Welcome to Calvary Albuquerque.
We pursue the God who is passionately pursuing a lost world. We do this with one another through worship by the Word to the world.
Father, we thank you that even the most horrific crises, those things which strike terror in our hearts, are things that even still had to yet pass through your hands before they could come upon us, Lord. And so Father, as people are grappling with the magnitude of their trouble, as they're concerned, Father, about their safety, as they're concerned about their peace and their shelter, we, as brethren, for many who were there in South Texas and in other places, we ask that you would be there powerfully with them and for them as they need you in this very hour of their trouble.
And so God, it's with that mindset that we thank you for promising to us that you are our ever present help in time of need. And so please God, give these people perseverance. Give them grace to endure. And for all those who know you, may they come out of this as better men and better women for your purposes. And through this, may many who do not yet know you come to know you.
And Father, we pray for our chaplains, the Pitmans and these four sisters that are leaving tomorrow that you would uniquely empower them by your spirit for the ministry of being your presence amidst those people's crisis. Lord, that you would give them grace and peace to be able to hand off to those that they are going to be in contact with.
We ask all of this as always in the name of our great God and Savior the Lord of all, Jesus Christ. Amen.
So do we have members of the United States Marine Corps with us here tonight? If we do, I want you to identify one another and greet one another with an Oorah. Let's hear it.
All right, we got it.
One more time.
Not only is that a common greeting of fellow jarheads to fellow leather necks, but it's also been a battle cry for the United States Marine Corps since about the Vietnam War. Now another famous battle cry is liberty or death. The phrase first appeared in a March 1775 address by Patrick Henry that concluded with the immortal line, "I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death." Now Henry's words inspired the Second Virginia Convention to raise militias. And those last words of his address often shortened to "liberty or death" immediately became a battle cry for colonial minutemen as they saw these words as a symbol of their determination to shake off the yoke of British rule.
Now in scripture, God's people also employed battle cries. In fact, when God handed over the camp of the Midian into the hands of Gideon's army we read in Judges chapter seven verse 20, "the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers, causing a commotion. They held the torches in their left hand and the trumpets in their right hand for blowing. And as such, they cried the sword of the Lord and of Gideon, the sword of the Lord and of Gideon."
In Amos chapter two verse two out of the New American Standard Bible we read that the Lord says, "I will send fire upon Moab, and it will consume the citadels of Kerioth. And Moab will die amid tumult with war cries and the sound of a trumpet."
And that brings us to our battle cry that we consider this evening that is found out of one of the verses in our passage in Nehemiah chapter four. It's in verse 14 in the second part of that where we come across what I refer to as the battle cry of for King and country, for King and country.
Nehemiah tells his people, "The people of Judah, do not be afraid of your adversaries, but rather remember the Lord great and awesome. And fight for your families, fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses." We have to remember the Lord, that is the King, great and awesome. And fight for our brethren, our countrymen.
Now as Christians, our ultimate King, no matter what our country of origin is, no matter what country we call home, our ultimate King is Jesus. And our ultimate country, no matter where we were born or where we dwell, is ultimately the Kingdom of God. You see, our country not only consists of actual family members that we love and are accountable to and responsible for, but it also consists in the ultimate sense of our spiritual family, our spiritual brethren who are also members of God's church known as God's people.
You see in Philippians chapter three verse 20 we're told of our ultimate citizenship being in heaven. Our church family, some are made up of our physiological blood family who also know Christ. But the rest of us who are gathered here, these are of whom and with whom we fight the good fight of faith with. And that's another great battle cry of the Christian found in 1 Timothy chapter six verse 12.
So all this consideration of battle cries this past week got me to thinking. Why do we need battle cries? Well, the simple answer is because we're human.
You see, being human like the people of Judah that we read about tonight, we often lack perseverance because of fatigue and fear. To persevere, we often need to be reminded of the cause that we're fighting for, of the goals that we're called to achieve, of the reasons why we don't quit, of the significance of victory, of the importance of what it is that God has called us to do. And as Christians, we're either battling on the offense or defense at all times.
And why is that? It's because we have three unrelenting foes that greats throughout church history have referred to as the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Let's consider first the devil. Let's consider the devil as our opposition. And let's consider him in those actions where we're taking the fight to him.
As we take the fight to him, we have to remember Paul's words to the church at Ephesus where in chapter six verse 12 of his letter to them he reminds us that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. And that's when we're taking the fight to the enemy.
