Summary: Take the first step in rising above the rubble of failure, disappoint, discouragement, and defeat.
(To open this sermon I showed a picture of the rubble from 9-11. I stated “The rubble from 9-11 or any catastrophe is not a pretty sight. Maneuvering through rubble is not easy. However, the good news is that we can rise above the rubble. All of us have or will have rubble in our lives. There is the rubble of family problems. There is the rubble of financial problems. There is the rubble of high gas prices. There is the rubble of a slow economy. There is the rubble of bad decisions. There is the rubble of our failures.”)
The important question is this: what will we do with the rubble? In Nehemiah 1 we find a group of people who were struggling with some rubble. One translation of the Bible says their city lay in “rubble.” Look at Nehemiah 1:3. “They told me, ‘The exile survivors who are left there in the province are in bad shape. Conditions are appalling. The wall of Jerusalem is still rubble; the city gates are still cinders.’ (Neh. 1:3 TMSG) If you look at other translations of this verse you will find other words that will help you connect with their condition. Listen to other words that describe their condition: they were in trouble, shame, distress, reproach, disgrace, and faced insults. God helped them rise above the rubble. What can we learn from them?
I. God wants to help you rise above the rubble in your life. Before considering how to rise above the rubble, I want to ask a question. How are you handling the rubble in your life? There are many kinds of rubble. There is family rubble. There is financial rubble. There is work rubble. There is relationship rubble. Rubble represents all of our failures and disappointments. God wants to help you rise above the rubble in your life.
People respond to rubble in one of several ways.
A. Some people respond to rubble by becoming bitter. After losing virtually everything in his life, Job became bitter. "Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” Job 7:11
Illustration: There was a merchant who had identical twin sons. The boys worked in their father’s department store. When he died, they took over the store. Everything went well until the day a dollar bill disappeared. One of the brothers had left the bill on the cash register and walked outside with a customer. When he returned, the money was gone. He asked his brother, "Did you see that dollar bill on the cash register?" His brother replied that he had not. But the young man kept probing and questioning. He would not let it alone. "Dollar bills just don’t get up and walk away! Surely you must have seen it!" There was subtle accusation in his voice. Tempers began to rise. Resentment set in. Before long, a deep and bitter chasm divided the brothers. They refused to speak. They finally decided they could no longer work together and a dividing wall was built down the center of the store. For twenty years hostility and bitterness grew, spreading to their families and to the community. After twenty years a man pulled his car in front of the store, parked, walked in, and asked the clerk, "How long have you been here?" The clerk replied that he’d been there all his life. The customer said, "I must share something with you. Twenty years ago I was ’riding the rails’ and came into this town in a boxcar. I hadn’t eaten for three days. I came into this store from the back door and saw a dollar bill on the cash register. I put it in my pocket and walked out. All these years I haven’t been able to forget that. I know it wasn’t much money, but I had to come back and ask your forgiveness." The stranger was amazed to see tears well up in the eyes of this middle-aged man. "Would you please go next door and tell that same story to the man in the store?" he said. Then the man was even more amazed to see two middle-aged men, who looked very much alike, embracing each other and weeping in the front of the store. After twenty years, the brokenness was mended. The wall of resentment that divided them came down.
(Contributed to Sermon Central by Johanna Radelfinger) Bitterness had done a work!
B. Some people respond to rubble by living a defeated life.
Illustration: Sometimes we take a defeatist attitude in the midst of struggle. Many of you may remember when the New Orleans Saints were a horrible football team. They have yet to win a Superbowl but at least now they are winning some games. In their worst days many of their fans took on a defeatist attitude. They wore bags over their heads.