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“YAC” is a familiar word in the vocabulary of football fans across America. It is a statistic that helps determine the success of a power runner. YAC is an acrostic that stands for “yards after contact.” The great running backs in recent pro football history have been measured by the yards they’ve gained after an opposing player initially contacted them. In Emmitt Smith’s great years as a running back for the Dallas Cowboys, he set all kinds of records, including most touchdowns in a season. He has truly been one of the greatest running backs of all time. But few people know that he also led the league in this statistic, YAC. YAC was coined by John Madden, the former professional coach and television network analyst. He has compiled this measurement by counting the number of yards a runner makes after an opposing player hits him.
The next time you have opportunity to watch a professional football game on television, look for this particular statistic. When an opposing player hits a running back, he doesn’t stop, throw the ball down, and quit. He doesn’t cave in, crumble on the ground, and then stroll back to the huddle. He doesn’t let go of the ball and fumble away his opportunity. He doesn’t turn around and run in the opposite direction. What does he do? He keeps his legs churning after he is hit; he keeps moving forward; he keeps heading toward the goal line. The great runners make most of their yards after the initial contact. They score most of their touchdowns after they have already been hit. They simply keep moving forward.
Some of us never rebuild in life because as soon as we meet opposition, we quit. We go back to the huddle. Some of us just simply lay down, while others let go of the ball and fumble. Some even run in the opposite direction from the opposition. But rebuilders keep moving forward after they are hit. It is the YAC (yards after contact) that matters most in life, not just in football. Often the YAC is what determines whether we score a touchdown. It is the single element that separates some from others. YAC is the ability to keep going when we are confronted with obstacles and opposition in conflict.
Perhaps someone is reading this today who has stopped rebuilding because of meeting opposition. Perhaps you were building a broken relationship and conflict came. It was so easy to simply exclaim, “What’s the use?” It was just easier to quit. Remember, it’s the YAC that makes the difference in life. Some are rebuilding their self-confidence and go along fairly well, and then out of nowhere get hit and are tempted to quit. The same is true whether we are rebuilding a marriage, a business, or whatever. YAC is what enables us to overcome our obstacles.
Nehemiah led his league in “yards after contact.” In fact, this is one of the real secrets to his own success. As we turn our pages to Nehemiah chapter four, we see him confronted with opposition from without, but also opposition from within. However, Nehemiah is a true rebuilder, and he leaves us with some valuable lessons in learning how to overcome our obstacles. You may get started right, as Nehemiah did, and you may build a team spirit, as he also did. You may even learn how to let go without letting up by emulating his delegation skills. However, when it comes to rebuilding, you will never reach the goal if you do not learn how to deal with opposition, how to overcome your obstacles, and how to gain yardage after you have been hit. Anyone who gets serious about rebuilding will meet opposition. Like ham and eggs, steak and potatoes, corned beef and cabbage, rebuilding and opposition go hand in hand. Sometimes it comes from without. A Sanballat or a Tobiah will rise up against you, as they did against Nehemiah. Other times it comes from within. Judah, of all people, was about to give up on Nehemiah. Sometimes, like Nehemiah, you find that someone on your own team is the opponent. How we deal with opposition that comes our way will determine the success or failure of our own rebuilding projects. Remember, it’s the YAC, “yards after contact”, that matter most.
In chapter four, when confronted with opposition, Nehemiah did four things that enabled him to be an overcomer and finish the job God had called him to perform. He keeps making yards after contact. How? To begin with, he shows us how important it is to deal with conflict head-on. Don’t think it is going away if we simply ignore it. We must meet our conflict head-on and deal with it. We cannot turn around and run the other way and still get the business handled.
Second, Nehemiah overcame his obstacles by making proper adjustments. There was still a lot of rubbish that needed to be removed around the walls of Jerusalem. To attempt to rebuild the walls on a foundation as shabby as rubbish would only mean the wall would one day crumble again. From time to time in the rebuilding process, we have to call a timeout and make some proper adjustments to our own game plan.
