I heard from a beloved friend the other day, “I came unarmed, not practicing swordsmanship by reading the word daily.” How wise to recognize the spiritual reality and the antidote to being unprepared! This individual knows the truth of Ephesians 6:10-18, especially the command to “take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
Reading Nehemiah 4, the bullies are flesh and blood, but the training for their vicious onslaught is the same. On God’s mission, Nehemiah endured anger, great rage, jeering (4:1), public demeaning, criticism, mocking (4:2), belittling (4:3), more anger, plots, fighting to confuse him (4:7-8), discouragement from his own people and his enemies (4:10-12). How did he respond to these attacks meant to harm him and bring him down and stop his work? Prayer (4:4), perseverance (4:6), more prayer (4:9), focus on the Lord, strategizing and staying alert (4:15-23). He knew God’s character, truth, and promises, and turned to his Lord in times of attack. He was a practiced swordsman.
“Each labored on the work with one hand and held a weapon with the other. We labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from the break of dawn until the stars came out. I said, ‘Let every man…be a guard by night and labor by day.’ So none of us took our clothes off; each kept his weapon at his right hand.” Nehemiah 4:17, 21-23
How am I practicing swordsmanship? How snugly does my armor fit? How vigilantly do I work and watch? Oh God, I dare not go alone against the foe! May I dress in Your word each day, “taking up the whole armor of God, that I may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:13)