Nehemiah 4 – Leadership Experiences Opposition

It is time for the next installment of our Sunday Series on leadership.  This week we see Nehemiah come up against something that all leaders will face.

Nehemiah 4 – Leadership Experiences Opposition

Part 1-Personal Opposition

Where did that tree come from?

1. As soon as this project begins, in enters the opposition.  “When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed.” (Nehemiah 4:1)   He then goes on the offensive trying to discourage the Jews in their efforts.  He tries to undermine the cooperation and team work that has begun by attacking them personally and trying to get them to give up on the task.  He says, “Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble — burned as they are?”  (Nehemiah 4:2)  It doesn’t stop there, but he gets worse as he now mocks the repairs they are doing.  “ What they are building — if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!”  (Nehemiah 4:3)

“Leadership draws opposition.  To accept leadership is to invite antagonism, criticism, and complaints” (John Kitchen in Revival in the Rubble)

Leadership Principle # 1- Leaders naturally open themselves up to opposition.  While it can be hard to experience, it is important to hear the people and be wise in a response.

2.  Nehemiah displays personal integrity in how he handles the opposition.  It was likely discouraging for him to hear these things take place since this project was for their own good.  However, before he does anything else, he prays.  This allows him to remember that the work is the Lord’s and that God will complete the task despite the opposition.

“Integrity is not what we do as much as who we are.  And who we are, in turn, determines what we do” (John Maxwell)

Leadership Principle # 2- Leaders remain in control in opposition by not just reacting to a situation. Instead, they listen, pray and come up with a feasible solution.

Part 2- Project/Ministry Opposition

1. Nehemiah hears the threats, prays and continues to press on.   Even though he understands that the Lord is on their side, he doesn’t ignore the threats. Instead he devises a plan to post guards to watch the backs of the people.    Even after that, the opposition still continues to press on with more intimidation to builders.  He responded to this by having people arm themselves as they worked.

“Great leaders are seldom blindsided.  They realize that the punch that knocks them out is seldom the hard one — it’s the one they didn’t see coming.  Therefore, they are always looking for signs and indicators that will give them insight into the problem ahead and their odds of fixing it” – John Maxwell

Leadership Principle # 3-  Leaders meet the opposition with an appropriate response.   They are willing to meet challenges because it is the mission that drives them.

2.   The opposition doesn’t just leave after Nehemiah posts guards.  Instead they ratchet up their methods of intimidation.    After some time, the people started to get weary of it and needed some new motivation.  Nehemiah encourages them and reminds them that “our God will fight for us.”  This provides much needed motivation and perspective for them.

Leadership Principle # 4- Leaders must constantly encourage and motivate those they lead.  This involves reminding them of what they know to be true and showing them the direction that the team is heading.

3.  Nehemiah exhibits a tremendously positive attitude in all of this.  This allows him to stay level-headed in his decisions and keep his team moving in the right direction.

“Leadership is influence.  People catch our attitudes just like they catch our colds — by getting close to us.  It is important that I possess a great attitude, not only for my own success, but also for the benefit of others” – John Maxwell

Leadership Principle #5-  Leaders keep the right attitude about the goal even in opposition.


So, what do you think?  How have you experienced this and overcome?  We don’t need to simply cower in fear of what might happen next.  We can prepare and lead through opposition.



  1. I love the lessons of Nehemiah. I’m glad to see you writing about it here. The lessons for leadership, personal integrity, and keeping the faith are relevant for today. Of course, the whole Bible is, but people get so focused on the “wrapper” of that time and culture that they miss the point of the story and how with a few tweaks, the story is the same today just with different players.

    That is so not clear. My point is that the Bible could be rewritten to today’s society and still say the same thing. Instead of Israelites demanding their meat and not being happy with manna, it would be those of us who gripe because our needs got met instead of our wants.

    I’m not sure that’s any more clear. Time for bed.

  2. But I don’t like opposition, lol. Opposition will come none-the-less. I like that you pointed out it must be handled appropriately. That does not mean “how dare you…”. It doesn’t mean kowtowing either. I admire the leader who can find the balance in dealing with opposition, including hearing the other person out. Angie

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