See the possibilities. Here’s a fellow who sold insurance, and he went after a particularly difficult customer, a man that no one had been able to sell. Eventually he sold him a fifty-thousand-dollar policy. Back in 1883 when this occurred, that was a very large policy. He took out his pen and handed it to the man to sign the contract. When the man tried to write, the pen wouldn’t write. He tried several times without success and finally handed the pen back with the contract and said, "I’d better think this over a little while longer." The man lost the sale.
He went home disappointed and discouraged because he had lost the sale, and he determined right then and there that he would never lose another sale because of a fountain pen that didn’t work. So he sat down and invented his own fountain pen. His name was Louis Waterman, and the Waterman Fountain Pen became the premier writing instrument of America for the next fifty years.
I. Implement Changes One at a Time
Have you ever tried to make changes in your life? If you try to change a dozen things in your life one at a time, you get frustrated.
How do we implement change so that everyone does not frustrated? Focus on one change at a time. In our personal lives, we must focus on one flaw at a time. IN the life of the church, we must focus on one vision change at a time.
Notice Nehemiah’s example. He started with a single project and began with the gates. (Nehemiah 3:1,3,6,13,14,15,28)
II. Implement Changes in Strategic Order
Have you ever tried to work on a project but nothing seems to get done because none of the sub-projects never get completed? We have a tendancy to run from project to project—over here one minutes, over there the next, then back over here, then somewhere else. You can never tell where the project is headed because no one holds the course.
If we look at chapters 3 and 4, we will notice that Nehemiah had a strategic order to the project. He tackles the gates first, the walls second, and the finishing touches last.
How do we know the strategic order?
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)
If you have truly found God’s vision, God will also show you that right order to implement the changes that are needed.
III. Work in Visible Places
Why work in visible places? Look at Nehemiah. (Nehemiah 3:1,3,6,13,14,15,28). Nehemiah put his best leaders to work first on the gates.
Why put them on the gates? Because in a city with half-torn-down walls, all the people would come and go through the gates. You could not come and go from the city without seeing the leaders at work. When people saw the others working, they were willing to work as well.
IV. Work Where You Have A Vested Interest
Nehemiah knew that most of the people would have moderate interest in wanting to see the wall around the city rebuild. He also reasoned that each person would be especially interested in seeing certain portions of the wall fixed. SO when he put people to work rebuilding the wall, where did he assign them? He assigned them to the section closest to their house.
Benjamin and Haahub made repairs in front of their house…Azariah made repairs beside his house…the priests made repairs each in front of his own house…Meshukkam made repairs opposite his living quarters. (Nehemiah 3:23-30)
Work where you have a vested interest.
Work in areas that match your interests
Work in areas where you have a passion. I would rather have a worker with second-rate ability but first-rate passion than a worker with first-rate ability and no passion any day of the week.
Work in areas you are already at work. I know that that sounds strange but hear me out. We sometimes assume that if someone succeeds in one area, they can be moved to another area where there is more need. This does not always work. Don’t put square pegs into round holes. A forced fit takes away their God-given edge.
V. Be prepared for Opposition
If anyone in the Old Testament should have encountered no opposition, it was Nehemiah. He was trying to rebuild a wall that will make Jerusalem a safe place for all her inhabitants. His project will also regain a piece of Jerusalem’s lost glory. The rebuilding of the wall would allow the people to once again worship in the temple without fear of their enemies
Nehemiah faced five kinds of opposition:
1) Expect apathy
Some people just will not care about the vision.
but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors. (Nehemiah 3:5b)
2) Expect anger
Nehemiah’s vision really ticked some people off:
When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. (Nehemiah 4:1a)
3) Expect ridicule
Everyone has a thorn in the flesh and Nehemiah’s was Sanballat. Look at the second part of verse 4:
He ridiculed the Jews, (Nehemiah 4:1b)
The word for ridicule literally means to trouble, to rage against, to be indignant toward. Modern forms of ridicule include mocking, making fun of, putting down, and being sarcastic.
4) Expect criticism
Sanballat is at it again.
and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, "What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble--burned as they are?" Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, "What they are building--if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!" (Nehemiah 4:2-3)
The RRV (Randolph Revised Version) reads “This isn’t going to work. You guys can’t pull this thing off. Even if you do, it won’t last.”
People are going to be critical. A family had been to church together and were driving home. During the drive they were critiquing the worship service. The dad said, “The sermon was long.” The mom said, “The music was boring.” The teenager added, “The whole thing was long and boring.” Then the five year old chirped in, “I thought it was a pretty good show for a buck.”
5) Expect a fight
Unfortunately, the opposition will not go away without a fight.
They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. (Nehemiah 4:8)
This was not going to be a full frontal assault. They were trying to infiltrate the ranks:
"Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work." (Nehemiah 4:11)
Five responses to opposition:
1) Keep on Praying
Hear us, O our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders. (Nehemiah 4:4-5)
2) Keep on Working
So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart. (Nehemiah 4:6)
3) Keep on Encouraging
After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, "Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes." (Nehemiah 4:14)
I read once that the Devil was having a yard sale, and all of his tools were marked with different prices. They were a fiendish lot. There was hatred, jealously, deceit, lying, pride--all at expensive prices. But over to the side of the yard on display was a tool more obviously worn than any of the other tools. It was also the most costly. The tool was labeled, DISCOURAGEMENT.
When questioned, the Devil said, "It’s more useful to me than any other tool. When I can’t bring down my victims with any of the rest of these tools, I use discouragement, because so few people realize that it belongs to me."
4) Keep on Leading
The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. (Nehemiah 4:16b)
5) Keep on Watching
Stay alert and stay on track
At that time I also said to the people, "Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and workmen by day." (Nehemiah 4:22b)
Implementing God’s vision is never easy. There will be potholes in the road and there will be opposition. But we must keep on keeping on.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)