Summary: Spiritual Renewal cannot be contrived. It only comes at the hand of God as he works in the hearts of men turned toward him.
The Heart of Renewal
(Introduction was not recorded)
Key Point: If God is at the heart of our plans, by His hand renewal will come.
Transition: How can we ensure that Renewal will come?
1. Seek God’s Plans for Renewal
Nehemiah 2:12 Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem.
We often think of “heart” in the sense of emotions (“wears her heart on her sleeve), or that which we hold dear (“you’re in my heart, you’re in my soul”—Rod Stewart).
In the Bible, “heart” may refer to our mind, an all the things we think there:
2 Chronicles 7:11And Solomon finisheth the house of Jehovah, and the house of the king; and all that hath come on the heart of Solomon to do in the house of Jehovah, and in his own house, he hath caused to prosper.
A natural outflow of that thinking is to think of the heart as the control center for our will. What we dwell on in our heart will overflow into actions.
2 Chr 12:14 He did evil because he did not set his heart to seek the Lord.
The Bible is clear that we should seek the Lord, not just to be morally pure, but also when we make our plans for our lives, not to mention for the direction (and renewal) of God’s people.
Pro 19:21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will be established.
Pro 19:21 We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, but GOD’s purpose prevails.
Pro 19:21 People may plan all kinds of things, but the LORD’s will is going to be done.
James cautions us to say “if the Lord wills, we will do ‘this or that.’”
Don’t get ahead of ourselves (or God)
The Gibeonites (Joshua 9)
Joshua 9:14 So the men of Israel took some of their provisions, and did not ask for the counsel of the Lord.
John White (Excellence in Leadership . . . Nehemiah):
• Prayer is where planning starts. Our first goal in prayer is not to get a steam head of power but to find out what God wants. (p. 40)
• Planning that arises from and is the product of prayer is far superior to planning that is merely “backed up” by prayer
• The plan that is God’s plan, revealed by him to those who wait on him, is a plan that cannot fail. Real efficiency comes from waiting on God—we might have “success” without God’s approval, but what good is that in the long run?
• John goes on to recommend that committees start their meetings with prayer, but not as usual—if a meeting is to last 90 minutes, the first 45 should be spent in prayer, allowing time for worship, confession, and “time for the Spirit of God to change our perspective and enlarge our vision.
Former Church board meetings: spent a large portion of our meetings pouring over numbers, offering endless discussion, at times getting heated (in Christian love) and defensive (including me), and then we’d close with a “circle of prayer.”
Not all bad, and hopefully God worked in spite of us . . . but no one really had the desire to go to these meetings. It was a “necessary evil” that was always in search of a quorum.
We longed for a different approach, and we discussed how we could be more spiritual. It wasn’t until one day that one of the elders finally decided we were going to spend time addressing the spiritual state of our church, and to spend extended time in prayer that we actually got to experience the joy that comes from given our cares up to our Lord in prayer
Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir—would sometimes spend the bulk of their practice times praying. She wasn’t even a trained director—couldn’t read music. (Story from memory from Fresh Wind Fresh Fire, Jim Cymbala)
Plans with out prayer don’t go far. We’d tried for a few years to come up with a plan—a vision—for how we’d carry out God’s mission for his church. People had prayed some, people had had little one on one meetings, but until the leadership got on the same page, and were working together and helping the congregation submit to the Lord in unity did we start to make any headway.
That is the desire of the leaders at Monroe, and we pray (literally) that it is yours, too
Transition: If we truly do pray for God’s plans to be laid on our heart
2. Expect God’s Hand to Help Bring Renewal
We are in woeful need of God’s help. Nehemiah certainly felt that