Next, Nehemiah overcame his obstacles by keeping on doing what was right. Once he had dealt with conflict head on and made some proper adjustments, he simply kept doing what was right. He watched and worked. With a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other, he continued with the process of rebuilding, while keeping a keen eye out for opposition. He did not let the opposition deter him from the task that was ahead. He kept doing what was right.
Finally, Nehemiah overcame those obstacles by rallying his troops. It is important, in rebuilding, to keep everyone’s eye on the goal. He not only began with his goal in mind, but he continued in the same vein. Remember, it is the YAC that makes the difference in rebuilding. It’s never too late for a new beginning.
I. Deal with conflict head-on
Nehemiah got started right, built a team spirit, let go without letting up, and now he faces the biggest challenge of all — opposition. Don’t think when you get serious about rebuilding that you’ll be able to do so without opposition. In Nehemiah’s case, it was persistent (Neh. 2:10, 19; 4:1-2, 7-8; 6:1-2). Do not fool yourself into thinking that opposition will go away. Our challenge is in learning to deal with it, and overcome it. Nehemiah, like Emmitt Smith and other great running backs today, dealt with conflict head-on. He knew it was the YAC that would matter most in the rebuilding process.
As is often the case with opposition, it came from without (Neh. 4:1-3), and from within (Neh. 4:10). Note that outside opposition first came in the form of mocking and ridicule. When Sanballat heard that Nehemiah was rebuilding the walls, he became furious and indignant and “mocked the Jews.” He asked, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day?” (Neh. 4:1-2). Then Tobiah got his two cents in, “Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall” (Neh. 4:3). This outside opposition of mocking and ridicule attacked Nehemiah at the point of his morale, his motives, and his mission. They called him and his coworkers “feeble Jews” (Neh. 4:2). Sanballat was attacking the morale of the Jews. He was attempting to demolish their self-worth. He was attempting to weaken their resolve. Have you ever met anyone like Sanballat? Here we are in the midst of a rebuilding process. Our walls are going up, and someone comes along and says something that hits at our morale. Perhaps someone put you down, and you are tempted to say, “What’s the use?” Remember, it’s YAC, the “yards after contact”, that determines the real winners in rebuilding.
Next, Nehemiah’s motives are attacked. They said that he and his Jewish friends were simply doing it “for themselves” (Neh. 4:2). The enemy implies that Nehemiah has a selfish motive in what he is doing. The Sanballats of this world cannot understand why you or I would do something for God’s glory alone. If you are in the process of rebuilding, don’t be surprised if someone sees your walls going up and begins to attack not only your morale, but also begins to question your motives. When this happens, simply remember it’s the YAC that really matter most.
They also attacked Nehemiah’s mission. They began to question whether he would ever really finish the job and revive those stones from the rubble. They even said, “If a fox jumped upon the wall, it was so poorly constructed it would fall down” (Neh. 4:3). Tobiah chimed in by implying that the job was simply just too big for them. Often the task seems impossible. When this happens, there is a Tobiah in our experience that usually jumps in and begins to attack our mission.
What is the real issue here? Sanballat and Tobiah simply did not like to see those walls going up. Habitual critics always resist change. When we read the text in Nehemiah chapter four, it is interesting to see how these types of people flock together. Nehemiah was dealing with conflict head-on.
I often wonder about the work of God that never causes the enemy to raise his head in opposition. The truth is, any time someone takes God at His word and begins to rebuild something of value, there will be a Sanballat or a Tobiah to mock, and ridicule, and attack our morale, our motive, and our mission.
For example, we believe the way to rebuild a broken home is for the husband to assume the role of the spiritual leader. God designed the home to have a head. Tell that to our modern world, and listen to them mock and ridicule those of us who take the husband’s spiritual headship from the Bible as truth. Sanballats and Tobiahs are all around us today. Anyone who stands upon the word of God will find opposition from without, and, in a sense, should consider it a badge of honor.
