Family? Start Acting Like It!

Community.  It is the word that has driven my passion the past few years.

Community.  Each of us craves a sense of belonging – to be known and loved for who we are.

Community.  It’s what we were created for.  Literally.

So why is true, authentic community so hard to find?  Because community is hard work.  It’s extremely messy.  And sometimes it is easier to just….not.

Church, we are called to BE community, to be the example the rest of the world lives by.  If we get it right, it will be beautifully attractive.  After all, most people, especially millennials, are seeking a sense of authentic community.  The fields are ripe for harvest (John 4:35)!  Now is the time to be the community that Christ has called us to! Now is the time to be the community that the world needs.

We have to start getting this right!

When difficulties arise, when the messiness that comes with community starts to show, people walk away.  It is happening everywhere!  It is easier to leave than to work through the mess.  But here is the truth: people are imperfect!  You are not perfect.  I am not perfect.  ______(insert the name of anyone)________ is not perfect!  And when imperfect people come together, there are bound to be issues.  Sooner or later someone will get hurt, or offended, or left out.  Maybe not intentionally….but, because we are all imperfect, it happens!

These are the moments that can define who we are as a church, as a family.  These are the moments that make the difference.  We can be like the rest of the world and give up on “community” at that point.  We can walk away without handling the problem or issue biblically.  Or we can push through, work through as God’s Word dictates, and come out as a stronger community on the other side.

This is a soap box I have been standing on for awhile.  Recently, I was able to read the book, Accidental Pharisee by Larry Osborne (HIGHLY recommend).  It challenged me and made me reevaluate a lot of the ways I behave.  There is a section on Biblical unity where he put into words and images much better than I have tried to do on my own:

“Our biblical unity is a lot like the unity we experience in a family.  When my kids were young and crammed into the back seat of our car, they didn’t always get along very well.  At times they wanted to kill each other.  At times I thought they might.  But it didn’t matter.  As I reminded them, they were stuck with each other.  They had to learn to get along.  They were united by birth, not by choice.  And nothing was going to change that.

In the same way, if I’m saved and you’re saved (even if I think you barely snuck in), we’re family.  It doesn’t matter if we don’t like each other, if we vehemently disagree…  We’re stuck with each other.  We have to learn to get along.  We’re united by Jesus, not by choice.  And nothing is going to change that.

Our biblical unity is rooted solely in our relationship with Jesus…  It exists even when we wish it didn’t…

Unfortunately, when family members refuse to get along, it’s not just the squabbling siblings who suffer.  The whole family suffers.  It brings shame to the family name.  It dishonors the parents.  Think back to the last time you saw somebody else’s kids having a meltdown in the grocery aisle.  My bet is that you didn’t think too highly of the children – or the parents.  Even if your own kids have had their fair share of meltdowns in aisle 6, you probably walked away thankful that you weren’t part of that family.

The same thing happens in the spiritual realm.  When the world sees us loving and bearing with one another, like the sons and daughters of God that we are, they’re drawn toward us.  We gain credibility to speak into their lives.  It reflects well on our heavenly Father.  But when they see fisticuffs and shouting matches breaking out…they can’t help but wonder, ‘What kind of heavenly Father would have a family like that?’

It’s no wonder they’re not too interested in what we have to say about life, Jesus, or the salvation that we claim we have and that they so desperately need.”

When we choose to walk away instead of dealing with the hurt, the offense, or the problem – what does that do to the witness of the Church?  When we choose to speak poorly of the church, of the people, we left behind – what does that do the credibility of the Gospel?

It isn’t about being right or wrong.  It isn’t about you.  It isn’t about me.  It’s about family.  It’s about the Good News!

If we are truly a church family, if we are the family of God – then we had better start acting like it.  People are watching.  And their very lives depend on it!!

Family, Community, Offense, Hurt, Church, Witness

Advertisements

Constant Uncertainty

Have you ever noticed that when you truly start to follow the Lord that you are in a constant state of uncertainty?  Yes, He will give you moments of reassurance that you are on the right path.  But, more often than not, you cannot see the place your foot will fall as you take the next step.  While it is terrifying, this is exactly the place He wants us to be.  Because when we are uncertain, when we don’t know just what is going to happen, then we have to fully submit our lives to Him, fully depend on Him.

