"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Friday, February 25, 2011

Raising The Standard: Contentment Is Realizing That I Am Indestructible Until My Work Is Done

"But I trusted in thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my God. My times are in thy hand..." ~ Psalm 31:14-15
From Pages Of Scripture:
Every major accomplishment for God will stir up two types of enemies: those on the outside and those on the inside. Outside enemies mock, criticize, and hinder. They are easier to repel. Those on the inside are like parasites that sap the strength and courage of the workers. Both types of enemies rose up to stop the work of a great man of God. His inward character was the crucial determining factor in the final outcome. By every human standard he should have quit and gone back to the comforts and prestige of his former occupation. But, his awareness of God's hand upon his life gave him the sense of indestructibility that he needed until his work was done. Who was he? Nehemiah.
How Is The Contentment Of Indestructibility Illustrated In Scripture?
In 445 B.C. captains and soldiers, mounted on well trained horses, left the splendor of the capital city of Persia and headed west. In this official delegation was a high ranking adviser of the most powerful ruler in the world. The adviser was on a mission that would go down in history as the most important event of his day. He knew that the task that lay before him was urgent, but he did not know the danger that he was to encounter in attempting to carry it out. When the delegation passed over the Jordan River and entered into a provincial city, a meeting was held with several governors. The adviser gave each one an official letter. The governors were startled by the contents. They were surprised to learn that such a high ranking official would want to help the despised remnant in the city of Jerusalem. Two evil men learned about the adviser's plans and purposed to do all they could to stop them. As soon ad the delegation left town, these evil men held an emergency meeting and laid out their strategy. Meanwhile, the official and his party traveled on to Jerusalem. Several days later, a special meeting was held in Jerusalem with all the rulers, priests, and nobles. The king's adviser reminded his listeners that the rubble and ashes of the once towering city walls were a stark testimony to the judgment of former days. Then he told them about the king's desire to have the walls rebuilt. The people were excited to begin the task. No sooner had they begun, however, than the opposition unleashed its continuous attacks. They began with mocking and then made false accusations and requests for meaningless conferences. When these failed, they prepared to come upon the builders with armed force, but the builders anticipated their move and doubled their protection. One evening the king's adviser was informed that a man by the name of Shemaiah had a special revelation to give him. The adviser went to Shemaiah's house and listened to the message. "God has warned me that there is a special plot against your life. Your enemies will come in by night and will slay you. Come, let us flee to the temple and lock ourselves inside. That is the only way to save your life." The adviser studied the fearful eyes of the "prophet," and without hesitation responded, "Who am I, that I should flee to the temple to save my life. No, I will not do it." The prophet had been hired by those two wicked men to trick the king's adviser into violating God's Law by going into the temple. What those wicked men did not realize was that a death threat would have little effect. The adviser was accustomed to death threats. One of his duties had been to drink of the king's cup in order to test it for poison. In addition to this, he knew that his present work was ordained by God, and that meant that he was indestructible until his work was done. Under Nehemiah's leadership, the walls were rebuilt in the remarkably short time of fifty two days! [From Nehemiah 1-6]
What Did It Cost Nehemiah To Leave Persia?
The historian Herodotus, Nehemiah's contemporary, wrote that the office of cupbearer was "one of no trifling honor." Among Nehemiah's responsibilities was the job of protecting the king from assassination. Since Artaxerxes' own father had been killed by the head of the palace guard, Nehemiah must have proven himself to be an of outstanding character and trustworthiness. Nehemiah enjoyed the friendship of the world's most powerful ruler and had access to the riches and pleasures of the fabulously wealthy empire. But like Moses, who refused to identify with the powerful and wealthy Egyptians, "Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward" (Hebrews 11:25-26), so Nehemiah chose to leave Persia and suffer with his people in Jerusalem. In terms of Nehemiah's personal safety, comfort, and position, the cost was great.
Why Was Nehemiah Able To Lead So Effectively?
Nehemiah accomplished in fifty two days what good men before him had not been able to accomplish in almost a century. One aspect of Nehemiah's character undergirded his many abilities. Nehemiah never asked others to make a sacrifice that he himself was not willing to make. For example, he asked his countrymen to move into and help rebuild a ruined, unwalled city. But he set the example by leaving the capital of the empire, the palace itself. He asked men to participate in hard labor and set the example by not even removing his own work clothes at night. (See Nehemiah 4:23; 5:16) He called for courage and then modeled courage by refusing to cower at an alleged assassination attempt. Nehemiah earned the respect and allegiance of all the people.
