What are you building?
How are you using your talents to further the Kingdom of God?
Have you started something for God, only to not finish it for some reason? What got in the way?
If you’re like me, you’ve had lots of wonderful ideas of things you’d like to do for God, maybe even done a number of them. But for many people, your spiritual to-do list looks more like a hoped-for “bucket list” than a resume of accomplishments. Even when God tells us what should be on our lists, we sometimes fail to persevere and finish the tasks. Why is that?
Sometimes, as we saw from Nehemiah last week, discouragement sets in. The first attack of the enemy against the one who planned to rebuild the wall was an assault on the mind so strong that it had the ability to incapacitate many of the Jews. The exiles who had already returned to Jerusalem were stuck in a sort of “paralysis,” able to see no farther than the problem, which was rubbish, and a lot of it. (See Nehemiah 2:13-14 & 4:10.)
When Nehemiah entered Jerusalem after the siege, he dealt with the same disillusionment, but a little bit differently. He didn’t let discouragement stop him from building.
Because we have a word from the Lord this year to not let the enemy discourage us, we can be assured of two things. One: in this time of building and expansion of the Kingdom of God, wherever you are and whatever you are called to do, the enemy will try to discourage you! And two: God has given us the ability and power to overcome every discouraging attack.
A Real-Life Example
I saw this happen in my own life this week. As I began writing this series on overcoming obstacles to spiritual growth, a number of other “pressing” issues popped up suddenly in my life. Taken individually, they seemed “normal,” the stuff of everyday life that must be dealt with. Taken together, they were a carefully-planned attack of the enemy to stop me from building.
At the same time I was writing about warfare, I was also investing in another local ministry, planning a regional, multi-church event to raise awareness and support for anti-trafficking. (The event happens next Tuesday night, and you can read more about it here.)
If you’ve been a Christian for long, you know that the enemy hates it when believers begin “setting the captives free.” Nehemiah 6:8 says the enemy was “deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel.” (Nehemiah 2:10, NKJV).
I had decided to help build the Kingdom of God, and almost immediately the devil decided that was not going to happen! He unleashed an assault on my mind that I have never experienced before.
For several days, every positive thought I could think was immediately countered by another, negative thought. The devil attacked my marriage, brought up old insecurities, and highlighted my weaknesses for me, just in case I had forgotten I had them!
His attack culminated when I made an announcement in church about the trafficking event. Just as he did with Nehemiah, once I announced the “building” I intended to do, he scorned me. The moment I returned to my seat, negative thoughts began swirling in my head about how “inadequate” that announcement had been. “You were hardly in the Spirit,” I heard the enemy say to me. “You haven’t been in the Spirit for days! You didn’t motivate a single person to join you in the fight against human trafficking. How pathetic!” (Sound like Sanballat and Tobias to you?)
Never mind that several people approached me after the service to say how happy they were that this event was taking place, and mentioned their willingness to contribute support to the cause. (One sweet lady wanted to coordinate a carpool to bring everyone she could with her!) The lies and mockery in my mind were far louder than the external encouragement of my brothers and sisters.
I woke up the next morning feeling –dare I say this – depressed. I had a ton of work to do on the upcoming event, and this post to write, and I wanted to do exactly none of it. Frustrated, I rolled over and went back to sleep. At least then I wouldn’t have to listen to my overworked mind!
Don't Play Dead!
I don’t get depressed often, and one of the things I learned from this experience is that when the enemy pulls you into a pit, there really isn’t much anyone else can say to convince you that he’s the liar. In my case, I knew this was an attack, but honestly, negative thoughts were coming at me so fast I could hardly keep up with them, let alone “take every thought captive.” I felt overwhelmed.
It is this type of onslaught that makes you want to just lie down and play dead. You hope that if you back off, the enemy will go away. And he might, for a time, but I guarantee you, he’ll come back. He’s just waiting for the next “opportune time.” (See Luke 4:13.) The only way to deal with this type of attack is to persevere: to stand back up when you fall and fight the enemy with the truth.
So what did I do?
I started with the practical. I ruled out bad eating habits, grabbed a piece of fruit, and high-tailed it to the gym, to make sure that I was still taking care of my physical body. On the way, I called my prayer partner and gave her a brutally-honest rundown of the last few days, asking her to step up her prayers for me. She listened and then she prayed – and I know she did, because when we hung up, my whole day turned around for the better.
