January 18, 2014

The Gift of Tension

Nehemiah 4

“Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome…”
—Nehemiah 4:14


Israel’s opponents mounted a fierce campaign against them. Sanballat and his friends tried to bully God’s people to stop the work of rebuilding. They ridiculed the people and threatened violence. And the people reacted in a very normal way. Their emotional strength began to falter. Tension began to rise as exhaustion set in and the fear of attack surfaced. How would Nehemiah handle this situation?

With their enemies breathing down their necks, Nehemiah encouraged the people to keep up the work. He prayed for God’s protection. With hands lifted to heaven, he prayed, “Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads.” In addition to prayer, he stationed people as guards. If an attack was evident, they were ready to fight. Nehemiah’s words and wisdom provided solace and strength to the people. He spoke into the tension by saying, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

Tension is a gift if we seize it as an opportunity to strengthen our faith in the Lord, who is strong and mighty. Jesus never ran away from tension. He embraced it as a gift that can be used to become courageous in the midst of fear. We don’t seek out tension, but it may be a gift we really need.

Lord, give me confidence and courage to put my trust in you and do the work you have for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

About the author — Reginald Smith

Dr. Reginald Smith is senior pastor at Roosevelt Park Community Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he has served for seventeen years. He has also served as a pastor in Paterson, New Jersey. He and his wife, Sharon, have three daughters, Janelle, Katrina, and Mariah.

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