When you are in the process of rebuilding, there will always be someone asking the question, “Will you complete the wall?” We should not be surprised when we have opposition from without. What should be done about it? We should learn from Nehemiah, and deal with conflict head-on.
Opposition not only comes from without, but it also comes from within (Neh. 4:10). The opposition from without did not have much effect. It did demoralize some, but not many. Now the tribe of Judah is ready to lie down on the job after being hit by opposition. Judah said the strength of the laborers was failing, and there was so much rubbish it was doubtful they would ever be able to accomplish the task. Those words have a haunting sound. Of all the people – Judah! Judah was the strongest of the tribes of whom the Bible says, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes” (Gen. 49:10).
What happened? Fatigue, frustration, and failure plagued them. Fatigue was a contributing factor to their frustration. They said, “The strength of the laborers is failing” (Neh. 4:10). They had been working so hard at the task that they tired of it. They were physically depleted. We are not talking about small “Acme bricks” here. Anyone who has ever been to the Holy Land is always astounded at how those massive stones that make up the walls of Jerusalem could have been put in place in such an ancient culture. No wonder their strength was failing. Fatigue had set in and with it had come discouragement. This is often at the root of a lot of our own failures. We simply give out and become too tired to go on, so we give in and are tempted to give up. When fatigue sets in, we begin to lose our perspective, and little things become bigger than they are.
Frustration was another factor. Judah said, “There is so much rubbish.” The magnitude of the task was astounding. They looked at the debris, so massive all around. There was so much to be cleared away. They lost their enthusiasm. They lost their vision. They took their eye off the goal and put it on all the rubbish. Those who are in the process of rebuilding are often tempted to do this. There are times when we are tempted to look at the sheer massiveness of our task. When we focus upon the rubbish alone, it will bring frustration, as it did with Judah.
Fatigue and frustration are most generally followed by failure. Judah went on, “We are not able to build the wall.” They lost confidence. Is anyone reading this who feels that way today? You started out on the process of rebuilding. You got started right, built a team spirit, and then fatigue and frustration led to failure.
It is important to remember that the Jews were at the halfway point at this particular time. “So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height” (Neh. 4:6). Incidentally, that is a dangerous place to be in the process of rebuilding. Often it is the most discouraging place along the journey. There may be some man reading this who is at the midpoint of life. Your wall is built half way, but you are not where you thought you should be. Thus, you are discouraged, and perhaps in frustration are saying, “We are not able to build the wall.” And so you are tempted to run the other way. Remember that YAC is what counts in life.
Listen to Judah. Perhaps, as you look at your own task of rebuilding it appears to be too big. Sometimes opposition from within comes in the form of “but.” Yes, we built half the wall, “but” there is too much rubbish. Have you ever had someone agree with you on something, and then add “but?” “That’s a great idea, BUT it can’t be done.” “That’s a super suggestion, BUT it’s never been done before.” “That’s a wonderful thought, BUT we don’t have enough resources.” When someone says that to you, don’t believe the first part. You may as well discount everything before the “but.” Their true response always follows the “but.”
When rebuilding, the thing that hurts most is not opposition from without, but it’s the opposition that comes from within. Even our Lord Jesus faced opposition from within His own close-knit group of followers. It is discouraging when someone from within says, “We can’t!” It is one thing for those outside to stand in opposition, but quite another when those within our own ranks, like Judah, do so. Put yourself in Nehemiah’s place. How would you respond? What kind of “yards after contact” average would you have in this particular game?
Here is opposition from without and from within. What did Nehemiah do? He dealt with conflict head-on. He persisted at his task. I like the way he says it in verse six, “So we built the wall.” He just kept mixing the mortar. He kept laying the stones. He kept rebuilding the wall. Yes, it would have been easy for him to go back to Persia and get his old cushy job back, but he didn’t. What did he do? He took his dilemma straight to the Lord (Neh. 4:4). Rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem was God’s project, not Nehemiah’s.
