Summary: What do you picture when you think of a leader? What traits do you think a leader should have? Our passage today tells us what Nehemiah’s leadership traits were, and they might surprise you.
It’s time for us to rethink our picture of leadership in the church. And, by the way, when we talk about leadership in the context of Nehemiah, we’re not talking specifically about pastoral leadership. If anything, Ezra is the model for pastoral leadership. We looked closely at his leadership in the last part of the book of Ezra and we’ll look at it some more when we get to chapter 8 of this book. But Nehemiah was a lay-leader. Later on he became a political leader, but in the context of post-exilic Israel, he was a lay-leader. He wasn’t a priest like Ezra. He wasn’t a prophet like Haggai and Zechariah. He wasn’t a descendent of King David like Zerubbabel. He was just a man who had a burden from God. He had a burden from God and did what it took to complete the task that God had given him. Now, what would Nehemiah’s parallel be in the church today? Is it the pastor? Is it the deacons? No, it’s not. Nehemiah’s parallel in the church today would be you. God gave Nehemiah a burden to rebuild the wall and the city. Nehemiah led in accomplishing that task. If you’re listening to Him, God has also given most of you a burden. When He gives you that burden, He expects you to step out and lead in accomplishing that task. I don’t care if you want to do it or not. If God has given you that burden, He expects you to step out and lead in accomplishing it. But Jim, I don’t have any of those leadership qualities you were talking about. Good. Because neither did Nehemiah. And if you did, then God would just have to work around those till you realized that it was Him that was working through you instead of you doing it on your own. So, since we’re not talking about what the world recognizes as leadership traits, then we need to see what the Bible says about them. What does the Bible say about godly leadership traits? In this passage, Nehemiah displayed five godly leadership traits that God will use to accomplish the work He has burdened Nehemiah to do. And you know what? These are the exact same traits He wants you to display as you step out and lead in accomplishing the burden He’s given you. Your first leadership trait is patience. Look back at verse 1:
The first trait of a godly leader is patience. I want you to do something for me. If you write in your Bible, I want you to write this. There at the beginning of verse 1, where it says, “And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king…” I want you to either write above it or next to it these words: “One day in April, four months later.” When we see things like we see in verse 1, our mind just skips over them. Nisan—when was that? The twentieth year of Artaxerxes—that means nothing to us. So we skip right over it. But when we skip over it, we miss a very important point. It’s been a few weeks since we were in Nehemiah, but do you remember what he was doing the last time we saw him? In chapter 1, he got word back from his brother and a scout team he sent to Jerusalem. He got the word back and it wasn’t good. The place was a mess. The wall was down, the city was in ruins, and because of that, they were a serving as a reproach against God. So when Nehemiah got that word back he was burdened. He was burdened to the point that he sat down and wept and mourned and fasted and prayed for several days. He poured out his heart and soul before the Lord—the Bible says, night and day. And then what happened? He immediately jumped up and ran in to talk to the king, right? I mean, in verse 11 of chapter 1 he had just prayed that God would prosper him and grant him mercy in the sight of the king for his request. As a matter of fact, he prayed for God to do it that day. “I pray thee, thy servant this day…” So, that’s what happened, right? Nehemiah ran in to the king and talked to him, right? Wrong. Because 1:11 ends Nehemiah’s prayer. The very next verse is 2:1. And what did you write down in your Bible? “One day in April, four months later.” Nehemiah poured out his heart and soul before the Lord. And then he did nothing! For four months! Why? Because he was patient. He didn’t push the issue. He waited until the right, God-appointed time. Now, notice where it says that God tapped Nehemiah on the shoulder and told him that now was the time. Oh, your Bible doesn’t have that? That’s because it isn’t there. God didn’t reach out and wave a big banner in front of Nehemiah to tell him when it was time to start. God just subtly opened a door. As a godly leader, Nehemiah prayed about the burden God gave him. And then as a godly leader, Nehemiah patiently waited until God opened the door. And as a godly leader, Nehemiah walked through the open door when it was presented to him. Is that what you’re doing with the burden that God has given you? Have you taken that burden back to Him in prayer? Have you patiently waited for Him to open the door? Have you walked through the open door He’s given you? When I feel a burden, my flesh wants to kick open a door and jump in with both feet. That’s the world’s kind of leadership—not God’s. Godly leadership is patient. Not only is godly leadership patient, it’s afraid. Your second leadership trait is fear. Look at verse 2: