Summary: In our Scripture today, Nehemiah has left Persia (modern day Iran) and traveled for more than 2 months and 750 miles to Jerusalem. Today, we continue learning life strategies when encountering God-sized problems.
Revision: Winning Life Strategies, Part II
Nehemiah 2: 10-20
In the middle of the 17th century, England was in turmoil. King Charles I was beheaded. Anglican churches were being closed; Presbyterians were being persecuted. In the midst of all this, Sir Robert Shirley built a church. The plaque on the church read: “In the year 1653, when all things throughout the land were demolished or profaned, Sir Robert Shirley built this church, whose singular praise is this: to have done the best of things in the worst of times.” It was the worst of times to do the best of things in Jerusalem. The city had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army in 579 BC. The political, religious, economic and spiritual leaders were taken into captivity. For over 125 years, the city laid in ruins and the people were despondent. Then God called Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah has been called to do the best of things in the worst of times, to begin rebuilding the the walls of Jerusalem and ultimately he lives of its people. It is a monumental, God-sized task.
In our Scripture today, Nehemiah has left Persia (modern day Iran) and traveled for more than 2 months and 750 miles to Jerusalem. Today, we continue learning life strategies when encountering God-sized problems. The first, and it sounds counterintuitive, is rest. When Nehemiah arrives, after the long journey, he immediately begins to rest. After such a long trip, he needed to get the mind and body refreshed for the challenges which laid ahead. Now, we don’t know for sure what he did in those three days. But as we learned three weeks ago, the book of Nehemiah is filled with prayer because Nehemiah’s life and ministry was centered in prayer. Nehemiah’s rule of action seems to have been: first pray, then act, then pray again, then act, then pray again. It’s a safe bet to that Nehemiah spent this time of rest seeking God’s guidance about his next step. It was an opportunity to refocus and get the needed perspective and direction of God. In light of such a daunting task, he goes to God in prayer. Abraham Lincoln said: “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of those about me seemed insufficient…”
When we’re faced with a God-sized problem, is your tendency to work and labor until the problem is resolved or to go to seek God’s guidance and rest. From Sept. 1-Dec. 15, 2005, I worked every day gutting and rebuilding my house from early in the morning until dark. I had friends who kept telling me to take a break and step back for a few days. Even my father in law told me I should come to his house for Thanksgiving. But all I could think of was the Dec. 15 deadline when Giovanna had to be back to work or she would lose her job. And I nearly killed myself. I paid the price physically losing 15 pounds. I paid the price mentally because I was exhausted. My family paid the price emotionally as I had nothing to offer them when they returned. And I paid the price spiritually, as my devotional time with God completely stopped. We need to remember to rest in the midst of God-sized tasks so we’ll have the resources and guidance to do God’s work.
Second is survey the problem or challenge. After his time of rest and prayer, Nehemiah walked the ruins and assessed the damage and the amount of work which was going to be involved. He was determined to know the challenge and scope which laid before him. So he investigated the situation. Note Nehemiah’s tactics in this: he goes out at night, and only a few know what he is doing. It’s a time for discretion. There is no need to arouse a lot of unneeded talk. What he discovers in this evening venture is that things are really bad. The need is desperate need and the task is overwhelming. There is ruin everywhere. It is so bad, he can’t even get all the way around the southern part of the wall. This is HUGE! Remember the city of Jerusalem was not only decimated but also burnt to the ground. A historian said that explosions from the fire could be heard for more than 5 miles away. What happens is that when rocks are heated to extreme temperatures, the water in those rocks is heated up and finally explode so that they become like shrapnel. Now this debris from the wall and the city had laid there for almost 150 years. How many people road by that destruction and said, There’s no way. But Nehemiah was sets out to find a solution. But before Nehemiah ever started his work on rebuilding the wall, he had to know and understand what he was up against..