We Are Exhorted to Stay Focused and Persevere to the End
INTERESTING FACTS : FACTS ? Thomas McKean, SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE; PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS; RATIFIER OF THE U. S. CONSTITUTION; CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA; GOVERNOR OF PENNSYLVANIA; GOVERNOR OF DELAWARE
In the case Respublica v. John Roberts, John Roberts was sentenced to death after a jury found him guilty of treason. Chief Justice McKean then told him:
"You will probably have but a short time to live. Before you launch into eternity, it behooves you to improve the time that may be allowed you in this world: it behooves you most seriously to reflect upon your past conduct; to repent of your evil deeds; to be incessant in prayers to the great and merciful God to forgive your manifold transgressions and sins; to teach you to rely upon the merit and passion of a dear Redeemer, and thereby to avoid those regions of sorrow - those doleful shades where peace and rest can never dwell, where even hope cannot enter. It behooves you to seek the [fellowship], advice, and prayers of pious and good men; to be [persistent] at the Throne of Grace, and to learn the way that leadeth to happiness. May you, reflecting upon these things, and pursuing the will of the great Father of light and life, be received into [the] company and society of angels and archangels and the spirits of just men made perfect; and may you be qualified to enter into the joys of Heaven - joys unspeakable and full of glory!"
DAILY READING : NEHEMIAH 4 - 6
TEXT : Neh 6:1 Now it came to pass, when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;) Neh 6:2 That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief. Neh 6:3 And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?
THEME : PERSEVERANCE
As with all work done for the One True God, there is adversity, interference, and trouble. We have a misguided notion if we think working or walking with the LORD is easy, and that is what we expect whenever we start to serve the LORD. It is naïve and without basis. Not knowing that God and all His works are opposed by Satan, the flesh, carnal men, and even those who profess Christ is the signature indication that the person entertaining these constructs is inexperienced, an amateur. The truth of spiritual life, the reality of serving God, is that it is a life of hardship and difficulty - to one degree or another. It always involves a measure of suffering at various times in our life.
This we see throughout the Bible, as the individuals God called and chose, and who we read about, are challenged continually to trust against the odds, believe against hope, stay true when others defect, withstand the adversaries, be faithful when others doubt, and hold steady when the wind and seas are against them. This is the life of true faith. All else is an imagination, a work of fiction, or wishful thinking. It some cases where faith is presented as living on "Easy Street" with no problems or effort it is a false Gospel altogether.
"The Samaritan faction showed their bitter animosity to the Jews on discovering the systematic design of refortifying Jerusalem. Their opposition was confined at first to scoffs and insults, in heaping which the governors made themselves conspicuous, and circulated all sorts of disparaging reflections that might increase the feelings of hatred and contempt for them in their own party. The weakness of the Jews in respect of wealth and numbers, the absurdity of their purpose apparently to reconstruct the walls and celebrate the feast of dedication in one day, the idea of raising the walls on their old foundations, as well as using the charred and moldering debris of the ruins as the materials for the restored buildings, and the hope of such a parapet as they could raise being capable of serving as a fortress of defense - these all afforded fertile subjects of hostile ridicule." [Jameson, Fausset, and Brown]
"Many a good work has been looked upon with contempt by proud and haughty scorners. Those who disagree in almost every thing, will unite in persecution. Nehemiah did not answer these fools according to their folly, but looked up to God by prayer. God's people have often been a despised people, but he hears all the slights that are put upon them, and it is their comfort that he does so. Nehemiah had reason to think that the hearts of those sinners were desperately hardened, else he would not have prayed that their sins might never be blotted out. Good work goes on well, when people have a mind to it. The reproaches of enemies should quicken us to our duty, not drive us from it." [Matthew Henry]
All of us want comfort rather than a cross. However, the life of faith in God takes us to a place of dying to self that we live unto God. As someone once said of the Christian life, we are dead people going to the land of the living, while those without Christ are living people going to the land of the dead. Again, we would have this life to be one of convenience, one of ease, of luxury, of constant gratification. Thus, because our human nature craves these mindsets, there are a thousand preachers ready to accommodate all who have itching ears to hear this [false] Gospel. However, Jesus said -
Mat 10:37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Mat 10:38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. Mat 10:39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
Mat 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. Mat 16:25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Mat 16:26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
When God spoke of the return of the Jews to Judea after seventy years captivity, He spoke of mercy and grace. Perhaps some had the idea this meant ease and comfort. However, as we see in Ezra and Nehemiah, in the mercy of God in releasing the Jews, there was great opposition to rebuilding the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. Yet, both Ezra and Nehemiah stand as examples of men who persevere and finish the work God gave them to do. To continue walking with God and working for Him is not easy when the climb is uphill. Still, His grace is sufficient, and as we go forward, we find we can do all things through Christ that strengthens us!
