There’s a story about a church celebrating its 60th anniversary. To celebrate their anniversary, they had an idea to challenge another local sister church to a rowing boat race along the Severn River. Each church purchased their own shell (boat) and selected their 8 team members whom they thought would win their church the victory.
On the day of the big anniversary, both churches arrived at the beach for a pre-party. The women wore colorful dresses and big floppy hats, while the men wore relaxed khaki pants, collared shirts and cool sunglasses. A band played, banners waved, and finally the race began.
The church teams entered their boat, and a bell was used to start the race. Both boats launched into action, but immediately the host church spectators were disappointed as the sister church boat leaped into the front and never looked back with their lead advancing eleven boat lengths ahead to a final victory.
So, the Pastor of the host church was embarrassed; after all, it was their church’s anniversary, and their idea to have a race. He wanted to know what went wrong and why their church wasn’t even competitive in the race. The Deacons all came together to evaluate the situation and after three months of investigation they found out what happened.
It was determined the sister church had an unfair advantage. You see, the other church had 7 people rowing and 1 coxswain (person steering and calling cadence for rowing), while the host church only had 1-person rowing… and 7-coxswain.
So, the Deacons recommended to the Pastor to challenge the sister church to a rematch the following year. The Pastor asked, “How will next year be different? What will be our new strategy?” And the Deacons promised an intense strength training program would increase the potential of their 1-person to row harder and faster.
We laugh. But too often churches create plans that promise to work harder and faster and increase their schedule with more activity, but the results will be the same. The reality is that a church’s power to go farther and faster comes in its collective participation. A church is effective when everyone is doing their part.
Today’s passage describes the convictional leadership of an individual but has implications for everyone.
EXAMINE Nehemiah 6 Renovate With Convictional Leadership
- God’s people were disciplined and exiled away from Jerusalem for over 70 years.
- God orchestrates a change of heart in foreign nations to permit Jews returning homeland.
- Ezra renovates the temple, Nehemiah renovates the walls… and the community of faith.
- Nehemiah has inspired and organized the people to rebuild the wall, while enduring significant opposition.
- Today we will examine the core values of every believer (and leader) to accomplish God’s purpose for their life.
Every believer needs a posture of humility (Neh 5:14 – 6:1).
Much can be said about Nehemiah as a man, but none that stands out more than his humility.
In the previous chapter, which we reviewed last week, the Jews dealt not only with external opposition but internal conflict. Fellow Jews were charging excessive interest on loans resulting in the children of families being enslaved and properties being repossessed. Nehemiah corrected the misuse of loans and charged the people to have compassion for one another.
In some sense, it was a test of humility. Would the Jews view others as more important than themselves (Php 2:3)? Would a spirit of selflessness and service define the rebuilding of a nation, or would they enslave each other due to greed and pride (cf. Prov 14:34)? Ultimately, the two questions on the test of humility are: How will you handle power and How will you handle prosperity? The Jewish officials failed both questions, but Nehemiah passed 100%. He declined the financial & food allowance for the governor, so as not to burden the people.
If we are not good stewards or generous toward others when God blesses us, then God’s prosperous blessings can result in punishing burdens that we are unprepared to handle.
- Examples: King David, King Solomon, Judas,… [Paul knew how to handle plenty and poverty; Php 4]… and reflect on the USA’s entitlement mindset infringing upon church.
- The external walls Nehemiah building was self-defeating due to internal corruption. The people needed a heart change.
Nehemiah was a proficient planner. He skillfully organized 45 construction sections and 10 gates with work crews and resources for the rebuild. Excavators have found Nehemiah’s wall was 8’ thick and perhaps 2+/- miles long (NAC). It’s noted that the wall took 52 days to rebuild (Neh 6:15). While Nehemiah could have been arrogant about his abilities or actions, he chose to have a posture of humility. He provided accurate evaluation of the rebuild, admitting weakness (doors and gates were not installed) and participating in the everyday sweat and stress of the work.
- Pride is perilous; it can ruin lives, families, organizations, and churches. Pride is more lethal than the coronavirus unleashed on the globe, because God’s comprehensive disdain for it. “God opposes the proud” is a frequent theme in Scripture (22+ times).
- To overcome pride, we must
- Acknowledge our need for grace. Start first thing in the morning. Seize your commute.
- Take faith seriously (don’t fake it) but take self less seriously. Laugh at yourself. Let others win.
- Encourage people don’t eat them; see the imago dei in everyone.
- Gal 5:15 biting & devouring one another.
- 1Cor 11:17 “When you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.”
- à B4 leaving, express thanks to one person for how they served you/family today.
- à B4 leaving, encourage someone with how you see God at work in their life. This is why we linger in the sanctuary or in FH — one of my favorite aspects of spbc.
- Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Church, let’s speak life! (Heb 3:12-13).
Every believer needs a priority of perseverance (Neh 6:2-8).
Nehemiah continued to be attacked by his opposition. Scheming Sanballat and Trickster Tobiah and Conniving Geshem (STG) were thorns in the side of Nehemiah. While the walls were incomplete, they saw a closing window of opportunity to stop the Jews from finishing their mission. The doors and gates were yet to be in place but seeing all the work accomplished by the Israelites must have struck a chord of fear and resentment. If Israel was renewed spiritually, economically, and militarily, then the fate of Persian control may be in doubt. So, they sought one last plan of attack.
