Summary: We must pray as we try to change the world around us!
Introduction: Sponge Bob Square Pants movie clip
Alright, I admit, I probably should have used a movie clip from Saving Private Ryan or Braveheart in order to talk about being men, but I didn’t have either of those, so Sponge Bob will have to do. Besides, the line that is repeated over and over again is exactly what I want to focus on for tonight. “Now that we’re men, we can do anything.”
This is, very bluntly, the message of our culture today. We take pride in men and women who are self created and who seem to be able to do anything they want. We live in a world whose motto is “Survival of the fittest,” and selfishness is rampant everywhere you look. We are surrounded, and involved in, back stabbing, black mailing, lying, cheating, and scheming just to get what we want. We are taught from an early age that the only way we are truly men or woman is to be able to do things on our own.
Think about that for a second. When a toddler is being potty trained, what does a parent tell them when they go in the toilet. “You’re such a big boy.” It’s the same story when a child starts school, learns how to tie their shoes, or learns to write. As you guys head through Jr. High and Sr. High, it is a learning process towards independence. You guys have learned how to take care of yourselves more and more in all sorts of different ways and yet when you are acting irresponsible or immature the standard line from parents is, “You are acting like a child.” Only children need help! Only children should be dependant on someone else! Only children should be asking others to do things for them!
Being a real man or a real woman means being fully dependant on yourself and your own abilities as you change your own world to include more fame, fortune, and power. That, “I can do it alone!” attitude, is what is known as arrogance.
As we look at scripture, and God’s call on our lives to go and change the world, we are told to have an attitude that is exactly opposite from arrogance. Instead, we are told to have an attitude of humbleness and depend, not on ourselves, but on God. The starting point for this attitude of humility and dependence on God begins with prayer! This is something that the prophet Nehemiah understood very well.
Let’s take a look at Nehemiah’s understanding of prayer by opening a pew Bible to Nehemiah 1:1-2:6 (Pg. 469). ***Read passage***
The last sentence of verse eleven in chapter one tells us a lot about who Nehemiah was. “I was cupbearer to the king,” he writes. The position of cupbearer doesn’t really mean much to us today because it really doesn’t exist anymore. But in Nehemiah’s time, the position of cupbearer was one of the most important in the country.
The cupbearer’s job was very simple in that their job was to taste the wine to make sure it was safe for the king to drink. This was no a job for just anyone as the king always was fearful for his life. Instead, the person who assumed the role of cupbearer had to have courage and maturity. By far, the cupbearer was one of the most trusted and powerful positions in the country, next to the position of king. Obviously, Nehemiah was a talented and gifted leader.
As we briefly talked about last week, as Nehemiah is in Susa, one of his brothers comes and tells him that the walls of Jerusalem have been torn down and demolished. This upsets him a great deal as he realizes how unprotected his people are from attack. Also, as we mentioned last week, it had been over a hundred years since the falls were destroyed, so Nehemiah was also upset that no one had stepped up to lead the people in rebuilding the walls. It was at this point that Nehemiah felt God was asking him to go and change the world around him and lead the people to bring safety to the city of Jerusalem again.
So, what is the first thing that Nehemiah does? Despite his success, talent, and abilities, Nehemiah did not just run off and make a blueprint of a new wall. He didn’t go to Jerusalem and start signing people up as workers. And he didn’t do any fundraising to get supplies for a new wall. Instead, as verse four tells us, “for some days” he “fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” First thing’s first, when we respond to God’s call to change the world, we must pray!
What’s even more remarkable than the fact that Nehemiah was able to humble himself and go to God in prayer before he did anything else, is his persistence. In verse one, Nehemiah is met by his brother in the month of Kislev which is around our month of November. He prays to God for help and wisdom in talking with the king about the issue. But, as we see in the first verse of chapter two, it is the month of Nisan, which is around our month of March, when Nehemiah is granted that request. For five months, he prayed for the opportunity to talk to the king!