“So, we rebuilt the wall, and all the wall was joined together to half its height; for the people had a mind to work. But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and the gaps were beginning to be closed, they were very angry, and all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. So, we prayed to our God, and set a guard as a protection against them day and night. But Judah said, “The strength of the burden bearers is failing, and there is too much rubbish so that we are unable to work on the wall.” (Nehemiah 4:6-10)
So, what is it that discourages you the most? Think about a time or two when you were discouraged. What caused the discouragement? And more importantly how did you navigate the disappointment and rise to a better place?
Nehemiah led God’s people to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and they were making great progress. They were halfway done, for the people had a mind to work (4:6), and that’s when the discouragement set in. The repeated threats from their enemies began to bring them down, brick by brick. Work on the wall ground to a halt.
As we read in Nehemiah 4:10a, “The strength of the burden bearers is failing…” God’s people are physically exhausted. They are experiencing a loss of strength. And then they observe the great task that is still before them: “…there is too much rubbish so that we are unable to work on the wall” (4:10b). They are also experiencing a loss of vision. Now strength can be renewed with proper rest, but “where there is no vision, the people perish…” (Proverbs 29:18a). So, what’s a person to do when discouragement sets in? Let’s see what Nehemiah chooses to do.
First, Nehemiah directs the people to “remember the Lord” (4:13). During times of difficulty it is good for us to recall the promises of God and draw hope from the promise of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here’s where the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Scripture, and worship, bring an “encouraging word” that leads us to a better place. So, how are you “remembering the Lord” in your discouragement?
Second, Nehemiah provides a “rallying point” for the people. Knowing that the enemy could strike at anytime, Nehemiah commanded the people to rally together at the place where the trumpet sounds (4:20). It is important for all of us to have a “point” or better yet, a “principle” that we can rally around. Effective church councils, staffs, and teams, all have a point of focus that keeps them on the task that God has set before them. Though all too often, they simply react to the latest crisis or chase the next best thing. I would encourage you to cultivate key principles that help your church council, staff, and teams, become more effective. So, how are you leading others by rallying them around God given key principles?
Finally, Nehemiah leads by example (4:23). He is right there, working alongside the people that God has called him to lead. This is what leaders do! They take the lead and they model for others the behavior we all hope to see in a parish or other organization. Taking the time to invest in others to help them grow is one of the most beautiful things a leader gets to do. So, who are you investing in these days?
Let us pray: Loving Lord we thank you for your servant Nehemiah, and the many gifts that you gave him to share with your people. Help us when we are discouraged. Hear our sighs and our prayers. Lead us to be encouraged by the hope of the Gospel and the promise of your presence. This we pray in the name of Jesus, crucified and risen for the world. Amen.