“Stepping into the Ring” // Nehemiah 4:14
The following is a manuscript of the sermon presented by Dr. Roger Patterson on Sunday January 16, 2022 at our West U Baptist campus. To view the sermon in full, check out the link below.
Did you know that a battle rope changed my life?
In the spring of 2017 I weighed 306 pounds. I was in pain emotionally, dealing with loss, grief and feeling defeated.
Brent Gallagher, one of our members, reached out to me and invited me to his gym – Avenu Fitness – here in West U on Edloe Street. He saw that I needed a lift and so he said, “Hey, let me train you a few times. Let’s get you moving in the right direction.”
I showed up that day a bit nervous. It had been a while since I had been active physically…unless you count eating getting up from the couch to get ice cream an active movement. Brent took me through a good circuit training workout and began to talk to me about the importance of how much sleep I get, what I eat, and moving 30 minutes a day 3-5 times a week.
At the end of the workout, just before our 30 minutes was complete, he pulled the battle rope off the wall and told me to took me through three 20 second exercise. 20 seconds on moving the rope up and down…20 seconds off. 20 seconds moving it intensely side to side…20 seconds rest. The last move was the rope slam.
Take this rope and lift it as high as you can and slam it out as hard as you can.
And he grabbed his stop watch and said, “And if there is anything in there that you need to get out, slam it out right now.”
Had I known what was about to happen in that 20 seconds, I would have shut the work out down. I would have said, “Hey thanks for this 29 minute 40 second investment in me. It was incredible.” And I would have left the gym.
Those last 20 seconds showed me I was in a fight, and I was losing.
What about you? Has life knocked you down? Have you gotten hit by a combination of punches?
Are you running and ducking because you just don’t know if you can handle another blow?
It’s a devastating place to feel so defeated when your Bible, your small group, even your favorite preacher says you are more than a conqueror.
Let me ask you: Can 20 Seconds Change Your Life Too?
I still haven’t gotten over that final rope slam. In that 20 second slam, I began to slam out all that I was carrying inside of me. As I slammed that rope over and over again, the weight of pain, grief, and loss began to well up from the bottom of my heels, through my midsection, up through my throat, and out of my tear ducts.
As I continued to slam that rope, I heard the Holy Spirit say to me, “Roger, you’ve got some work to do.” Tears flowed, my chest heaved for breath, and I turned my head in embarrassment. Little did I know that the God of the universe would call to me in a gym in the heart of Houston, Texas.
- This was an invitation from bondage of my circumstances to a place of liberty and rejuvenation.
- This was an opportunity to look at the pain and grief I was dealing with squarely in the face and freely admit the toll it had on me.
- Weighing in at 306 pounds, knowing that I was on an unsustainable path, I had a choice to make:
- Would I continue as a victim of my circumstance, or would I put the mess into the hands of my Savior and allow Him to give me a message?
- I could stay down in defeat, fake it until I made it on my own, and fizz out somewhere along the way, or I could learn how to fight for my future.
Q: Do you know what God showed me in those 20 seconds?
A: He showed me it was time to rise up from a place of defeat and fight for my future.
You have a fight story of your own. The situation may be different, the scenario and the names may change, but the truth is, and you know this deep down, you have been at a place in your life where you have recognized, “Yeah, I’m in a fight !”
- a fight for hope,
- a fight for peace,
- a fight for a relationship,
- a marriage, a business,
- a child,
- a financial fight,
- or something else.
Welcome to Fight For It. For the next 7 weeks, we’ll be learning from Ezra/Nehemiah. What we see in Ezra/Nehemiah are 4 fights they were dealing with, and these same 4 fights are absolutely a reality for us today. Look with me at Nehemiah 4:14:
And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”
Flashback – All of us have seen movies where there is a flashback…Here’s a flashback for us to help set the stage and connect us to why Nehemiah stands up with this important word to the people of God.
The book of Nehemiah in the OT is all about rebuilding their wall and their city. Jerusalem has been devastated, destroyed as the people of God have been defeated and have spent 70 years in Exile. Jeremiah was sent by God to the people to tell them that exile was coming if they didn’t turn from their idols and turn to Him. Listen to Jeremiah 25:
The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah (that was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), 2 which Jeremiah the prophet spoke to all the people of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem: 3 “For twenty-three years, from the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, to this day, the word of the Lord has come to me, and I have spoken persistently to you, but you have not listened. 4 You have neither listened nor inclined your ears to hear, although the Lord persistently sent to you all his servants the prophets, 5 saying, ‘Turn now, every one of you, from his evil way and evil deeds, and dwell upon the land that the Lord has given to you and your fathers from of old and forever. 6 Do not go after other gods to serve and worship them, or provoke me to anger with the work of your hands. Then I will do you no harm.’ 7 Yet you have not listened to me, declares the Lord, that you might provoke me to anger with the work of your hands to your own harm.
