These past 6 months there has been a lot of building and rebuilding done, with a view to us moving the church into the centre of Nambour, one of the largest towns in the area. It has been slower than we wanted, but the end result will be worth it.
All this renovating and rebuilding makes me think of Nehemiah, so that is what I want to study today…
Imagine getting up one morning, getting on Facebook and seeing your home town, in another state, is closing the biggest industry and employer that it has. You know this will cause immeasurable pain to friends and families you know, and coincidentally, you are the vice president of a company that works in that field. What would you do? That’s like the situation Nehemiah faced.
The Jewish people were exiled by Babylon into captivity for 70 years, after which Persia conquered Babylon and released a remnant of the Jews to return to their homeland, Jerusalem.
At that time 50,000 Israelites did return and began immediately to reconstruct the demolished Temple. Opposition from the people who had settled there during the captivity soon discouraged them, and they abandoned their task with only the foundation having been rebuilt.
A few years later, Haggai and Zechariah appeared on the scene, pointed out the people’s neglect, and challenged them to finish the job. This they completed twenty years after their initial return.
Sixty more years passed and then, under Ezra’s leadership, more of the remnant returned to Jerusalem. Although the Temple had been rebuilt, the walls of the city were a shambles and the gates burned. So for ninety years after the first Jews returned, the people of God lived in affliction and shame in a city with broken walls and burned gates.
We can safely say that several generations had grown up with Jerusalem in this condition. It was normal for them. That’s the way it had always been all their lives, and their parents livea. One of these guys was an official in the Persian court called Nehemiah. He had never even been to Jerusalem at the time.
Nehemiah was a busy guy. Employed as a cupbearer the king, he was essentially his chief of staff, a key advisor for the king, yet despite his honoured position and his busy life, this report that he received from his homeland rocked his world. So God began to raise Nehemiah up.
1. CALLING TO REBUILD
Nehemiah 1:3 (ESV)
And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”
Nehemiah heard the call, this cry of desolation, from his people. He could have walked away, he could have put his fingers in his ears, but he decided to pray. As he prayed he realised that the Lord was calling him to stand for his people, and he felt it right down in his soul…
Nehemiah 1:4 (ESV)
As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
Have we wept and mourned for our people? Have we been too busy whining about masks and lockdowns to agonise at our society, how people choose to live, how many of them who reject Christ are in pain and fear? Do we feel it in our souls, a longing to serve Jesus in this generation, no matter the cost.
I feel it. I want to serve Jesus whatever the cost, and I want to see revival in our people. I believe that God has called me and our leadership to serve as Nehemiah did. You could walk away, you could invest your time into your work, or your investing, or your family, or your own agenda. But
2 Chronicles 16:9 (ESV)
the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.
2. COMPULSION TO PRAY
Notice the first thing Nehemiah did? He stopped and prayed, and he prayed with all his heart. He confessed his and his people’s sin, He reminded God of His promises, and the Lord placed a plan of attack within his spirit.
Nehemiah 1:11 (ESV)
O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”
Nehemiah had a compulsion to pray, but it wasn’t “God bless mummy and daddy and the whole world” kind of prayer. It was targeted, specific, powerful and… it prompted faith and action!
Now more than ever before we need this kind of prayer, and we must pray with all our hearts for our nation. Our COVID world is hurting so many people, so our first response should be to pray and ask God for His direction. Then…
3. COURAGE TO ACT
It’s one thing to pray, but stepping out by faith and taking a chance is just as important.
James 1:22,25 (ESV)
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
Nehemiah was a man of prayer, but also a man of obedience and action.
So he stepped up and asked his boss, the boss of bosses, the king, if he could personally travel and solve the dilemma his people faced. This took great courage because if he even appeared sad or down before the king, the king could have him executed.
Nehemiah 2:4-5 (ESV)
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 favour in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.”
This took immense courage, facing this powerful king.
On one occasion Frederick the Great invited some notable people to his royal table, including his top-ranking generals. One of them by the name of Hans von Zieten declined the invitation because he wanted to partake of communion at his church. Sometime later at another banquet Frederick and his guests mocked the general for his religious scruples and made jokes about the Lord’s Supper.
In great peril of his life, the officer stood to his feet and respectfully rebuked the monarch, “My lord, there is a greater King than you, a King to whom I have sworn allegiance even unto death. I am a Christian man, and I cannot sit quietly as the Lord’s name is dishonoured, His character belittled, and His cause subjected to ridicule. With your permission I shall withdraw.”
The other generals trembled and held their breath, knowing that von Zieten might be instantly executed. But to their surprise, Frederick grasped the hand of this courageous man, asked his forgiveness, and requested that he remain. He then promised that he would never again allow such a travesty to be made of sacred things.
That took courage. Rebuilding Jerusalem took courage. And moving this church into Nambour takes courage also. As your pastor, I have had to negotiate contracts, banks and people to get to where we are today, and my team led by Tania are handling the difficult negotiations with council, engineers and certifiers.
Just live today in our society for Jesus takes courage. The enemy wants to thwart that courage, that’s why via media and social media, he force feeds us the opposite of courage.. discourage.
How have you survived the last 18 months of COVID insanity across the world? Almost everyone I talk to has been discouraged. Pastors, business leaders, people with kids in other states. Discouraged. But in this climate of fear, God gives us real hope, and we need real courage!
Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
We can live this life with real courage because we have real hope. Jesus is the source of hope!
