5-6 The fifth time—same messenger, same message—Sanballat sent an unsealed letter with this message: 6-7 “The word is out among the nations—and Geshem says it’s true—that you and the Jews are planning to rebel. That’s why you are rebuilding the wall. The word is that you want to be king and that you have appointed prophets to announce in Jerusalem, ‘There’s a king in Judah!’ The king is going to be told all this—don’t you think we should sit down and have a talk?”
8 I sent him back this: “There’s nothing to what you’re saying. You’ve made it all up.” 9 They were trying to intimidate us into quitting. They thought, “They’ll give up; they’ll never finish it.” I prayed, “Give me strength.” (Nehemiah 6:5-9)
Let’s talk about another spirit that fuels that Monday Morning Attitude and prevents us from experiencing the life God intends for us: that ugly spirit of Gossiping! This week’s passage from Nehemiah is about how Sanballat’s Gang was trying to keep Nehemiah from rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Why did they want Nehemiah to stop? Two reasons: they did not like God, and they did not like God’s representative. Simply put, they wanted what they wanted and did not want what God wanted.
They wanted a meeting with Nehemiah because they knew a meeting would stop the work from being done. Sounds like the work of committees to me. Four times they sent a request for a committee meeting; four times Nehemiah declined. The fifth time they sent more than an invitation–they sent Gossip. Nehemiah could have panicked, but he didn’t. His R.S.V.P. was, “It’s all lies and gossip, so if you will excuse me, God has something for me to do.” Then he prayed for strength.
Gossip has only one purpose and it’s not about revealing truth. It is always about tearing down another person just to make themselves look better. And there are two things I want to say about Gossip and how it fuels that “Oh, Lord it’s Monday” gloom.
- First, when you gossip, it never makes you look better, only worse. It reveals that the dark-side force of the Pharisee is strong in you. Gossip tears people down, and you are never acting like Jesus when your words and stories wound another person. And it wounds YOU, too, dear Gossiper.
- Second, when the gossip is aimed at you, it does hurt and wound. Often we allow that “gossip” to define us, but it doesn’t–who you are is determined by God, and never by those whose hearts are far, very far away from God.
I have discovered that I (nor anyone else) can change the heart and mind of the Gossiper. Only God can do that, because it takes a miracle to change the heart and mind of the gossiper and God is great at miracles. So let me address those wounded by the gossiper. How do we overcome those attacks? And they are attacks, but not just against you; they are also attacks against God. Remember Sanballat! Nehemiah shows us how to move forward in the face of gossipers:
- First, just ignore them. Four times Nehemiah simply put their “invitation” into “File 13”. Why ignore them at first? They are wanting to get a response from you, the wrong response. They want to see you hurt and angry because, like an idiot, they think if they make you look bad it makes them look better. And we all know, “That ain’t happening!”
- Second, stay focused on all that God is doing in your life. Nehemiah had a purpose–to bring honor and glory to God. And so do you. As a Follower of Jesus, God is calling you to bring Him both honor and glory by revealing what happens to a life when it is lived purely in His Grace. Nehemiah had a purpose for God, and so do you!
- Third, ask God for strength! If you try to argue and fight with an idiot (and that’s what gossipers are), you will become an idiot and they will beat you down with experience. Nehemiah’s prayer was for him to be strong. And God will give you strength. Some of the ways I find God giving me HIS strength is through a song, a Scripture, a memory, a book, or the timely visit of a true friend. God’s strength helps us move beyond the bitterness of gossipers.
And when we simply ignore the gossipers, stay focused on our God-Given tasks, and ask HIM for strength, we can say, “Good! Lord it’s Monday! What shall we do together?” Let’s pray:
Lord, when the gossiper turns their focus on me, remind me that I am who YOU say I am, not who they think I am. Help me to stay focused on the tasks you have given me–to be more like YOU and help others see YOU. Give me strength to just ignore “them” so that others can find Your Life. Amen and Amen!