“FACING CRUSHING CHALLENGES”                      By Pastor YAU

Text: Nehemiah 4:1-15                                  New Year, January 6, 2007

 

INTRODUCTION:

1)   A president’s challenge: When the outcome of WW II was in an uncertain situation, Franklin Roosevelt suddenly died and Harry Truman was sworn in as the next president of the United States. At the press conference the next day, President Truman told reporters, “When they told me yesterday what had happened, I felt like the moon and stars and all the planets had fallen on me.” Certainly Truman faced challenges of the uncertain future of a war and a nation just trying to recover from a historic recession. We all can understand the challenges he faced as a war-time president.

2)   A governor’s challenge: Nehemiah was appointed governor of Judea when he and many of the Jews were allowed to return from Babylon to Judea, their homeland. He was given the task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Amid terrible oppositions and ridicules, he refused to be intimidated by the jeers and the threats of the enemies. Instead, he organized a dual team of construction and a military defense. He also covered his task and all his people under the protection of God with their prayers. Eventually the walls were built and the City of Jerusalem and its people were protected from invaders.

 

WHY CHALLENGES?

1)   Life is always challenging:  Even to those who were born with silver spoons in their mouths, life is never meant to be easy much less on the commons. Since the Great Fall of Adam and Eve, God had pronounced curse on the planet earth and ever since, suffering, hard labor and pain are integral parts of human life. (Genesis 3:16-19)As part of the punishments for the sins of Adam and Eve, men have been facing mounting difficulties and challenges in all facets of life from natural disasters to environmental hardships, from diseases to violence by vicious beasts and mankind. Men also suffer breaking of relationships, betrayal and confrontations. No one in history will say life is an easy journey. Challenge is part of real life. The history of man is a record of winning or losing in facing challenges. This is true to individuals or to nations.

2)   Man is never omnipotent: Omnipotence means all able, lacking of nothing. In many cases, man is weak, unstable, inconsistent and short in many things. From physical power to night vision, from emotions to survival skills in the natural world, man is both fragile vulnerable and defenseless. Challenges come to man from all sides. Human history is a history of wars, suffering and destruction. Few times in human history we see prosperity, peace and easy life. With all the progress we have made in Science, technology, medicine and material creation and possession, there are so many challenges man can’t do a thing to subdue, much less to conquer.

3)   The world is ever changing: According to a recent release from an American dictionary publisher, the most important creation of new words in 2007 is “wOOt.” If you don’t know what it means, you are not the only one. The rules of games, the norms of society and proper behavior and the value of life are changing everyday. What we used to value and believe to be good and important, right and virtuous just a few decades ago is no longer true to many if not all. Changes are everywhere, from homes to society, from schools to work place and to government and churches. With all the changes, we face more challenges in all facets of life than our parents or grandparents did.

4)   Then the unexpected: Unexpected events in life brings us surprises. They also bring us challenges just as Truman faced the unexpected death of Roosevelt and was pushed to be the president. We are lot more comfortable to handle routines in familiar turf. We are less prepared to face unexpected situations that inevitably brings us challenges we never dream have to face. In almost all cases, we have no choice but to face those unexpected challenges and many times, they are never easy.

 

THE FACES OF CHALLENGES:

1)   Challenges are never easy: If they were easy, we won’t call them challenges. They are challenges because they put us in difficulty situations. Most challenges bring us into unfamiliar situation with little preparation. Some of them may create adverse condition we don’t like to see much less to overcome. Many stumbled in the face of challenges because they have never been prepared to face.

2)   Challenges are uninvited guests: If we had asked for them, we may be more prepared for them. But in most cases, challenges come to us without being invited. Moses never asked to lead the Israelis to get out of Egypt. It was God who initiated the call and put Moses right there with all the challenges of carrying His job. In other times, challenges come to us because of situation in which we have no control. Other times it may be the results of actions of people or the development of things. In some cases, challenges come to us because of our choice or decision. We made a bad choice it brings us into a challenging situation. We ask for it and we have to face it.

