(Nehemiah 4:1-23) Dealing with criticism is one of the greatest challenges a leader will face. Nehemiah didn’t face opposition because he was doing something wrong. He faced opposition because he was doing what was right. He was serving God by leading a revival in Jerusalem.
It hurts when people misjudge your motives and doubt your sincerity. It is hard to keep going when under attack by the constant clatter of their critics. Some critics feel threatened by the success of a new leader others have a different agenda. Sometimes that agenda is self-serving.
The first wave of criticism came by way of insult and ridicule. “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?” (Nehemiah 4:2)
“What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!” (Nehemiah 4:3)
Insult and ridicule are easy cheap shots aimed to demoralize the leader and people by striking at the of the insecurity that we all have.
When the mocking failed, threats of violence ensued. Nehemiah had to post a guard and the people had to prepare for battle. Although the battle never came, the stress was wearing down the wall-builders. God's servants can lose heart when opposition arises. Even if the opposition is clearly wrong, some will simply quit.
The people of Jerusalem were initially excited. They began the work with great anticipation and joy but something happened when the wall was built to half its height. Fatigue led to frustration and then to discouragement. The work now seemed harder and more dangerous.
Nehemiah's response is instructive to church leaders today. First, he stayed focused on the mission and turned the rest over to God. Focusing on the insults will distract us from our mission. Turn them over to God and keep moving! When Abraham Lincoln, was told that he should make a statement to attempt to minimize the damage of the criticism made against him he replied, “I will not give an answer to these fools. My enemies will not believe my answer and my friends do not need it.”
Secondly, Nehemiah reorganized the work. He put guards at all the vulnerable spots and prepared for battle. The mission did not change but the environment did. Like Nehemiah, the church must adapt, too. We must keep our eyes on our mission and purpose and find ways to accomplish them in our current circumstances. Paradoxically, if the church is to remain the same (in mission) it must change (in method).
The success of the wall was dependent upon God who inspired its beginning. Nehemiah battled enemies and discouragement by keeping focus on God and His mission. He said, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome.” (Nehemiah 4:14)
The right response to opposition is to press forward with the mission of God. Opposition must not stop the work of the church. Despite opposition from within & without, we have confidence in God’s promise that: “...greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4)
Hand Me Another Brick by Chuck Swindoll