But then there's also the consideration that we have to make that even when we're at rest we have to be on guard against the devil. As Peter wrote in 1 Peter chapter five verse eight, we are to be sober, be vigilant. Because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. So even at rest, we have to be on guard. We're always fighting either on offense or on defense.
And then there's the world. Friend, with every year that passes by, the older we get, the more we realize that life is difficult. It's wrought with various challenges. We're constantly battling the laws of entropy.
Everything around us is in a state of decay unless we keep it up. Those things around us, tools that we use, houses that we live in, unless we tend to them, eventually they'll become rubbish. And not only do we battle the laws of entropy, but then we have the system of the world, which is opposed to God, and consequently, opposed to the people of God. All making life very difficult and I would say uniquely difficult for us as Christians.
And lastly, we have the flesh. Now this one perhaps is the most obvious one for us. There is the flesh of others. You see, we live among imperfect people. But never forget that we ourselves also are imperfect people. You see, I've often told those closest to me that the world and the devil could take a long vacation and my flesh alone will give me much more trouble than I'd rather have on any given day.
So we have these unrelenting foes of the world, the flesh, and the devil. And these three are enough to wear us out and to scare us in to quitting. And that's why we need battle cries. We need a battle cries because there are times we'd rather just quit. There are times where we recognize it would be so much easier to just give up.
You know when facing adversity, the desire to quit, the compulsion to quit can be so strong. And the rationale that we have in our minds for quitting can seem so crystal clear as if it's the only right thing to do. It's the only logical option before us.
You see, we're all vulnerable to quitting. And there are many of us who have quit on things that we lament not having stuck with. That's why we oftentimes employ personal battle cries like "carpe diem," "seize the day." Don't let one day go by without squeezing all the juice out of it that you can.
Or some of us adopt Nike's "just do it," especially when we're not feeling like we want to work out but we know we have to. And then there's also one that our very own student ministries pastor Cody Byrne shared with the pastors yesterday in our pastors meeting when he said that there's those times when I'm coming upon a task that I know God's called me to do and I just don't feel up for it. But I tell myself Cody, just go for it in the Lord. And just do it.
You see, some of us have given up on some form of schooling or training. And while there are many forms of schooling and training, I simply want to point out a select group of people that I'm sure are with us here tonight. And that would be current School of Ministry students in our School of Ministry here at Calvary Albuquerque. If you're a current School of Ministry student, I'm going to ask that you stand to your feet. Come on, stand up.
So look around. Look at these people. Stay standing.
Now I also want past School of Ministry students who successfully completed the school, I want you to stand up as well. And I want both current and former students to stay standing. Stand up.
I want you to look at them, because these are men and women that dedicated an entire school year of their lives to learning more about the Lord and to becoming better servants of the Lord. And they need to persevere. We need to pray for them to persevere. And they need to persevere for God and country.
I also want to recognize another group. You see, some of us lament having given up on spouse and our children. And while giving up on our family can take many forms, I want to simply highlight one select group yet again. And that would be any families here that anticipate home schooling your children. I want you to stand up and stay standing.
Any of you here that are currently home schooling your children, I want you to stand up and stay standing, currently home schooling. And those who are with us who have successfully home schooled their children at some point in their education, I want you to stand up as well. And I'm going to ask that you stay standing.
Look around. These people need to persevere. I don't know a home schooler in this room that isn't home schooling-- stay standing-- that isn't home schooling because they believe that God has called them to do it for spiritual purposes. That's why they do it.
They need to persevere in their home schooling. And we need to pray for them to persevere. And you that need to persevere must do so for God and country. You can have a seat.
Then there's also those who quit on a job or a profession that they believed at some point that God had called them to as a form of fulfilling their calling on this earth. You see, I have a sister-in-law, Jennifer Smith. She's a doctor of veterinary medicine.
And she'll tell you that she believes God called her to be a veterinarian, to be a point of contact for people who love their animals and are having them taken care of by her, cared for by her. And she's able to be the presence of Christ in what oftentimes are very tender moments for these people. She believes that that is God's calling on her life.
If any of you are here where you look at your job or your profession as God's calling upon your life, I want you to stand your feet right now. Stand up and stay standing. Wonderful.
That could be feeling called to be a hairdresser for Christ and the conversations you had with people. That could be being a construction worker for Christ and being light and salt in that place. And for all of you, you need to persevere. And you need to persevere for God and country.
