This is part 7 of 7 in a series about Nehemiah.
When you have made significant progress in God’s work, the enemy will have no choice but to do his worst to stop you. After suffering through culture shock, mastering the local language, and building a network of locals to regularly love and serve, B4Ters often find the evil one will try to discourage them, make them homesick, make them sick (as happened to me), distract them with Netflix, or wage outright character assassination (as we have seen among several B4Ters in different regions in the past five years).
A New Phase
We find in Nehemiah 6 that the work has moved into a new phase. The wall is almost complete (6:1), so it becomes essentially impossible for the enemies to stop the work by normal threat of force. They change tact and go after Nehemiah’s leadership on three levels:
- Distraction. Sanballat and Geshem sent for Nehemiah to meet them away from Jerusalem. Nehemiah detected their intentions but didn’t deny their request solely on that knowledge. More importantly, he chose to stay focused on the work (6:3). Dealing with them could have become a distraction, and like a good role model for us, he chose not to focus on the work of the evil one but rather on the work of God.
- Character Assassination. When that didn’t work, they resorted to character assassination. In those days, letters were written and then wax was heated and pressed to seal the letter with a signet. That way, the intended reader would know if anyone had broken the seal and read it – so the message bearer would be at fault. After four attempts to get Nehemiah to come down to Hakkephirim, Sanballat sent an “open” letter – which meant there was no seal – and was intended to threaten Nehemiah that anyone could read this letter and let the gossip chain flow freely. Part of the threat was pure fear (be afraid that the king will come after you because you are perceived to be rebelling) but part of the threat was intended to cause rebellion against Nehemiah: “Don’t follow him, he’s just in it to be set up as king himself” 6:7). If his motives were seriously cast into doubt, his governorship could be in question. Fortunately, Nehemiah had used his best counter-weapon already: he had lived above reproach. Nehemiah realized they wanted to frighten him and responded, “But now, O God, strengthen my hands” (6:9). He asked God to keep him focused and protect him.
- Reputation Smashing. As a last-ditch effort, they tried to convince Nehemiah to do something that would damage his own reputation. A false prophet told him to take shelter in the temple because “they are coming to kill you by night” (6:10). If Nehemiah didn’t know the Word of God, this would be easy to fall for. But he did know the Word—that no one except priests and support staff should enter the temple (6:11). Nehemiah refused to listen. He remained focused on God’s plan, unyielding to temptation and the devil fled from him.
Just Like Nehemiah
The path of a B4Ter is fraught with danger. We must be focused and have focused prayer partners interceding for the work and for our hearts. Our sending churches are critical here. This is why the OPEN Network affiliates have “church-centric” as a value.
We consider the church, not the agency, as the one who sends. Agencies and networks can help us in our journey, but the church is the bride of Christ and the true spiritual authority on earth. If you are from a sending church, I encourage you to join your B4Ters on their journey. Pray for them, visit them, check in on them, and encourage them.
If you are a B4Ter, or are aspiring to become one, I hope you can find a path that has been cut out before you by Nehemiah. As we join the global Body of Christ in building the structures of His Kingdom, may they be laid down in a pleasing way so that He is glorified and honored in our work.
Greg is the President of OPEN USA. He used his education to work as a tentmaker in the Middle East for 8.5 years seeking to plant a church amongst a least-reached people group. Currently back in the USA with his wife and children, they aim to return to finish what the LORD used them to start.
To learn more about B4T, read Business for Transformation by Patrick Lai.