by Rob Kerby, Senior Editor, BeliefNet
Nehemiah had a terrible problem almost 3,000 years ago. God’s people had ignored everything that was good and right. So the Lord allowed them to be conquered and taken captive by the mighty Babylonian Empire. There, they were slaves and exiles – and they mourned for their fallen nation. Their story teaches you and me some incredible secrets to success.
1. Do your job well! When the conquering Babylonians were overthrown by the Persian Empire, Nehemiah, was appointed as a servant to Persian King Artaxerxes. Nehemiah’s job was to make sure no one poisoned the king. Nehemiah did this by sipping any drink served to the king. If Nehemiah didn’t die, the drink was served to the king. Daily, Nehemiah put his life on the line. As a result, he became very trusted by the king.
2. Follow your heart! One day, Nehemiah’s brother visited him and told him that their hometown of Jerusalem was in ruins. The walls protecting it had been pulled down. The city gates had been burned. The people were unprotected from marauders that roamed the countryside, robbing and looting – and worse.
3. Seek the Lord’s guidance! In deep mourning, Nehemiah prayed for the mercy of the Lord, that they might rebuild the walls of the city. In order for that to happen, the Persian King would have to let God’s people go home. The Lord blessed Nehemiah, giving the lowly cupbearer favor with the king. Nehemiah was given his freedom and allowed to go rebuild Jerusalem’s walls.
4. Seek the Lord’s help! Ask God for help when you have an impossible situation. Nehemiah writes: “I sat down and wept and mourned for days and fasted and prayed constantly before the God of heaven, and I said, O Lord God, let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to the prayer of Your servant. We have sinned against You. Yes, I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, statutes, and ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. All of life, especially the battles we face in the realm of faith, should be bathed in prayer. God loves you. He is waiting to hear from you. Go to your Father and ask for help.”
5. Be alert! Watch for His answers! And the Lord answered Nehemiah, saying: “If you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the farthest parts, yet will I gather them.” If you ask the Lord for something, be ready to act when He answers your prayer.
6. Follow through! It’s one thing to start a job. It’s tough to finish. Nehemiah wrote: Then I said to them, You see the bad situation we are in—how Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates are burned with fire. Come, let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a disgrace. The Lord opened the door for Nehemiah to return home and rebuild the walls. So, Nehemiah set to work to get the job done – enlisting anybody who would help.
7. Tell what God has done! Never be afraid to talk about what God has done for you! Nehemiah wrote: Then I told them of the hand of my God which was upon me for good, and also the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, Let us rise up and build! So they strengthened their hands for the good work.
8. Be ready for opposition! No good idea goes unopposed! Nehemiah wrote: But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they laughed us to scorn and said, What is this thing you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?
9. Dare to fight back! Nehemiah didn’t tremble in fright. He writes: I answered them, The God of heaven will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or memorial in Jerusalem.
10. Prepare for the worst! Nehemiah was no warrior, but he realized he had to be ready to fight. He wrote: And when our enemies heard their plot was known to us and that God had frustrated their purpose, we all returned to our work. Half worked and half held spears, shields, bows and arrows. Everyone worked with one hand and held a weapon with the other. Each had a sword.
11. United we stand, divided we fall! Nehemiah’s volunteers were determined to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls. However, they were threatened on every side. There were gaps everywhere on the old wall. So, they split up, but each group had a trumpeter – and was ready to run to each other’s aid if they heard a trumpet call. Even so, they knew they could not win without the Lord. Nehemiah wrote: And I said to the people, ‘In whatever place you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.’
12. Be determined! These people were dedicated to do what God called them to do – protect their hometown. They could not be sidetracked by attacks from without or from within. They had to be a people with “a mind to work!” When trouble arises, there must be a determination greater than any opposition.
13. Our faith is worth fighting for! Nehemiah’s enemies did not want his people to worship the Lord. He refused to give in to them. Today, God is still looking for those who will worship Him in “spirit and in truth.” He wants us to be ready to fight for our right to worship Him His way. We can never allow anyone to silence our praise, empty our congregations or silence our testimony!
14. Our families are worth fighting for! Nehemiah knew that if he didn’t take a stand, then he and his family would perish! Your family is larger than just those who share your name or bloodline. It is our duty to reach out to them! To inspire them. To help them!
15. Our future is worth fighting for! Nehemiah knew that if he caved in, there would never be life in Jerusalem again. Nehemiah knew that the time to stand was now! We have turned our heads for far too long! We must take a stand today! We must determine that we will not allow the troubles and trials of life, the attacks of any opponents – and the fear we all feel from time to time – to destroy us or the work God has given us to do.
16. Submit to authority! 1 Peter 2:18 says that we are to “be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.” Nehemiah was a captive, probably a slave who became one of the most trusted members of King Artaxerxes’ court. Why? Because he was willing to be patient, be submissive to the king – and to wait on the Lord to move the king’s heart.
17. Respond to God’s call! God calls leaders. Is He calling you? Leaders must listen to God’s call. Nehemiah understood his leadership was a calling from God. He rose to the occasion – with God’s help.
18. Care about your people and their troubles! Nehemiah listened to the voice of his wall-building volunteers. He demonstrated that he cared about them. He got in the trenches and worked beside them. He sought the Lord on their behalf. He was not selfish. He loved his people!
19. Prayer is essential! Prayer is vital. We must be ready to hear God’s voice. He can speak to us at any time. If we are not turning our hearts toward God to seek His guidance, how can His vision reach our hearts? The prophet Habakkuk climbed up onto the broken walls believing that God had a vision for him and his people. Habakkuk was willing to wait for that vision.
20. Don’t be discouraged by adversity! As they rebuilt the wall, they were ridiculed and mocked. Their enemies did everything possible to discourage them. They spread lies about Nehemiah. But Nehemiah knew he was “doing a great work” and refused to come down from the wall to debate his enemies. Nehemiah persisted! God’s people cannot give up! Not even when adversity comes.
21. God always has a vision! When people work hard to accomplish a great goal, the temptation is to stop and rest. God’s people should stop and celebrate victories, just as Nehemiah and his people did. But God is never finished with us. After we give thanks to Him for bringing us to a new place on our journey, we must pause asking, “What, now, is your will?” We are always on a journey with Him. We cannot become what God wants us to be if we don’t listen to Him.
Nehemiah was totally sold out to God. When he heard of the turmoil in Jerusalem, he turned to God in prayer. He poured out all his woes to Him. He prayed in confidence that God would hear and lead him. Throughout his long ordeal, Nehemiah constantly sought the Lord. The work got done because the people worked with all their heart – inspired by a selfless, devoted leader who had their best interests at heart. He loved God without reservation.
Lord, send us more Nehemiahs!