Folks, we need to see these people. We need to know who they are. We need to pray for them that they persevere in their calling. You can have a seat.
And then lastly, while there's many ways and many people that we could pray for regarding those in ministry, I'm going to simply ask that the current staff members of this church please stand up and stay standing. Current staff members stand up and stay standing.
Friend, from-- and stay standing, if you would. From working with our almost 160 staff members here at Calvary Albuquerque, I can tell you that in so many ways, these are some of the most gifted, Godly, precious people in the entire city of Albuquerque. Who, if they chose to quit this and went to do something else outside of the church world, could probably be making a whole lot more money and have a higher ceiling with which to climb, and also perhaps attain greater notoriety. But they have recognized that God has called them to employ their gifts and talents within the context of working for this church so that they might fulfill their calling.
We need to pray for these people to persevere. And these people need to persevere for God and country. You can have a seat. Friend, for all of us.
We are called to live for God in every facet of life for every calling for every mission for every task that God places upon us, and to persevere and succeed, to finish our race, to complete our task, to fight the good fight of faith we must do so by the only means, and that is our King, and by the right inspiration, that is our country.
So tonight we'll learn from the example of the people of Judah in Nehemiah chapter four verses 10 through 14. You see, Judah here was called by God to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. Now why? Why did God call them to rebuild this wall?
Was it because He simply needed to give His people some busy work? Just kind of give them something to do? Was it because He just had another idea for yet another home improvement project? Everything else looked pretty good, but we could pay some attention to the wall.
Not at all. It was much more important than that. In fact, in chapter two verse 17 of Nehemiah we're told exactly why.
When Nehemiah tells the people, he says, "Judah, you see the distress that we are in. Judah, we're in bad shape. Things aren't looking good. You see how Jerusalem lies in waste. Our house is in disrepair and in disorder. And its gates are burned with fire. Our borders are not secure, and we're susceptible to even greater attack."
He says, "Come let us build the wall of Jerusalem that we may no longer be a reproach." This word "reproach" is also translated in some Bibles as the word "disgrace."
You see, the people around them were looking at them knowing that Judah was considering themselves to be the people of God. And these Godless people around them were recognizing that these so-called people of God couldn't even take care of their own city. And they're the people of God? This was a disgrace. They told Judah, you can't even keep your walls up, and you're going to rise up as a people and as a city?
But God, indeed, wanted them to raise the walls. He wanted the people to rise up. And he wanted to rise them up and to keep them up.
And in this process, we see Judah having a very human experience. You see, when they are initially called to the task they get to work and they're about halfway done with the wall and then trouble comes their way before the task is complete.
In this process, we see Judah recoiling, regrouping, ah, but then resolving. You see, they initially recoiled from the task. But then they regrouped toward the task. And then they resolved for King and country to complete the task. And again, their task was their calling by God to rebuild the wall.
So read with me if you will, verse 10 through 14 of Nehemiah chapter four. "Then Judah said the strength of the laborers is failing. And there is so much rubbish that we are not able, we are not able to build the wall.
And our adversaries said, ah, they will neither know nor see anything till we've come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease. And so it was when the Jews who dwelt near them came that they told us 10 times from whatever place you turn, they are going to be upon us. Therefore I positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall at the openings. And I set people according to their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows.
And I looked and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome. And fight for your family, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses."
So let's consider first the reasons why Judah was recoiling. You see, as we read in verse 10, in very real ways Judah was experiencing something that all of us experience. And that is fatigue.
We're told in this verse that their strength is failing, and there's so much rubbish and rubble left. You see, externally they were so discouraged by the rubbish that was left from the previous destruction of the city in 586 BC that one of their chief adversaries, Sanballat says in verse two of chapter four that these heaps of trash were like heaps of rubbish, literally pulverized dust. So as Judah looked at their circumstances, it was both heart breaking and backbreaking.
Not only that, they became even further discouraged in the very passage we read where they had to lose half of their labor force to build the wall to now serve as a security force. So not only was the task already daunting, but now it's become even twice as hard.
It was the legendary coach Vince Lombardi who in talking to his players said, it's not how big or how strong you are, but how much you're in shape. You see, it doesn't matter how big or strong you are, because fatigue makes cowards of us all.