Whether it was two days, a month, or longer, the Israelites camped and did not set out as long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle. But when it was lifted, they set out. They camped at the Lord’s command, and they set out at the Lord’s command. They carried out the Lord’s requirement according to His command through Moses.  – Numbers 9:22-23

The presence of God was visible in the midst of the Israelite camp.  During the day it was a cloud and at night, a pillar of fire.  And the entire journey, from Egypt to the Promised Land, was dependent upon His presence.  They did not move unless He did and they would rest as long as He did.  You see, “God chose to keep this people so dependent upon Himself, and so submissive to His own will, that He would not give them regular times of marching or resting; they were to do both when and where God saw best” (Adam Clarke).

So, we must do the same, move when God moves, and rest when He rests.  Camp, or rest, is necessary for a time.  But how often do we as individuals set up camp and forget what it means to journey, to follow?  We get comfortable where we are and we stay there.  Is this what happened to the Church?  Did God move and we remained at camp?  He promised to be with us always IF we were making disciples (see Matthew 28:19-20).  So if we are no longer making disciples (the Church IS dying across the nation…which means more are falling away than those being added), than is His presence still with us?  Corporately, I think God has moved on, and many (not all) churches are functioning without His presence.  Why?  Because we got too comfortable.  Packing up camp and marching forward is difficult.  The journey before us is unknown, trudging through the wilderness doesn’t sound like much fun.  It is easier to remain where we are than to face the journey ahead.

But it is when we keep His charge, as the Israelites did, that we find all we have been waiting for.  He is leading the journey.  And when we are following Him we have nothing to fear!  The journey may be difficult, we will most likely face our enemy along the way, and each step we take is forward into the unknown – but we can rest assured that He is with us because we are following His command.

On the other hand, there are times when we are ready to march forward and God has placed us in a season of resting, or waiting.  The Israelites were always ready to march because the presence of God (the cloud or the fire) could move at any moment.  In fact, “They probably wanted to move forward badly – they were headed to the promised land!”  But, if we believe, if we truly trust in Him, we cannot hurry.  There is not time lost when we are waiting on God’s time (Matthew Henry).

There are times that God knows we are weary, so He provides rest.  There are other times that He is aware of a challenging season ahead, so He gives us time beside still waters to refresh before we plunge into the difficult wilderness ahead.  And, still other times where He knows we aren’t prepared for what is ahead.  Those times are the most difficult, I believe.  He has trials in the waiting to prepare our hearts for what He has for us on the jouney.  Camp isn’t always easy.  But camp we must as we wait for Him to move.

Waiting, Camping, Wait, Camp, Rest, Journey, Adventure, Presence of God, God's Presence, Israel, Follow

The alternative is moving forward without Him.  Many times, it seems as if we are doing a good thing, it is a highly spiritual venture.  But if we move without Him, the blessing of that venture may never come.  After all, it isn’t very spiritual if God isn’t in it…

To move or to stay without the direction of God is defiance.  It is direct disobedience.  And, because of that, no matter how spiritual the endeavor may look, I am furthering the Dominion of Darkness when I am not keeping the Lord’s charge.

To end I would like to paraphrase a prayer from Matthew Henry:

Father, Your will be done; get rid of me and mine as You please; here I am, desirous to be found waiting on my God continually, to journey and rest at the commandment of the Lord.  What You will, and where You will, only let me be Yours…

 

 

 

When the Enemy Attacks

When we put our energy toward accomplishing the works of the Lord, the enemy does not like it.  He will do whatever he can to thwart our efforts and progress.  As Charles Stanley puts it in Church Awakening, “While Christ has promised to build up the church, the adversary is equally committed to tearing it down.”  And he will use people both outside of the church and inside of the church to make that happen.

Church, Enemy, Spiritual Warfare, Church Awakening, Charles Stanley, Build Up, Ephesians, Hard Times

At the beginning of chapter 4 of Nehemiah we see opposition come from outside the church.  At first, the opposition comes in the form of words, in mere insults: “They can’t do it.”  “It isn’t good enough.”  “It won’t work.”  “They will fail.”  Sound familiar?  These are simply words, but if they are received with the wrong attitude, they can be utterly destructive.  This kind of opposition casts doubt and makes you wonder if the task is even possible (and without God, it probably wouldn’t be…but that’s another post for another day).  It makes you question if God actually wants you to be doing this.  And it takes your focus off of His vision to the much smaller vision of man.  Words can be devastatingly destructive if we allow them to be.

