For the past several months, I’ve kept a journal of nuggets that I discovered and learned from reading about Nehemiah. The name of the journal is, “The Nehemiah Challenge.”
The following is Part 3 of The Nehemiah Challenge.
Text: Nehemiah 2:9-20
After praying for 3 to 4 months, Nehemiah asks God what he should do. God’s will became crystal clear–knowing that the uncomfortable work was about to begin and would stretch his resolve and endurance, Nehemiah continued to pray. It is miraculous that the king reverses years of political policy to grant Nehemiah everything he needs for the work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. To be the recipient of God’s favor is an unspeakable gift!
And so, Nehemiah is getting going on the long journey (800 miles) to Jerusalem. Now as governor, he has full documented permission from the king for validation. He took three days for a sabbath rest and because Nehemiah is a man of prayer, I believed he prayed a lot during that time. During the night hours, with a few men and a horse to ride on, Nehemiah inspected the wall and devastation…broken, burned and destroyed. He was faced with an enormous and daunting task. Being sure of God’s will emboldened Nehemiah while inspiring and influencing the people to strengthen their hands for the good work. When you are doing God’s work, expect to have opposition from people who have the “gift of discouragement.” They can be noisy and abusive with mockery and ridicule. This is the reality of opposition. We seek to rebuild what’s broken in the world (or church) but the world (or church) will not view its brokenness as needing to be repaired. The rule of action is to actively live out the gospel which gives all glory and power to the God of heaven who will make us prosper.
- Getting Going
- The Good Work
- Mockery and Ridicule
- Rule of Action
There is nothing easy or comfortable about what God is calling Nehemiah to. In his role as pioneer in the reconstructing of Jerusalem, we see in him the zeal for God, the love for people, plus the readiness to challenge his challengers and to oppose personal opposition. He does not choose the path of least resistance, the god of comfort. He is well aware that his faith and resolve will be stretched. Once clear on his call, Nehemiah got down to business. He was not a man who let grass grow under his feet.  Quietly and methodically, he inspected the different sections of the wall, gathering data, seeing first hand what is needed before he cast the vision and recruited hundreds of others to begin the good work. He has a willingness to work hard under pressure and to inspire and move others to do the same. Nehemiah unites with the people (solidarity) before he challenges them to a greater call. “Come, let us build… that we may no longer suffer derision.”
APPLICATION: Getting going requires a right standing with God, prayer, inspection and evaluation of the job, determining resources, appoint the right leaders at the right time, become united and work alongside of them while gaining their trust.
The Good Work
God is the author and creator of work. He worked for six days and he rested. He has begun a good work in our lives and he will perfect it. (Philippians 1:6) Work is the exertion of effort that aims at producing a new state of affairs.  Whatever our calling or profession, our work should reflect the glory of God. “So, whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV) Whatever we tackle, whatever God has called us to do, we should be conscientiously doing our best. While there is great joy in doing good work, it can also be very hard and when it becomes hard, we need to pray. Nehemiah is an example of not being self-focused, self-sufficient, self-centered…he is doing the good work God burdened his heart to do and he becomes God-focused, God-sufficient, and God-centered. The quality of his good work is evidenced by the quality of his prayers.
APPLICATION: Praying determines the quality of our working. Working reflects the quality of our praying.
Mockery and Ridicule
Surrounded by opponents on all sides. Sanballat the Horonite governed Samaria, to the north of Judah; Tobiah the Ammonite governed Ammon, to the east of Judah; Geshem the Arab governed the area south of Judah; Ashdodites, who dwelt to the west of Judah.
The world is a messy place. We are messy people with lives full of dysfunctional stuff and so we should not be surprised when we bump into each other over conflicts and disagreements and when opposition arises. Nehemiah demonstrates that humility is the key for progress. 1 Peter 5:1 says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble…so humble yourselves before God and he will lift you up at the proper time.” It takes an act of humility to give thanks for the daily grind of doing the good work. Pursuing the will of God will not always be popular. Will we complain or stop the work? Or will we give thanks and experience the favor of God?
“If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.”–Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Bonhoeffer, by Eric Metaxas) 
Because of the self-absorbed habits of our sinful hearts, the only way to anything like pure motives is to pray persistently about the things we do and ask ourselves constantly before the Lord why we are doing them and how they fit in with God’s glory and for the good of his people. 
APPLICATION: When have I (you) risked rejection or failure to pursue the will of the Lord?
Rule of Action
It’s a wonderful thing that God has you doing. It’s overwhelming. It’s exhausting. It’s fully beyond you. But the God of Heaven will enable you to prosper because this is the desire that he has placed upon your heart.
APPLICATION: First Pray, then act, then pray again.
 A Passion for Faithfulness, Wisdom from the Book of Nehemiah, page 69, 72, 73, 80 by J. I. Packer;  The Village Church Nehemiah Guide
You may enjoy reading:
The Nehemiah Challenge Part One: When Walls are Broken
The Nehemiah Challenge Part Two: A Radical Trust in God
There is an Amazon link on this page. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small stipend.