Saturday, 22 February 2014

Lessons from Nehemiah on doing God's work: Part 2

Lessons one to six on doing God's work can be found at the previous post in this series on Nehemiah which is located here.

7. God's work requires the people to be of a common purpose
'So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.' (Nehemiah 4:6)
Inspired by the vision of Nehemiah the people of Jerusalem had one clear goal; to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. They had a mind to work; they had that common purpose and desire to see the city restored to its former glory. Their 'mind to work' was not merely some vague aspiration, but it was a burden and desire which they had in common, and which evidenced itself in action. The had a mind to work and so they did work. For the Lord's work to advance the people need to be of a common purpose. Personal disagreements and differences (where not of major theological nature) must be set aside and the people must unite in that common desire of seeing the work built up. Pray God would give us all a mind to work.

8. Discouragement will come in the Lord's work
'The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall. And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease.' (Nehemiah 4:10-11)
The wall of Jersualem was in a poor state of repair. The effort that would be required to rebuild it was aggravated by the amount of rubbish that needed cleared from around it. On top of that there was the constant threat of attack from their enemies. Is it not understandable that their initial enthusiasm would give way to discouragement when they realised all that was arrayed against them. So we too must expect to meet with discouragement, in various forms, as we engage in the work of the Lord. As we seek to serve God we can be sure that discouragement will come, but if we look to the Lord he will bring us through and do 'exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.'

9. There is a work for everyone to do
'the half of my servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the habergeons; ... They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon' (Nehemiah 4:16-17)
The talents and abilities allotted to the people of God are varied and necessarily so, for there are many different tasks to be done. As some were involved in building up the wall itself, so others stood guard, whilst there were also those who bare burdens. No-one was without a task to perform. As the hymn-writer said 'let none hear you idly saying, There is nothing I can do, While the lost of earth are dying, And the Master calls for you; Take the task He gives you gladly; Let His work your pleasure be'. There is a role for everyone in the work of God. Pursue the talent that God has given you to work for him, doing all to the glory of God.

10. The Lord's work requires commitment
'So we laboured in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared.' (Nehemiah 4:21)
There are no quick fixes in the Lord's work. What is required is commitment; that ability to persevere, to stick with the work and labour on despite the circumstances. From the time that the sun rose in the morning until it set again at night the people laboured in the work of rebuilding the wall. There are many who will make a start in serving the Lord, yet like Demas will soon forsake it. What is needed is the infilling of the Holy Spirit so that we would be committed to the work, not only in the times of blessing, but also when things seem to be barren. We cannot expect to have it easy all the time when we are serving God, but we must commit ourselves to the work even when things are difficult. This is only possible by having a burden for the work, and realising that the work is of God.

11. God's work requires courage
'And I said, Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.' (Nehemiah 6:11)
Closely aligned to the need for commitment, is the need for courage. They were no idle threats which were made against Nehemiah by the enemies of God. Yet he would not be swayed or put off by them. He could easily have returned to his service in the court of the king, or hidden in the temple as was suggested to him, yet he did not do so. To serve the Lord will require courage for there is nothing easy about speaking to a soul about their need of salvation. It is not easy to knock a door and invite someone to a gospel service. To stand up for the cause of God requires courage. Where do we get that courage? We do not find it in ourself, but it is given to us by the Lord. 'Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart'.

12. God will finish his work
'So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.' (Nehemiah 6:15)
Despite the difficulties that they faced and  the discouragements that they suffered, the people of Jerusalem saw the work that they set out to do accomplished, and in the remarkable time of fifty two days. The efforts of Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem to hinder the work were in vain. Often we can look at the church and fear for the future, yet those fears have no foundation. God has promised that he will build his work, and we can be certain that every one of God's elect will be brought into his kingdom. The gates of hell are unable to slow the onward advance of God's kingdom, but all that he has purposed he will accomplish. The wall will be built up and finished, regardless of the difficulties we may encounter as we engage in the work.

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