The Nehemiah Challenge | Part 3 | Getting Going

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.

  1. Getting Going
  2. The Good Work
  3. Mockery and Ridicule
  4. Rule of Action

Getting Going

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. [1] 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. [1] 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) [2]

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. [1]

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.

[1] A Passion for Faithfulness, Wisdom from the Book of Nehemiah, page 69, 72, 73, 80  by J. I. Packer; [2] 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.

The Nehemiah Challenge | Part 2 | A Radical Trust in God

The following is Part 2 of The Nehemiah Challenge.

Text: Nehemiah 1:11b -2:8; Isaiah 62:6ff; Philippians 4:6-7

  1. Pray and Wait
  2. Waiting is not Wasted Time
  3. A God-given Calling will Result in God-given Enabling
  4. Give God the Glory

Pray and Wait

Chapter one reveals that Nehemiah has a heart that follows after God. He is a man of prayer and compassion and within a few verses of reading, I notice that he is also a man of character and integrity. Nehemiah sensed God calling him to act, and his radical trust in God is evidenced by his courage to pray and wait for God to unfold the right plan.

Application: A radical trust in God gives courage to wait and not to act hastily. God’s timing is everything. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Waiting is not Wasted Time

Nehemiah identifies foremost with the quest of God’s glory and praise and is accompanied in prayer with godly friends–“servants that delight in honoring God’s name.” (Nehemiah 1:11) They waited on God to answer their prayers today and nothing happened; at least not what they expected. Through their persistent prayers,  God was strengthening their faith and Nehemiah’s resolve for the incredible task before him. This was a God-given call in Nehemiah’s heart and along with his loyal band of prayer warriors, would not rest in praying. Wrote Isaiah: “You who put the Lord in remembrance, take no rest and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth.” (62:6-7)

Application: A time of unrest and waiting is not wasted time. Courage to wait on God’s timing is also strengthened through the prayers of others. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

A God-given Calling will Result in God-given Enabling

As cupbearer, Nehemiah had the important job of tasting wine before it was served to the king, to see whether it was poisoned or not. It was an important job that granted him access to the king but it was also very risky. If the wine happened to be laced with poison, the cupbearer would pay the ultimate price, give up his own life, for the king to live. It was a good idea not to look distressed or sad in front of the king at any time, but especially after tasting the wine, yet Nehemiah did. The king noticed the sadness and asked Nehemiah, “Why are you sad, when you are certainly not ill?” That one question was the catalyst God used to launch his plan for renewal and change. For Nehemiah the waiting was about to end.

For months, Nehemiah has been asking God to answer his prayers today.  I imagine a rush of adrenaline pulsing in his chest, knowing all to well that his answer to the king’s question should be crafted well.  So here is Nehemiah, a man who puts his life at risk on a regular basis for the king yet becomes very much afraid at this moment to answer a question about the mission he has been praying over for months already!

God worked through that fear and rush of insecurity, giving Nehemiah confidence to honor and show homage to the king and with that same confidence, to speak boldly on behalf of his people and a city in ruin.

Application: Always expect God to answer prayers today. A God-size calling will result in God-size enabling.

Give God the Glory

Once again, there is another question from the king for Nehemiah to answer: “What are you requesting?”  Nehemiah’s immediate response was not fear but to pray to the God of heaven. A “flash prayer”…a silent prayer lasting a few seconds. Oh, how Nehemiah was depending on God to enable him for this mission. And without fear or hesitation, Nehemiah humbly asks the king for everything on his long and well thought out, prayed over and memorized plan.

And the king said, “Yes!”  For the good hand of God was upon Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:8) That’s where the glory is to land…not on Nehemiah but directly upon God. Nehemiah humbly acknowledges the gracious hand of God upon him, and the gracious kindness of God in using him, rather than conceitedly supposing that the result is due to his own skills and talents and wisdom and gifts or experience. [1]

Application: God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things for his glory. It is not about me, it is all about Him!

[1] A Passion for Faithfulness, Wisdom from the Book of Nehemiah, page 68, by J. I. Packer 

Part One: When Walls are Broken: The Nehemiah Challenge Part 1

There is an Amazon link on this page. If you purchase the book using that link, I will receive a small stipend.

Courageous for Something

Devotions on the lake

A quick get-away to visit my family has been extended for several more days. I am not complaining! Lots of hugs, kisses, and laughing with my two granddaughters is the best! An unexpected few days on the beach with family was an added bonus too. And now, to be able to have some time on the lake is priceless!

This morning, I had the great pleasure of sitting on the back deck overlooking a gorgeous lake view. I grabbed a large mug of freshly brewed coffee and focused on some needed quiet time…devotions and bible study. Tomorrow, I will leave this place to return home…our new home, which is far away from this place. I’ve been asking God to give me courage during this transition and I’ve been praying for my husband, even more so to be strengthened in courage and resolve as a leader. I found what I was looking for in the book of Joshua.

This is the best leadership text and not for the faint hearted. It is as if God reaches out and shakes me to get my attention. For my husband and me personally, God has called us to a mission, this particular mission away from home and familiarity.  I am challenged that God repeats to us: “Be strong and courageous.”  I once read that nothing in life or in ministry ever happens apart from courage. There is no such thing as courage apart from mission, just as there is no such thing as faith apart from challenge. You’re not just courageous to be courageous, but you are courageous for something.[1]

I learned a few things this morning:

1. I must be courageous for something! God has given us a clear assignment. Joshua had no doubt what God called Him to do. There should be no doubt what we are called to do.

2. God promises that He is with us! God promises to never leave or forsake us. We have confidence that God will keep His promises! God will not leave us high and dry. Being courageous for something means that I fear God more than I fear my environment.

3. Be resolved! Be careful in making the right decisions. Be strong and courageous and do not sway or change course. Leadership is strengthened by acts of obedience. Being courageous for something means I need to take the first step and another step and another and another. I can not run away because of opposition.

4. Anchored in Truth! Success (or failure) in a mission is tied to my relationship with God. I need to be immersed in knowing, really knowing, God’s truth. When trials come, and they surely will, being courageous for something means I must be able to practice and apply that truth. Love God’s book. Live it. Be totally immersed.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Joshua 1:8

“Read the Bible praying, ‘Father, hold my mind’s attention. Wake my heart’s affection. Speak for your glory and my holy joy.’ – John Piper

[1] The Call to Courage │Two Ways You Can Become a Cheerful Person (“The Cheery Tree”)