The Labor Day Christian

Bible Book: Nehemiah  2 : 17-20
Subject: Ridicule; Criticism; Work for the Master

The Labor Day Christian

Dr. J. Mike Minnix
Introduction

As we come to Labor Day, I want us to think about our work for the Lord. How do we keep on keeping on when the devil is doing all he can to defeat us? Certainly there is a evil plan to get God's people to give up and give in to the world's thoughts and ways. There is only so much time in a day and the use mobile devices, televisions with 300 channels to watch, sports activities, chores and employment, make it difficult for us to reach those who are uncommitted to take any time for spiritual development and service to God. Far too many Christians wear themselves out on worldly activities and give only leftovers to the Lord. Recently, I have heard a number of pastors talking about how difficult is has become to get people to take positions of leadership and labor in the local church. The faithful few are become even fewer in number, and they are wearing themselves out because so many who claim to know the Lord are AWOL when it comes to serving Jesus faithfully. This ought not to be! The songwriter penned,

"Let us labor for the master
From the dawn to setting sun."

Add to this issue of absentee workers in the kingdom of God the problem many Christians are facing today related to the rejection by the world of the Christian message. Though we don't face fierce opposition to the gospel in America, there is an increasing institutionalized bitterness toward Christians and the local church. Any believer without a deep commitment to Christ can easily be marginalized and silenced by the world. An acceptance of behavior once considered for dark alleys and back rooms is used to condemn the faithful Christian by calling him or her a a prude, or bigot, or a nerd. Those not truly committed to the Lord are easily silenced and give a nod to the world's standards rather than endure the assault upon them by the world.

We read in 2 Timothy 3:12, "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." Are you being persecuted? Does anyone make fun of you, avoid you, mock you, scorn you and seek to discourage you in God's work? If not, you need to look at your life, because every one of us who truly seeks to live a godly life will be set upon by the world to some degree. That does not mean that we will be beaten, arrested or have rocks thrown at us, but it does mean that some people will avoid us, will be critical of our faith, or will mock us in order to keep us from doing the work God has given to us. It means the business man who keeps a Bible on his desk in full view of business associates will have people look at him askance and talk about him behind his back. It means that the student will have a professor who laughs at the student’s faith in the Bible and his Christian view of morality and science. It means that some people at school will avoid you and may even make fun of you because you dare to live for Jesus.

This issue raises the question, “How do you stand up when the world is attempting to put you down?” You need to know that one of the chief ways Satan seeks to stop the work of God is through ridicule or sarcasm. This tool of the devil espeically affects young people since they want to fit in and are always under pressure from their peers to do so, but it also works on adults in the work place, among friends and in the culture in general. Peter referred to believers in his day as "strangers," and that is an excellent description of us. The Christian is an ambassador in for Christ in this world, for we are not really at home here. We belong to God's kingdom and our way of life seems strange to those in the world. In the end, the believer has to determine whether he wants to please God or please the world! Sadly, many are choosing the latter rather than the former.

Let me read to you a little of what I read in the paper this afternoon. Now, if you were here this morning, you know that I spoke on creation, and I spoke about the Big Bang Theory of creation. When I went home this afternoon and opened the Sunday Atlanta Journal Constitution, I read this article about that very subject. Listen as I read what one scientist said about those who believe in divine creation. (Article Lost, but it basically ridiculed and demeaned those who believe in biblical creation.)

You see, the devil wants to keep you from being a standup, speak-out, all-in believer. Tonight we are going to look at the way we must approach this area of our Christian life in this generation.

Let’s look at Nehemiah 2:17ff. Note that when God has aided the people in developing  a plan to rebuild the wall in Jerusalem, a group of people surrounding them began to laugh at them and oppose the work. Everyone is either building up the kingdom of God or they are tearing down God’s work. It was no different long, long ago than it is today. When you seek to serve God, people will laugh at you and do everything they can to discourage you in your labor for Him. What can we do when we are treated this way by the world? How can the Christian worker stay true to the Lord and the task He has given?

I. We Can Think Biblically

A. Think about the People of Ridicule

Those ridiculing God’s people in our text today were enemies of God and God's work. Sometimes it is good for us to be ridiculed, for it displays the fact that we are standing for our Lord in a world that hates God. It has been said that a person is known by the company he keeps or the friends he has, but we can also be known by the enemies we obtain.

