Summary: The sacrifice of Christ made our salvation a full and free gift; our personal sacrifice is the joyful response that makes ministry possible.
February 2, 2003
1Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem, but the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while nine-tenths remained in the other cities. 2And the people blessed all the men who volunteered to live in Jerusalem. Nehemiah 11.1-2 (NASB)
These two chapters of Nehemiah have another imposing list of unpronounceable names. I was tempted to skip the chapters, but I am rather stubbornly committed to preach to you all the council of God. And, if God put these names in Holy Scripture, and preserved them for more than two millennia, they are important. So we will investigate them.
The backdrop for this event is God’s people returning from 70 years’ captivity in Babylon. The walls of Jerusalem had now been re-constructed, and the temple restored. The rulers dwelt within the city, but the rest of the population – the common everyday folks lived in other surrounding cities. Nehemiah knew that a city must have a population to have an economic and emotional vitality. So he instituted a “voluntary draft” to repopulate Jerusalem.
What I mean by voluntary draft is that you really didn’t have to move to the city if you decided against it. All the citizens were considered, and when the “flip of the coin” chose someone he had the right to decline. As Nehemiah proceeded, people were chosen – and then responded positively or negatively about going to live inside the city walls as Jerusalemites. Those who said “yes” became “voluntary draftees” – new citizens of the old city.
The people came from all walks of life, social strata and vocational backgrounds. Now, this has much to say to a church like ours, and about a home like yours. We are a melting pot – northern, southern, young and old. We have professionals, medical, hard-working skilled people and management. There are homemakers, hunters, pacifists, dog and cat lovers and haters. We are a varied bunch. We are also alike – we are voluntary draftees into the family of God, joined together by invitation and sanctification.
This morning I would like us to see a few defining statements about personal ministry, and the sacrifice we all have in common when it comes to serving God on His terms.
#1. Sometimes God Singles You Out for Ministry
Ever since God told Adam to tend the garden of Eden He has been calling people to do things. Sometimes He speaks loudly and clearly. In the case of Nehemiah’s repopulating Jerusalem, the coin idea was very specific. It very seldom landed on its edge and stayed there. It either fell with your side up or not. Flipping a coin however is not a great way to determine God’s will for your personal ministry.
One thing is certain – with the world in the state in which we now find it, with hunger, poverty, loneliness, disease and lost people everywhere, there is plenty of ministry to go around. How do you know if God is singling you out for a ministry?
You may be drawn to a certain type of ministry. If dealing with lost people face to face is exciting to you (exciting, not scary), then evangelism may be that to which God is calling you. On the other hand, you may be more suited to helping put a roof over someone’s home. What some would call a natural inclination may be more like the evidence of a supernatural gift.
Not all people have the same gifts; not all people have the gift they think they have. One of the reasons we lay hands on deacons or preachers is the affirmation of the church body that this person has been gifted to that particular ministry. In some way we do that with our Nominating Committee report each year when we elect folks to ministry positions for that year; we affirm their suitability for that ministry.
There are times when God just drops a ministry into your pathway and you have no choice but to know “this is it”. God did that with Paul. Paul just knew his calling was to persecute that crazy cult called Christians – those followers of Jesus. Then came the Damascus Road, a blinding light and Jesus turned Paul’s world upside-down. What he thought was his calling became the very opposite of his real calling.
God doesn’t do that “blinding light thing” with everyone – and many of us miss God if we’re not paying attention. The key is to know that God does single us out for ministry, and it is our business to listen very carefully in prayer. This is because…
#2. God is not interested in pedigrees, He wants Hearts
In the Chapter 12 list of brave men who were selected to live in the city, two of the tribes mentioned were Judah and Benjamin. These two tribes really have a checkered past. At least one of Judah’s children in the Patriarchal days was born of incest (Perez). This Perez became known as one of the mightiest warriors of the nation.