One fact to note in the Book of Nehemiah, is how often he prays. I can think of no other Book of the Bible where the prayers of one man are recorded as much as Nehemiah's are. Some examples are - Neh_5:19; Neh_6:9, Neh_6:14; Neh_13:14, Neh_13:22, Neh_13:29, Neh_13:31.
Prayer is one of our chief assets in this work and walk of ours. In prayer, we find solace, strength, and grace to help in our time of need. Through prayer, we move mountains and find the vigor to finish what God has given us to do.
Thus, we see in Nehemiah a combination of spirituality and physicality. He knows to pray and trust God, and keep his hands working on the walls. One without the other - that is, faith without works - is dead. Nehemiah is an example of real faith, of saving faith. Namely, his faith finds its expression in tangible a way. Real faith always gives evidence of it being real through works.
Jas_2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? Jas_2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Jas_2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Jas_2:20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Jas_2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Jas_2:22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? Jas_2:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Jas_2:25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? Jas_2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Tit_1:16 They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. Tit_2:7 In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Tit_2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Tit_3:5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Tit_3:8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
TRUTH FOR TODAY : "WE ARE EXHORTED TO STAY FOCUSED AND PERSEVERE TO THE END!"
The secret to greatness in life is based on two principles - the ability to concentrate and the will to endure. Anyone who has achieved mastery in any field of life - music, art, science, architecture, theology, writing, mathematics, etc. has done so by these two principles; the ability to concentrate and the will to endure. Without these two virtues nothing worth doing is ever done. It may be started, but never completed. Further, unless we finish, our start - no matter how well it may have been, means nothing. We must finish well. Therefore, the Christian , called to an everlasting life with God in His Kingdom, must develop the will to stay focused on God and persevere - to the end!
In this respect, Nehemiah is an outstanding example. Undeterred by the unceasing opposition of the Samaritans and those allied with them, he builds. He builds by day, and he builds by night. He builds through prayer and he builds with stone and mortar. He builds by speaking of the LORD and with the LORD always with a weapon at his side and more weapons at his disposal. A paragon of what a Man of God should be - wise and diligent, we look to Nehemiah in our effort to build the Kingdom of Christ and His Church. When Nehemiah says - "And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?" [Neh 6:3] he displays his wisdom and diligence.
"The Samaritan leaders, convinced that they could not overcome Nehemiah by open arms, resolved to gain advantage over him by deceit and stratagem. With this in view, under pretext of terminating their differences in an amicable manner, they invited him to a conference. The place of rendezvous was fixed "in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono." "In the villagesR 21; is, Hebrew, "in Cephirim," or "Chephirah," the name of a town in the territory of Benjamin (Jos_9:17; Jos_18:26). Nehemiah, however, apprehensive of some intended mischief, prudently declined the invitation. Though it was repeated four times, [Nehemiah's] uniform answer was that his presence could not be dispensed with from the important work in which he was engaged. This was one, though not the only, reason. The principal ground of his refusal was that his seizure or death at their hands would certainly put a stop to the further progress of the fortifications." [Jameson, Fausset, and Brown]
"Let those who are tempted to idle merry meetings by vain companions, thus answer the temptation, We have work to do, and must not neglect it. We must never suffer ourselves to be overcome, by repeated urgency, to do anything sinful or imprudent; but when attacked with the same temptation, must resist it with the same reason and resolution. It is common for that which is desired only by the malicious, to be falsely represented by them as desired by the many. But Nehemiah knew at what they aimed, he not only deni ed that such things were true, but that they were reported; he was better known than to be thus suspected. We must never omit any known duty for fear it should be misconstrued; but, while we keep a good conscience, let us trust God with our good name. God's people, though loaded with reproach, are not really fallen so low in reputation as some would have them thought to be. Nehemiah lifted up his heart to Heaven in a short prayer. When, in our Christian work and warfare, we enter upon any service or conflict, this is a good prayer, I have such a duty to do, such a temptation to grapple with; now, therefore, O God, strengthen my hands. Every temptation to draw us from duty, should quicken us the more to duty." [Matthew Henry]
We are called by the Master to work and to finish. Let us stay focused, disregarding what others may do, and persevere to the end!
Joh 6:27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of ma n shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. Joh 6:28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Joh 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
Mat 24:7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. Mat 24:8 All these are the beginning of sorrows. Mat 24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. Mat 24:10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. Mat 24:11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. Mat 24:12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. Mat 24:13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. Mat 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.