Summary: Every new project or ministry has several hands in it: hand of God, hands of outsiders, hands of believers, and hands of opposition.
A Time To Rebuild
Dr. Tom Doubt, Senior Pastor
Four Mile Creek Baptist Church
July 13, 2003
A. Parable: There once was a thriving little church in the country. Internal squabbles developed that tore the church apart. Attendance dwindled until the church died. It time a middle-class neighborhood grew up around the church. One day a newcomer, tired of looking at the run down church, started to paint & clean the old church. Some former members came by to watch. They sat in the old dusty pews and told stories about Sunday night hymn sings, or the pot luck dinners. Oddly, no one mentioned the squabbles. They started to help clean up the old place. Leaders of the homeowners association laughed at the idea of a church in their community, but the old members persisted. Within weeks they resumed hymn sings and pot luck dinners. Songs of praise could be heard Sunday mornings and evenings. Folks in the neighborhood who had never attended the church began to come by. God saw it all and it was very good.
B. Nehemiah saw a similar scene when he returned to Jerusalem in 445 BC. Most of the city lay in ruin. The walls were broken and burned. He shared his God-given vision and the people responded.
SCRIPTURE: Nehemiah 2:17-20
A. England in the middle of the 17th century was in turmoil. King Charles I was beheaded. Anglican churches were being closed; Presbyterians were being persecuted. In the midst of turmoil, Sir Robert Shirley built a church. The plaque on the church read: “In the year 1653, when all things throughout the land were demolished or profaned, Sir Robert Shirley built this church, whose singular praise is this: to have done the best of things in the worst of times.” [from Todd Morris, sermoncentral.com, 1-5-03]
B. It was the worst of times to do the best of things in Jerusalem. The city had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army in 579 BC. By 586 BC the people were led into captivity. Those returning 70 years later found it difficult to rebuild. In fact, for almost 150 years after the initial damage, they had made only modest gains in rebuilding. God laid His hand on Nehemiah and the walls were built in 52 days (Neh. 6:15).
C. In the year 2003, in our little community of Varina, we have the opportunity to do the best of things in the worst of times. Our country is living in Babylonian-style captivity to sin and moral decadence. The foundations are being destroyed (Ps. 11:3). Now is the time to rebuild: ourselves, our families, our church, our community.
THEME: Nehemiah’s passage reveals there are four hands involved in any rebuilding project. Three are helpful, one is harmful.
Any rebuilding effort must start with the hand of God (v 18)
God uses the hands of outsiders to open doors (v 18)
Hands of believers must be willing to do the work (v 18)
Hands of opposition are sure to mock & ridicule our efforts (v 19)
A. GRACIOUS HAND OF GOD MUST BE ON THE PROJECT
1. God’s hand was on the rebuilding of the wall long before Nehemiah showed up in Jerusalem. The Lord broke Nehemiah’s heart over the situation (1:4). If our hearts are not broken & weeping, we will never feel God’s hand on us.
2. God also opened King Artaxerxes heart to help Nehemiah (2:8).
3. Unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain (Ps. 127:1)
4. When the road seems the darkest, we are encouraged by the presence of the Lord. He will be with us, never leave us, nor forsake us (Deut. 31:6).
5. Illustration: Jacob had spent a good portion of his life deceiving others like his brother Esau or his father-in-law Laban. On the way back to his land he got word that Esau was coming to him with 400 men (Gen. 32:6). All night Jacob wrestled with God on the banks of the Jabbok river. By morning he realized his ways were futile; he learned reliance on the hand of God.
6. Nehemiah and Jacob both prayed. We have spent a month praying about new ministry opportunities. Many who prayed during the month have begun to see God’s hand at work. The Lord has stirred the waters and we have seen the vision of a new ministry. We have also seen God open some unexpected doors.
B. IT’S TRULY AMAZING HOW GOD USES THE HANDS OF OUTSIDERS TO OPEN DOORS.
1. Artaxerxes had no vested interest in Jerusalem, yet Nehemiah recognized he opened a door (v. 18). The prophet was given letters of safe passage and authorization to have some of the king’s lumber (2:7-8).
2. We can do everything through the Lord who gives us strength (Phil. 4:13). Yet we are often strengthened, not by our own power, but by the hand of an outsider.