On the treadmill now, I pulled out my phone and opened up my Bible app. Now here’s the good part: “randomly,” (or so I thought), I chose a short Psalm to memorize as I worked out. After all, when the enemy attacked Jesus He counter-attacked with Scripture, right? Since the enemy was bugging the heck out of me, I decided to double up on Scripture and make him sick of me, too!
I noticed, in the midst of this, that I had a text from my prayer partner. It was something she had sent prior to my call, which I had missed. Guess what scripture she sent me? The same one I was “randomly” memorizing! Wow! What a confirmation!
I was walking faster now, gaining speed and spiritual strength as I worked out my body and spirit simultaneously. I knew God was working behind the scenes to support me. It was a pathetic lie that I was “not in the Spirit for days,” I told myself. The Spirit of God lives in me all the time! By the time I left the gym, I was on fire, quoting that scripture at the devil over and over until my mind couldn’t think of anything BUT the goodness of God!
My to-do list was bulging with tasks, but after a quick lunch I dove headfirst into that list and began making phone calls, publicizing next week’s event, and praying for the speakers and for my planning team. I could feel the prayers of my friend supporting me. By the end of the day, I had done MORE than the tasks on my list, had some fantastic conversations with people, and was absolutely convinced that God had dealt a blow to the enemy, simply because I’d persevered.
Which brings me to my last point. The second strategy God gave us for this year is to focus on building and to persevere. (To read the full prophetic word, click here.)
You might remember that after the mockery, Sanballat, Tobias, and the Arab plotted to kill the Jews who were building, saying “They will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease.” Even the Jews told Nehemiah, “From whatever place you turn, they will be upon us.” (Nehemiah 4:11-12, NKJV.) Doesn’t this sound a little bit like the relentless attacks the enemy uses on our minds sometimes?
Nehemiah’s solution was to position half of the builders at work on the wall, and the other half to hold “the spears, the shields, the bows, and… armor.” (Nehemiah 4:16, NKJV.) He positioned them by families, making sure to cover the “lower parts of the wall, at the openings.” (Nehemiah 4:13, NKJV.)
The biblical strategy here is exactly the strategy I used when the enemy attacked my mind this week. I was busy “building” this week, and I needed a member of my spiritual family (my prayer partner) to guard me, wielding shield and spear if necessary, in prayer as I worked. When she took on the heavier warfare in prayer, my burden was lightened and I worked much more efficiently (I even finished this blog post today, which was unexpected!) She covered my “weak spots,” or “openings,” where the enemy was gaining access to my mind, and I focused on building and persevering. Together, we built the Kingdom “wall” just a little bit higher.
I want to stress that at no time does the builder put down his own weapon. I still had to use my own sword (the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God I memorized and spoke against the enemy), just as the workers in Nehemiah “worked at construction” with one hand and with the other “held a weapon.” (Nehemiah 4:17, NKJV.) But being in a “family relationship” enabled me to build more effectively, and I trust that at some point in the future, when my prayer partner is working on something God calls her to build, I will hold the shields and be her armor-bearer in return.
If you’re still with me here, please take to heart what I am saying. I may write about strategies and victories, but I struggle just like the rest of you because we share a common enemy. 1 Peter 5:9 encourages us: “Resist (the devil), steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”
There is a strange comfort in knowing that what we experience, we experience together. No matter how far away from you I live, I can still pray for you, because the Spirit of God knows no limits. And I do pray. I pray that when the enemy comes in like a flood – even if only in your mind, you will still “have a mind to work” like Nehemiah’s servants (4:6), and will persevere together with your spiritual family and friends, laboring diligently to bear fruit in the Kingdom of God. You are dear to me. Building the Kingdom is important to me. And despite all the taunts, plots, and mockery of the enemy, we can do this. Together.
© Deborah Perkins / www.HisInscriptions.com
Deborah Perkins is an author and the founder of His Inscripitions, an online ministry devoted to discipling believers in life-giving communication with God. A worshiper, prayer warrior, and ministry leader for over 25 years, she enjoys helping others grow in their faith. For speaking engagements, or to contact her directly, click here.
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.