In his book, The Defining Moment, Jonathan Alter relates a negative comment Walter Lippmann made about Franklin D. Roosevelt. Lippmann, the foremost political columnist of the day, was not a fan of FDR or his quest for the presidency. In January 1932, he wrote:
“He (FDR) is an amiable man with many philanthropic impulses, but he is not the dangerous enemy of anything . . . a pleasant man who, without any important qualifications for the office, would very much like to be president.”
That phrase — he is not the dangerous enemy of anything – stopped me in my tracks and it got me thinking . . .
When I open the Bible, I realize that great leaders for God ARE dangerous enemies. Great leaders for God threaten evil, injustice, the status quo, and enemies of righteousness everywhere. Nehemiah is such a leader. When I look at Nehemiah I see why:
- SIN did not ruin him. Leaders know that they can’t get the blessing of God when they walk in opposition to God. Great leaders confess sin. As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said, “O LORD God of heaven . . . We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses.” (Nehemiah 1:4-7)
- FEAR did not cripple him. Great leaders stare down their fears. They ask God for the courage to do what they ought to do. Then I was very much afraid. . . . So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king . . . (Nehemiah 2:2-5)
- OBSTACLES did not trip him. Great leaders refuse to be defeated by the “insurmountable.” They know that with God all things are possible. So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days….I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. (Nehemiah 2:11, 13)
- VISIONLESS people did not discourage him. Great leaders see what can be and then challenge people to go there. Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work. (Nehemiah 2:17-18)
- OPPOSITION could not break him. Great leaders pray to God for help in battling tough times and tough people. Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads. (Nehemiah 4:4)
- DISCOURAGEMENT did not stop him. Great leaders encourage the discouraged by reminding them to be strong in God. “In Judah it was said, ‘The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing’. . . 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.’ (Nehemiah 4:10-15)
- APATHY could not halt him. Great leaders call out spiritual apathy on the part of the people of God. In those days I saw in Judah people treading winepresses on the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain . . . which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. . . . Then I confronted the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this evil thing that you are doing, profaning the Sabbath day?” (Nehemiah 13:15-18)
Nehemiah was a great leader. How about you? Are you the dangerous enemy of anything? I’ve had to ask that of myself. Would the devil’s army consider me a “dangerous enemy”? Does my character, my prayer life, my preaching, or my witnessing pose a threat to the Evil One?
Paul reminds us, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against . . . the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
You are in that wrestling match too. And if you influence anyone, you are a leader! So take a lesson from Nehemiah. God wants you to be a dangerous enemy.
Question: Which of the seven characteristics of Nehemiah most resonate with you today, and why? You can leave a comment by clicking here.