3)   Challenges create opportunities: If President Roosevelt didn’t die in the midst of a war, Truman won’t have to face the challenges of a war-time presidency. On the other hand, the challenging situation created the opportunity for him to handle the war in a way that put America on the winning side. Peaceful times seldom help to make heroes. It is in those challenging times, many of us will stretch so thin and far to our maximum capacity that we see the best of us.

4)   Challenges are mostly neutral: Most challenges are neutral: they are neither good nor bad by themselves. It is the way we handle them and the outcome of them that determine their nature. Those who are brave, determined and work hard to face them will turn out stronger, better, more learned and are better equipped to handle future tougher changes. Those who are intimidated, overwhelmed, scared and try to run away from them will render ineffective, less useful or ultimately losers. Read the parable of the “Talents” in Matthew 25:14-30 and you will get a clear picture how challenges make or break people.

 

HOW TO HANDLE CHALLENGES? No one may list all the ways on how to handle challenges the best way we know. But looking at how Governor Nehemiah handled his challenges successfully, we may catch a glimpse on his strategy and learn some basic principles on this subject.

1)    Head on with prayers: (4:4-5) Facing the jeers, anger and ridicule of their enemies, the first thing Nehemiah did was “to approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)This was the time he needed God that most and he did just that in prayer asking God to be his defender and strength to face the challenges. If you feel weak, overwhelmed and inadequate facing challenges, you need to come to God for help to face the situation. Nehemiah did not just pray to God himself he also solicited prayer support of his people. (4:9)Corporate prayer is most powerful to face crushing challenges. See the promise of Jesus. (Matthew 18:19)

2)    “Know your enemy, know yourself”: This is the most popular sentence in the Sun-Tse “Military strategies.” Copies of English version are available at Hastings. Nehemiah knew the plots of his enemies and the strength/weakness of his people. (4:7-11)If we want to face challenges and win, we need to know the nature, size and the weight of them and the potential of our strength. Diligent work and accurate knowledge are important to handle challenges and win. To ignore your challenge will not keep them away. To have unrealistic confidence of yourself will not give you power to win over challenges. You need to spend time to learn to know and to strategize, to plan then you may handle them well and win.

3)    Assemble all the supports: Nehemiah had the support of his people. They brought him intelligence. (v. 12-13) He also had the support of military specialists. They armed themselves to protect the workers who built the walls. He had a broad base of support of all the tribes. He also had a good strategy in organizing people with specific duties. Do not face challenges alone by yourself. There are people you may ask to help you, to work with you, to contribute their special talents you need to handle challenge and bring results.

4)    Build confidence and courage: Facing challenges in an extended period of time can be difficult because we can be worn out in hope and courage. Nehemiah was good on this. He kept looked things over and stood up to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people. He told them “not to be afraid. Remember the Lord who is great and awesome. Fight for your brothers, your sons and daughter, your wives and your home.” (4:14)Bring them close to God and to you. Give them a good reason and purpose to stand by you and fight with you to win. Look after their benefits and needs. Delegate specific responsibilities to allies. Keep their courage high and hope clear. If we lose heart, we lose the battle.

 

CONCLUSION:

1)       Are you ready for the New Year? New Year certainly brings new opportunities. But it may also bring new challenges. Are you ready for that? Will you face the New Year with new approach, new strategy and new hope for a better year? What can you do to prepare yourself for the challenges in the New Year? Don’t just sit there and wait hopelessly. Do something to equip yourself so you may face challenges with confidence.

2)       What are your arsenals?  Sit down and make a list of all the helps you may get: family, friends, church and above all God. Begin to build close relationships with all these people because you certainly will need them to help you face challenges in the New Year and win good results. Do not be afraid of challenges. See them as opportunities. Handling them properly, you may bring yourself to a higher level to fulfill the purpose of God in your life.

3)       Facing the challenge of God: The most important challenge you face is God’s call to you for your salvation and live your life with his purpose. You have lived your life your way for too long. Now is the time to make that change: Surrender your life to God. Ask Jesus to come into your heart and follow His direction. You will have all the power to face any challenge you may face in the year to come.