It was HIM… it was always him. Long before I was taunted by villains like Sephiroth and Liquid Snake, and years prior to the first time I had someone troll me over my headset while playing Halo, there was this DOG. This dog was the first character who ever damaged my gaming self-esteem and made me actually TALK BACK to the screen. Bowser and Ganon may have been the first “big bad bosses” that I ever faced, but they never hurt me the way that this dog did. It was that LAUGH… that painful act of betrayal from man’s best friend as he popped up from the bushes to mock my failure after missing the ducks flying across the screen. I was supposed to be there hunting ducks… but they never felt like the actual enemies I was trying to defeat in the game. It was always the dog. I highly doubt that I am the only person who wanted to keep shooting at the screen when the original gaming “hater” popped up with his scornful laugh after a failed level. You know you did too… and we both know he had it coming.
The Duck Hunt dog could not be stopped… he was invincible to attacks and impervious to defeat. Every time I failed a level he was there, mocking me. He’s not the most difficult or challenging enemy I have ever faced, and to be fair he never actually attacked me at any point during the game… he just watched me from the sidelines and laughed. And for some reason, that was worse. I honestly would have preferred an open battle, but this dog knew the best way to defeat me. He kept poking at my insecurities, mocking my attempts to try again after failure, and most importantly he never stopped coming. What could have been a relaxing and peaceful way to blow off some steam was always sabotaged by this constant canine thorn in my side.
It’s kind of funny that all these years later I can still hear the exact sound effect of his laughter just by seeing this image… as a matter of fact, I don’t even know if I needed the picture. I can see it in my mind’s eye as if it was only yesterday that he popped out of the bushes and ridiculed my efforts. And while I no longer harbor any ill will towards the very first “troll” that I encountered as a gamer, I won’t exactly be sending him any greeting cards either. He was a seminal part of my experience as a gamer, adding insult to injury for no real good reason other than the fact that he COULD. He didn’t do anything to physically impede my progress, but his presence was still an unwelcome sight that certainly didn’t make the challenge any easier.
The reality is that we all deal with this “trolling” experience in life each and every day… these powerless duck hunt dogs will ALWAYS be present in our lives, waiting in the shadows to reveal themselves during our moments of vulnerability and weakness. But if we allow them to get into our heads, they can actually do some REAL damage to us and our mission. They wait for their moment and pounce when we are at our least confident point, stealing our peace and halting our progress as we turn our attention to address them. Instead of remaining disciplined to focus on the actual reason we are here in the first place we begin unloading our full arsenal of attacks on an opponent that cannot be stopped or even damaged by our efforts… and if we do that, they get exactly what they wanted. So… what do we do about this problem? Is it true that the only way to win is to choose not to play? It’s time for some answers, because these dogs will not be silenced, and they don’t seem to be going anywhere. If anything, they only seem to be getting worse.
Nehemiah was someone who could relate to this problem all too well… he was just an ordinary guy with a government job who felt the calling of the Lord to take on a challenge that was honestly well beyond his position or authority level. At this time the land of Israel had been conquered and the majority of the population was forcefully relocated into foreign lands as slaves… Jerusalem had been pillaged and burned to the ground and the glory days of this once great kingdom were many years in the past. But Nehemiah felt a burden from the Lord to bring the remaining population together, rebuild the walls of the city, and begin the process of restoration to Jerusalem. He took a leap of faith and received permission from the king to proceed… but the moment he accepted the mission the haters were already coming out of the woodwork.
Nehemiah 2:4-6 Then the king said to me, “What do you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.” Then the king said to me (the queen also sitting beside him), “How long will your journey be? And when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.
Nehemiah 2:9-10 Then I went to the governors in the region beyond the River, and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me. When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of it, they were deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel.
Nehemiah already had a difficult challenge ahead of him… he was well out of his comfort zone and taking on the unprecedented task of bringing his scattered brethren together to begin the process of building back what they had lost. But the stakes were incredibly high here… not just for Nehemiah and the people living at that time, but for the future of the entire human race. All of the prophecies leading to the birth, life, and death of Christ had to take place in this land… a land that currently was not setup for any of these events. The actions of Nehemiah to rebuild the land and restore the temple would reverberate throughout time and eternity… but Nehemiah had to deal with some detractors of his own first. Enter the trash-talking haters…
Nehemiah 4:1-3 But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews. And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stones that are burned?” Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.”