After he was initially hit with opposition, Nehemiah kept going. As he kept moving toward his goal, the opposition increased. Sanballat and Tobiah and their friends “became very angry, and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion” (Neh. 4:7-8). Their enemy had surrounded them and was threatening violence. They got very angry at Nehemiah’s success, and now sought to intimidate the Jews. Thus, these warring factions formed a conspiracy. It is amazing how suddenly people can bury their differences and come together against one particular person. The Lord Jesus suffered the same thing. He bore the brunt of ridicule and conspiracy, and the Bible records, “That very day Pilate and Herod became friends with each other, for previously they had been at enmity with each other” (Luke 23:12).
How did Nehemiah deal with his conflict head-on? He began in the place of prayer. He says, “We made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night” (Neh. 4:9). He prayed, and continued to work harder. Prayer was always a priority, but it was no substitute for action. What should you do when you meet opposition in rebuilding? You should certainly pray, and go ahead and deal with opposition head-on. Are you rebuilding a vocation? Then pray and fill out the resume. Beat the pavement. Make your contacts. Are you seeking to rebuild a marriage? First pray, and then do something. Begin to do the things you did at first.
Nehemiah dealt with conflict head-on. He just kept rebuilding the wall with “yards after contact.” When he got hit with opposition he didn’t quit. He didn’t fold up on the ground. He didn’t fumble. He didn’t let go of the ball. He didn’t run in the opposite direction. No! He kept moving forward toward his goal. This is the mark of a true overcomer and a true rebuilder. They deal with conflict head-on. They have an optimism that is contagious, and they persevere in the face of opposition.
It’s one thing to get started right. In fact, it is essential. It’s another thing to build a team spirit, to motivate and mobilize those around you. It’s one thing to let go without letting up, to delegate the tasks. But the real issue in rebuilding comes in our ability to overcome our obstacles, to keep at it after we have been hit. To persevere in the face of opposition that strikes at our morale, our motive, and our mission. Yes, it is the YAC that makes the difference in life. Even though we may have been hit with opposition…it’s never too late for a new beginning!
II. Make proper adjustments
Over the course of my ministry, it has been my joy to pastor in major metropolitan areas that had professional athletic teams. Consequently, I have had numerous opportunities to lead Bible studies for various professional athletes, and speak to team chapel services before games. Some of my most memorable experiences have been with my friend, Mike Ditka. One of the secrets of Mike’s success is to make proper adjustments during the course of the football game, particularly during the half time. This unique ability is essential not only in football games, but also in life circumstances and situations.
Nehemiah put his finger on the problem of his opposition when he indicated that some of the Jews were “dwelling too near the enemy” (Neh. 4:12). Judah had been listening to some of the Jews who were living “near the enemy.” The enemy had influenced them. They picked up the gossip. They were far removed from the center glow of the spirit dynamic in the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Living near the enemy caused them to put their focus on the enemy itself. They began to listen to them instead of God. I have seen this happen with people who are seeking to rebuild their lives. Some just simply stay out there dangerously close to the enemy, and will not move in near to the heart of where God is moving and rebuilding.
Note that those in Judah said there was simply “too much rubbish.” It is a dangerous thing to try and build on rubbish. Many people are doing this today, especially those attempting to rebuild relationships. They never really remove the rubbish that has accumulated over the years; they simply try to build on top of it, only to see the wall crumble again, and again. To risk rebuilding on rubbish simply means that sooner or later the wall will fall again.
There was nothing wrong with the foundation upon which Nehemiah was building. It was still solid. The problem was that for all of those years junk and debris had accumulated on top of the foundation. It had piled up, and nothing had been done about it. To attempt to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem on such rubbish would have been futile. They may have gotten the walls up, but the first big wind or assault of any kind would have crumbled them again. Many of us in the process of rebuilding do not have to lay a new foundation. We simply need to remove the rubbish, expose the old foundation, and begin to build upon it again. Some have marriages that are built on a solid foundation, but rubbish has been piling up for years. We need to remove it, and get back to the foundation. This is why so many are up and down in relationships. They build up the walls only to see them fall again. We need to make proper adjustments, and remove the rubbish.
