APRIL 29
Author: Rev. Vicki Franch, Pastor for Pastoral Care
FROM THE BIBLE
When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates— Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.”
But they were scheming to harm me; so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer…
They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”
But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”
Nehemiah 6: 1-9
Our building hero Nehemiah evidently kept a journal of his building project as he and his people rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, making it secure from enemies and a great place to bring their families to live.
He faced constant opposition from leaders around Jerusalem, who had benefitted from the vacuum of power there, and the city’s destruction. They did not want it rebuilt. They kept up a constant barrage of criticism, ridicule, and conspiracy theories. They tried to get Nehemiah in trouble with the King of Persia, accusing Nehemiah of rebellion against the King. That King had sent him with his blessing to do the rebuilding, so it all came to nothing.
Now, at last, Nehemiah and his team are within sight of complete success. Only the gates need to be put in to make the wall complete. So the enemies try one last desperate act: they try to get Nehemiah to come out of the stronghold and meet with them on the plain of Ono. (Never, ever meet anyone in a place called “Ono” or “Oh, No” might be your last words!) They are planning to kill him.
Nehemiah tells them, “I’m not coming down to your level. I am doing a great work, and I cannot come down.” He keeps working. He wants to finish well. He sees the motives of these enemies for what they are: an attempt to derail his work for God and his community. And then he prays,” Lord, strengthen my hands.” He wants to complete this work for the Lord and his people. And he does.
We will have critics whenever we do something bold, complicated, or costly. To build something is hard; to criticize is easy. If the critique is of good quality, it makes us refine our process and adjust our trajectory. A good critique may even make the project better!
In the end, Nehemiah prayed for God to strengthen his hands for the work ahead. His rhythm of work and prayer took him through his renovation. He kept what he wanted to do for God foremost in his mind and did not let doubt or criticism derail his faithful actions.
As we tackle this renovation of ours, let us also commit to prayer and support of the project. Let us hear criticism and let it refine us and our work. Let us renew our sense of what Peachtree is meant to accomplish for God and the Kingdom.
Dear Lord, it is so easy in my life to let criticism get me down. I get hurt or distracted from what I am meant to do. As I work on this project for Your Kingdom and my church, by my prayers and by my giving and by my support, let me not be deterred from a good finish. I know that this work is dedicated to You and the future of this church. It’s meant to bless future generations by making a great place for men, women, and children to hear the good news and come alive for You and for our city and world. Lord, strengthen our hands for the work! In Jesus’ name, Amen.