Hanging Out with the Wrong Crowd
Key Verse: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)
“Diga-me com quem andas que direi quem és.”
“Tell me who you hang out with and I’ll tell you who you are.” I’d be a rich woman if I had a dollar for each time I heard this from my mom as a young girl.
Mom was right. As much as a good friend can help us make wise decisions, foolish or negative companions can bring us down and steer us away from walking wisely with God.
We often think of the wrong crowd as drug addicts or immoral people, but that is not always the case. Unfortunately, their bad influence is not always so blunt. The “wrong crowd” can be members of our families and childhood friends. They may sit on the pew next to us and attend the same bible studies. They are often people we have known for a long time and therefore it is hard to separate ourselves from them. However, because of their attitude and choices in life, they can be a huge part of the reason why we find it hard to received God’s best in life.
There are many traits in a friend that should warn us of their bad influence. Today I would like to focus on one characteristic which is easily overlooked:
The Pessimist Next Door
“He spoke in the presence of his brothers and the wealthy men of Samaria and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Are they going to restore (the wall) for themselves? Can they offer sacrifices? Can they finish in a day? Can they revive the stones from the dusty rubble even the burned ones?” Now Tobiah the Ammonite was near him and he said, “Even what they are building—if a fox should jump on it, he would break their stone wall down!” Nehemiah 4:2-3
Of all bad companions, naysayers are probably among the ones who can do the greatest harm.
Nehemiah had been charged with the task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah knew the task was not going to be easy. He was appointed by God for the challenge and started gathering the right people, placing them in strategic positions to rebuild the wall which would guard the unprotected city.
As you read the first and second chapters of Nehemiah, the challenging task of rebuilding the wall takes form as each person is dedicated to a portion of the wall in a beautiful lesson of organized engineering design. Everything is running like a clock. Yet, when we turn to chapter 4, we find Sanballat and Tobiah the Ammonite angrily trying to discourage Nehemiah and his workmen from finishing their God-given task. The text does not say it, but it seems as if Nehemiah knew these men pretty well. They tried everything they could to get him and his workers distracted. “The wall is weak!” “You are weak!” “It will take too long!” “Who do you think you are?” They went on and on, arguing against the Jews’ desire to carry out God’s plan.
I can look back in my life and recount situation after situation when people tried to discourage me to do what needed to be done, or to fulfill God’s direction for my life. Had I listened to the naysayers along the way, I would not have married my husband… nor would I have moved across the continent to a foreign country. Had I listened to them, I would have stopped this ministry after the very first devotional. Had I listened to the naysayers, I would not have said yes to God on many things that did not make sense, but which I knew were His will for my life. Likewise, had Nehemiah and his workmen listened to the naysayers, they would have believed their lies, stopped the work and not carried out God’s task.
Has God given you a vision? Even if it looks impossible and some people in your life are saying you are nuts for doing it – do as Nehemiah and his workers did – Keep on working until you finish the task. And if your well-meaning “friends” call you to come down from your wall and feast with them, remember Nehemiah’s words to Sanballat and Tobiah as he replied to their invitation to party:
“I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” Nehemiah 6:3
If you are doing what God has told you to do, whatever you do – DO NOT COME DOWN! Let the naysayers carry on. Even if your hard labor seems to bear little fruit, DO NOT COME DOWN!
Carry on where God leads you, my friend. Follow His directions, step by step. Do not lean to your own understanding, or your own perception of things. God is at work when we don’t see it.
You are doing a great work. Just carry on building that wall!
Verses to Meditate Upon:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” Romans 8:31
“In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?” Psalm 56:4