Fatigue is that thing that can prevent you from being the last man or woman standing. And that's exactly what Conor McGregor, the MMA fighter, discovered just a few weeks ago. He entered into a form of combat that has a lot more to do with endurance than he had ever trained for. So the first half of the fight it was competitive until Floyd Mayweather outlasted him and basically out finessed him and out fitnessed him McGregor fatigued out.
You see, when you're tired, you begin to make mistakes. You don't do what's right. Your will to be victorious wavers. And you lose the will to fight. So here we find Judah feeling physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as if they have nothing left.
Not only were they battling fatigue, but we read they're also battling fear. For in versus 11 and 12 we read of threats that they were experiencing from the outside. These were threats that were coming to them from their enemies. And isn't it just like the enemy to so often attack us right when we are fatigued and discouraged and disheartened?
Husbands, how many of you have become fatigued that your wife isn't giving you the physical affection that you wish she was and late at night when you're on your computer or on your device, you feel that attack to indulge in pornography? Wives, how many of you have been fatigued by not feeling that your husband takes the time to actually listen to you and to know your heart? And in those seasons you feel the attack of carrying on unnecessary conversation with a man that's not your husband because he seems all too interested.
Young person, how often have you been fatigued by not being accepted into some social circles, and so you feel the attack to give your body over sexually or even to engage in substance abuse just to fit in? Often when we're tired, when we're worn out, and when we're fearful is when the enemy will attack us.
Remember what happened to Jesus after his 40 days and 40 nights of fasting in the wilderness. Who came knocking on his door, first person there? Satan came knocking at his door.
So I want us to bounce just a few verses before the passage we read and consider verses seven and eight so we can learn a little bit more about these enemies of Judah. We read beginning in verse seven, "Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed that they became livid." They became incensed, very angry. They're seeing this people of Judah, this city of Jerusalem beginning to rise from the ashes.
And in response, we read that they all conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. This is a classic case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend. So they conspired to attack.
And then we come to the verses that we just read in verses 11 and 12 where we pick up that the adversaries of Judah said this to them. "They will neither know nor see anything till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease. And so it was when the Jews who dwelt near them came."
These are Jews among the people of Judah who had learned of these threats. They came to the leadership and they told them 10 times from whatever place you turn, they are going to be upon us. It was as if these people who were fearful from within went to leadership and sent them a singing telegram of Martha and the Vandella's 1967 hit song "Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide."
And they said it over and over again trying to get the message across to the leadership that we need to stop this thing before we get attacked. Because there is nowhere to run to, baby. There is nowhere to hide.
What's frightening here is that the enemy's strategy wasn't to simply shut down the work site, it was to slay all of the builders, to kill them all. And it wasn't as if there was just one opponent, but many, as we just read about. From all directions they were being attacked.
So they were experiencing these threats from enemies. But additionally, they were also experiencing threats from the inside from people that we might consider "frenemies." You see, these were people within the ranks of Judah who were critical of this vision God had given the people of Judah to complete.
They were critical of it because they disbelieved that it could be done. There were people who learned of the job and who saw it happening, but then saw the threats mounting and the fatigue of the people and they said you know what, it's just not going to happen. This thing is done. We're not going to see its end.
And such are often the trials of leadership. It was John Fitzgerald Kennedy, our 35th president, who said of the daunting task of being the primary leader of our nation that this is the loneliest job on earth. Great Bible commentator Matthew Henry said these words, "Active leading men have many times as much ado to grapple with the fears of their friends as with the terrors of their enemies."
What's challenging about leadership, especially being an earthly leader for God, is that oftentimes the complaints of the people seem humanly valid. The task seems too big. The goal seems too great. It doesn't make sense that we would take this challenge on.
But we always have to be careful. Because when God gives His leaders' vision, He's also giving a promise that He's going to see it come to pass. So at any point if we have concerns or even complaints, we, as God's people, have to be very careful how we verbalize, how we relay those concerns or complaints to our leadership. Because in doing so, we could be arguing against the very intentions of God.
So here's Judah, full of fatigue and fear. But what happened? How did they get to this point?
Judah got to this point by focusing on their obstacles and not on the Lord, by focusing on their fatigue and not God's fortitude, by focusing on their fears and not God's fierceness. They focused on the rubble and not God's redemption. They focused on their critics and not God's calling. They stopped working and they started worrying. They stopped tooling and they started talking.
And what were they talking about? Remember the words of Matthew 12:34. Matthew 12:34 where he said, "It's out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks." And in one excited utterance the people of Judah gave us their conclusion of the matter.
