Summary: Second sermon in a series through the book of Nehemiah exploring the pursuit of God’s vision for our lives. Sermon addresses the need to pray, plan, and position yourself for the fulfillment of God’s vision in your life.
Have you ever felt like you were in the wrong place, at the wrong time? Hopefully not in the next few minutes, but four teenagers were arrested in the parking lot of a large mall in Lakeland, Florida, just before Christmas when, attempting to steal an automobile at random, they tried to break into an unmarked police van containing three officers on a stakeout. That’s being in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
Or how about Rory Johnson, age 29, who was arrested in May for a liquor store robbery in Elkhart, Indiana. Johnson had parked in the back of the store to facilitate his getaway but had trouble exiting because of congestion due to road construction. Five minutes after the robbery, he was sitting in his car, having moved only a few feet, and liquor store employees pointed him out to police. The wrong place, at the wrong time. And of course, doing the wrong thing.
Or there is the sad story of Darnell Madison, 37, who was shot and killed in July in Homewood, Alabama. Apparently he burst into a motel room intending to rob the seven men whom he had seen enter it with a large wad of money. He was unaware they were armed undercover police officers working on another case.
One more, Deputy Sheriff Ryan Maye told the Times-Leader of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, that he first heard the rustle of a plastic baggie coming from the next stall at about 10:45 a.m. Easter Standard Time on Tuesday. Then Maye heard the sound of a lighter being struck. Within seconds, the smell of roasting marijuana filled the men’s room of the magnificent neo-classical Luzerne County Courthouse in Wilkes-Barre.
"I banged on the door and ordered him to come out," Maye told the paper. From the stall emerged a sheepish Nickolai, age 32, who was due for an 11 a.m. hearing on a recent arrest of theft and drug charges. Nickolai was tucking a pipe back into his pocket, according to Maye. Maye and another deputy patted Nickolai down and found, in addition to marijuana, two containers with 49 Xanax pills inside.
Since all parties involved were already in the courthouse, the arraignment didn’t take long, and Nickolai was sent to the Luzerne County Correctional Facility down the street pending $1,000 bail. He was given a hearing the following Thursday on the new charges. There was no indication whether he planned to smoke pot before that hearing as well.
Pretty extreme cases of being in the wrong place, at the wrong time. But I wonder if feeling like he was in the wrong place at the wrong time might not describe how Nehemiah felt when he received the report we explored last Sunday. Is the jump from a courthouse, pot smoking felon to Nehemiah to big for one sentence?
Last week we launched our walk through the book of Nehemiah, and we talked about how we start to go about the business of getting refocused in on the vision that God has for our lives.
We talked about the fact that often that vision will come to us at a time of desperation. A time of discontent, heartache, and burden. A time when we look at an area of our life as an individual: maybe our marriage, a relationship, a job situation, a temptation, and we say. . .”God, I know this shouldn’t be like this. Help me to make it different.” Or in the life of a church we look at the lost around us and say, “God, we have to do something to make a difference in this area.” Those times of desperation and discontent are often the times of vision birthing.
We talked about the vision starting with a concern. It starts with having an area burning in your heart, keeping you up at night, consuming your waking thoughts. Having an area that is stirring in your spirit as an area that you are concerned about, and want to see something change.
For Nehemiah, it was the report about the city of Jerusalem. He had called some men to him, there in the king’s palace where he was working in Shushan, and asked them how things were going. And they told him things were terrible. The people are living a life that is embarrassing and shameful. The city looks like a garbage pile. Things are terrible.
And when Nehemiah received this report of what things looked like in Jerusalem in those first four verses of chapter one, probably more than 100 years since the city had been overtaken and destroyed, he was stuck. There was nothing he could do. He was in the wrong place, with the wrong job, working for the wrong guy.
Just think about it. Nehemiah is in Shushan. You all know where that is, right? Neither did I. It’s where the book of Esther takes place, but geographically, I didn’t have a clue. So I looked it up on a map. Couldn’t find it in my handy-dandy Rand-McNally Atlas. Had to dig a little deeper. Found out it was the capital of Elam. That little fact didn’t help me one bit.