Some reading this have lives that were built on the solid foundation. You were brought up on the principles of the Bible. You have a good foundation, but have not seen it for a while. You allowed rubbish to accumulate and pile up, and you simply need to remove it. Others continually try to keep rebuilding on rubbish; everything goes along well for a while, and then it falls again. Some are involved in an endless cycle, and the simple reason is they are building upon rubbish.
Nehemiah dealt with conflict head-on, and now he makes some proper adjustments. Listen to him as he regroups, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses” (Neh. 4:14). Remember that it is halftime (Neh. 4:6). And now, Nehemiah makes some proper adjustments. He does the same thing a great coach would do. He gathers his troops at halftime, removes the rubbish, and makes proper adjustments. Nehemiah calls his people off the wall, rallies them together, huddles them up, and gives them an inspiring halftime talk.
Like a seasoned coach of a championship team, Nehemiah makes proper adjustments. There is a rebuke. “Do not be afraid of them.” He addresses their fear. Then he encourages them. “Remember the Lord, great and awesome.” He reminds them that the battle is really the Lord’s. Then he exhorts them. “Fight for your brethren.” Look at Nehemiah as he deals with conflict head-on, and now as he makes proper adjustments. Some of us are still trying to build upon rubbish. Remember, it’s the YAC that makes the difference in life. As we continue to churn toward our goal, we will become more and more convinced… it’s never too late for a new beginning.
III. Keep doing what is right
Having dealt with conflict head-on, and made the proper adjustments, now Nehemiah continues to do what is right. He simply puts it this way, “All of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work” (Neh. 4:15). They kept doing what was right (Neh. 4:15-17, 21-23). There is an important principle at work here. Nehemiah never left the rebuilding for the battle! We are often tempted to leave the rebuilding process and go to battle when opposition arises. It would have been easy for Nehemiah to have answered scorn with scorn, to leave the rebuilding for the battle, but he wisely resisted and simply kept doing what was right.
Look at Nehemiah. Here are “yards after contact.” They mocked, but he kept rebuilding. They ridiculed, but he kept rebuilding. They threatened, but he kept rebuilding. They despised him, but he kept rebuilding. They conspired against him, but he kept rebuilding. He kept doing what was right. To keep on doing what is right is a mighty principle. Half of Nehemiah’s people watched while the other half worked. They kept doing what was right. This is the secret in rebuilding when we are confronted with opposition. The apostle Paul was a master at this. He had really good statistics when it came to “yards after contact.” Listen to him, “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (II Cor.4:8-9) (Phillips Translation). I like that. Paul is saying “I get right back up and keep doing what is right!” It’s the YAC that enables us to rebuild the broken walls around us.
Nehemiah concludes the chapter by saying, “So we labored in the work, and half of the men held the spears from daybreak until the stars appeared…So neither I, my brethren, my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me took off our clothes, except that everyone took them off for washing” (Neh. 4:21, 23). Nehemiah keeps leading by example. He’s done this all through his book, and he continues now. He is standing with his people through it all. He leads them by example to simply keep doing what is right. He has never been more aware that it is the YAC that makes the difference in life. It’s never too late for a new beginning.
IV. Rally the troops
We all need a Nehemiah to encourage us to keep rebuilding. We all need a Nehemiah to rally the troops around us. Had it not been for Nehemiah, the Jews might have abandoned their task again and left the wall in shambles, as they had done for so many years. He dealt with conflict head-on; he made some proper adjustments; he kept doing what was right; now, he rallies the troops around him. One person can make a tremendous difference, as Nehemiah did.
Nehemiah had a rallying point for his whole team. He kept the trumpeter always at his side (Neh. 4:18). He said, “Whenever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us” (Neh. 4:20). Do you get the picture? The workers were widely scattered all along the wall. They were laboring at the task of rebuilding. At the sound of the trumpet, they were to leave their work and rally around Nehemiah for the final overthrow of the enemy. The focal point of the whole strategy was their commander in chief and the trumpeter by his side, who would sound the signal to gather.
