Against All Odds Sermon Series


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Sticks and Stones may break bones, but what about words? They can do far more than that! They can fracture relationships in an instant. They can break someone’s spirit. They can permanently maim someone’s self-esteem. Despite what the old adage says, words are are far more dangerous than sticks and stones. But we have a tendency to underplay the power of words. When we face ridicule, sometimes we make the mistake of just telling ourselves that we are immune. But those words that we think we are ignoring, can haunt us without us knowing. Not appreciating how ridicule works on us, can affect our lives more than we want to admit. We need to know the affects on us, on our kids, and on how we speak to others. We can learn a great deal from one leader, Nehemiah, with how he faces this type of opposition.

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We can face many obstacles when attempting to climb the mountains in our lives. We can fight weariness. We can face self-doubt and insecurity. We can experience set-backs. We can even be ready for threats from enemies. But the maybe the greatest back-breaker is when a friend tells you to “turn back.” How do we deal with discouragement? How do we push through? Maybe we should just remember the goal and mentally visualize the glory of reaching the summit. Maybe we dig down deep inside of ourselves. We remember what we’re made of and channel our own inner strength. When Nehemiah faced opposition, he did none of those things. And when we adopt Nehemiah’s strategy for beating discouragement we can tap into strength we didn’t know we had access to.


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Opposition can be tricky. Sometimes it’s external, coming from an enemy or an outsider. There is no shortage of people in this world who (somehow) find enjoyment in opposing, ridiculing, and discouraging others. Other times opposition can be internal. In this case, the opponent is the person you least expected--a close friend, a family member, someone on the inside who knows the real you. There is another form of opposition, however, and this is where it gets tricky. It’s the opponent inside us. It’s when we are the ones stacking the odds against ourselves. So how can we win in the face of opposition, when we’re the opposition?

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Manipulation is one of the most entangling obstacles that we face. It’s tricky because it’s all about reading between the lines, and trying to recognize people’s intentions. People can coerce our actions through all kinds of tactics like guilt, sympathy or even over-spiritualizing something. We know we are not supposed to be naive, but we also don’t want to be paranoid. We don’t want to always think the worst of people, but we don’t want to get taken advantage of. What’s the difference between perceiving someone’s motives and being judgmental? The bottom line is it’s a difficult thing to be discerning. Nehemiah vulnerably shares how he faced this obstacle. And through his example we can learn how to sharpen our discernment for when we will face this too.


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We love victory stories. We love seeing stories of great men and women who persevere until they reach their goal, their summit. But one of the saddest things is to see someone or some organization rise to great heights only to not be able to tumble down. Watching neglect destroy a something beautiful is a tragic thing to witness. Unfortunately, this is part of the story of an ancient leader named Nehemiah. When he takes leave from Jerusalem, after rebuilding things physically and spiritually, things spiralled downward. But what happens when he returns, teaches us something about the impact of neglect and what to do when we fall prey to it in our lives.