What a wonderful day for a church when it holds dedication services for a new Family Life Center. What a sad day two years later as the church discusses the difficulty it is having paying the note on the debt of the Family Life Center.
The dream was that the new building would bring new ministries, thus bring new families into the church. The new families would bring tithes and offerings to pay the debt.
The “Field Of Dreams” approach “build it and they will come” does not always hold true. Nehemiah was brought into the building project for the walls of Jerusalem by God’s calling to meet his follower’s needs.
With so many problems facing our local communities, how does an individual or a church discern which ones to tackle? The first chapter of Nehemiah can give direction.
First, look for the need (Nehemiah 1:1-3). Nehemiah held a comfortable and wealthy position in Persia as the king’s cupbearer. When Nehemiah’s brother came to visit he asked “about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem (v. 2).” The answer from his brother moved his heart to help. The walls of Jerusalem had not been repaired and those who had survived the exile were vulnerable to attack.
The position Nehemiah held kept him isolated, and he had temporarily forgotten Judah’s humiliation. Sometimes all it takes to discover a person in need is asking a simple question, “How are you doing?” Allow the answer to be filtered by the Holy Spirit and reveal to you a plan of action.
Second, look for the reason (vv. 4-7). When Nehemiah heard about Jerusalem’s disgraceful condition, did he go back into the isolation of his nice position as the cupbearer?
Verse 4 gives insight to the relationship Nehemiah had with God: “For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” He wept for his fellow Jews and turned to God asking for understanding as to why Jerusalem was in the condition it was.
By reading his prayer, we learn it was sin that caused the downfall. He asked God for forgiveness not only for his people but also for himself. This was not a “quickie” prayer. This was a time for him to talk with God about ways to improve the situation. Once confession and forgiveness had occurred, it was time to move forward. Nehemiah sought the solution from God in how to build back the walls.
Unfortunately, with email and text messaging fueling instant responses to our questions, believers forget that God desires intimate time with his children. Instant messaging may be what the world expects, but in our conversation time with God, this is not the case. Nehemiah has shown us how to find the reasons to be involved in kingdom work.
Third, look for the possibility (vv. 8-11). As Nehemiah talked with God, he remembered the instruction God had given Moses, “but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name (v.9).”
Repentance, followed by obedience to the commands of God, leads to restoration in our relationship with our Creator. Nehemiah found the encouragement and hope he needed to lead in this effort to build back the walls of Jerusalem.
Even though the project of building the wall was bigger than him, Nehemiah began to look for whom God could use to help get it off the ground. The cupbearer was in a unique position because he had the ear of the king.
What a blessing it is to recognize how God has placed us in positions of employment, civic leadership, and social groups to be used by him to accomplish his purposes.
During the fall of 1994, Woodland Place Baptist Church in Magnolia wanted to find a way to minister to people who had their homes destroyed or severely damaged by flooding. The flooding had hit really close to home. A church family had spent the night on top of their roof to escape the rising water that filled their home.
As health officials encouraged local residents to receive tetanus shots, the church saw a way to help by being a location to give free tetanus shots. Everything was in place to receive the vials of vaccine but the signature of a medical doctor was needed. The health department would not release the vaccines until a medical doctor signed the necessary paper work to take responsibility of liability.
The pastor’s wife sought a local physician who she served with on a mission trip to Mexico. The doctor said no because of his concern of liability. She did not waiver in her mission and began to ask others to pray for a solution.
During this time of prayer, she remembered Woodland Place had several nurses in its membership. She approached the doctor again, assuring him the nurses would be administering the vaccinations. The nurses would be watching for any side effects. The volunteer fire department would station an ambulance in the parking lot. The paper work was signed.
Be aware of God at work and keep pressing forward to discover his solution to meet the needs of others.