Summary: Words are cheap, but the proof is in the doing. So they said, "It is not enough to sign our name & to sign it publicly. We will do more than that. We will put these 4 items as our top priority." (Powerpoints available - #323)
MELVIN NEWLAND, MINISTER RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
(This is the ninth of a Leadership series featuring Nehemiah. Some ideas & illustrations in these messages were based on or benefited greatly from, to varying extents, the book “Hand Me Another Brick” by Charles Swindoll.)
(The Powerpoints used with this sermon are available free. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and request PP #323.)
Whether you’re a senior in high school or a senior in college graduation day is special because it marks the closing of a major period in your life & the beginning of another. And in recognition of this new beginning the ceremony which marks your graduation is traditionally called a “Commencement” service. So in a few months, in thousands of auditoriums, seniors will attend Commencement services, listening to a great variety of speakers.
In all likelihood, most of the speakers will challenge them to make a success of their lives, to take an active part in seeking to make this world a better place in which to live.
ILL. Some speaker will undoubtedly relate that a great mathematician once said, “If I only had 3 minutes in which to work a problem, I would spend 2 minutes reading the problem & deciding how to work it.”
Another speaker may tell about the expert lumberjack who said, "If I only had 5 minutes in which to chop down a tree, I would spend 3 minutes sharpening my axe."
These seniors will be told that Commencement is not the end, but just the beginning, & they will have to think clearly & plan carefully as they prepare for whatever path they choose to follow. These speakers will almost certainly emphasize the great importance of proper preparation if they are ever going to achieve their hopes & dreams in life.
A. But may I remind you, thinking clearly & planning carefully is hard work!
ILL. Henry Ford once said, "Thinking is the hardest work there is - which is probably the reason why so few engage in it."
It is said that many of our modern conveniences came about because of our laziness. We don't like to dig ditches – so someone invented a backhoe. We no longer have the time or inclination to spend long hours toiling over a hot stove, so TV dinners & microwave ovens were developed.
Some of us would even have a hard time balancing our checkbooks if we didn't have help. We used to be able to add & subtract & divide & multiply. But we don't have to do that any more because we’re living in an electronic age with computers & calculators to do much of our thinking for us. You see, thinking is hard work.
B. And thinking things through - standing back & getting the total picture, looking into the future, determining priorities & then planning accordingly - is also hard work. It wasn't easy in old Jerusalem, & it isn't easy now.
Think what we have learned so far about Nehemiah. When he came to Jerusalem the city was in ruins & he had a wall to rebuild. As I’ve mentioned before, if I had been in his place, I would have rolled up my sleeves & started getting ready to lay bricks almost immediately.
But Nehemiah didn't. In fact, he took 4 days to think about it - to pray about it - to examine the work that needed to be done. It was only after 4 days of praying & planning before Nehemiah told anyone in Jerusalem why he had come – about the burden that God had laid upon his heart & what the King had authorized him to do. He thought about it & prayed about it first & then he acted.
And again, when opposition arose - when Sanballat & his crowd decided to oppose them in their project - Nehemiah didn't react off the top of his head, but rather, he thought about it & prayed about it. He sought God's will, & then he acted.
As you may remember from last week’s message, when it was time for revival for the people to hear the Word of God Nehemiah thought about it & prayed about it also, & then he acted. And the results were tremendous. The people listened & then wholeheartedly sought to do the will of God.
I. FIRST OF ALL, PEOPLE TOOK TIME TO THINK & REEXAMINE THEIR LIVES
Now, in the 9th chapter of Nehemiah, vs's 5 38, you will find the longest prayer recorded in the Bible. In that prayer the people acknowledged their sins & repented of them. They asked God for forgiveness & recommitted themselves to Him & to the observance of His laws. They wanted to be God's people once again!
But something very interesting happened in the last verse of the 9th chapter. The people decided that it is not enough just to say in their hearts that they would follow God. Instead, they decided to make a public commitment, to sign their names on the dotted line & say, "This is what we will do & here is our public pledge to do it."