Everyone hears voices … voices trapped in our mind…voices of criticism…voices of ridicule…voices aimed to hurt. The voices you hear may have come from the lips of a parent, teacher, coach, spouse, child or friend. These voices spring from our memory when we least expect them and can knock us for a loop.
Sometimes the voices are not trapped in our mind but projected from the person standing next to us. They are words that pierce like a sword, as the Proverb says, and after the attack we are left emotionally bruised and bloodied.
Sometimes the voices come from Satan himself. He loves to remind us of our past sin—How do you think you could ever be worthy of God? He loves to bring up our past failure—See how you failed in the past? Don’t you dare try anything worthwhile again, don’t take any risk. See how God let you down? You’ll fall flat on your face again. And he loves to keep us focused on our weaknesses—How could God ever use you?
Do you hear voices of opposition? If so, keep reading. Let me introduce you to a man named Nehemiah. Let’s identify some voices of opposition that he heard. Through Nehemiah’s experience we can learn to deal with our voices of opposition.
Nehemiah was the cupbearer of King Artaxerxes, a privileged position in the powerful Persian Empire. He pre-tested the king’s wine (If Nehemiah clutched his throat and dropped dead the king knew not to drink it). His responsibility also included keeping things merry and lively during dinner. But as Nehemiah’s story begins, he is having a hard time wearing a smile. Nehemiah was a Jew and had just been given a discouraging report about his homeland. Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish nation and religion, was in ruins. The people were living in disgrace. And the God he loved and served was being mocked. Nehemiah desired to return to Jerusalem to bring honor and dignity to God and his people by rebuilding the city walls.
By God’s grace, King Artaxerxes gave Nehemiah permission to return and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. But soon those working on the walls started hearing voices of opposition. Some of the voices were purposed to implant doubt, fear and discouragement in the hearts of those working on the wall. Other voices came to distract the builders from their great endeavor. Let’s consider these voices and Nehemiah’s response.
A man named Sanballat had a vested interest to keep the walls in shambles and the discouraged Jews under his thumb. Keeping the Jews down allowed him to maintain economic and political power. So, when the re-building began he pulled out all his verbal stops.
Sanballat questioned the builders’ strength—What are those feeble Jews doing? He questioned their ability—Will they restore their wall? He questioned their spiritual preparation—Will they offer sacrifices? He questioned their planning and wisdom to take on such a project—Will they finish in a day? He questioned their resources—Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble, burned as they are? Sanballat’s friend Tobiah joined in as well. He questioned the Jew’s ability to build a lasting final product—If even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!
Maybe you have a Sanballat in your life. Ignore him! If it’s a Janballat, ignore her.
Listening to voices, whether from the past or in the present, will paralyze our spiritual progress. Plug your ears to voices of doubt and keep building the wall!
Voices of Fear
Sanballat, Tobiah and their allies decided to join forces to attack Jerusalem. The fear of attack, they thought, would certainly take Nehemiah’s mind off the building project. The Jews in the area got wind of the attack and informed Nehemiah of the plans:
Also our enemies said, “Before they know it
or see us, we will be right there among them
and will kill them and put an end to the
work.” Then the Jews who lived near them
came and told us ten times over, “Wherever
you turn, they will attack us.”
Fear spreads, doesn’t it? Like a disease it is transferred to those around us. Moses knew this well. Once before a battle he gave the instruction, “Is any man afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his brothers will not become disheartened too’” (Deuteronomy 20:8).
How do you handle voices of fear? Are you listening to the rumors around you or the certain voice of God?