Summary: “Well done, good and faithful servant…. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” That’s the testimony of a job well done. In today’s passage, we see another testimony of a job well done that gives us a wonderful picture of what we will see in that day when
In 1660, a Baptist preacher named John Bunyan was put into prison in England. What was his crime? His crime was simply that he was a Baptist and was preaching the Gospel in England. At first, his sentence was only three months. At the end of those three months, the prosecutor asked him one question—will you stop holding your illegal meetings. He answered his accuser boldly: “If you release me today, I will preach tomorrow.” His imprisonment was extended another 12 years. It was during that 12 year time in prison that he wrote one of the most beloved books of the Christian faith ever written. It was a book called Pilgrim’s Progress. If you’ve never read Pilgrim’s Progress, you should. Next to the Bible, it ought to be required reading of every Christian of every age. Pilgrim’s Progress is an allegory of the Christian life. The main character is a person named Christian. And the book takes us on his journey from his hometown called “City of Destruction” to his destination called “Celestial City.” He starts his journey very difficultly because he’s carrying a huge burden with him. Of course, the burden that he’s carrying represents his sin. He meets a man named Evangelist who puts him on the path to the Celestial City and tells him how to be relieved of his burden. He meets other characters along the way. Characters like Mr. Worldly Wiseman, Mr. Legality, Obstinate and Pliable meet him and try to distract him. But then he arrives at the place of deliverance and his burden is rolled away. Is that the end of the story? Is that the end of Christian’s journey? No—it’s really just the beginning, because all of that happens in the first few pages of the book. The rest of the book is Christian’s struggle and journey to the Celestial City without his burden. Along the way he is distracted by places like By-Path Meadow and Vanity Fair. He is captured by the giant called Despair and taken for a while to a place called Doubting Castle. Friends like Faithful and Hopeful help him along the way until he eventually makes his way to the Land of Beulah, and crosses over the River of Death to the Celestial City. It is a wonderful book about the Christian walk. A walk that isn’t over when Jesus saves us. Because that’s just when it begins. Just because the burden of our sin is lifted doesn’t mean our journey is through. It just means that we are able to walk the path that ends in Glory. Sometimes bad choices might get us captured in Doubting Castle. Sometimes we might lose our friends Faithful and Hopeful on the filthy hill called Lucre. We might be tempted to avoid the hill called Difficulty and end up on the easy roads called Danger and Destruction. But when Jesus saves us, He will lead us back to the right path. And one day, that path will lead us to the Celestial City He has promised us. One day our journey will be complete. One day we will meet our Savior face to face. And when we meet Him, my greatest hope is to hear Him say to us the words of Matthew 25:23: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” That is the testimony of a journey well taken. That’s the testimony of a job well done. In our passage tonight, we see another testimony of a job well done. And it gives us a wonderful picture of what we will see in that day when our job is done. Now, it’s not an allegory like Pilgrim’s Progress is. It was a real, historical event. But in that real, historical event, we can see three things that happen when our job is finished. When our job is finished, the hero will be exalted. When our job is finished, the rebellious will be obstinate. And when our job is finished, the enemy will be exposed.
Around six months before our passage tonight, Nehemiah was sitting in Shushan. He didn’t waste any time, did he? And here it was sometime around the first of October and the wall was completed. What an incredible task they had accomplished. It was so incredible that it’s hard to believe. Even within a few hundred years, scholars and historians were trying to explain it away. Rebuilding that wall in 52 days was impossible! Josephus was a Jewish historian who lived in the first century during the same time as many of the apostles. Even he didn’t believe Nehemiah could have built the wall in 52 days. He said that it really took 2 years and four months. And scholars have been doubting it ever since. Guess what? The text says that the wall was built in 52 days. That means the wall was built in 52 days. Was it impossible? Of course it was! But God specializes in impossible. You see, if the wall had been built in two years and four months, it would have been hard work. It would have been difficult. But they could have gotten it done in that length of time. And if they got it done in that amount of time then they could have taken the credit. Nehemiah could have been hailed as this great leader and all the people could have been praised for everything THEY accomplished. We like to take credit for difficult things, don’t we? But there’s no way we can take credit for impossible things. And a ragtag group of feeble Jews building a wall that was 2 ½ miles long and up to 8 feet thick in places was impossible. But God accomplished the impossible. And when He accomplished the impossible, the world around them knew it. Verse 16 says that when their enemies heard that the wall had been completed that quickly, they were “cast down in their own eyes.” In other words, all of a sudden, they had a self-esteem problem. The vast Arab nations to the south… the Samarian nation to the north… The Ammonite nation to the east… And the Ashdodite nation to the west… All of a sudden all of them felt small in their own eyes. Does that mean that the remnant was no longer small and weak to them? No—it means that they were now able to see how big God is. “They perceived that this work was wrought of God.” When we do the work that God calls us to do… we accomplish our greatest purpose in life. Our greatest purpose in life is to glorify God. The mission that He has given us is the Great Commission. He calls us to make disciples everywhere we go and in everything we do. When we are faithful to do that, one of these days, we’ll hear Him say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” But when we hear that, it’s not going to exalt us. It’s going to exalt the one who saved us. The hero that gives us the strength to do what He’s commanded us to do. The hero that walks with us and equips us and empowers us to do His will. Jesus is the hero of our story. How He can take frail vessels—feeble people like you and me—and how He can use us to reach the world is impossible. But when we are submissive and obedient, He will be exalted—not us. Praise God that when our work is done, our Hero will be exalted! But not only will the Hero be exalted, the rebellious will be obstinate.