Overcoming Discouragement

Nehemiah chapter 4

(modified from the book "Slaying the Giants in your Life" by David Jeremiah 2001 by David Jeremiah)


All of us at different times have and will feel discouraged. It is a time when we have been trying our best but it seems that things are not working out the way we had hoped. We may find it difficult to keep going at our task or goal. We may even decide to give up and quit. In this study we will look at a time of discouragement in the life of Israel to learn from their example lessons we can use for our own situation.

Bible  Study of God's Word

As you go through this lesson, read the verses in the Bible to help you find the answers. Try reading the verses first in a Bible in your own language (Chinese) and then in an English version and writing down any questions you would like to ask later and   answers to these questions that follow.

Note: The Bible verse references below are linked to an English version of the Bible. If you would like to follow the Bible verse link, it would be good to "right click" on the Bible verse link and choose to open in new window  resized the window so that you can quickly go back and forth from this page to the verses.

Read  Nehemiah Chapter 4 and consider the following questions

Historical Background

In approximately 586 BC Jerusalem and the temple was destroyed by the Babylonians (present day Iraq and the people were scattered throughout the Babylonian empire. Then in 538 BC Babylon was conquered by another nation (present day Iran) and the new king allowed Jewish people  to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.  The rebuilding of the temple was completed in 516 BC (see book of Ezra in the Old Testament). Seventy one years later the Jews people became discouraged because although they had the temple built, the original walls around the city had not been rebuilt and they were feeling insecure about their defenses against hostile groups that lived all around them not unlike the situation in Israel today. With the walls lying in ruins as a result  earlier destruction of the city, the people of Israel have not had the luxury of peaceful sleep. Raiders from the outlying provinces have been able to attack by night and keep the Israelite settlers discouraged and fearful.

Finally in 445 BC a man named Nehemiah was lead by God to return to Jerusalem and to lead the people in the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem (see Nehemiah chapters 1-3). After they had finish half the wall their enemies tried to discourage them so that they would not be able to complete the wall. These enemies constituted of Sanballat and the Samaritans from the North, Tobiah and the Ammonites from the East, Geshem and the Arabs from the south, and the Ashdodites from the West (see Nehemiah 4:7-8). This ground formed a alliance to bring pressure on the construction workers. The greatest weapon they used was fear and discouragement


 In Chapter 4 we will see why the people were discouraged and then how they responded to their discouragement.

  1. Building block to discouragement

    1. What do you learn in Nehemiah 4:1-3 about the first signs of a cause for discouragement?

      Answer: In the begin of the work, Sanballat and Tobiah tried to stop the work by using ridicule putting down the abilities of the workers. This was just the first of a continue discouragement by using criticism. We will see that this will continue later.


    2. How did they responded at this time (vv. 4-6)? How much of the job did they complete at this time?

      Answer: They responded by expressing their concerns in prayer to God (1 Peter 5:7). They do not seek revenge but leaves that up to God (Romans 12:18-19). Then they continue to work at their task and not allow those who are insulting them discourage them. How do you respond to unjustified criticism and insults? Do you get upset and want to get back at those who are insulting you? If you have come to know the saving love of God who has forgiving you then you can turn to God in prayer and express you feelings and then leave it to God to satisfy justice. Don't let your emotions stop you from doing the task that you have been given.


    3. What was the response of the enemy to the continued progress in the building of the wall (vv. 7-8)?

      Answer: Now the enemies plan together to come and attack them at night to try to disrupt the building project.


    4. How did the workers responded this time to the enemies threats (v. 9)?

      Answer: The people responded by praying to God for protection and courage and being active to counter the threat by protecting themselves. We have here an example of trusting God and using wise human means to a problem.

    We have been looking at external discouragement but in vv. 10-12 we learn of four internal sources of discouragement. What are they? We will answer this in section B.


  2. Recognizing Sources of Discouragement

    What have you learned from these verses above, that will help you to understand some of the causes of discouragement? Can you find find four causes?


    1. Fatigue or loss of strength from continuous work and stress (v. 10). When our energy and strength is weak so is our courage. You begin to be tense, easily upset and sad. If we work to hard for too long, you are going to see diminishing returns on the investment of your time and talent and then discouragement sets in. God as our creator knows what is best for us and we all need times of rest. We need to pace ourselves if we are going to keep going. That is why God told us to take one day each week to rest and to worship God. This is a day to rebuild our physical, emotional and spiritual strength (Exodus 20:8-11).


    2. Frustration with the lack of progress in our work can lead to discouragement (v. 10). It may be the result of setting to high a goal. We would be better to set small more reasonable goals that will lead to the final larger goal.


    3. We start to believe that we are a failure (v.10).  When things go wrong we are more willing to listen to the criticisms and lies of those who would like to discourage us and prevent us from doing the job God has for us to do. Remember Satan is the father of lies who wants us to give up.


    4. Fear can lead us to discouragement as we listen to the negative comments or criticisms of other. This can be particularly discouraging when they come from people who we consider our friends (vv. 11-12).

    Now let us consider the lessons we can learn from this example to help us deal with discouragement.


  3. Responding to Discouragement

    1. When the people realized they were becoming discouraged and were considering quitting, giving up on the task, what was the first thing they did (4:4-5, 9a)? Note in verse 9a the "a" refers to the first part of the verse and 9b refers to the second part of the verse as in question 2 below.

      Answer: Cry out to God in prayer.


    2. What was the next thing they did in response (v. 6, 9b, 13)?

      Answer: Continue to work at the task. A break can be good but getting back to work will restore your confidence.


    3. Note that this response in v. 13 also lead to another potential source of discouragement (see also v. 19).  Because the wall was lower in some areas than the others the workers were focusing on rebuilding the more vulnerable areas of the wall. This resulted in the workers being isolated from each other. How did Nehemiah encourage the people when he realized this potential source of discouragement (vv. 14-15)?

      Answer: Concentrate on the big picture. We are not working alone but we have the almighty God working along side of us. We have others working with us. We are not in this alone.


    4. How could you today gain similar encouragement in times of discouragement (v. 15)? Here are some verses to consider (Psalm 46:1-3; Galatians 6:9).

      Answer: Claim the promises of God.


    5. As we read on in Nehemiah 4:15-23, we see another source of encouragement. What was this source of encouragement (note particularly v. 22)?

      Answer: Carry some one else's burden. Do you need encouragement right now? Good advice to you is to go encourage someone else. This will keep you from being focused on your own need if you are helping others with their needs. You will reap what you sow, and the love you give will return to you.


  4. Personal Application


    1. What may be some sources of discouragement in your life?

    2. Some things we can not change but from our study, what are some things you can do to help us overcome or prevent discouragement?

    3. Are there others that you know who are discouraged? Is there something you can do to encourage them?