Deception (Neh 6:2)
STG attempted to deceive Nehemiah by inviting him to a meeting. The villages of Ono were seven miles away from Jerusalem. They likely served as a comfortable retreat setting for government officials. STG sought to have a political summit – talking the issues excessively to persuade Nehemiah to cease work.
- Meetings can be helpful, but they can also be result in paralysis by analysis. Productivity can be hindered if meetings are not facilitating alignment resulting in action.
- STG couldn’t deter the Jews so they sought to distract the leader (attack the QB). Leaders have a huge target against them and need the support of others.
- Nehemiah responded by saying “No” to Ono. He discerned they were trying to do him harm (Hebrew “ra’” evil) – kidnap or kill him.
- “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down” (Neh 6:3). What a great reminder!
- Temptation comes in middle or near end of a project. Joseph tempted by Potiphar’s wife, David with Bathsheba, Jesus tempted by devil and later Judas. Doing good will not be easy.
- Saying “no” sounds negative but is necessary to fulfill God’s “yes” in your life. (cf. Titus 2:12).
- Not every opportunity from others is God’s opportunity for you. Be discerning of where your wall work is.
- Singles and dating. Don’t lower standards… but first, set your standards!
- Spending money… not every deal should be your deal.
- Church and promotions/programs… often spread too thin rather than focused effectiveness.
Defamation (Neh 6:4-7).
STG slandered Nehemiah. They sent multiple letters – four times with an open letter the fifth time. The open letter could be read by anyone and was used to spread gossip that Nehemiah was intending to rival King Artaxerxes. The critics were relentless. Their aims were dishonest, and their reports were inaccurate. They knowingly spread false reports believing the ends justify the means. They were willing to do whatever it took to seek power over the Jews & Nehemiah.
One of the great troubles to God’s people is the human tongue. Creating rumors, passing gossip, giving exaggerated negative responses to ideas, are all intentions to control. We need to be mindful that we are not in control, God is.
Proverbs 6:16-19 “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among family.”
- Nehemiah was in a dilemma. If he went to Ono he would be deterred from rebuilding the wall. But, if he didn’t go to Ono, the truth may not get out that he’s not rebelling against the king. Nehemiah responded with his own relentless resolve and controlled only what he could control: “I answered them in the same manner” (Neh 6:4). Nehemiah was unintimidated by unnamed sources and gossip. He allowed his integrity of doing the same work with the same witness day after day. There is something about the power of perseverance.
Distraction (Neh 6:10-12).
STG created a plan to entrap Nehemiah by sending supposed friends to hide him in the temple. Death threats for Nehemiah were abundant (v.10 noted twice). However, Nehemiah knew he was not a priest (Num 18:7; 2Chro 26:16,ff) and it would not be appropriate for him to use privilege or panic to make decisions.
Nehemiah responded with conviction. “Should such a man as I run away? I will not go in… For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me a band name in order to taunt me” (Neh 6:11, 13).
- Convictions are the core beliefs and values that drive your decision making. Convictions are created before not during temptation. If you do not have firm convictions then when moment of temptation arrives, you will likely cave to culture and cower to anxious fears.
In all, we must persevere with biblical principles to guide our life.
Every believer needs a perspective of prayer (Neh 6:9-14)
Whenever Nehemiah faces tribulation or opposition, he runs to the Lord. He handles his problems with prayer.
*Nehemiah does not pray to remove problems but to strengthen his power.
Nehemiah 6:8-9 “No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind. For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will drop from the work and it will not be done.’ But now, O God, strengthen my hands.”
*Nehemiah does not take revenge but releases adversaries to the Lord’s judgment.
Nehemiah 6:14 “Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, according to these things that they did, and also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who wanted to make me afraid.”
In all, Nehemiah did not cave to his critics. Prayer creates in us a confidence that He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 Jn 4:4). Prayer is the unseen power that sustains us in the valleys and gives us perspective in the summit peaks of life. If we lack a God-shaped perspective through prayer then we will wander aimlessly and worry with every circumstantial wind.
- Pray about praying. Ask God if you pray too much or too little. Ask God if you should pray alone or with others… Pastors or People cannot guilt you into praying, but the Holy Spirit can. Listen to His voice.
One of the themes of Nehemiah’s opposition was to create fear. The author of this book wants us to see Nehemiah’s fear of God was greater than his fear of man. Courage is not the absence of fears but the presence of prayers. Surround yourself with people of prayer, namely Jesus who intercedes for you Rom 8:26; Heb 4:14-16. Do not let your fears rob you of what God has called you forward and to finish.
Nehemiah 1:11 (ESV)
11 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.” Now I was cupbearer to the king.
Nehemiah 4:14 (ESV)
14 And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”
Nehemiah 5:9 (ESV)
9 So I said, “The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies?
Nehemiah 5:15 (ESV)
15 The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily ration forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God.
Nehemiah 6:9 (ESV)
9 For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands.
Nehemiah 6:13 (ESV)
13 For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me a bad name in order to taunt me.
Nehemiah 6:14 (ESV)
14 Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, according to these things that they did, and also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who wanted to make me afraid.
Nehemiah 6:16 (ESV)
16 And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.
Nehemiah 6:19 (ESV)
19 Also they spoke of his good deeds in my presence and reported my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to make me afraid.