Nehemiah didn’t let these words win; the building of the wall continued (vs. 7).  But their choice to continue working only made the enemy angry.  They then conspired to come against Nehemiah and his men in a physical manner – they were going to put a stop to the building one way or another.  In America, we don’t often see physical attacks such as the ones mentioned here, but the enemy still has ways, beyond words, to try and halt our work and progress.  Busyness would be the first way.  How many people within the church, how many Christians, are too busy to put their hands and feet to the tasks of our Lord?  Or what about money?  The budget doesn’t allow for such a vision… Or he keeps the few people who could finance the vision from “catching” the vision.

Which leads us to the idea that the enemy sometimes uses those inside the church to stop our progress.  He keeps us busy, keeps us from tithing, keeps us prideful…and mostly, he discourages.  In verse 10 we see, “The strength of the burden bearers is failing, yet there is much rubbish; and we ourselves are unable to to rebuild the wall.”  How many times have you seen the strength of leaders fail?  How many times have you seen burn out happen?  How many times have you seen someone walk away because the struggle seemed insurmountable?  I myself have been guilty of thinking the task is too large, that there is too much rubbish standing in the way, we will never make it.  And when I allow those thoughts to invade my soul, I’m letting the enemy win.  When I allow those thoughts to influence my actions and/or the actions of those around me, I have become a tool in the enemy’s hand.

Nehemiah didn’t allow that to happen.  His response is a perfect model for how we should respond in the face of an enemy attack.  First, he prayed.  Or I should say, they prayed.  At this point, Nehemiah’s “I” became a “we” – the people were catching the zeal and passion for the Lord’s work that Nehemiah had from the start.  So when trouble threatened the horizon, they went to the Lord in prayer.  This should always be our first response.  No matter what the situation, finding ourselves on our knees is the best place to be.  It is only in prayer that we can prepare for battle.  It is only through prayer that we can dress ourselves in the armor of God and prepare for the spiritual battles that face us every single day, “for in every duty we must expect opposition from our spiritual enemies” (Wesley).

But that prayer means nothing if we don’t put our feet to our faith.  “Nehemiah was not the fanatic to blunder into the delusion that prayer was a substitute for duty…” for he knew that prayer with action is “the most effective defense measure” (Expositor’s).  He could have easily prayed for protection and continued on the way they had been – building the wall without any regard to the enemy.  But he took it one step further, Nehemiah prayed for protection and then prepared for battle.  Protection doesn’t mean that God will keep the battle from happening, but it does mean He will be there fighting right alongside you, strengthening your faith, bolstering your spirit, and so much more.  Protection means that we are never alone.

The second response that we see from Nehemiah is unity: “I said to the nobles, the officials, and the rest of the people, ‘The work is great and extensive, and we are separated on the wall far from one another.  At whatever place you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there.  Our God will fight for us” (vs. 19-20).  Our best chance of success is to pull together as one when the enemy attacks.  Regardless of whether the attacks come from outside our walls or within – the answer is unity.  IF we are united THEN God will fight for us.

Unity is a form of anointing in the Lord’s book.   The 133rd Psalm is a  short one but the entire point is that unity = anointing: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!  It is like fine oil on the head, running down on the beard, running down Aaron’s beard onto his robes.  It is like the dew of Hermon falling on the mountains of Zion.  For there the Lord has appointed the blessing – life forevermore.”

“The origin of anointing was from a practice of shepherds.  Lice and other insects would often get into the wool of sheep, and when they got near the sheep’s head, they could burrow into the sheep’s ears and kill the sheep.  So, ancient shepherds poured oil on the sheep’s head.  This made the wool slippery, making it impossible for insects to get near the sheep’s ear because the insects would slide off.  From this, anointing became symbolic of blessing, protection, and empowerment” (gotquestions.org).

