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.
Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter in which was written:
“It is reported among the nations—and Geshem says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us meet together.”
I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.”
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
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who does actually try to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.
“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”
- Theodore Roosevelt (quoted in Charles R. Swindoll’s The Finishing Touch)
NOTE: I had this written for a few days before I read the most obvious interpretation of the title. Yikes!! I will be true to what I wrote. Bring it on!
Nehemiah did not wish to have opposition. He was building a wall anticipating opposition. When he received opposition, he was at first shrewd, but then he got onto his knees and prayed that now that the wall was built, that he and the people could be strong.
But did you notice the wording in verse 9 above, the last two sentences? Nehemiah “thinks” his people will become weak and will not finish before their enemies’ attack. And he prays that they will become strong. Just a four-word prayer, “Now strengthen my hands.” We do not need to be verbose, but we must change those words of fear in our minds into action through prayer and the work at hand. We need to express ourselves before God, not simply fear something, hoping that God was paying attention at that moment. Nehemiah thought of his worst fear for that moment and then made his request.
But Nehemiah was not the only one afraid. Sanballat expressed in his note his fears that Israel would reestablish themselves and set up their own kingdom. Everyone was fearing everyone else, and for good reason. If they saw the opportunity and knew they held victory, they would attack. That is why Sanballat and the others were trying to lure Nehemiah away from his work before the gates were set.
Nehemiah did not ask for the opposition. He simply anticipated it.
Yet, Teddy Roosevelt praises the doer of deeds, whether successful or not, whether great or not, because the doer of deeds is more important than the critic who talks about other’s deeds, and usually complains that the deeds could have been better. Wow does that sound like our media right now.
I was told to be super critical when reviewing someone else’s work, but I lost one job because that was not in me to do. I could be a stickler for the rules, but I would not criticize someone because they could have been better. When criticizing, I always tried to stay with the objective rather than the subjective. I think that is why I feel uncomfortable with my posts that has 20 times more views (but very few likes) than the next best post, considering recorded views. It was a critique of a Christian documentary. I wrote the post, but the subject of what I wrote was simply saying the good and truly little bad about what someone else created. I feel uncomfortable with critique, even when it is mostly praise.
But that still does not get to the title above. Yesterday, in the “Fake Awards” post, I talked about my best boss ever, and his boss who was also my best boss ever, sadly, a little over 40 years ago by a few months. Why was he my best boss ever? In my brief interview with my new boss, the day before I started working for him, he told me to try my best to do the best job that I could. He wanted people to complain. Note, in the middle of what Teddy Roosevelt wrote. “The credit belongs to the man who … errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; who does actually try to do the deed.” I wonder if my old boss had been reading Teddy Roosevelt’s writings before he interviewed me. He knew that if people were complaining, I was boldly doing my job, a job where it was impossible to please everyone. He did stick by his end of the bargain. When I made a decision, it was final, and he backed me up. He rarely gave me guidance. His boss was the Colonel, who was the commander of all the facilities for which I was the Facilities Engineer. As was his right, he had a wish list, and as the saying goes, “His wish was my command.” But oh, how there was criticism. I had a fairly sizable budget and every leader of a group, large or small, wanted that money spent on their facilities.
Nehemiah did not want opposition, but he ANTICIPATED it. My old boss wanted opposition of me being in that position, and he HOPED for it. And God knows we will oppose Him in our sinful lives, and He LOVES us anyway.
Do you fear failure? Fearing failure might just prevent you from trying. Do you fear criticism? The critics are among those who have failed or failed to try, and they use their criticism to get you to do the same. There is nothing in what they say to fear, unless they find some gem of truth that allows you to grow closer to God. In that case, what they may have meant for harm was used by God to strengthen you – even less reason to fear it.
If God has called you to do something, in doing it, the result and the resulting criticism are on His shoulders. And even though God is a spirit and does not technically have shoulders, He has the strength to hold fast.
In short, whatever God has called you to do, do it, even if all He wants is for you to love Him.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.