You see, for those of you with a legal background, in the laws of evidence there's what's called an excited utterance. This is an acceptable evidentiary statement made by a person while under duress or stress in response to a startling or shocking event or condition. It's an unplanned reaction to a startling event.
So what's their excited utterance that shares with us what they concluded about the matter? It comes to us in the second part of verse 10 in four words. "We are not able."
To put it in another way, let's just quit. This is done. It's not going to happen.
Most of us are familiar with the Rocky movies, right? The movies that chronicle the life and career of Rocky Balboa. And as I read the response of Judah, it reminds me of a specific scene in Rocky IV.
It was after the dreadful Ivan Drago, the Russian boxer, had just killed Rocky's mentor and friend Apollo Creed in the ring. And Rocky felt compelled to avenge his death by challenging Ivan Drago to a match. And after he announced the bout, on the eve of it he returns home late only to find his wife Adrian awake and beside herself because she's now concerned that her husband is going to be the next one to die at the hands of Drago.
And so the scene takes us to where Rocky is at the foot of the stairs. Adrian is at the top of the stairs. And she's fretting trying to explain to him why this is a bad idea and why he needs to not fight this man. And Rocky is trying to reason with her. But in one excited utterance she looks down at him and says, you can't win.
But we all know how that movie ended, right? You see, you don't tell Rocky Balboa that he can't win. And you certainly don't tell God that He cannot enable His people to prevail at a task that He has called them to.
Let me give you some perspective on quitting that you might not have considered before. I'm convinced that none of us ever want to serve Satan, or at least intentionally, that is. I don't believe that any of us woke up this morning with the mind to serve Satan's purposes. But I'll tell you this, quitting is one of the greatest ways we can unintentionally give our opponent an advantage, that we can serve Satan's purposes. Because he ends up winning without even having to fight.
And worse yet, there are those who look at the task before it even gets started and they never even engage. It's too messy. It's too difficult. It's too challenging. I don't believe God can make it happen. And so they simply say, I'll just sit this one out. When you quit or you sit that one out, you allow the enemy to prevail without even having to fight.
So to continue this boxing theme, in boxing terms, round one went to the enemies of fatigue and fear. Judah has fallen to the mat, but the bout isn't over yet. For we now come to the remedies for regrouping.
In verse 13, the King, God, through his earthly leader, Nehemiah, steps in to pull his people out of despair by taking four distinct actions. We're going to look at these four distinct actions as four analogies for our personal spiritual perseverance as Christians so that we continue fighting this good fight of faith.
We discover the first one in the first part of verse 13. Therefore, I position men behind the lower parts of the wall. So they begin by supporting the lower parts, the foundations, the base, the basics, the primary things, the first things.
And we have to remember the first things when combating fatigue and fear. The first thing we need to remember is our primary devotion. You see, in Revelation chapter two verse four, as Jesus speaks to the church in Ephesus, He refers to Himself, God, as their first love. We need to remember our first love.
You see, Christian, it was out of a reciprocal love that we enlisted in God's army in the first place, that we joined the fight with God as our primary source and motivation. And so we must remember our first love when fatigued and when being fearful.
We must also remember the first things of discipleship. The very next verse in Revelation chapter two verse five, Jesus refers to the people of Ephesus as needing to do the first works. This is where we, as Christians, return to the tools of our trade of having a relationship with Christ. This is where we recapture the richness of Bible study, of prayer, of worship and fellowship, the very things by which we initially fell in love with the Lord by and began to grow in our relationship with the Lord by.
You see, going back to the Rocky films, this would be that crucial moment in every Rocky film where he now has a clear vision of the task in front of him that he must complete. He now knows who his opponent is. And in your minds, you can cue the music as the trumpet starts playing.
[HUMMING ROCKY THEME]
Rocky wakes up early before anybody else is outside. He puts on his sweats. He walks out the front door and he begins to jog the streets of Philadelphia, eventually making his way to the gym. Going into the gym he starts hitting the weights. Dusts off his gloves and eventually makes it into the ring, and day in and day out begins to train for his opponent.
Much like that, we have to be in a constant state of spiritual endurance training. Why? Because spiritual fitness dispels fatigue. It's the primary antidote for our fatigue.
Second thing they did was in the second part of verse 13 they positioned men at the openings. Basically what they're doing now is closing up where the walls have been breached.