Certainly we are living today in a time when Christianty is mocked and portrayed in a demeaning manner. Just think for a moment about the last time in recent history that you’ve seen a Christian portrayed on television or in a movie as a wise, trustworthy and intelligent individual. Our entire faith is under attack and the world is doing all it can to make people hesitant to even step foot in a church. This will continue and may even get worse in the days to come. The people of ridicule are at work in this generation and have been in every generation. If you think biblically you will see the ridicule of the world in every Bible book and to some degree against every Bible character, including our Lord, Himself. Serving the Lord faithfully requires a faith that does not blink in the face of rejection by the world.

B. Think about the Purpose of Ridicule

In our text tonight, we note that the purpose of the ridicule was to harm the progress of God’s people. The enemies of God worked in a way that had the potential of defeating God's people from completing the task at hand.

The reason the world makes light of our faith and attacks our integrity is to diminish our Lord's glory and work. Sometimes there are so-called Christian groups that create an atmosphere for ridicule. There is a church that uses the Baptist name to protest with signs cursing people to hell for any and all behavior. They are always prominently shown in television news stories and in newspapers around the country. When people see their behavior and the name “Baptist” on their church designation, they begin to think that we are all just like them. Satan uses these situations to damage us and to cause people to turn away from listening to the message of the love of Christ. True Christian labor and service demands a people who will not faint in the face of adament opponents.

C. Think of the Partnership of Ridicule

Nehemiah was a man of God, working with the people of God, to do the work of God. When you are treated badly or ostracized for your faith, remember the great company you are in. You are partners with those wonderful people of God who have gone before you in the service of the Lord. They did so while facing hardship and sometimes physical attacks but they completed the work the Lord gave them.

When Jesus arrived to raise a young girl from the dead, He was ridiculed. When He was arrested and crucified, He was mocked. James, Peter, Paul and every generation of the saints have been treated badly. If you are ever treated in a hateful manner for being a Christian, just be thankful for the partnership you have with Jesus and all those who suffered in the past. Hebrews 12 reminds us that we are surrounded by a great host of witnesses who stood faithfully in a former generation and we are now called upon to do just that in our generation. We can only be true to the work God has given us by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Jesus endured the cross, despising its shame. We must not allow anyone to shame us into laying down the cross our Lord has given us to carry in His work.

D. Think of the Payment for Ridicule
1. Positive Payment

The greater the ridicule by the world, the greater the reward for the saint. We read in Matthew 5:10-12, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

The Lord knows what you are going through and He takes note of your faithfulness in the midst of it. Frankly, few of us in America face true persecution, but there are those all over the world who risk their lives every day to be faithful to Christ. In the Middle East believers have been enslaved, robbed, and killed simply because they dared to believe upon Jesus. We ought to be ashamed here in the United States of America when we whine because somebody in church doesn’t treat us in a manner that we think we deserve. There are many Christians on the sidelines today because they got their feelings hurt when the church didn’t listen to their advice. Dear me, maybe we ought to raise up a monument for these poor souls! Seriously, how foolish it is to be offended by the simplest slight! Others came before us and suffered for Christ in ways we cannot imagine, and today around the world many are dying at the hands of the enemies of our Lord. God help us to rise above petty issues and lame excuses for not serving our Lord faithfully. Rise up, dear people of God and lay aside every weight and the sin that easily besets you and run the race for Christ. Greater than the suffering of all those who trust in Christ, is the suffering our precious Lord endured at Calvary for us. He that was without sin became sin for us. He bore the fiery judgment of God, a judgment that we deserved, and became sin for us.  Remembering what Jesus suffered for us can prompt us to a higher level of devotion, and it can bring us to a willingness to suffer any insult for Him, however great or small. The Lord will one day reward those who stand for Him in this world!

2. Negative Payment

Look at Proverbs 3:34 which reads, "He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.” Again we read in Proverbs 19:29, “Penalties are prepared for mockers, and beatings for the backs of fools."

One day God will bring about a judgment against those who persecuted His people. Our duty is not to avoid hardship but to endure hardship as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. Just as God keeps a record of your faithfulness, He knows and will remember those who threw up barriers in the path of God’s faithful people. Leave the judgment of these things with God, and go on clad in the armor of the Lord with a faithful heart as a loyal servant of Christ.

