The Struggle is Real


Nehemiah 4 and 5

Church, please pray for this Sunday. The sermon will be entitled, “The Struggle is Real.” It will focus on the reality of living a Christian life in a fallen world. Nehemiah and the Jews faced this struggle as they were constantly surrounded by enemies who attack from without but also struggled with internal problems from within. The phrase “the struggle is real” means a lot of different things in today’s culture. Most often today you can see the phrase, “the struggle is real” used ironically in peoples lives to comically lament the difficulties of everyday life and/or the struggles of “first-world-problems.” Which is another phrase that mocks the problems we think are a big deal but really are not. For example, like running out of battery for my new iPhone, when most of the world can’t even afford their next meal let alone an iPhone. Yet, my life seems to be falling apart when I am at 3% battery and I’m not within arms reach of a cell charger. So in all actuality “The Struggle is Real” depicts how petty most of our “problems” in this life really are when we weigh them against the grand scheme of things the entire world faces on a daily basis. People all around the world are struggling to find food to fill their starving bellies, and not to find enough juice to fill their draining phone battery.

We find a very real struggle between life and death and rich and poor in the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah and the Jews are working on rebuilding the wall when they faced real struggles and real problems. They were surrounded on all sides by enemies that wanted to kill them. The task before them was monumental and the conditions were difficult. The pressures from without were getting harder and harder to bear. Yet, the pressures from without weren’t the only problems they had to deal with, because what often proves to be the most disastrous the problems from within. We see this is in Nehemiah chapter 4, when the are people banding together to defend the rebuilding effort and stand against whatever may try to put a stop to God’s work. Yet, what they didn’t expect is the internal strife and oppression they would face in chapter 5.

Nehemiah chapter 5 details a massive problem that plagues many modern churches today. The Jews were taking advantage of each other. Rich Jews were enriching themselves at the expense of their poor neighbors and family members. The problems were many: there was a famine, there wasn’t enough food to go around, many of the farmers were busy working on the wall project and unable to grow food, they had to buy food to feed their families, so they had to borrow money in order to stay alive, and the cycle goes on. So, the richer Jews loaned out money to these poorer Jews and started to seize their property when they couldn’t make the loan payments. Then these same poor Jews were having to borrow even more money in order to pay the high royal tax the Persians had upon them. So the rich Jews loaned out more money and started charging a ridiculously high interest rate on the loans. So basically, certain people were enriching themselves and taking advantage of poor people, and not just any people, but their very own family members, their flesh and blood. These people were so ruthless, that the poor people were having to sell their own sons and daughters into slavery in order to pay their money-lenders. Talk about cruel! Talk about a struggle.

So we see from Chapter 5, that the struggle is real. Not ironically but in reality, the struggle of sin was very real to them. But this is why one reason why I love scripture and the way God’s Word is so real. Because this could have been left off the pages of scripture. Chapter 5 doesn’t have to be there in order for the story of Nehemiah and his restoration project to take place. Yet, it is there, in all its messiness, it is there. You see, scripture is messy because people are messy. We are sinful and God’s Word is ultimately about God who comes down into our mess and cleans it up. He doesn’t tell us to clean up for our mess ourselves, but instead he comes and cleans it up for us. Nehemiah could have easily left off these gory details of in-fighting and oppression of the poor,and instead paint himself as the perfect leader of a perfect people. But he doesn’t, he details this problem and he also details the resolution to the problem. It is boiled down to the Fear of the Lord. The people didn’t fear the Lord’s commands on their lives and they certainly weren’t loving others like God had loved them. Instead, they did only as they pleased and as they wanted to do in their sight, not in the sight of God. Nehemiah reprimands the nobles for stealing from the poor and exacting high interest on their families in chapter 5 verse 9 when he says, “The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies?” Ultimately, Nehemiah summarizes, just like Solomon did, the end of the matter, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing whether good or evil” (Ecc. 12:13,14).

So please prepare your heart for Sunday and if you can get a head start by reading through Chapter 4 and 5 of Nehemiah in order to be ready for what God will do in our hearts this Sunday.

Because of Christ,