Rebuilding Hope - Part 2: Out of the Prayer Closet
In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.” And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.
Introduction: Nancy Duarte share this story related to President JFK’s challenge to send a man to the moon. IN may of 1961, President Kennedy gave a speech declaring that by the end of the decade, the United States should land a man on the moon and bring him home safely.
He wanted support from every American. He said in the speech, “In a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon— it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.” He wanted the entire country to feel responsible for supporting his vision.
Later in the 1960s, JFK was touring NASA headquarters and stopped to talk to a man with a mop. The president asked him, “What do you do?” The janitor replied, “I’m putting the first man on the moon, sir.” This janitor could have said, “I clean floors and empty trash.” Instead, he saw his role as part of the bigger mission that was to fulfill the vision of the president. As far as he was concerned, he was making history.
Last Sunday we began our look at the book of Nehemiah and how God began working in his heart to formulate a vision for rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. In chapter 2 we see how God is going to use Nehemiah to communicate that vision. The king who was a key person that God would use to make it happen. If the King would have said no, I believe God would have made another way.
This morning, we are going to see the next steps that Nehemiah would take in order to follow God’s calling and vision.
Resolve to Take the Risk (vv.1-3)
Resolve to Take the Risk (vv.1-3)
You may recall from last week’s message that Nehemiah had invested 4 months time in prayer, fasting, and seeking God leading up to the events in our passage today. The prayer recorded in chapter one was likely a summary of what he prayed during those 4 months.
One of the hardest lessons to learn when it comes to serving God is the lesson of waiting. We often feel like waiting is a waste of time. We feel like waiting is equal to doing nothing. And then we get impatient and start to make our own plans rather than waiting for God to reveal His plan. That leads to trouble!
Illus. “Grass that is here today and gone tomorrow does not require much time to mature. A giant oak tree that lasts for generations requires much more time to grow strong.” - Henry Blackaby
When it comes to God’s vision for the church, we need to wait for the oak tree.
4 months is actually a pretty short wait compared to how long others had to wait. Abraham had to wait 25 years before Isaac was born! In the mean time, Nehemiah was busy doing his job and waiting on God.
The king was having dinner one day and Nehemiah brought wine to him. The king noticed that Nehemiah was grieved. ‘This is nothing but sadness of heart.”
He had never been sad in the presence of the King. Frankly, it was risky to do so.
The king was supposed to be such a wonderful person that you were supposed to forget your troubles when you were in his presence. Presenting any negative emotions in the presence of the king could cause you to lose your job or worse, lose your head!
Nehemiah sensed that this was just the right time for him to take a risk of approaching the King about the burden of his heart. He resolved that the benefit of God’s timing outweighed his personal risk. I can tell you by what he wrote at the end of verse 8, that he knew it was God’s time.
“For the gracious hand of God was on me.”
Nehemiah had faith in God’s plan. As C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.”
Was he fearful? Absolutely. “I was overwhelmed with fear.”
Did he let fear paralyze him? No. His confidence in God overcame his fear.
Reveal the Plan (vv. 4-6)
Reveal the Plan (vv. 4-6)
Nehemiah 2:4 (ESV)
Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven.
This prayer that Nehemiah was way shorter than the prayers that he had prayed leading up to this moment. It was probably something like, “Lord, help me!” But notice, he was committed to prayer. He understood that God and God alone controlled the King’s heart.
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.
He also understood that rebuilding the walls was a God sized task. Without God’s intervention, it wouldn’t happen.
When the King heard Nehemiah’s burden in v. 3, he responded, “What is your request?” Or “How can I help?”
Let’s think about everything that Nehemiah was about to ask the king for to accomplish this vision.
An extended leave of absence from his duties as cupbearer. (v. 5)
Letters of recommendation to the regional governors to allow Nehemiah to pass unhindered until he came to Judah.
Open-ended access to the King’s resources (Timber from the king’s forest).
The blessing and protection of the King.
Nehemiah didn’t try to hide his intentions. But he wisely took caution as to how he worded his request. He spoke of the, “The city where his ancestors are buried.”
He didn’t mention the name of the city. Why? Perhaps it is because the the king would have a bad association with the name of “Jerusalem” knowing the history of the city and it’s rebellious nature. We don’t know for sure. We also know that this same king was responsible for stopping the construction on the walls a few years prior.
But Nehemiah was very clear that he was going to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem because God had put that vision upon his heart. He wasn’t going there on a mere fact-finding tour or to criticize the previous leaders for not getting the job done. He was going to rebuild!
There will come a time in the process of seeking God’s vision for his church that it must be articulated and shared with others. Nehemiah had obviously thought this through and had a strategic plan formulated in his mind.
Strategy follows vision. Vision without a strategy to implement it is nothing more than a dream. If we know that God wants us to rebuild his church, we will have to develop a strategy to implement that vision.
Rely Upon Resources from God(vv. 7-8)
Rely Upon Resources from God(vv. 7-8)
Vision requires resources if it is going to become a reality. I believe that God had already burdened the heart of the king to provide what was needed to make His work happen. Someone once said, “Where God guides, He provides.”
The resources and means that God provided through this pagan king were to be used to rebuild the walls - to do HIS work. Nehemiah was not to hoard the resources, but to steward them wisely to accomplish the work.
I find it interesting that if you do a search on the internet for stewardship, you will find plenty of ideas on how to properly account for God’s money, protect God’s money, how to avoid fraud in stewarding God’s money, even how to get a good return on God’s money, but very little on how to spend God’s money for Kingdom purposes. And when I say spend it, I mean to invest it in the work of the gospel!
PLEASE HEAR ME OUT: God gives financial and material resources to His church to accomplish his work - not to hoard them - Not to save them up for an emergency that will most likely never come.
The emergency is already here! Souls are perishing without Christ. 157,690 people die around the world every day and many without Christ. That is the emergency that we ought to be concerned with.
Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.
It might surprise you to know that a majority of the churches that close their doors every year do so with thousands of dollars of God’s money in the bank! They are like the dead sea. The dead sea is dead because it has an inlet but no outlet. A church will die without an outlet.
Dennis Bickers wrote: “There is nothing wrong with a church having money in savings. There is much wrong with a church having large sums of money it never intends to use for any purpose other than ensuring its own existence.”
When churches hold onto large amounts of money, people stop giving. They reason, “Why should I give my hard earned money if they are not going to use it?” I’m not saying that this attitude is right either. Your giving should be to God. If you are withholding your giving because you are unhappy about something going on in church, you are sinning. I’m just stating a reality.