Unity, Anointing, Forgiveness, Enemy, Nehemiah, Love, Abundance, Protection, Blessing, Empowerment

When we are united, it is then that God anoints us.  It is then that we receive blessing, protection, and empowerment.  But the significance doesn’t stop there.  First, and foremost, this isn’t speaking of outward unity, but rather, true unity, unity of the heart.  In order for us to be truly unified in that sense, there can be no unforgiveness or bitterness.  For if we do not forgive, the Lord will not forgive us, and we forfeit the blessing that unity brings (Matthew 6:14-15).  Aaron and his sons were not permitted to minister to the Lord or be in His presence without the anointing of the oil.  Without unity, without that anointing, we harm our relationship with the Lord.  When we ourselves are not forgiven, when we have not payed our debt, we cannot be in the presence of the Lord.  Sin cannot be in the presence of the Lord.  And if we can’t be in His presence, we certainly can’t do His work.

The oil of anointing held a very pleasant aroma.  It was made from olive oil, cinnamon, myrrh, cane, and cassia lignea (very similar to cinnamon) (Exodus 20:23-25).  When someone was anointed the aroma would have been very agreeable, attractive to others.  When we are truly and wholly united, only then will we be attractive to those outside of our walls.

This anointing we receive from the Lord when we are united is excessive as we can see in the 133rd Psalm.  The oil ran down Aaron’s beard and onto his robes.  Even today in the Middle East, oil for anointing is poured in such a way that it reaches every limb.  It’s an extravagant amount.  The dew of Herman mentioned in the Psalm is also mentioned because of it’s abundance – historical documents note that this dew, even in dry weather, was so abundant that tents were as wet as if it had rained at night (Clarke). God’s anointing – His blessing, His protection, His empowerment – is abundant when we are living in true, straight-to-the-heart unity!

When the enemy attacks, our response should be prayer with action and true unity.  If we do these things, there is much to come in return: protection, blessing, empowerment and more!  God is there!  He is always there!  He just wants us to acknowledge His presence, His power, and His purpose (unity, or true community).

When the enemy attacks, God will respond justly.  The question is, will you?

It Only Takes a Few…

In Nehemiah chapter 3 we get a piece by piece account of who helped to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.  It’s like reading the genealogies throughout Scripture – you read it to get through it and then move on to the next thing.  But even within those sections of Scripture, there is so much we can learn!  Overall, this chapter  teaches us that focus and diligence can make up for lack of numbers.

It only takes a few to make a difference.  If we learn nothing else from this short chapter, let it be this.  We must be willing to put our feet to our faith and step forward in service.  How many say, ‘Let’s do it!’ but then sit back and do nothing, “Let it never be said that we left that good work to be done to-morrow which we might as well have done today” (Henry).  Nehemiah didn’t hesitate.  He saw the need, knew what needed to be done to fix it, and with the help of others, accomplished the task.  It wasn’t because he was functioning on his own strength, but rather, “it sprang from prayer and faith” (Expositor’s).  If we are in prayer, seeking His will, devoted to His will, then why are we so hesitant?

The Expositor’s commentary goes into detail about how the execution of rebuilding the wall was almost socialistic in nature.  Everyone was united in civic duty for the common good.  First and foremost, I believe this unity begins with the family unit.  From there, it branches to the church.  The church should always be a unit, united for the common good, united to further the Kingdom of God – “to be a citizen of the ‘City of God’ is to be called out of the circle of the narrow, selfish interests into the large place where great, common duties and an all-comprehensive good of the whole body are set before us as the chief aims to be pursued” (Expositor’s).  This is what God intended!!  But so often we miss the mark on this.  Church becomes just another place where I get my way.  And if I don’t, I’m going to make a fuss about it, leave, or just stop being a part of anything.  Sometimes what is good for the whole body doesn’t look like what we think it should.  And sometimes it takes time to see that.  But if we are faithful and obedient to what God calls us, if we remain united, we will see the good, just as these men (and women) saw the completion of a wall that was previously left to become ruins.

Ruin, Small, Mustard Seed, Faith, Few, United, Church, Unity, Family, Focus, Nehemiah

In the grand scheme of things, the number of those that worked to complete the wall were very few.  The record barely takes up a full page in my Bible!  But, nonetheless, they set themselves to the task and completed the vision that God had cast.  This should give us hope!  For “If a small city could once take the unique position of Jerusalem, then why should not a small church now?  And if a little knot of earnest men within the city could be the nucleus of her character and the source of her influence, why should not quite a small group of earnest people give a character to their church, and through the church, work wonders in the world as the grain of mustard seed could move a mountain?” (Expositor’s).  There’s no waiting until your numbers grow.  There’s no waiting until we’re bigger.  There’s only now.  As a mustard seed faith can move mountains, so can a few, devoted and faithful, make a great difference for the kingdom of God!!

