Inside: Nehemiah faced fierce opposition when rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. We can learn from him to equip us to live out our calling when others aren’t supportive of us.
Note: This article is part of a series, “Why You Aren’t Living Out Your Calling.” While many consider “calling” and “purpose” to be the same, I think there’s a distinction for the Christian. Each of us has the same purpose: to love and glorify God. However, since we’ve all been gifted with different spiritual gifts at different times (1 Corinthians 12), we all have our own calling(s) from the Lord.
Why you aren’t living out your calling: You’re listening to others instead of God
If you’re unfamiliar with the story of Nehemiah, he was a cupbearer to the King of Persia and felt moved by God to leave his position to lead the rebuilding of the temple.
How Nehemiah handled his calling from God is to be admired and shows us how to live out our calling. What Nehemiah faced when being obedient was a lot of pushback and bullying from others.
Why We can relate to Nehemiah
Interestingly, Nehemiah’s story is one that we don’t see that God talked to Nehemiah and confirmed his calling. Sometimes it’s easy to brush off stories from the Bible because God audibly talks to them. Nehemiah felt the calling on his heart and spoke to God every step of the way. His story is one we can relate to when it comes to facing opposition to your passion.
We Can Learn How to Handle Opposition to our Calling From Nehemiah
If you feel God has called you to something, but fear of what others say stops you from living out your full potential, see how Nehemiah’s story unfolds.
When Nehemiah heard the destruction of the walls of Jerusalem, he was heartbroken. The first thing he did was pray and take it to God.
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Nehemiah 1:4
In his prayer, he confessed sins and asked for courage.
Give Everything you have
When God laid rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem on his heart, Nehemiah used what he had: influence with the King.
In ancient times, being a cupbearer was considered to be reasonably high-ranking in the royal courts. The King trusted them because they were required to drink anything offered to the King to ensure it wasn’t poison. It doesn’t mean, however, that the cupbearer was in a casual relationship with the King. On the contrary, cupbearers were servants of the King, and at many times, they were frightened of the King.
This is important to keep in mind when we see Nehemiah ask the King for permission to leave his service to rebuild the wall. Nehemiah prayed to God when the King asked why he was downcast. The King’s servants were often required to be happy around them or else possibly face death.
After praying, Nehemiah petitioned the King and asked if he could go to Jerusalem and when the King agreed, Nehemiah was brave and asked for more. And he received it:
So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the King's letters. The King had also sent army officers and cavalry with me. Nehemiah 2:9
What’s more, Nehemiah left his secure job and home for 12 years to accomplish what was on his heart.
We don’t know what God will ask of us until we say yes to His call.
Don’t Let Opposition Stop You
Early on, Nehemiah began to face backlash to his mission from high-ranking officials. They began to mock and ridicule Nehemiah’s team and efforts.
The harassment didn’t stop Nehemiah. Instead, his response was to put it in God’s hands.
I answered them by saying, "The God of heaven will give us success.." Nehemiah 2:20a
As the insults and naysayers increased in number and threats, Nehemiah prayed to God.
Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders. Nehemiah 4:4-5
When you face opposition to something important to you, do you turn to God or listen to others and let them dictate your steps?
Take a Defensive not Offensive Position
As work continued on the wall, threats turned into enemies plotting to fight the workers of Nehemiah’s team. As a result, Nehemiah’s team began to lose heart.
At this point, Nehemiah didn’t fight back or entertain his enemies. Instead, he prayed to God, encouraged his workers, and took a defensive stance so work could continue. He stationed guards by the wall, and many worked with one hand and a spear in the other hand.
Nehemiah didn’t stop and question God if it was supposed to be this hard. He didn’t ask God if he misunderstood his assignment. He kept building.
There’s no doubt we will face opposition when we are obedient to God’s call. Some of us may even receive nasty comments and threats. But don’t let it slow you down.
Pray for what you need
Near the end of the wall building, more threats came to try to turn Nehemiah’s people against him.
Nehemiah recognized the statements were lies and not of God. He responded as such then he prayed for what he needed to finish his task.
They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, "Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed." But I prayed, "Now strengthen my hands." Nehemiah 6:9
Give credit where it’s due
When the wall was complete, Nehemiah gave credit to God.
When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God. Nehemiah 6:16
Nehemiah was confident in his calling and trusted God to see it through to the end.
Your Wall of Opposition
Maybe your calling feels like an insurmountable wall with critics at every turn.
Be faithful to your calling like Nehemiah: pray, give it all you’ve got, ignore critics, act on the defensive, and give the glory to God.
Our success as Christians is obedience to God.