8 “Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words, 9 behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, declares the Lord, and for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these surrounding nations. I will devote them to destruction, and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting desolation. 10 Moreover, I will banish from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the grinding of the millstones and the light of the lamp. 11 This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.
So you hear Jeremiah’s warning…Then 2 Chronicles 36 shows us this is exactly what happened. Listen to a few verses from 2 Chronicles 36. Let me share some of them again, as I touched on this last week.
2 Chronicles 36:11-12
Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God. He did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of the Lord.
2 Chronicles 36:14
All the officers of the priests and the people likewise were exceedingly unfaithful, following all the abominations of the nations. And they polluted the house of the Lord that he had made holy in Jerusalem.
2 Chronicles 36:15-16
The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy.
2 Chronicles 36:21
All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.
So, the land was devastated due to sin.
Listen, sin always devastates. Yes, most of the time sin promises pleasure, but the reality it is brings devastation.
But here’s where the story gets good. When 70 years have passed, as God promised, God rescues. God rebuilds.
That’s who God is. He is a rescuer, he is a rebuilder – some of you need to hear this today.
Even though our lives at times lay in ruins and in destruction, God is all about redeeming, rebuilding, rescuing! God put the desire within Cyrus to let the people go back to Jerusalem and rebuild their city and restore their lives (we will see more of that next week).
And this ends the flashback.
Present Day Nehemiah – Nehemiah is in Jerusalem, standing on rocks and rubble, he has spearheaded the reconstruction effort to rebuild the wall in Jerusalem, and he tells the leaders and the rest of the people… Here’s what I want you to do…FIGHT!
The 4 Fights:
- Fight 1 –– fight for yourselves. Don’t be afraid. That’s the first thing he says to them, don’t be afraid. Fight for your own heart.
The 4 Fights
- For Yourself – Nehemiah 4:14
And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them…
Now, here is what is true of them and what is true of you when you are in a fight: You often get tired and overwhelmed. This is where the people are.
- They are tired. The wall is half-way done.
“The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing.”
- They are overwhelmed. 4:10b –
“There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.”
- They are scared. 4:11
“And our enemies said, ‘They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.’”
- Can you see their need to fight for themselves?
When we’re in a fight we feel the same things. Tired. Overwhelmed. Fearful.
I wrote in the book…
“Our fight stories often entail what feels to be a vast climb or insurmountable odds. The tasks before us seem too great and we don’t know where or how to begin.”
- Nehemiah says, first – your heart matters…don’t be afraid…
The 4 Fights
- For Yourself
- For Your Homes
…Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”
- Fight 2 – fight for your homes. He says fight for your sons, your daughters, your wives and your homes. Look around you, you have families, you have kids, you have a future!
God has promised this through Jeremiah 29:11 – I will give you a hope and a future! I have good plans for you! So go forward! Don’t stop. Fight.
We will have a lot to say on this – it’s 2 chapters in the book, and we will be unpacking this as we go, so let’s keep going.
The 4 Fights
- For Yourself
- For Your Homes
- For Your Church
…Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers…
- Fight 3 – fight for your Church. He says to his brothers – this represents the brotherhood of the people of God. He is saying to them, “Look at your brothers, your sisters. You are the nation I will use to bring salvation to the ends of the earth. So fight!”
The question for us is will we fight for our church?
One of the things I say in the introduction of the book is this:
“In the church, we are standing on the shoulders of generations who have gone before us and yet, like no other time in history, our churches have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. When ever other crisis has hit, people have flocked to the church. Yet in this recent crisis, people have scattered from the church.”
The 4 Fights
- For Yourself
- For Your Homes
- For Your Church
- For Your City
Fight 4 – fight for your city. Here he is, standing on rubble, looking out at a half-built wall and a devastated land.
And what took him to this city in the first place?
Nehemiah was a cup-bearer to the king. He wasn’t in Jerusalem. He was in Susa. He was just doing his job and when his brothers came and he asked about Jerusalem and the inhabitants, he heard the report and his heart broke.
“As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days.”
Our heart should break for our city. Wherever there is brokenness in the city, we should also have broken hearts.
How? How can we fight for ourselves, our homes, our Church, our city?
Start with where you are and what you have…What do I have?
- We have God.
Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome…
Nehemiah says to them, Don’t be afraid – how can I not be afraid, have you seen what I’m facing? Remember the Lord – Great and awesome! Fear God more! – worship is key here…we will hear more about that in the days to come.
- We also have each other. God has given us each other!
Nehemiah knows the strength of community. Look at Nehemiah 4:13.
“I stationed people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows.”
I love this. There is strength in numbers…strength in unit…strength in being together. That’s why I want us to group up so badly. We need one another. We need the community that comes in doing life together!
And when the fight comes…you need your clan!
Let me show you what I mean – take a look at this video (Tim and Sydney Yeager Video)
I want to invite you on this journey over the next 7 weeks. It is going to be a defining moment in our lives, in our homes, in our church, and in our city. Step Into The Ring and Join the Fight!
 Fight For It, Roger Patterson, pg. 27