You see, for our purposes, Christian, this would be breeches in our walk with Christ whereby stuff that should be kept on the outside begins to creep in. We talked about our three relentless opponents earlier-- the world, the flesh, and the devil. They begin to creep in.
But scripture in 1 John chapter two verse 16 also tells us of another un-Godly triplet that is our adversary, referred to as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. And when we're tempted to quit, the lust of the flesh looks so attractive in the form of quitting equaling ease for us.
When we're tempted to quit, the lust of the eyes looks attractive to us in that we have this attitude that I shouldn't have to work for what I want. I should be entitled to just have what I want. That would be the lust of the eyes.
And then there's the pride of life. I shouldn't have to sacrifice for what I want, especially when I see somebody else already having it. I should have what they have. In fact, I'll just take what they have, the pride of life.
If you would hold your place here in Nehemiah chapter four and go with me to Revelation chapter two verses four and five, the verses I referred to just moments ago. I want us to together discover something that I believe is vitally important when it comes to wanting to quit because of fatigue and fear.
Notice with me as Jesus is addressing the church at Ephesus he has just finished telling them a number of things that they were doing right, things that they were doing well and so good at. But he continues in verse four. "Nevertheless," Jesus tells them, "I have this against you.
That you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen. Repent and do the first works or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lamp stand from its place unless you repent."
In these two verses we see God referring to them in the form of "you" or "your" seven times. Why? Their error and the error of the people of Judah was because sin is always a manifestation of unbelief.
You see when in despair, the temptation is to blame the external things that we think are causing our fatigue and fear. But the truth is that the cause is the breach in our lives of a lack of faith in God.
Now bear with me here. I want you to just listen to these words of Christ. I don't want you to turn there. But I'm going to read them out of John chapter 16 verse 33. I want us to look how Jesus bookends the promise of tribulation that will exist in our lives. He says these words.
"These things I have spoken to you that in me you may have peace." Well, I like it so far. I want all the peace I can get.
But then He goes on to say, "in the world you will have tribulation." That's a fact and a promise. You will have tribulation. I don't like that part so much.
But then He goes on to say, "but be of good cheer." Be of good cheer? Why? How can I possibly be of good cheer when you've just promised that I will have tribulation in this world?
And He concludes by saying, "because I have overcome the world." I've overcome the world. You have nothing to worry about. Why? Because faith in God dispels fear. You see, it's an airtight faith in Jesus that is the remedy for all of our fears.
I have a good friend who a couple of months ago, after spending his first few years in ministry, came to me to have a conversation because he's thinking of quitting the ministry. And he asked me a question. He said, Neil, you've worked here at Calvary for 22 years. You've been on the pastoral staff for almost 18 years. In learning how difficult ministry can be, how is it that you've not quit?
And I think I could have given him an answer, but I told him, let me think on that. And so I took about a week to think and pray about it and got back to him. And this was my answer.
It has to be simply this. That if you are called by God, you will be carried by God to the finish line of the task. I think of Pastor Skip, who for over 40 years in the pulpit leading this church has been so faithful in ministry and yet persevering now through to the end. He'll be the first to tell you that it's because God has called him, and he believes that God will carry him through to the end.
I think of many of my brothers and sisters. Nelson, over 40 years in ministry as well. How? Because God will carry you through everything that He has called you to.
But this begs the question, what about when we see people quit one thing and then take on another? Well, to that I would say Ecclesiastes chapter three tells us to everything there's a season, right.
Seasons change, assignments change. But this is the game changer. God has to be the one to be bringing about the change.
You see, it's one thing for your coach to declare when practice is over and you can hit the showers. It's a whole other thing for you to take it upon yourself and prematurely determine that your practice is over and you leave the playing field and your coach and your team behind. That, my friends, is a quitter.
You wait till our coach, the King of Kings, tells you it's time to move on. And a good word of wisdom that was given to me early on in my walk with Christ is you don't walk away from something unless God has already called you into something else. So never quit. Let God be the one who determines the changes in your life.
So when you're tempted to take matters into your own hands and quit, don't, don't. To say it plainly, it's in those moments that we need to repent of our faithlessness and trust in the Lord's promises.
It brings us to the third thing that they did, which is absolute genius, in my opinion. In the third part of verse 13, Nehemiah writes, "I set the people according to their families." Just picture the people at the dinner table deliberately placed around their family members in their households. And as they're looking in their faces, these are the people that they're accountable to.
