Friday, January 14, 2011

Dealing with Adversaries

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My last commentary talked about Nehemiah and his early response to a crisis he was facing.  I think a review of his story can also teach us about how to address adversaries in our lives and business.

Nehemiah faced opposition to his plans to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem.  His antagonists were led by a guy named Sanballat. While Sanballat may have had some legitimate authority in the region, he had no part of Jerusalem.  However, he didn't want the walls built for a number of reasons.

- New power in the region threatening him
- What was good for Jerusalem was bad for him (he had a "zero sum gain" view of the world) 
- He didn't care for the Jews

Isn't it the same for many of us?  Our adversaries at work, or in our lives, or even within our own family, think our success is their failure, or they think we are a threat to their power base, or they just don't like us very much.  These people can cause us real difficulties and make our lives miserable-- if we let them.

Nehemiah provides us with some good ideas on how to handle adversaries.

1) Pray about them.  Sanballat and his cohorts ridiculed and harrassed Nehemiah and those working on the way.  Nehemiah prayed that God would repay them for their rotten ways.


2) Confront lies and false accusations head on.  Sanballat accused Nehemiah of setting up his own kingdom in opposition to the King of Babylon (his employer).  Something like accusing him of going behind his bosses back.  He even threatened to tell the King what he was accusing Nehemiah of doing.  Nehemiah said, "Nothing of the kind is going on. You are making it all up." It is a figment of your imagination.  Nehemiah didn't try to befriend Danballat or convince him of the truth, he just said, "You are wrong.". That's it.  Don't let your adversaries misconstrue your actions or attach false motives to your behavior.


3)Ignore them - Stay Focused.  Sanballat tried to distract Nehemiah and even befriend him by inviting him to meet with them and 'join' their team.  Nehemiah wasn't fooled.  He knew this was an attempt to distract and perhaps even to gain some power over him through the relationship.  Nehemiah ignored Sanballat and told him that he was far too busy to break away from his task.  Why should the work suffer while I go off to meet with you?


4) Sanballat threatened to harm Nehemiah and the workers.  Nehemiah didn't get scared, didn't quit, he planned and prepared.  They "prayed and posted a guard."  He fortified the workers and kept his eyes open to be sure that he was ready to defend against any attack.


We may not be able to prevent others from coming against us, but we don't have to be easy targets.  In addition, we can heed the words of Paul, who said, as much as it is in your power, be at peace with all men.  These steps above provide us some clear methods for dealing with adversaries.


Trust God.  Pray, and post a guard.  Be on your watch, but don't become distracted.  Ignore those who have nothing good to say and stay focused on the tasks and goals ahead.


Best to you!

jvt