It is a source of great comfort to turn to the Bible and discover that all through history men of God, venturing upon service for God, have been confronted with the very same problems as we face today. Here Nehemiah, unmistakably called and commissioned to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, having secured an army of willing helpers, now finds himself faced with discouragement of every kind.
The opposition of Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem, who have already launched their campaign of hate, has been faced realistically. The people have a mind to work, a heart to pray, an eye to watch. For the moment the enemy is held in check. But here we find something even more serious. Here is internal trouble. Judah said, “There is declining strength, accumulated rubbish—an impossible task!”
You notice who said it—Judah. Of him long ago it had been said, “Thy hand shall be in the neck of thy enemies…Judah is a lion’s whelp…the scepter shall not depart from Judah nor a lawgiver from between his feet until Shiloh come” (Genesis 49:8-10). Here is the cream of the army threatening revolt—the one who should be the main strength of the whole is overcome by discouragement. What a sword in Nehemiah’s soul! What a sickening sense of being let down must have overwhelmed him then! How easy to give in and go back to the King’s palace. But there is no indication that he even contemplated it. A man, called of God, is sure of himself in the sense that he is sure of God’s enabling even if he has to stand alone. But what a powerful weapon is this which the enemy thrusts into our soul: when the cream of the army deserts us! When the prayer partners become discouraged! When the fellow-missionary threatens to go home! When those who should be sharing the burden most wholeheartedly lose the vision!
Of course, the burdens were very great which they had to carry in Nehemiah’s day. Nebuchadnezzar had made a thorough job of destroying the city. There was not one stone left on top of another. It was hopeless to rebuild until the work of excavation was completed and the original foundations laid bare. To any but a man of discernment, this was not only extremely wearisome, but a dangerous waste of time. These walls had been down long enough and the city had been exposed to attack far too long—quickly let us get our protection up again! That would be shallow thinking. The walls must be built on solid foundation, and to do that every bit of rubbish must go, and excavation must be thoroughly completed till the only solid foundation be exposed. A great deal of underground work is essential.
The church has had to contend with rubbish all through history,—Paganism and superstition of Rome; the mythology of Greece; false philosophies, traditions, spurious religion. All these and more have constantly got in the way. Through the years God has given His church some master excavators. From the time of Paul, through Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, John Knox, Wesley, Whitefield, D.L. Moody, and many more have emerged to lay bare the only true foundation which has been laid at Calvary.
Now, of course, there are always those in any work for God who will defend the existence of any heap of rubbish. No matter how unsavoury or useless it may be, they will always be able to find some reason why it should remain. After all, they’ve made their name through it, they founded the organization, it has been in existence since the work began—it must not be disturbed, at any cost.
The battle rages yet. We are primarily concerned with the section of the wall at The Moody Church. There are some, no doubt, who might advocate rapid building of some work which at least can be seen by others, as going up. Let us put on some great programme, some massive campaign, something which will appeal. This work, or that, has been here all the time. No doubt in many churches the line would be, socials, movies, etc.
Deliberately we turn our back upon all that line of argument. The work of excavation must come first, and rubbish must go. Every part of the life of the church must be built upon a true foundation. Only that which is doing a vital soul-saving work NOW can justify existence. That foundation must be laid bare, and only that which is of gold, silver, precious stones can be built upon it. All else must be removed, no matter how painful to some! “For except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain.” Courage my brethren, and patience, too. The Lord is with us and He has never left a task unfinished. “The everlasting God, the Lord, the creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary. He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might, He increaseth strength” (Isaiah 40).
Call in the garbage trucks! God give us a band of men whose hearts He has touched, who will labour day and night, till the excavating is complete and the building of His work is going up on the foundation He laid at Calvary. “Every man’s work will be made manifest…the fire shall try every man’s work, what sort it is” (1 Corinthians 3:13).
But I must bring this nearer home, for God has been speaking to me about rubbish, not only in the church, but in Christian hearts! There is a building going up in each of us—the temple of God, him shall God destroy, for the temple of God is holy—whose temple ye are (1 Corinthians 3:17). Do you ever stop to think about it; to take stock—how much the Blood and the Holy Spirit can accomplish—how little in fact has been done? I confess I discover, almost every day, a fresh heap of rubbish I hardly knew was there. Points in which we thought we were strong, turn out to be our weaknesses. There was a sin from which we thought we were free, and we are severe on others who fall to it. Alas! we’ve discovered it broke out in us, too! Oh, the rubbish of pride, unbelief, anger, despondency, self-importance, evil lusting, and a prayerless life. What a foul heap it all is, and the building of the temple of the Holy Spirit has been retarded because of it—almost to the point of giving up.
More subtle still is the idea that many have—through wonderful seasons of prayer, and great conferences, they have at last attained to a degree of spirituality when old failures are behind forever. Rubbish! Any notion which leads us to speak of what we are with complacency is only Rubbish! “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise” (1 Corinthians 3:18). Fetch the garbage truck quickly, my brother. Learn to say, “In me, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing”: low down at the Cross is always our place. In Him alone is all our glorying, for He is made unto us wisdom…All else is only rubbish.
First, what can we do about it? Be sure the foundation is firmly laid. “I know whom I have believed” said Paul. A personal faith in a Personal Saviour, that is fundamental. “Other foundation can no man lay than is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11).
Then remember the building of the temple of the Holy Spirit is His work. He began it. He digged down till He exposed our emptiness—cast out self-righteousness and laid Christ Himself where self had been. Yes, He did all that. He has done everything else which has been done in us by His Spirit. Only that will last, and anything in attempt in our own strength to build the temple is in vain.
Holiness is to be sought for with all our hearts, but it can only be obtained by faith in His indwelling power. It is the Bridegroom, not the bride, who is to make her fit for her husband. “Christ loved the church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
On the other hand, our utmost surrender and co-operation with Him is called for. Let us add to our faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge self-control; and to self-control patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness love (2 Peter 1:5).
Is that the wall which is going up in you? “For if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Finally, whatever sin there is within us, the Blood of Christ cleanses. Confess it, and know it to be forgiven. Conquer it in the power of the Holy Spirit within you. Never be satisfied till one day we awake in His likeness.
May the mind of Christ my Saviour
Live in me from day to day.
By His love and pow’r controlling
All I do and say.
May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only thro’ His pow’r.
May the love of Jesus fill me,
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing,
This is victory.
May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.
May His beauty rest upon me
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.