A Godly Leader Has Courage (Nehemiah 4)


(This is blog 4 in a series of blogs about leadership lessons from the life of Nehemiah.  If you missed the previous blogs, you can email me at jerry@schmoyer.net)

When I was younger, I thought that if I was doing what God wanted and doing it God’s way then God would bless the work and it would go ahead with great success. I soon found that isn’t true. I’m sure you have found the same thing. In fact, when we are doing God’s will God’s way, we often get more opposition. The world, the flesh, and Satan and his forces oppose what we do in any way they can.

Nehemiah experienced that as well. The foreigners living nearby, under the leadership of Sanballat, strongly opposed the rebuilding of Jerusalem.  They dominated the Jews and took advantage of their broken-down walls.  They became rich while keeping the Jews poor. When the work on the wall began, they mocked the builders and threatened to kill them and destroy their work (Nehemiah 4:1-14). A godly leader must be able to handle opposition and criticism. There will be ridicule and even threats.

What was Nehemiah’s response? He didn’t let fear rule, instead he prayed twice for peace, protection and wisdom (Nehemiah 4:4-5, 9).  When we face these things, we must take them to God in prayer and listen to His encouragement and guidance about what to do (James 1:5).  Don’t expect God to always remove them, for sometimes He has a different plan. For Nehemiah, God didn’t stop or remove the opposition.  He allowed it to continue so the people would trust Him more and see His protection and provision. He does the same with us today.

Nehemiah trusted God and prayed, but he also armed his workers to protect themselves (Nehemiah 4:9). He had them keep working, but also carry weapons with them (Nehemiah 4:15-23). We must pray as if everything depends on God, but also work as if everything depends on us. Use common sense and defend yourself when necessary, but keep doing what God wants you to do. Don’t give in to fear or discouragement.  Opposition will come. A godly leader is ready for it and keeps moving ahead.

How do you handle opposition to your ministry? Do you expect God to always prevent it from happening? Are you faithful in praying about every aspect of your ministry and life? Do you do your very best to handle each situation that arises?

While the people were busy rebuilding the walls and defending themselves against possible attack, the crops were neglected, so there wasn’t enough food when harvest came. The people were starving and unable to get food. Those with money loaned it to the poor, but at very high rates, taking advantage of them and their hunger. Many had to sell some of their children into slavery so the whole family didn’t die of starvation. This bothered Nehemiah very much. He vowed to stop the practice (Nehemiah 5:10-13) and he did.

We will face times when rich and powerful people take advantage of the weak and poor. A godly leader must stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. That is what Jesus did, and we must follow His example. Pray for wisdom in how to handle the situation. Ask for advice.  Take time to think it through. Then, with God’s help, do what must be done to make things right.

Nehemiah confronted the rich and powerful Jews and made them give back what they had unfairly taken. It took courage to do that, for these were the people who controlled the city. Nehemiah needed their support to continue improving Jerusalem. It takes courage to be a godly leader. Doing the right thing is often doing the hard thing. Opposing greed and oppression in the rich and powerful is not easy, but it is important.  Many leaders give in those who oppose them in order to keep the peace, but that is compromising with sin, and God is never pleased with that. Always do what is right, no matter the cost.  Jesus commands it (Matthew 25:34-46; James 1:27).

Do you have courage to defend the helpless and stand against those who oppress them? How do you handle the fear that comes from making enemies when you do what Jesus would do? Think of a time you compromised instead of taking a stand. Was it worth compromising what is right? What should you do next time? Who do you know who you can start helping?


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