What Kept Nehemiah From Becoming Disabled By Fear?
Most men fear what they can see or hear and react accordingly. Nehemiah saw rubble, back breaking labor, and powerful enemies. He heard ridicule, threats, and slander. Most men would have given up. But Nehemiah saw and heard what most men do not perceive --- the God of Israel, Whom he feared more than men or things. His initial prayer for the project began, "... I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God..." (Nehemiah 1:5). Later, he admonished the greedy nobles and rulers of Jerusalem "... to walk in fear of our God..." (Nehemiah 5:9). He refused to accept certain rights "... because of the fear of God" (Nehemiah 5:15). He appointed his brother, Hananiah, as his successor because "... he was a faithful man, and feared God above many" (Nehemiah 7:2). The fear of God in Nehemiah's heart gave him contentment in knowing that he was indestructible until his God-given task was completed.
Illustrated In The World Of Nature:
The porcupine is a large, prickly rodent, which weighs up to 20 pounds and is approximately 30 inches long. It spends half of its solitary life in trees. During the winter it does not hibernate, but chooses rather to remain in the tops of trees for several weeks, eating all the bark it can reach. Although fully protected by its quills, the porcupine will not provoke an attack. It will rather retreat to safety. Indians and early settlers valued the porcupine for saving the lives of many lost forest travelers since even a weak and hungry man could catch it for a meal.
How Is The Contentment Of Indestructibility Illustrated In The World Of Nature?
Moments after his birth, an amazing little animal instinctively stood up, arched his back, and energetically swung his well-equipped tail. Minutes later, thirty-three thousand razor like quills hardened and became a formidable defense against any potential attacker. Under the careful guidance of his parents, the young arrival to the forest developed skill in using his God-given arsenal. One day as he was slowly moving through the forest, the young explorer started up a large pine tree and found an exposed layer of sugar-covered bark. He had no sooner begun enjoying the sticky sweetness when he heard a thunderous roar behind him. Suddenly, a short tempered black bear stormed through the underbrush, enraged by the invasion of its territory. As the angry bear approached, the feasting porcupine clutched the tree with his long, curved claws. The bear stood up to his full height and, with one swipe of its powerful paw, sent the porcupine catapulting through the air into a nearby thicket. The loose skin of the porcupine absorbed much of the shock; thus, he quickly recovered. Immediately he went into a defensive posture and waited for the next attack. But another attack would not be coming. The bear had suddenly lost all interest in the porcupine, the pine tree, and its territory. Sitting on its haunches, the injured bear frantically tried to remove a dozen painful quills from the soft pad of its paw. Soon the distracted bear limped away into the woods. The porcupine continued his journey through the forest. As he climbed up on a fallen log, he heard the rustle of leaves and the snarl of a hungry coyote. The porcupine immediately saw the coyote's prey --- a helpless fawn paralyzed with fear. In no mood to be disturbed by an intruder, the coyote lunged at the porcupine. With a swift flick of his tail, the well-armed defender sent scores of barbed quills out with both front paws. It was a futile attempt. The fawn and the porcupine quietly watched as the howling coyote retreated into the forest. The fawn's life was preserved because of the contentment of indestructibility which had given special courage to her protector. The Characteristics Of The Porcupine In Scripture: The protection which gives the porcupine its confidence is an illustration of the security that every Christian can have when surrounded by spiritual enemies. (See Ephesians 6:13-17) Just as the armor of the porcupine is designed primarily for defense, so our armor is designed that we
"... may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." ~ Ephesians 6:13
The porcupine's only offensive weapon is its sharp quills. Similarly the only weapon which God has provided for the Christian is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. (See Ephesians 6:17) This sharp weapon, like the quill, continues to do its work once it enters the person. The porcupine has two vulnerable areas: its "glass jaw", and its underside. The Christian also has vulnerable areas which need to have constant protection: his mouth and his heart.
"Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile" ~ Psalm 34:13
"Keep thy heart with diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" ~ Proverbs 4:23
The porcupine spends great amounts of time in the tree turning bark into sweet nourishment, just as we are to meditate day and night upon God's Word. Scripture is
"... sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb" ~ Psalm 19:10

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