Summary: How prayer is the right response to opposition of any type -- spiritual, financial, physical, etc.
November 3, 2002
The job to which God called Nehemiah was to leave being a comfortable captive in the service of Persian king (Artaxerxes), and travel to the home of his ancestors, Jerusalem; it was there the work of rebuilding the crumbling walls of a defeated people was to take place.
Nehemiah accepted his calling, swallowed hard and approached the king for permission. The reason Nehemiah worried was the fact that even though God may call you to do something important, not everyone in the world (or church, or family) may see it that way. However, God gave Nehemiah a spirit of favor with the Persian despot.
King Artaxerxes gave Nehemiah permission, letters of authority to rebuild the walls, and supplies to accomplish the task. What a great God we serve!
Arriving in Jerusalem, Nehemiah made a midnight inspection tour of the broken-down walls, but told nobody of his heart’s plans.
When he was ready, Nehemiah gathered the people and gave them a 37-word “sermon” (I can’t match that!) on how the broken-down walls of God’s city were a disgrace before the world. They should arise and rebuild (Nehemiah 2:17-18a).
Before Nehemiah could tell the organist to play “Just As I Am” the people responded…Let us rise up and build. (I’d like to see YOU match that!)
In classic fashion, the enemies of God entered the picture before the ink was dry on the architectural drawings for rebuilding of the walls (2.19); yet Nehemiah’s response was to trust God (2.20).
With that as our refresher on the story line, we now see the process of rebuilding the walls begin, and we learn a number of Kingdom building principles as we follow Nehemiah through his journal.
LESSON I. WHEN IT COMES TO THE WORK SOME ARE APATHETIC
5Next were the people from Tekoa, though their leaders refused to help. Nehemiah 3.5 (NLT)
A survey-taker knocked on a door. When it opened, he asked the homeowner if he was aware that the greatest problems America faces today are ignorance and apathy. The man replied, I don’t know, and I don’t care!
It is bad enough to have apathy among followers, but Nehemiah faced apathy among the leaders of the little village of Tekoa. Not all heroes are leaders; not all leaders are heroic material. The greatest heroes I have are of the “ordinary” variety – folks who serve year-in, year-out in the mundane ways.
On the walls of Jerusalem, the common folk from Tekoa caught the vision their apathetic noblemen couldn’t see. In our day there are apathetic folks in the church.
When people don’t see the need to serve others – when their own purposes and ideas and appetites are far more interesting and urgent, it is apathy towards God.
When people think life is too busy for kingdom work, it is apathy towards God.
When folks think the germs floating in the air on a Sunday night might get them, it is the kind of apathy which comes up with a hundred excuses for not worshipping and not serving; it is apathy towards God, and apathy towards God is sin.
Jesus had something to say to first century churches that were apathetic:
15“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were one or the other! 16But since you are like lukewarm water, I will spit you out of my mouth! 17You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked… .19I am the one who corrects and disciplines everyone I love. Be diligent and turn from your indifference. 20“Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.
21I will invite everyone who is victorious to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne. 22Anyone who is willing to hear should listen to the Spirit and understand what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”
Revelation 3:15-17, 19-22
What is it like to open the door to Jesus? William Carey founded the first foreign missions society in 1792. He told this story:
Through the quiet streets of a fishing village that lay in the mouth of a turbulent river, a cry rang out, "Boy overboard." Quickly a crowd gathered, and anxious eyes looked out over the rushing water to the figure of a drowning boy. Each anxious mother’s heart was asking, Is he my boy?
A rope was brought, and the strongest swimmer in the village volunteered to rescue the drowning lad. Tying one end of the rope to his waist, he threw the other among the crowd and plunged in. Eagerly they watched him breast the tide with strong, sure strokes; and a cheer went up when he, reaching the boy, had grasped him safely in his powerful arms. "Pull in the rope," he shouted over the swirling waters.