“But we prayed to our God, and because of them we set up a guard against them day and night.” (Nehemiah 4:9)
Have you ever found yourself square in the middle of an “in between” place? That’s where you aren’t on hold anymore; things have started to happen. God is on the move and your life is stirred up for some purpose of his. Yet you aren’t on the other side and things are a little rocky and confusing. You wish you could see ahead to the outcome but you can’t quite. See what I mean? In between.
In between is a scary place. In between is where a lot of “faith” muscles are built up and you do a lot of praying and scripture reading and seeking God and his direction. You know there is a balance between faith and foolishness and you hope with all your might you are striking that balance.
Handling an emotional tightrope
Because of the emotional tightrope you are on in such times, the things people say to you have a very powerful effect. I remember such a time for myself where some strong words that were well intentioned sent me into a real tailspin. On the surface it was simply good advice and a prudent warning but behind it I could hear skeptical mockery.
The comments pretty much finished off my day. I found myself fighting doubt, discouragement and overwhelming inadequacy. But when God speaks either through another person or directly, you always feel better—more encouraged—more hopeful. So this was certainly not a message from my Heavenly Father. The next morning in my prayer time as I was discussing it with the Lord a name popped into my head: Sanballat.
Sanballat: type of Satan
Sanballat is an evil character from the book of Nehemiah. That’s the story of the rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem after the children of Israel returned from 70 years captivity in Babylon. God gave Nehemiah, who was cupbearer to the king, a great burden to be the master contractor on the project. He got permission from the king to return to Jerusalem and begin rebuilding the walls. This was Nehemiah’s in between place. He was called and commissioned but the work was still ahead. As the project got underway, Sanballat came on the scene.
Sanballat hated the Jews and the work they were doing for God’s purposes. He started off by speaking words of discouragement--ridiculing and mocking the work and the workers, hoping to derail the building of the walls in any way possible. For good measure, he hatched a plot to disrupt the work and cause a great disturbance in the city.
Sanballat is a type (or modal) of Satan whose desire is always to discourage and destroy us. He methodically conspires against us. Nehemiah was a lot smarter than me the day I succumbed to a word of discouragement. Sanballat’s schemes never got off the ground in Nehemiah’s case. In fact, Nehemiah pretended like he never heard them. His response was, “But we prayed to our God, and because of them we set up a guard against them day and night.” (Nehemiah 4:9) The discouragement had no effect and when Sanballat saw the extensive defenses that the Jews set up he never made good on the attack he and his cronies had planned. There was really no opening available to the enemy.
Careful which voice
That is how it needs to be with us. When we are fulfilling God’s plan for our life we need to be careful which voices we listen to. We need to recognize the voice of doubt and discouragement as being from our enemy Satan—not our friend God. Next we need to pray and drop the whole issue in God’s lap and expect him to pull us through to completion. Finally, we need to set a guard over our heart day and night. Filter all incoming events and words against God’s Word.
Whatever God has destined for us, he will accomplish. While that unfolds we often go through in between places; places that build our faith and trust because they are filled with obstacles and maybe a few Sanballats thrown in. No worries. We can get to the other side just like Nehemiah did. Only remember to follow his example on the journey.