Mustard Seed, Faith, Difference, Change, Few, Small, Church, Kingdom

Reading through the names of those that helped to build the wall, there are a couple that significantly stick out.  In verse 20, it is noted that Baruch zealously repaired a section of the wall.  He is the only one that gets this descriptor.  His passion for the work was so evident and overflowing that Nehemiah couldn’t help but mention it!  But on the other hand, in verse 5 we see that the Tekoites made repairs.  However “their nobles did not support the work of their masters.”  While Nehemiah kept track of who did the work, he also noted who did not participate in the work of the Lord.  As life moves on, will you be remembered as a Baruch, zealously serving the Lord?  Or will you be remembered as the nobles of the Tekoites, not putting your hand to service because you don’t think it worthy or you don’t have the time or ______________ (insert excuse here)?

As for me, I will stay focused on the task(s) that God has called me to.  I will approach His vision and His work zealously.  I will not allow the lack of many to destroy the hope of the few.  I will commit to my family unit and, in turn, commit to my church unit, remaining faithful and obedient to the Lord’s will…even if it doesn’t go my way.  United we stand.  Divided we fall.

Will you stand with me?

When God Gives a Vision…

I always have a plan for the way things are supposed to go.  And more often than not, God tends to throw a wrench into those plans.  A lot of the time, I don’t even understand what’s happening or why there was a shift.  But sometimes God grants us a peek at what He has in store, sometimes He allows us to see a glimpse of what is to be.  Those are moments of vision.  Sometimes God gives us a vision of how He wants us to move forward in furthering His kingdom.

Glimpse, Clouds Part, Vision, Dream, God Sized, Hope, Future, Nehemiah, Furthering the Kingdom, Goal

Now, I’m not necessarily speaking of something supernatural like a dream where we see the future and know for certain exactly what it all looks like (though, with God, all things are possible).  One of the ways Merriam-Webster defines ‘vision’ is “the mode of seeing or conceiving; unusual discernment or foresight.”  God often gives us an unusual foresight to conceive what the future might hold.  For instance, God has given Justin and I a vision for our church of young adult ministry, specifically for those outside the church.  That vision certainly wasn’t expected.  And since that moment of foresight, we haven’t heard much, I believe, because God is saying ‘not yet.’  I can see as I reflect upon this past year and our current situation that He is preparing us now for something in the future (However, about half way through writing this post…that ‘wait’ became a ‘ready, set, GO!’).  He has given us a vision, of that I am certain.

So what should our response be when God does give us a vision?  Nehemiah was a man of vision.  Before there was ever a vision, he spent a lot of time in prayer (more on that here).  Prayer is vital to any vision God gives us, both before and during the implementation of that vision.  We can’t carry out God’s plans if we aren’t in daily, constant communication with Him.  If we aren’t communicating with Him then we are doing nothing more than making the plans of God the plans of man.  Prayer is essential.

Once Nehemiah is sure of God’s vision, he sets himself to plan for the task.  He has to evaluate the situation, see the reality of what needs to be done.  In the second chapter of Nehemiah, verses 12-16, he mentions twice that he doesn’t tell anyone what God has put in his mind to do.  When God gives you a vision, it isn’t to bring glory and fame to your name.  When God gives you a vision, it is still HIS vision.  If we ever use that to bring attention to ourselves, we have missed the point.  So Nehemiah quietly moved forward without attracting any attention.

In the midst of that planning and preparation, the vision or the problems that arise within the vision, may seem insurmountable.  Nehemiah was surrounded by ruins and disappointment (quite literally).  He was given a vision for a problem no one else seemed to want to fix.  And in the middle of the night, as he was planning, he literally came to an impasse: “Then I passed on to the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was no place for my mount to pass” (vs. 14).  So what did he do?  He found another way!  Nehemiah didn’t give up at the first sign of difficulty.  The vision seemed impossible from the start, but he didn’t let that stop him.  And even when it became even more difficult, Nehemiah kept moving forward.  Why?  Because this wasn’t a vision of man.  This was a God sized vision.  And only with the power of God could it be accomplished.

