Summary: The importance of a balanced life that includes both prayer and action.
Pray, plan and move out!
“I would rather walk in the dark with God than go alone in the light. I would rather walk with Him by faith than walk alone by sight.” Mary Gardner Brainard
“Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading.” Oswald Chambers
It was a mild October afternoon in 1982 and Badger Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin was packed. Over 60,000 die-hard University of Wisconsin fans were watching their beloved football team take a beating by Michigan State. What seemed odd was that as the score became more and more lopsided bursts of cheers and applause kept being heard in the stands. It was only natural that some people began to wonder who these strange people were who were cheering while their team was being pummeled.
As it turns out seventy miles away from Badger stadium the Milwaukee Brewers were beating the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the World Series. Many of the Badger fans in the stands were listening to portable radios and responding to something else besides what was happening right in front of their eyes.
In THIS arena...a lopsided defeat. In THAT arena...VICTORY!
In many ways that is a fairly accurate description of what the Christian life is like. We might be in the midst of horrible circumstances RIGHT NOW and yet we have something to hold on to...something that we may not be able to SEE yet, but know that God has given us confidence BY FAITH that it’s just a matter of time!
1.) Faith may require PATIENCE- (v.1)
“In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes…” (Nehemiah 2:1a)
Nehemiah has been in PRAYER and periods of FASTING before the Lord for 4 MONTHS concerning the plight of his people in Jerusalem.
Let there be NO DOUBT that when God’s people sense that something needs to be done...a heart needs to be changed...a church needs to be revived...a nation needs to be turned- God calls upon His people to PRAY and to persist in prayer!
Luke 18:1- “Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and NOT GIVE UP!”
2.) Faith demands responsible SERVICE- (v.1-2)
“When wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before; so the king asked me, ‘Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill?”
As the king’s “cupbearer”, Nehemiah was responsible to see that the food and drink given to the king was safe. He would personally make sure that neither was poisoned and, in this role, was TRUSTED by the king and him showing up every day was vital...for the king likely preferred to eat every day!!
I think it’s important to point out that WAITING for God to answer his prayers didn’t keep Nehemiah from doing his job.
-Was he somewhat distracted? Probably!
-Might he have feelings of depression? Maybe!
-Was he weary and worn out from his prayer and fasting? Definitely (according to the text)
**BUT HE STILL SHOWED UP AND DID HIS JOB...in fact, this is the first time his internal struggle really showed in his outward appearance:
“I had not been sad in the king’s presence before.”
-Some might question: “Is this right? Isn’t it like ‘denial’ or something for Nehemiah to act like everything’s OK? He should have been sad earlier...let King Atrexerxes know he was ‘bummed out’.” (“If you FEEL it, SAY IT or SHOW IT!!”)
-I disagree...I think sometimes we fall into the “trap” of settling for human sympathy and miss out on God’s solution. We walk around and put our BURDENS on public display...and we LOOK MISERABLE...and people FEEL SORRY for us...and that’s good enough.
**Jesus talked about this misguided trade-off:
Matthew 6:16-18: “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
**WHILE WE WAIT FOR GOD’S ANSWER...until orders change...CONTINUE TO SERVE!
3.) Faith may require TAKING RISKS- (v.1-3)
“I had not been sad in the king’s presence before; so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”