Whenever we lead, there will be opposition. The old saying that people don’t like change is not entirely true. People do like change, but usually only when they themselves are the ones directing the change. Even if the leader manages to convince all the people that change is necessary and good, opposition will still come.
As Nehemiah had the people in Jerusalem and the surrounding area working on the wall, opposition came from a few sources:
But in Judah it was said, “The carrier’s strength is failing, for there is too much rubble. We are unable to rebuild the wall!” Meanwhile, our enemies were saying: “Before they know or see anything, we can be in their midst and start to kill them. We’ll stop the work!”
One of the sources of opposition, the enemies, was to be expected. Some did not want the wall rebuilt and they would do whatever it takes to make sure the project was abandoned. These enemies, it is later recorded in the book, even have ties to those who are in Jerusalem and try to disrupt the work from within through their contacts. This should really come as no surprise at all.
In life we find people, enemies, that will oppose our work for the glory of God. This can also be seen spiritually, where the enemies are demons who oppose the building up of the people of God and their contacts within us are people who are oppressed or possessed who are in our midst. This takes a special kind of care, prayer, and strength from God.
The unexpected group of opposition came from the very people who were doing the work. They were excited about the work and had been laboring for the change (in this case the rebuilt wall) from the beginning. Yet when they paused to see the progress, as the wall had been half-way built at this point, they became discouraged because of the amount of work still to be done. They became discouraged at the amount still left to do.
This kind of opposition, discouragement from the ones who are working, is just as dangerous as outright threats and obstruction from those outside of the group. In many ways it is even more difficult to correct or overcome, too. These are people who are already sold on the vision and have taken an active interest and participation in the work, but now are not convinced that it can be seen through to completion. This attitude can spread and breed disillusionment an despair among the rest of those already on board with the vision and mission.
When this kind of internal opposition occurs, people need to take a break. They need a rest, a sabbath, to regroup and refocus. They also need to be reminded of the reason for the task. Sometimes extra motivation needs to happen, as Nehemiah placed workers and defenders in front of their own homes and families to remind them of the necessity of the wall being fully restored. Whatever the approach, though, if it is a God-given vision and mission, pray and ask God to give you the correct way to deal with the opposition to the work, whether that opposition is internal or external.
God has more invested in our work for him than we do. If God gave the mission and vision, God will provide the way to overcome opposition.