Summary: For every significant task, there is the "sit-down" approach and the "rise-up" approach. We need both to sit down and pray and then to rise up and do, but even then by involving the resources of others. Lone wolves are not appropriate.
When a big challenge faces you, essentially there are only two things you can do about it:
You can rise to the challenge. Or you can sit down and ignore it.
When there is a big task to be done, I am saying, there are two entirely different ways to approach it. There is the rise up approach and there is the sit down approach. The rise up approach and the sit down approach.
The rise up approach means that you take charge and you do. You get out there and do. For a whole lot of folks, in fact, it means that you do by yourself. If you are addicted to the "rise up" approach to that big challenge, you say, "Aha, I can do this. I can do it myself. I don't need any help." Do you remember that old commercial, "Mother, please, I'd rather do it myself."? The rise up approach.
On the other hand, if you are a bit worn and weary, or if you are devoted to the sit down approach, you look at that big job and you say, "Well, this too will pass. Well, I'm sure it'll all work out. What, me get excited? Not my problem." And you do as little as possible, you just let it slide.
I have a couple of minister friends with whom I've worked on committees; and when the committee meeting is over and everybody supposedly has an assignment, somehow these dear brothers always manage to get out of the meeting with nothing to do! Never could figure out how they are able to do that!
Rise up; or sit down: two radically different ways to react when life hands you a major task to do.
There is a hymn, you know, that advocates one of these approaches. The hymn counsels us to be active, to get at it, to do. It sings: "Rise up, 0 men of God; have done with lesser things; give heart and mind and soul and strength to serve the King of kings." Rise up! Robust, active, get-with-it stuff. Rise up!
But one wag has re-written the hymn as one which you could sing if you are on the other side. I don't suppose you will ever find this one printed in a hymnbook, but maybe this one suits you better than the one I've just quoted: "Sit down, 0 men of God; the phone for you ne'er rings; keep cool and calm and deaf and dumb; you need not do a thing". Sit down! Quiet, peaceful, let-it-slide stuff. Sit down!
Two approaches; two personality types; two radically different reactions to what life deals you.
The message today is really about how we can take control of our lives. What can we learn from both the rise up folks and the sit down folks?
Our old friend Nehemiah shows us what the balance is. Nehemiah shows us how to rise up and how to sit down, both. Nehemiah, God’s great master builder, God’s premier picture of leadership, facing this monumental need to build the wall of the city, demonstrates what happens when you know when to sit down and when to rise up.
We go to the beginning of his story today; I know it's backtracking and that we've already spent three weeks helping him get this famous wall constructed, but today I want to go back to basics, back to the beginning, and see with you how Nehemiah got started when he first saw the need for this tremendous project of wall-building.
The book begins with Nehemiah receiving a report of the deplorable condition of the city wall of Jerusalem. And it moves him. It disturbs him. He cannot shake it off. Notice what it moves him to do.
And then after a long prayer of confession, Nehemiah tells us what he felt led to do.
Nehemiah, learning that there was a wall to be built and a city to be reconstructed, began with a sit-down tactic. He began with prayer. But I want you to notice that beginning with prayer was not beginning with nothing; it was beginning with something, and a very powerful, very important something.
Nehemiah has been told by his friends that the city of his fathers, the city of Jerusalem, is in perfectly miserable shape. And there he has way up there in Susa, the capital of the Persian Empire. What could he do? How could he expect to do anything about the problem? Nehemiah could well have been excused for taking the sit-down approach and shrugging it all off. Why should it be his worry? Why should it be his problem?
Well, Nehemiah takes the sit-down approach, all right. But it is not being passive; it is not being lazy; and it is not a do-nothing stance. Nehemiah sits down and prays. He prays. And that, I submit to you, may look like doing nothing, but it is not. Prayer is not a nothing; prayer is a something. Prayer is doing something. And it is important.