Man, I can't tuck and run now. These people will know me as a quitter. These are also the very people that they love and they know need them. These are the people that they're responsible for. Man, if I leave, if I stop fighting now, who do they have?
And so it's absolute genius that he puts them in the midst of the people that they love and are accountable to and responsible for. And we'll consider this a little bit more before we close. But it takes us to our fourth consideration of what they did to battle their fatigue and fear.
And that was in the last part of verse 13, "I set the people with their swords, their spears, and their bows." Again, Christian, never forget that we're in a constant state of spiritual warfare while we're here on this side of heaven dwelling upon the earth. Again, we're either always fighting on offense or on defense for our souls and for the souls of those around us. So make certain that you have the Lord's weapons in you and on you.
Bounce with me back to Nehemiah chapter four down a few verses in verse 17 where we read, "As they got back to building the wall, those who built the wall and those who carried burdens, they loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked the construction and with the other hand they held a weapon. Man, that is one of my favorite verses in the entire Bible. I really dig that. Let's get to work and let's defend. Let's protect. Let's fight.
You see, for us as Christians, when we have in one hand those means of construction, that would be the tools of ministry. That might be this pulpit. That might be a guitar, that might be a microphone, that might be a bulletin that you're handing out on the weekend as people are coming in. Those are the equipment of ministry.
But our weapon as Christians is this, the Word of God, the sword of God. We want to make sure that as we're serving God we always have this in one hand. It's by the Word of God that we increase our faith. It's by the word of God that we endure. And so we must have these at our disposal at all times.
So now we find Judah is up off the mat. They're regrouped. They're now ready to work and to fight. Which brings us to our final consideration, the resource and a reason to remain resolute. And that is for King and country.
We find this in verse 14 where Nehemiah says, "Do not be afraid of your adversaries, but remember the Lord, the King." One of our greatest vulnerabilities to quitting amid fatigue and fear isn't when we're pushing the Lord aside or trying to ignore Him. It's much worse than that. It's when we're not even mindful that He's there at all.
We've forgotten the Lord as we're consumed by our obstacles, rather choosing to be lorded by fear and fatigue. And friend, I can tell you this. Fatigue and fear make poor masters. Jesus makes a much better master.
Now remembering the Lord in this sense, that's our can of spinach. Who here remembers the classic Popeye the Sailor Man cartoons? Right? Every episode at some point the antagonist, Bluto, was coming to try to take Popeye's lady, Olive. And at some point they engage in fisticuffs.
And Bluto is this big guy. And he started having the upper hand on Popeye, wailing on him. And at some point, Popeye realizes, I've got a can of spinach somewhere.
And so once he finds it, he squeezes it and that spinach just pops right into the air. And sometimes it went in through his pipe and he ingested it that way. Sometimes he puts his mouth out there and ingests it into his mouth.
And once that spinach is in him, boom, he's back. He's ready to fight. Remembering the Lord is our can of spinach.
You see, Nehemiah had this spinach in him the whole time. In the first part of verse nine we read as Nehemiah first considered his enemies he said, "nevertheless, we-- we made our prayer to God." He's referring to the leaders and the nobles perhaps praying to God in response to this.
But as we find out, they all began to chicken out. You see, Nehemiah was praying to God. He was believing every word he said. But the people were drawing near to the Lord with their lips, but it's obvious that their hearts were far from Him.
He says, "remember the Lord great and awesome." Remember God great in magnitude. There is no one great like our God, just like we sang about in the song right before our study tonight. Remember the Lord is awesome, as a holy terror, as the one to be respected. He's awesome in that when He's made a promise, we owe it to Him to respect Him enough to believe that He's going to make good on that promise.
Question. What does the word Judah mean when translated? Pastor Nelson Walker got it. "Praise." Judah, interestingly enough, means "praise."
So he said, "Remember the Lord great and awesome." Judah, praise Him for that. Judah, you're looking at the enemies and your obstacles, and you're looking at them saying they're great and awesome. But I'm here to tell you, they are not great and awesome. God alone is great and awesome. Get your eyes off your obstacles and back onto the Lord.
You see, a reigning reverence for God is the greatest cure for the fear of man and the fear of circumstance. Let me give you this perspective. Remember that the Lord has already, Christian, He's already taken care of the greatest challenge and obstacle that you will ever face. And that is the need for forgiveness for all of our sins.