Finally, Nehemiah feels it is time to cast the vision (vs. 17-18).  He explains to the Jews the situation they are in, the why.  Then he gives them a solution to fix it and says, let us fix the issue, together.  He doesn’t cast the vision and say, ‘Okay, God gave me this vision, I’ll be over here working on that.  Can you guys pray for me?’  No, a God-sized vision requires that His people come together in unity to accomplish the task.  And He also explains how God has been in the mix.  It’s one thing to cast a vision of how we see things.  It is another when we are able to point to God in the process.  I love how Matthew Henry  looks at Nehemiah casting the vision: “By stirring up ourselves and one another to that which is good, we strengthen ourselves and one another for it; for the great reason we are weak in our duty is because we are cold to it, indifferent, and unresolved.”   If we are weak it is because we have become indifferent.  When God gives us a vision, it is our responsibility to stir ourselves and others up.  And no matter how crazy or impossible the task, we can’t take the time to worry about what other’s think, “The man who is in dead earnest has no time to be self-conscious, he does not indulge in sickly reflection on the effect of what he says on other people’s opinions about himself, he will not care what they think about him so long as he moves them to do the thing it is laid on his soul to urge upon them” (Expositor’s).

And lastly, when faced with opposition, Nehemiah doesn’t give up on the vision God has given him.  Instead, he clings more tightly.  We will face opposition.  When God gives us a vision, it is usually something that can’t be done by the hands of man.  In order for that vision to succeed, God will have to be in the mix or it will fail.  That way we can’t take the credit.  Because of that impossibility, there will always be naysayers.  And there will always be obstacles to overcome.  Nehemiah’s response to that opposition is this: “The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build…” (vs. 20).  In other words, we are determined to make this happen, we will not give up because God Himself will grant us success.  When you know you have a vision from the Lord, there is no need for doubt or discouragement, there is only moving forward.  If He has given you a vision, He will provide the means.  All He requires from you is faith.  I have been reading through Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson (I highly recommend it).  He notes at one point that it is “Our job is to hear [God’s] voice.  His job is to establish our steps.  And if we do our job, God will do His” (pg.25)!

So stand firm.  Push forward.  And never forget to pray – “We need to work like it depends on us and pray like it depends on God” (Batterson, Draw the Circle).

The voyage continues here.

our-job

 

Response to Crisis – It Matters!

We have all experienced crisis and trouble at some point in our lives.  And we all respond a little bit differently.  It doesn’t matter if that crisis is a betrayal, a job loss, a natural disaster, or something else entirely….our response matters!   Christ followers are supposed to be different from the rest of the world.  So when we experience moments of crisis, when we experience trouble, when we are face to face with a devastating circumstance, the world is watching to see how we respond.  Our response matters!

In the first chapter of Nehemiah, within the first four verses, Nehemiah is given heartbreaking news – the walls of his home city are demolished, there is no protection for his people, for the people of God.  They are a city in crisis!  He is broken and in disbelief.  So he grieves and weeps…for days.  It is in this grief that we can learn a good deal from Nehemiah.

Crisis, Fear, Struggle, Mourn, Response, Trouble, Anguish, Sadness, Trials, Prayer

First, amidst that weeping, in his mourning, Nehemiah never neglected to pray.  In fact, he also fasted.  You see, “he eased his sorrows and unburdened his spirit by pouring out his complaint before God and leaving it with Him” (Henry).  How often do we mourn without the comfort of our Lord and Father?  How often do we turn away and forsake Him because our heartbreak must be at least partially His fault??  The Jews were the chosen people of God.  Nehemiah could have easily started cursing God, ‘Why did You let this happen?’  ‘How could this be?’  ‘Where were You?’   Instead, his first response in grief was to pray.

So how did he pray?  He first lifted praise to the Lord, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God….” (ch. 1 vs. 5).  That’s hard isn’t it?  In the midst of heartbreak, the last thing we want to do is praise the One person who could have prevented the heartbreak in the first place.  But praising Him during trials is an important response for our faith and His word tells us to be joyful when we meet trials (James 1:2).

