6-Week Series: Against All Odds


Summary: The example Nehemiah gives us when we’re confronted by bad news, tragedy or problems.

When The Going Gets Tough. Nehemiah 1

Jonathan Gardner

There was a song some time ago, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going….’. I’m not sure about the rest of the words, but the tune was catchy. But is does beg the question: What do we do when the going gets tough?

We all encounter problems or ‘challenges’. Maybe friends have let us down, or bad news arrives, maybe we’re about to be made redundant, or perhaps an illness strikes us or a loved one, a bereavement perhaps, or something else happens and we feel bewildered or helpless. It’s common to us all. If it hasn’t happened to you yet…it will. I’m not wishing the worst for you, but it is the world we live in. It’s a fallen world and calamity falls unequally. But fall, it does! Some time ago, it happened to Nehemiah.

You may ask yourself if it happened to him, and he lived several thousand years ago, how relevant is that to you and I? I would say that we can learn a lot from Nehemiah, and his Godly reaction to bad news.

(1) Problems! (Neh 1:3)

Nehemiah was a man of some importance. Very close to the King. He would have had a lot of influence. He would have been one of the King’s most trusted advisors. Living a comfortable life, many in his position would have rested on their laurels, thought that they had made it through their own efforts, but the Nehemiah we read about is a very humble, devout Believer. Someone who has his feet firmly on the ground.

It seems the ransacked walls of Jerusalem were being rebuilt. This would not only restore some pride in that once great city, but would have been of paramount importance to the remnants of those that had escaped exile – the wall was a matter of life and death. Without it, the remnant were easy prey for their enemies. Things seemed to be going well after a long gloomy period. Now, presumably, for those in Jerusalem, and Nehemiah, the tide was turning. Good news surely? But bad news had arrived at Nehemiah’s doorstep.

In Neh 1:3 we read that the walls, perhaps recently rebuilt walls, were once again broken down (and this may probably have been the result of King Artaxerxes action as mentioned in Ezra 4:17-23). The city was completely vulnerable.

How bad was that news for Nehemiah? He was ‘gutted’, bewildered, he must have felt that he had gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson. We’re told that he ‘sat down and wept’. For some days I mourned and fasted…’, he said. (Neh 1:4).

His reaction was entirely understandable. He wasn’t a stoic and neither should we be. He wasn’t able to dismiss the bad news and cover it over in the hope that it would go away. There are some people today like that. They believe If they don’t think about it, it will go away. Nehemiah was distressed by this awful news, but he believed and trusted in God, and in his hour of need his attention was focused firmly on God. He mourned and fasted.

God was at the centre of Nehemiah’s life.

Jesus told a parable in Matt 7:24-27. It’s about two builders. One wise, one foolish. The wise builder built his house on solid rock. Strong, tough, firm foundations. When the terrible storm came his house, though battered, endured the storm and survived.

The foolish builder built his house shifting sand. When that storm came his house didn’t stand a chance. It fell.

You see, the storm, whatever it may be for us, is going to come – the only choice we have is whether we’re going to build our lives (our marriage, our job, our children’s upbringing, our lives etc) on the rock or the sand; on God’s word and obey Him, or do our own thing.

The only safe place for us and our lives is when we build our lives on God’s ‘solid rock’. But it is interesting….the wise and foolish builders both had to endure the storm.

We, as believers, are not immune from bad news or bad events. Sometimes people have to endure bad things. And sometimes good people have to endure awful things. Wasn’t that what Good Friday was all about.

What about us? What about our lives? Today? Have you and I endured a problem? I’m sure many of us have? Perhaps we’re living in dread of some impending problem. If not us, there are people in this City, our neighbours or friends and family, who are worrying about some kind of problem.

What is the response of the man or women in the street, of those without Jesus? To calamity, their response maybe to swear or curse, maybe to lash out verbally or physically, maybe get drunk, maybe to become reclusive, maybe to deny the problem. There are many responses, but Nehemiah shows us the way. He sets us a Godly example.

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Jonathan Debell

commented on Jan 25, 2007

Encouraging content. Good application.

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