Now if God can take care of the greatest obstacle and problem that we will ever have, that makes every other problem, challenge, obstacle that we'll ever encounter on this earth lesser than that greatest problem. And if He can take care of the biggest one, He can take care of all the rest. Never, ever forget that.
Christian, we don't have to fear the obstacles or the blows of the enemy, even when they are hurt. Remember these words from Jesus in Matthew chapter 10 verse 28. "Do not fear he who can destroy the body. But rather revere, fear, respect Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell."
Christian, we fight not for victory, we actually fight from victory. Remember the Lord. And that is where we fight for King.
But then we also fight for country. You see, if it's the right kind of remembrance of the Lord, it's going to lead to action. We're called to live out our faith and to walk by faith.
Nowhere in the scripture does it say veg out by faith. It says walk. And to walk is to advance. And that means if I truly believe, it's going to be shown in my actions. And that's exactly what the people begin to do. They take action.
Matthew Henry also said, "If we think to secure ourselves by prayer only without watchfulness, we are slothful and we tempt God. If by watchfulness without prayer, we are proud and we slight God. And either way, we forfeit His protection."
Friend, we fight for country. We fight for our family, our physical family and our spiritual family. And that's because our spiritual successes are not our successes alone. Those around us also benefit from them. But also our spiritual failures are not our spiritual failures alone. Those around us are also adversely affected by them, some even more than others.
God calls us to be responsible spiritually and physically for our physical family and for our spiritual family. I'm going to read this beautiful passage out of Romans chapter 12 verses 10 through 13 that just gives us some very practical ways of what God expects of us when it comes to caring for one another. And folks, you and I need to persevere for King and for every other person that's also sharing this air with us right now, those members of the body of Christ, our brothers and sisters in Christ.
In Romans chapter 12 verses 10 through 13, the Holy Spirit through Paul says, "To us as believers, be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love in honor giving preference to one another, not lagging in diligence, fervent in prayer, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer, distributing to the needs of the Saints, and given to hospitality." What a phenomenal blend of both spiritual and physical responsibilities and opportunities that we have with one another.
So we fight. So we persevere. So we do not quit for King and for country.
Why? Because the Lord is with you and because your family needs you. And your brethren, every man, woman, and child here with us tonight need you.
So I ask you this. How do you know, oh man, or how do you know, oh woman, if you, in fact, are not the next Nehemiah for your family? How do you know that you're not the next Nehemiah for your church? How do you know that perhaps on an even larger scale, you're not the next Nehemiah for God's broader kingdom? You're only going to know if you don't quit.
I want to read these words of commentators Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown about Nehemiah in this very season of his life. Where they write these words of Nehemiah, "God, when He has an important public work to do, He never fails to raise up the instruments for accomplishing it. And in the person of Nehemiah, who to great natural acuteness and energy, God added fervent piety and heroic devotion. He provided a leader whose high qualities fitted him for the demands of the crisis. Nehemiah's vigilance anticipated every difficulty, his prudent measures defeated every obstruction, and with a astonishing rapidity, this Jerusalem was made again a city fortified."
Christian, we must be a Christian fortified to have a family fortified to make up a church fortified so that we can be a spiritual country fortified by God, a people that will not be a reproach or a disgrace to God. A people that will reflect well upon our great God. A people in whom God will keep our walls standing and us as men and women standing in faith working, and fighting. We'll be a people whose enemies are defeated. And we'll be a people for whom God is magnified.
So friend, Christian, never quit on God's calling. Never tap out. Never give up for King and country.
Lord, we need you and all of you to persevere in the tasks in the callings that you've called us the. Lord, for some of us, we're lamenting things we've quit on in the past and we ask right now that you would restore the years that the locust has eaten. Lord, restore the things that our hands have destroyed. Restore the things that we have quit upon.
And Lord, be merciful and gracious to us. And please grant us yet another chance. And when given that chance, Lord, may we lay a hold of it in a way that we do not quit, we do not relent, we do not give up.
Because we remember you, God, who is with us. And we remember our family, our brethren who have need of us.
And so for this task, Lord, we ask that you would empower us by your Holy Spirit. And again as always, with great gratitude, we ask all of this in the name of the Lord of all, Jesus Christ. Amen.
What binds us together is devotion to worshipping our Heavenly Father, dedication to studying His Word, and determination to proclaim our eternal hope in Jesus Christ.
For more teachings from Calvary Albuquerque and Skip Heitzig, visit calvaryabq.org.