Let’s rest, relax and reflect on what God has taught us through His servant Nehemiah.
In a little while I’ll be on my annual family vacation. We routinely head to the beach to rest and relax. I do those two things but I have another reason for taking a vacation: I need to reflect.
Life is busy for me with a full-time job, a blog, writing two devotionals and having a wife with seven children with us. Because of this crowded schedule, I have a tendency to get so forward-looking that I forget to look back and learn from my previous experiences. So in the spirit of a vacation from our normal week, let’s rest, relax and reflect on the lessons we have learned from chapter 1 through chapter 6 of Nehemiah. In order to keep this article to a reasonable length, these lessons learned will be short. But by all means, look back and re-read Nehemiah 1-6 and see if you agree with me.
I’ll break this up into two articles. This week we’ll look at the lessons we learned from Nehemiah chapters 1 – 3.
Prayer first, planning later – Ch. 1
There is a movement that seeks to make the church completely insulated from the culture. This is a mistake. We must be aware of what is going on around us if we hope to reach those in need. Being in touch with society doesn’t mean being part of it. In Nehemiah 1 we learned that Nehemiah was absolutely broken over the state of Jerusalem and the state of those still living there. The walls were down and the people seemed content in the rubble. This bothered Nehemiah greatly. But he didn’t rush off to fix anything. No, he went to God in prayer, pouring out his heart before our mighty God.
Nehemiah’s action should resonate with us in these days. When we see the broken culture around us – both in the Church and outside the Church – we must, before doing anything, pray. Far too often I tend to formulate a plan then ask God to bless it. But if I listen to what Nehemiah did, I will slow down – or even stop – and pray for guidance from God. We need to plan, that is for sure. But that plan must be preceded by prayer. We should always remember that “our plan” is the plan that God gives us after we pray. We should never approach God with a plan of action that is devoid of prayer.
We should always pray for God to bless us with a plan rather than asking God to bless our plan.
So how burdened are you by our society? When you see the broken down walls of the Church – compromising doctrine to attract people – are you broken by that? Are you so broken that it spurs you to prayer? In the craziness and fast-paced nature of life in general, it is difficult to stop and pray. But it is the most important thing we can do.
Prayer is an indispensable part of the Christian’s life. DO it often.
Being real with God – Ch. 2
We find out at the end of chapter 1 that Nehemiah is a high ranking official. He risks that position – and his life – by allowing the king to see him when he was sad. This was a huge no-no in those times. The king required all his subjects to be happy around him. But Nehemiah was just himself – sadness and all – around the king. When the king asked why he was so sad, Nehemiah didn’t hold back. He let his concerns be known.
This is an important principle for us. Many times we go around and think that if we are sad that somehow God is going to thump us on the head. We try to lie to God when we pray by putting on a happy face, dutifully saying all our “Thee’s” “Thou’s” and “Thine’s”. But God, of course, knows better. We need to be honest with God when we are sad and let Him know – the one true King – why we are downcast.
Seeing beyond the rubble
Far too often we see only with our eyes. We need to see with God’s eyes. If we see with only our eyes, the task of sharing Christ will seem hopeless. Our culture is in ruins. There are many who claim to know Christ yet they violate and try to vitiate his Word every day. We need to see beyond the rubble of all this and remember that God’s plan will never be defeated. We need to remember to always see beyond the rubble to what God has promised.
The right tools for serving God are already present in the church
The ministries of the Church are vast and numerous. We have outreach, discipleship training, prayer groups, small groups, preaching and teaching ministry. Then there’s VBS, Operation Christmas Child and short-term missionary journeys. The task for the church can seem daunting and discouraging. However, a lesson learned here in Nehemiah is that God has already given every tool necessary to finish the job.
Size of the task doesn’t matter – only the size of God
When we consider the task ahead of us – the evangelism of the world and disciple-making of Christian – is so much bigger than any one body of believers, we can get discouraged. But we should never focus on the size of the task. No, rather than seeing the size of the task we need t remember the size of our God. He is bigger than any task ahead or any opposition we face…even the boogeyman!
Working for Christ according to MY gifts and talents – Ch 3
We see here in chapter three the use of various talents and gifts to build the wall around Jerusalem. We should learn from this that God supplies all we need to complete the mission God has given us. Rarely though – perhaps never – are all the necessary gifts and talents reside I only one person. We need each other. We need our diversity. While I may be strong in one area, you may be strong in another area. And each area of ministry is necessary and important. Furthermore, even of we share the same gift, we need to remember that the expression of the gift will be different because the life experiences are different for all of us. And this fact is a blessing. Imagine all the workers in Nehemiah’s time were only stone masons. Who would have guarded? Or if they were all military types? Who would have built the wall?
My wife is a stay-at-home mom. That role is quite often reviled in the culture of the US. Sometimes it is even reviled in the church. But my wife is so gifted in caring for our children and teaching them (we homeschool), that I can’t imagine her doing anything else so valuable. That is why we have only one joint bank account. She has equal access to the money I earn because without her I would not be in a position to earn it. In many ways, her job is much more difficult than mine. So relax church, the many gifts and talents are necessary for the good functioning of the church.
Diversity in gifts and talents is a blessing, not a curse.
So how are you doing with these lessons from Nehemiah? Are they as convicting to you as they are to me? There is much more to learn from this wonderful book. But before we learn new things, next week we’ll look over chapter 4 through chapter 6. So, let’s take a vacation from our normal hectic life and relax and reflect on the wonderful truths we have learned in Nehemiah.