Nehemiah 4:3 teaches us one of the most important leadership principles in the Bible. One of the first things someone who has discerned a vision needs to learn about is overcoming ridicule.
When God places a vision in someone’s heart, the first opposition they invariably encounter is other people laughing at them; mocking them or their work, and saying such a vision could never come to pass. I think this ridicule probably stops about 80% of the visions we have from even being attempted. We either fear the ridicule we know will come, or we get discouraged when the name calling does come… and the work that God wants accomplished gets stopped in its tracks.
By the time of Nehemiah 4:3, our hero Nehemiah has already discerned a vision from God; to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall around the city, and so protect its residents from their enemies. He’s got resources together for the rebuilding, he’s communicated the vision powerfully, and he’s built up a good team of workers from across the city. But then the name calling begins:
What they are building – if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones! (Nehemiah 4:3)
Such insults are real. Whenever we embark on a vision from God, there will be people who oppose it. And their first tactic will invariably be to ridicule us, or the vision, or both.
When Hudson Taylor first wanted to recruit missionaries to come with him to China, others laughed at him, and asked who was this man, without qualifications or credentials, to try and raise a team of missionaries. When William Wilberforce first spoke out in parliament about abolishing the slave trade, people laughed at him, saying it was absurd to talk about banning the trade. And when John Wesley first started preaching in fields, the first things they threw at him were insults, and potatoes. The stones were thrown later, when they saw that ridicule alone wouldn’t discourage him.
Fortunately Nehemiah pressed on through the ridicule, the wall was rebuilt, and “when all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realised that this work had been done with the help of our God” (Nehemiah 6:16).
Hudson Taylor pressed on through the ridicule, and ended up recruiting nearly a thousand missionaries for the Chinese mission field. William Wilberforce pressed on, and eventually saw the slave trade abolished. And John Wesley pressed on, and founded a church movement that continues to transform lives to this day.
Will you press on through the ridicule, to see the vision that God has placed on your heart come to pass?
Mark Williamson works as a director of One Rock. He’s an experienced leadership trainer, author of biographies on John Wesley and William Wilberforce, and is also passionate about praying for London. He enjoys good films, good food, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna. You can follow him on Twitter @markonerock.