Do I need to say any more? Across the world today there are preachers, and laborers, and missionaries, and others scattered all along the wall, rebuilding the kingdom of God. In some places, the ranks are thin. Some are way out there and so close to the enemy. Others are cut off from fellowship, but they are rebuilding. We all have one Commander in Chief, the Lord Jesus Christ, and He is the rallying point for all of us who are interested in rebuilding our lives. One day, He said, the trumpet will sound and we shall leave our work, put down our tools, and rally around Him. But, until then, we must keep rebuilding the wall. We must keep overcoming our obstacles. How? Deal with conflict head-on. Make proper adjustments. Keep doing what’s right. And rally our troops.
I attended a basketball game recently where the home team had a huge lead. In the last quarter, the lead began to dwindle as the opposition became stronger and stronger, and the momentum changed. The home team was on the verge of losing its large lead, and with only a few minutes left the coach called a time out. He gathered his team around him. What did he do? He dealt with the conflict head-on. He made proper adjustments. He encouraged his team to keep doing what was right, and he rallied them to the task. They went out and won the ballgame. It may be that some of us simply need to call a “timeout” in life, and remember that it is the YAC that matters most.
Nehemiah reminded his people, “Our God will fight for us.” He was rallying the troops. Sanballat and Tobiah had said, “You won’t.” Judah had said, “We can’t.” Nehemiah said, “God will.” People begin to rally around something when they see God in it. Which voice is yours? Is it the voice of Sanballat? “You won’t!” Is it the voice of Judah? “We can’t!” Or, is it the voice of Nehemiah? “God will.” There are three voices shouting at us from Nehemiah chapter four. The question is, to whose voice will we listen? Nehemiah said, “God will.” And He did! “So the wall was finished in fifty-two days” (Neh. 6:15). Yes, Emmitt Smith was one of the great professional runners of all National Football League history, largely because of the statistic called YAC, “yards after contact.” How do you rate in this category? It may well determine whether you rebuild or not.
In the early days of my pastorate at First Baptist Church in Dallas, I was often overwhelmed with the task. It was a tremendous challenge of rebuilding one of the great churches of America. At the time, my daughter was playing on the high school basketball team at our First Baptist Academy. I would constantly encourage her to take more shots. If I told her once, I told her a thousand times, “You can’t make the basket if you don’t shoot it.” There was a particular time when I was feeling like Judah and wondering if there was so much rubbish that the task was insurmountable. A postcard came in the mail. It was from Holly, who by this time was in her first year of college. She wrote me some encouraging words, assuring me of her prayers. The card simply said, “OPPORTUNITY:YOU WILL MISS 100% OF THE SHOTS YOU DON’T TAKE!” It stayed on my desk the remaining years of that wonderful pastorate in Dallas.
Nehemiah is shouting to us, “Keep going! It’s the YAC that matters most. Don’t quit. Don’t fumble. Take the shot. Don’t lie down. Don’t run the other way. Keep moving forward. You will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Is anyone reading these words that’s about to give up? Take a “timeout.” Remember that Christ is your coach. He is reminding you to deal with conflict head-on, to make some proper adjustments, to keep doing what’s right. He’s rallying his troops, and this includes you and me. Long before John Madden ever coined the phrase, Jesus showed us the importance of YAC. It is the “yards after contact” that matter most, and serve to remind us that…it’s never too late for a new beginning.
- Rebuilding: Rebuilders finish strong - Part 6
- Rebuilding: Rebuilders never cut what they can untie - Part 5
- Rebuilding: Rebuilders understand "YAC" is what really matters - Part 4
- Rebuilding: Rebuilders let go without letting up - Part 3
- Rebuilding: Rebuilders build a team spirit - Part 2
- Rebuilding: Rebuilders get started right - Part 1