How rude. As if Nehemiah didn’t have enough problems taking on an insurmountable challenge that was well above his pay grade, he had to do it while being heckled by haters. I mean, there HAD to be better things these guys could do with their time. At this point Nehemiah had to make a decision with his limited time and resources… he could allow these unwanted distractions and painful insults to misdirect his attention and compromise his efforts, giving in to their efforts to silence him. That would have been the path of least resistance, and the trolls probably would have left him alone once the work stopped and he disappeared into the background. I mean, nobody was bothering Nehemiah back when he was just doing his day job. But Nehemiah had heard the unmistakable call of the Lord on his life, and it was compelling him to push forward and finish the work. Let’s see which path he chose as his unsupportive audience continued to press the attack, moving beyond insulting his work and into attacking his character as well as his motivations for his mission…
Nehemiah 6:1-9 Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they thought to do me harm. So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” But they sent me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner. Then Sanballat sent his servant to me as before, the fifth time, with an open letter in his hand. In it was written: It is reported among the nations, and Geshem says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their king. And you have also appointed prophets to proclaim concerning you at Jerusalem, saying, “There is a king in Judah!” Now these matters will be reported to the king. So come, therefore, and let us consult together. Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart.” For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, “Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done.” Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.
Nehemiah didn’t allow the constant harassment, threats, intimidation, or insults to deter him from pursuing his destiny, and in doing this he revealed the path to surviving the peanut gallery that will always have SOMETHING to say about every step we take. The reality is that any mission we take on for Christ will not occur unopposed… there will always be haters, trolls, griefers, and bullies who are going to pop up out of the bushes the moment we take our first steps towards the destiny that He has for us. But we cannot allow them to live rent-free in our heads or give them one extra second of consideration… we have to shut them out of our heads and carry on with the Lord’s work. The truth is that they can’t stop us from accomplishing the destiny the Lord has set for us… they can’t even slow us down unless we choose to let them. They will be there on day one, and as Christ Himself felt on the cross, they will be there on our last day, too.
Matthew 27:39-43 And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ”
Luke 23:35-37 And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.” The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.”
In the middle of Jesus’s deepest pain and most public demonstration of His unselfish love, the Duck Hunt dogs were there… mocking, hating, cursing, and insulting Him as He literally bled and died to save them. If we are waiting for the opposition to disappear before acting on the mission that the Lord has placed us on, I have both good and bad news. The good news is that they can’t stop us… the bad news is that they aren’t going to stop. But I suppose I should be thankful to that Duck Hunt dog, because he prepared me from the very beginning for the battles I would be facing in the future. He was my first “troll”, but he certainly wasn’t my last. Through the process of enduring his distracting laughter, I finally learned how to shut him out and focus on the next level I would be facing and the actions I needed to take to be successful. That dog taught me valuable lessons that would pay off in the future when I learned how to ignore all of the online trolls and loud-mouthed bosses I would face as I continued my journey as a gamer. That dog was just the first of many opponents that would talk a big game… and would eventually become nothing more than a trophy.
Engaging in pointless battles with the “Duck Hunt dogs” in our lives is more than just a waste of our time and energy… it pulls us off of our mission and gives them their only path to victory. Don’t allow the laughing images of those who hold our past against us and mock our present attempts at change to steal our future… their insults are hollow and in time they will only be remembered as a footnote in your story. Instead, let’s look to the examples of both Nehemiah and Christ as they endured the bitter opposition of their antagonists and stood victorious in the end… Nehemiah finished his work to rebuild the city so that Jesus could complete HIS mission to live, die, and rise again in this very same land. Others are counting on us to endure these annoyances and insults because the work they are called to do is going to be built on the foundation we are laying. Their words and insults absolutely hurt… make no mistake about that. But they do not define us, they cannot delay us, and they will not be able to destroy us… because when the time comes the Lord will be the one to DEFEND us. And when the work we are doing has been blessed by the Father, all the Duck Hunt dogs in the world can only talk a big game… from a game that didn’t even bother to give them a proper name. So, I guess I owe a big thank you to the “Duck Hunt dog”…. you prepared me perfectly for a lifetime of facing trolls like you. And now, if you will excuse me… I’m going to keep on building this city.
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