He was in constant prayer, day and night.  The idea of God’s people being left unprotected bothered Nehemiah to the depth of his soul.  Instead of worrying and fretting, he prayed.  And then prayed some more.  I am a firm believer that God never tires of hearing our prayers.  In Matthew 6:7, the Lord denounces vein repetition.  However, “the prayer that is repeated simply because the worshipper is too persistent to be satisfied until it is answered” doesn’t fall into that category (Expositor’s).  We should be circling every crisis we encounter with prayer until the matter is resolved (one way or another).  If that means years of prayer, so be it!

He looked to God’s word: “Our best pleas therefore in prayer are those that are taken from the promise of God, the word on which He causes us to hope” (Henry).  We need to be praying His word, praying the promises of God, just like Nehemiah, “Remember the word which You commanded Your servant Moses…” (ch. 1 vs. 8).  Praying His word isn’t intended to remind God of what He has spoken, I don’t think He needs the reminder.  But, rather, to acknowledge that we are aware of His promises, His commandments, and His goodness.  We know that through heartbreak, through troubles, through sour lemons, God can bring goodness, mercy, joy, and triumph.  Why?  Because His word says so.

He was specific.  In order to be specific in our prayers, we must be seeking God’s will in the first place.  We must be actively doing our part.  Nehemiah didn’t just hear the news, mourn, and pray.  He began to plan a way to fix the problem, all the while praying, seeking the will of God – “He did not sit still and say, ‘Let God now do His own work, for I have no more to do,’ but set himself to forecast what he could do towards it” (Henry).  And when he felt the Lord had shown him a way, Nehemiah began to pray specifically.  Because of his position as cupbearer to the king, he knew he held a place of significance and favor.  The cupbearer had to be trusted, after all, they were the ones who could most easily kill the king!  Because of this position, he knew approaching the king was an answer to his problem.  Nehemiah, like Esther, had been placed there for such a time as this.  So he prayed for that meeting specifically, “…make your servant successful today and grant him compassion before this man” (ch. 1 vs. 11).  We do not have to be vague in our prayers!!

He waited on the Lord’s timing.  Chapter 1 of Nehemiah is set in the month of Chislev, and chapter 2, when he finally speaks to the king of the matter, is set in the month of Nisan.  There are FOUR months between the two!  Some sources believe these four months passed because Nehemiah was not in the presence of the king.  Possibly due to winter months, or possibly because he only worked one quarter out of the year.  But regardless, from the time Nehemiah heard of the crisis of Jerusalem until he was able to do anything about the matter, four months had passed!  All the while, Nehemiah kept praying and kept seeking the Lord’s will.  He was waiting for an opportunity to arise, for God to open the right door.  He recognized the need to be preparing, and while he did not sit still, he didn’t rush into anything either.  He wanted to be certain of the will of the Lord.

He continued to pray in the very moment he needed it:  The king out right asks Nehemiah what is bothering him at the beginning of the second chapter.  Perhaps Nehemiah didn’t hide his sadness as well as he believed, or perhaps due to fasting for four months, his physical appearance was altered to a point that the king couldn’t help but notice that Nehemiah’s countenance was not quite right.  So the king implores Nehemiah to express his anguish. And after a moment of fear, he does, then, “The king said to me, ‘What would you request?’  So I prayed to the God of heaven” (ch. 2 vs. 5).  You see, “the brief and sudden prayer reaches heaven as an arrow suddenly shot from the bow, but it goes right home because he who lets it off in his surprise is a good marksman well practiced” (Expositor’s).  Nehemiah had already been in constant prayer about this situation, so it makes sense that as he steps forward to speak with the king that he would, one last time, ask the Lord for confidence, clarity, and compassion from the king.  It would have been a natural reflex, just as it should be in our own lives.

In conclusion, our response to crisis, no matter the form, should be to pray and seek the will of God.  He knows better than we do how best to move forward.  He knows how the crisis will be fixed already.  And He knows best how to equip each one of us for the moments we find ourselves in.  Nehemiah sets a beautiful example of prayer in crisis, it would be wise to follow his lead.  The world is watching.  Our response matters.  Will you worry, curse God, and shut down?  Or will you pray, trust the Lord, seek His will, and move forward?