Nehemiah and the New Year

Do you know the story of Nehemiah? Here’s some background: Nehemiah was the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. It was a “cushy” job where he lived in comfort and never had to wonder where his next meal was going to come from. He was Jewish and so he had a heart for his people in Jerusalem. He asked a man named Hanani about the condition of the people of Judah and the city of Jerusalem. Hanani said, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.” (Nehemiah 1:3) Nehemiah’s heart was broken. Verse 4 gives his response, “So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”

So Nehemiah went back to work in his job as cupbearer, wishing there was something he could do, but he knew there was no way he could make a difference. What could one man do when an entire nation was suffering? Right? Wrong! Nehemiah did something that would absolutely terrify most of us.

He went to the king, his boss, and asked if he could take a leave of absence to go help. Remember, his boss was THE KING. People didn’t ask the king to give up his comfort for others. The king asked all the questions and everyone else was there to make his life more comfortable. But, Nehemiah stepped outside his comfort zone and asked, and the king agreed to let him go as long as he promised to come back. Not only that, life would be much tougher outside of the comforts of the king’s house.

So Nehemiah went to Jerusalem to see if he could help, right? Actually, he did much more. He asked the king for some other things and arrived at Jerusalem with lumber to rebuild the gates and the wall. But the people of Jerusalem didn’t know what he was up to. He went out at night to survey the damage to the wall and the gates and, after he knew what he was getting himself into, he went to the leaders of the city and told them what God had laid on his heart and that they had the king’s blessing and resources.

It was important to the city to be able to rebuild the walls. There was constant pillaging in the city because there was no protection. In order to restore their pride and become the great light God wanted them to be, they had to rebuild. So He sent Nehemiah.

Nehemiah met with serious resistance once they began the work too. A few men showed up to give him a hard time, but when asked about whether he had the authority to rebuild the wall, Nehemiah gave a very direct answer to them, “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem.” (Nehemiah 2:20) The men kept coming back, but Nehemiah kept everyone working.

After the walls had been built, but before the gates had been restored, these men decided that it was time to kill Nehemiah before they completed the work, so they hatched a plan to do just that. They sent a series of messages to Nehemiah to ask for a meeting with him. The final message explained that they wanted to discuss some ugly rumors that they were spreading about why the wall was being rebuilt and how Nehemiah was only in it to become a king.

Nehemiah knew they were only going to harm him and with each message he sent back this response, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3)

The project was completed in 52 days. 52 days. Seriously, less than two months.

So here’s the challenge in this new year: What is it that breaks your heart? What is it that God is calling you to do, but it would take you outside your comfort zone to do it? Will you answer His call? When you do and you meet resistance, will you answer, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down?”

God gave Mitchell a vision to take the words of Jesus to the running community through the “Who do you say that I AM?” campaign. It is glorifying His name and is making a difference in the lives of people. The idea was too big for Mitchell. But, it wasn’t too big for God.

How does God want to use you this year?

Dean Thompson, Run for God