So, we can think biblically about the issue of mockers, but notice also…

II. We Can Pray Faithfully

Note in Nehemiah chapter 4 that the people faithfully prayed to God. Know this, we can never substitute prayer for work, but just as important is the fact that we must never substitute work for prayer! Without God we can do nothing! We must pray and stay close to our Master if we expect to be faithful when the pressure is placed upon us from the world.

Notice in our text that the believers prayed for the people who mocked them to receive exactly what the mockers were wishing upon God’s people. In other words, they prayed that God would do unto their enemies as their enemies would do unto them. If their enemies changed in attitude, they wanted God to change His attitude and bless them. But, if their enemies persisted in seeking to stop God's work, they were praying that God would stop the enemies work. These Old Testament believers were not being hateful, they were just praying for God to bless His own work by protecting and honoring the workers to complete what He had planned for them. We are to love our enemies, but that does not mean that we cease God's work in the face of opposition. We are to pray for God to clear a path for us so we can accomplish all he has given us to do. It is His work and we are His people. We cannot do His work with His power, so it is essential that we pray to Him and depend on Him in the face of opposition from the world.

Some years ago I pastored a church that needed additional parking space, and it just happened that a piece of land adjacent to us was unoccupied. One of our men who knew the family approached the owner about selling it to us. The owner revealed that he and his brothers and sisters had inherited the land and didn’t intend to sell it. The church member reported back to us that we might as well give up on that spot for parking. I asked the men in our church to take some time and pray about the matter. We did so, and the church member finally called back and asked again if the family might sell us the property. The answer was negative, they did not intend to sell the land to a church. I pleaded with the men to keep praying, though some of them gave up on the idea. Then, what some seemed impossible happened. The man speaking for the entire family called us and said that they had changed their minds and were ready to sell us the land. They even reduced the price they might have gotten for it! No matter the attitude of people around us, we must trust God and pray. Don't take the world's rejection as the final word on any matter. God may not come through at the moment you think or wish, but He always comes through at just the right time for those who trust Him!

III. We Can Work Diligently

"So built we the wall,” the Bible states. Nehemiah and the people continued to work in the midst of a mocking, hateful enemy. In the face of great discouragement they built the wall. With hostilities all around them, they built the wall. Through the laughter of their enemies, they built the wall. In the hot moments of threat, they built the wall. Stay busy for Jesus! Keep on doing what God has given you to do.

We can work, if we think biblically and pray faithfully. But thinking and praying will not complete the work alone. God has called us to be workers in the vineyard. He has called us to be faithful in the work He has given us.

Work is a word some people find offensive! Seriously, they think that church work ought to be fuzzy and sweet. Listen carefully, Satan is going to oppose us in all we do. He will produce enemies on every side to dissuade us, discourage us and defeat us, but He that is with us is great than he that is in the world. Keep on working. Don't give up when some people sit on the sidelines. Don't become discouarged when people put obstacles in your way. Keep on working for Jesus!

The songwriter penned,

“Work, for the night is coming,
Work through the morning hours;
Work while the dew is sparkling,
Work ’mid springing flowers;
Work when the day grows brighter,
Work in the glowing sun;
Work, for the night is coming,
When man’s work is done."
"Work, for the night is coming,
Work through the sunny noon;
Fill brightest hours with labor,
Rest comes sure and soon.
Give every flying minute,
Something to keep in store;
Work, for the night is coming,
When man works no more."
"Work, for the night is coming,
Under the sunset skies;
While their bright tints are glowing,
Work, for daylight flies.
Work till the last beam fadeth,
Fadeth to shine no more;
Work, while the night is darkening,
When man’s work is o’er." (Anna L. Coghill, 1854)

Conclusion

Do you ever become discouraged? Sure you do. I’ve never known a preacher that didn’t become discouraged at some point, or a church member that worked on forever without fainting spells. The great servants, in the end, never give up in the God's great work. Let us never give up, back up, let up or shut up till God takes us up! One day we will be home with Him and He will dry every tear from our eyes. The devil is always seeking to interrupt our work for Jesus. Let us keep our minds saturated with Bible truth, our souls bathed in prayer, and our hands on the plow, not looking back, till Jesus comes for us. One day, the work will end – till that time, let us be found on duty and faithful to our Lord. For the Christian, every day is labor day till Jesus comes to take us home.