Halfway is the Hardest Place to Be

Halfway Is the Hardest Place to Be

(Nehemiah 4:6-23)

Nehemiah was rebuilding a physical wall around Jerusalem to keep out their enemies. He faced mocking and physical threats because of his efforts. Last week we looked at the importance of maintaining a spiritual wall against the attacks of Satan. He hates this wall and continually mocks our efforts to keep him out of our lives.

We will look at this story again, beginning with Nehemiah 4:6 So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

Halfway is one of the hardest places to be. Halfway always seems to be the place where we begin to feel tired and our enthusiasm starts to wane. We can see what the final project will look like and yet we are frustrated with how much work is left before it is completed. At this point, other things begin to divert our attention from the task. We are not where we need to be and we begin to fear that we won’t be able to finish. This is what the Israelites, who labored on the wall, experienced. They are halfway finished, the enemy is diverting their attention, and they are fatigued, frustrated, and fearful.

If we are honest, there are a lot of things in our lives that are halfway finished, too. Some of us have half-finished educations. We planned on going back and getting our degree, but we just never made the commitment and sacrifices to do it.

Some of us have half-finished goals. Our life expectancy is half over, and we realize that we’re not where we had hoped to be. We haven’t accomplished as much as we planned. Now we are fatigued, frustrated, and fearful about the future.

Some of us are living in “half-way” type housing. Sin addictions made rubble out of our life. Now we are starting over, but staying clean is just half the battle. There is a lot of wall to be rebuilt, a lot of relationships to be repaired, and a lot of bills to be paid. Halfway is one of the most difficult places to be.

Fortunately, the 4th chapter of Nehemiah is about persevering to completion in spite of resistance and opposition. These verses show us that the closer we get to finishing, the closer we get to God’s purpose, the greater the resistance will be. They also encourage us by indicating what to do when we are in this hard, halfway place.

In Nehemiah’s case, what started out with Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem mocking the idea of rebuilding the wall has now escalated to potential warfare. Since the people could not be discouraged by mocking and derision, these men decided to attack the vulnerable areas in the wall.

Likewise, when Satan fails to discourage us, he attacks the vulnerable areas of our spiritual wall. One vulnerable place is fatigue. The people started out with enthusiasm and gave 100% to rebuilding the wall. But, halfway along, they are fatigued. As a result, they began telling themselves they couldn’t complete the project.

Nehemiah 4:10 In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.”

The thing about fatigue is that it makes us vulnerable in every area of our lives. When we first pick up our cross and follow Jesus, we have a lot of energy and enthusiasm. Then along the way, we face obstacles, we get fatigued, and we feel like quitting.

There are two dimensions to fatigue. The first is physical. The solution is rest. That’s why God has given us a day of rest. (More about this later.)

The second dimension is spiritual. While we can endure physical fatigue for a while, spiritual fatigue is fatal. Spiritual fatigue is more dangerous than physical fatigue because it can lead to moral and spiritual failures. It can cause us to doubt God and His calling on our life. It can cause us to question our relationship with God and His protection in our life. Spiritual fatigue can cause us to give in to temptation and quit our ministry.

Jeremiah was a prophet in Judah before the walls were destroyed. Jeremiah was called by God to proclaim words of judgment and to warn Judah’s king and religious leaders. The King would not listen to him. Jeremiah was punished by the royal officials. The priests and prophets opposed him. Pashur, a priest, beat Jeremiah after hearing him preach. All this happened to Jeremiah because he was faithful to God! Listen to the despairing cries of spiritual fatigue from Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 20:7-9, 18 “O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; you have overpowered me, and you have prevailed. But I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, "Violence and destruction!" For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, "I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name," then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot… Why did I come forth from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?”

Being in the form of a man, Jesus also experienced fatigue. He was so tired that He slept on a boat during a violent storm. But Jesus always guarded against spiritual fatigue. Like Jeremiah, Jesus also had opposition from the king and religious leaders. Nevertheless, He preached God’s Word and sometimes ministered late into the night. Mark tells about one of those occasions and what Jesus did to prevent spiritual fatigue.

Mark 1:32-35 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. And the whole city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.

His body may have been tired from long days and little sleep, but Jesus knew that He wasn’t going to be a blessing to anyone else if He did not re-connect with His Father.

The same is true for you and me. If we don’t take the time to be with our Father and be renewed with the Holy Spirit every day, then we will never be a blessing to others and God will not be able to use us. Devotions or time with God should be our top priority that we never skip in our lives.

Another vulnerable place is frustration. I’ve found that when I become frustrated, I am apt to be selfish and say or do things which I normally would not. The same was true for the Israelites. They were encountering old broken rocks, dried-out mortar, and other debris everywhere. The seemingly unending mess was frustrating, and they began to doubt whether the wall could ever be built. They said, “There is too much rubble.” (Verse 10)

So, they’re halfway through rebuilding the wall and they are overwhelmed by the mess and what remains to be done. At this point, Sanballat’s words of ridicule and mocking begin to register and create doubt in their minds. Now they’re seeing the wall as halfway incomplete instead of halfway completed. They are losing hope and in danger of quitting. Yes, halfway is the hardest place to be.

Just like the Israelites, we can lose sight of our goal when we have a lot of rubble in our lives. Rubble can be created by a broken relationship, a possession we are holding on to, an unhealthy habit, or a sin we’ve been playing around with too long. Fatigue and frustration from dealing with this rubble, plus the constant mocking from the enemy, can cause us to give up on following Jesus and return to what we did in the past.