Nehemiah had real hope and courage. He started by letting the king see his sadness, his emotions, then he stepped out and asked to be released to go back to his home land and rebuild the walls. But he didn’t stop there in his boldness…
Nehemiah 2:7-8 (ESV)
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.
This move, asking the king to not only approve but bankroll the venture, was real boldness. What we face requires boldness, courage, and provision also, but Nehemiah proves to us that when we seek God, He will give us what we need for the hour we face.
4. COMMITMENT TO GO
The final piece in the puzzle was Nehemiah commitment to go. This involved a long journey to a fearful and seemingly hopeless situation, what most might consider a lost cause, for generarions. He didn’t know who he would encounter or what was required, all he knew was the need of the city, and the call of Him who called him to go.
So he up and went, and what was the first thing he encountered… Opposition!
Nehemiah 2:10 (ESV)
But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel.
They recognised that this wasn’t really about a wall, it was about a people. Just like our move is not just about a physical relocation, it’s about the people of our community!
We have similarly encountered opposition, from engineering and certifying to a sometimes less than helpful Sunshine Coast Council, from resignations within to rumours and lies without. Pressures, time frames, dollars, tension. But what keeps me going is focussing on Jesus, and on His call to our church to move into Nambour. What kept Nehemiah going was focussing on his call to rebuild the broken walls.
Nehemiah wasn’t just rebuilding a wall, he was rebuilding a nation. And we are not just relocating Ignite, we are building a community to win our community to Christ. Real people, real community, real God.
So, the first thing Nehemiah encountered was opposition, and his first response is interesting. He didn’t, fight back, he didn’t argue points, he didn’t take antidepressants or seek counselling, the first thing he did in response was this…
Nehemiah 2:12 (ESV)
Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. There was no animal with me but the one on which I rode.
5. CLEAR VISION
Nehemiah inspected the walls… Alone. Why? He did his research, his due diligence, so he knew what he wanted to do. Then he gathered the Jewish leaders together and shared with them not a vague idea, not a great concept, not a perceived need, He shared a clear, well thought out, concise vision.
Nehemiah 2:17-18 (ESV)
Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of 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.
Nehemiah said, here’s what God has done for us, now it’s our turn to go for it! You might argue that Nehemiah didn’t have the complete vision, and that’s true. But I didn’t say complete, I said clear. He knew what God wanted Him to do, and he offered a clear path to follow. And I say the same to you this morning.
We have seen God do so much for us, miracle after miracle! Yes it’s taken too long to get approvals, yes the work has been slow and hard, yes we are all frustrated and at times discouraged, but let me remind you that God brought $700,000 dollars so Lily House could buy this premises, he returned $41,000 stamp duty to us, and many of you have given generously, He has granted us favour with town-planners, contractors and so far He has supplied all of our needs. Yes this house is moving, but is was and is and always will be God’s house, where ever it may be.
GOD IS DOING A NEW THING
Isaiah 43:18-19 (ESV)
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
Nehemiah might have looked like he was rebuilding old walls, but he was actually building a new nation. At that time, the nation had been in disarray for generations, and as you read Nehemiah, you discover that he used bricks and mortar to rebuild the souls of his country. He reconstituted the Sabbath, stopped exploitation of the poor and protected the people from attack.
Most churches dwell on past glories. That’s fine, and it can build our faith, but it can also stop us from stepping out on faith! The past with all its glories and victories, has gone. The future with all its potential, is yet to be. The present is what God gives us now, that’s why it’s called a present.
2 Corinthians 6:2 (ESV)
For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
As pastor, I have made a conscious effort to not simply transplant what we have done here in the past to the new building. I’ve asked God for fresh revelation, fresh ideas, fresh inspiration, a new thing for a new situation.
Our youth is new, our kids church is new, our men’s and women’s and seniors and prayer and connect groups are all starting afresh. When the renovation of the new building is complete, it’s not the end of the line, it’s the beginning of a new amp d glorious chapter. The start of an incredible journey as we follow and obey the Lord and seek to grow and impact our community.
This morning, as Nehemiah did so long ago when he called his discouraged people to commit to his great vision of rebuilding the wall, I’m asking you to join with us and come on this amazing journey. Not just to build a church building, but to become part of permeating our community with the love of God.
And when we do this, God offers this amazing promise in the book of Nehemiah.
Nehemiah 8:10 (ESV)
And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
We are surrounded by COVID pain, hopelessness and fear. People are languishing, governments are legislating, media are lying, many churches are limping, but we are blessed beyond all people because the joy of the Lord is our strength.
Romans 15:13 (ESV)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Nehemiah stepped up when he was called. He realised that sitting in the stands wasn’t good enough, he wanted to be on the field, playing his part, doing what God asked him to do. He wasn’t a builder, but he led the greatest building project of his day. God wasn’t so much interested in his ability, but his availability.
So today I’m not asking you to do anything. I’m simply asking you… Will you be available to the Lord, to do as He directs you.
Romans 12:1 (ESV)
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
The Greek word for present is PARIS-TEMI, or yield, which is made of 2 words, HISTEMI which means “to place or to stand,” and PARA, which is near”. So this word means “to stand near or before,” and this is the position that a devoted servant has before a king. He’s not away doing something, he is present, available and ready to move at a moment’s notice to do the will of the King.
Today I’m not asking you to necessarily do anything, I’m asking you to make the decision to yield yourself to God. To put your fears, concerns, criticisms and agendas aside, and just be ready to step up as Nehemiah did.
If you truly want to yield you life to God, at Ignite or elsewhere, if you are really serious, then come and kneel before Him and be ready to serve…