(No sermon rewind today as Ron Dozier preached at Good Shepherd yesterday.)
I have had seasons where I’ve had somewhere I wanted to go, some things I wanted to do, and at every turn (not that I was seeking it out!) – someone or something stands in opposition. And the more of a solutionist you become the more opposition you can expect.
For some of you, it’s the guy at work. You have ideas, you work for progress, you value innovation, and his priority is all about preservation and resistance. In face, you suspect he likes everything at work that is broken and burnt. Actually, that guy’s resistance is nothing new. When Robert Fulton invented the steamboat, a skeptic was on the dock calling out “It’ll never start! It’ll never start!” And then it did. So the hater edited: “It’ll never stop! It’ll never stop!” You’re just amazed that same guy has shown up at your work place!
For others of you, your opposition is closer to home. Way to close to home. It’s mom or dad. Or both. They have a knack of sabotaging & undermining. Even when you’re trying to get out of trouble and get into recovery, they don’t support that. Haters should be lovers. And then others, your Sanballat has to do with faith. It’s around here. You want to advance ministry, invite more people into a living relationship with Jesus, and yet you meet resistance in various forms. In church, out of church, at work, at home, you have your Sanballats and I have mine. And they are such hassles.
So what do you do with them? Is it like that great Irish prayer?
May those that love us, love us;
and those that don’t love us,
may God turn their hearts;
and if he doesn’t turn their hearts,
may he turn their ankles
so we’ll know them by their limping.
Do you pray that? Or do you pack up and go home? Do you go fetal? Do you make plans to eliminate them? What do you do with your Haters? Your Oppositionists?
In Nehemiah’s efforts to rebuild the wall and restore the city, the most interesting pattern emerges. Look at 2:18:
I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me.
Now at 4:4: Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity.
And then at 6:16:
When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.
At every turn the opposition does NOT move Nehemiah to defend himself; it instead prompts him to depend on God. The pattern here is not accidental! Opposition – Prayer. Opposition – Prayer. Opposition – Prayer. And why is that pattern so great? Because Nehemiah is supremely self-confident. He is accomplished. Talented. A tad bit cocky. His tendency would have been to trust in himself and his mad people skills. And God must have known how dangerous that would be. Nehemiah no doubt COULD HAVE gotten the wall built without divine assistance – and the result would have been Nehemiah’s Wall and not God’s. And God loves him way too much to allow that to happen.
So he gives Nehemiah THE GIFT of opposition! Yes! The haters are a gift! Not a hassle! An honor! His opponents and the others are an on-going reminder: “this only works, it really only works, when you are desperate for my help and strength. I am allowing these people to tell you you can’t so you will discover that I can. If I let you get away with doing this on your own . . . whew! I want you opposed because that opposition will bring you to your knees in desperate dependence on me. So . . . YOU’RE WELCOME for bringing opponents into your life!” That’s what happened. That’s why God engineered resistance in Nehemiah’s life. Not to distract him from the work! To focus him on the Lord! Here it is: God gives opposition to grow desperation.
Yes! All of you who have opposition, those of you who wrote down that Irish prayer so you will pray it verbatim!, all of you who have started hating your haters . . . those who oppose you are not a problem! They are a promise! They are a promise that God has something bigger and better and deeper he wants to do IN you before he ever does another thing THROUGH you! Your opponents are not your hassle; they are your honor. God gives opposition to grow desperation.
(The above is an excerpt from “Solve,” the book Abingdon Press published based on the sermon series “Solutionists.” You can buy your copy of “Solve” here.)