This is when the enemy’s attacks are the fiercest. At this point, we need reinforcement at our vulnerable places. We need brothers and sisters to stand with us while we repent and get rid of the rubble in our life. We need encouragement to rebuke our selfish thoughts, desires, and Satan’s lies. We need assistance from others in prayer to get grace to endure, to persevere, to finish our walk with Jesus, and to do what He has called us to do.

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us

Another area of vulnerability is fear. When we get fatigued and frustrated, even the smallest obstacle can seem frightening. Satan’s threats seem more intense. We fear we don’t have what it takes to overcome. We fear the consequences of failure.

For Nehemiah, the threat was real and looming. The people were tired and frustrated. Sanballat and his army were threatening to attack, kill everyone, and destroy their work. He had to decide what to do about this fearful threat.

Nehemiah 4:14 “After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, ‘Don’t be afraid of them.’”

Nehemiah decided to faithfully continue rebuilding the walls. Faith isn’t the absence of fear. Faith is going ahead and doing it in spite of fear, because God has your back! Aware of the enemy’s plans, Nehemiah armed the people and provided reinforcements to protect them while they worked.

When threats and obstacles arise in our lives, we have to decide how we are going to respond to it. In spite of our fatigue, frustration, and fear, do we stand and continue with the work God has given to us or do we decide to abandon it?

Ephesians 6:10-13 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand”

We are not unaware of Satan’s schemes. So how can we be strong in the Lord? How can we put on the full armor of God and stand our ground?

One of the most overlooked ways to stay strong in the Lord is to observe the Sabbath. The 4th commandment is one of the most disobeyed commandments in all the Bible. It is one reason Christians become weak and vulnerable to Satan’s attacks.

Exodus 20:8-11 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Jesus said in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” God gave us the Sabbath and told us to keep it so we would be blessed and strong.

First, the Hebrew word “Sabbath” doesn’t mean Saturday or Sunday. It means a day of rest. It is a day to be totally away in mind, body, and spirit from our work. It is not a day for getting all of the “honey do’s” done for the week. If we don’t rest, we will pay the price physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And others will suffer as a result. Most physical accidents and spiritual failures occur when we are fatigued and need rest.

Another purpose of the Sabbath is to re-connect with God. If we don’t reconnect with God regularly, then other gods will replace Jesus as the center of our lives. We will become spiritually weak and be an easy prey for Satan.

Another purpose for the Sabbath is to join with others in prayer. In verse 9, Nehemiah says, “But we prayed to our God…” The first thing we should do when we are faced with fatigue and frustration is to pray. But, don’t just pray alone during these weak moments. Bring the matter to others for prayer. The purpose of the church is to pray for one another and encourage one another when we are facing a trial.

After praying, God gave Nehemiah a proactive plan. Nehemiah posted guards at the most vulnerable places along the wall. Likewise, when we are threatened, we need to pray and proactively respond as God leads.

For example, if you’ve been praying for your marriage and nothing has changed, have you been proactive according to God’s Word to improve and heal that relationship? If you are in recovery from an addiction, are you following God’s proactive plan to stay in recovery? If you’re in debt and the bills keep mounting, besides praying, what have you proactively done to get out of debt? Have you cut unnecessary expenses or cut up your credit cards? Have you started making extra payments on your indebtedness?

Don’t just pray about the vulnerable places in your spiritual wall, seek and listen for God’s proactive plan, and then obey it. The whole point of prayer is to receive God’s guidance and then do it!

When you activate the plan God has given you, avoid pessimists. Be careful who you listen to. Listening to repeated pessimism will bring about fatigue, frustration, and fear.

For example, while rebuilding the wall, the workers most affected by pessimism lived near pessimistic people. In verse 12, we read, “Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over ‘Wherever you turn, they will attack us.’”

If you want to limit discouragement that brings fear into your life, then it’s best not to hang around negative, pessimistic people. It’s like the old saying, “If you’re going to soar with the eagles, you can’t run around with turkeys.” Therefore, beware who you are listening to. Listen to the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.

After all, success or failure begins in our mind. The enemy tells us that we will fail, we will never complete our spiritual wall, we may as well quit, and God can never use us. He is a liar! We need to respond to the Truth and make sure we get God’s strength to stand.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Lastly, trust God to handle the enemy. Nehemiah went on to say in verse 14, Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

Verse 15 tells us the result of their faith, “When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work.” In other words, God frustrates the enemy and protects us. The enemy leaves us until a more opportune time arises. He will be back, but God will still be with us.

To summarize, halfway is the hardest place to be. Success is a result of getting past that hard place and the threats, fatigue, frustration, fear, and discouragement. We will finish the task before us through prayer, repentance, and faith in God. He will frustrate the enemy if we trust and obey His Word, walk according to the Holy Spirit, rejoice always, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances. (1 Thes. 5:16-18).

So, whatever condition your spiritual wall is in and whatever the enemy is saying, go to the throne of God in the Name of Jesus every day to receive grace to repent and to be renewed in spirit, soul, and body. Then you can stand strong in the Lord, resist the devil, and have the Lord’s grace to continue the work He has given you.

Maybe you are here without any spiritual wall in your life. The enemy has easy access to your life. I have good news. Jesus has come to save you!

Therefore, if you are tired of being defeated by sin and Satan, place your faith in Jesus and what He has done on the cross to set you free. Come forward to publicly profess your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Repent of your sin and follow Jesus in baptism and every day hereafter. Then you will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who is your guarantee of eternal life in Heaven and the builder of your spiritual wall.