The Pillar of Work – Ambassadors of Christ. Excerpt 22
Father, may Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
We surrender our lives fully to You.
Help us to listen patiently for Your voice.
Strengthen us to obey You in everything, so that Your purposes are established in our lives, families, in our church and the nation.
Grant us the grace not to give up in times of difficulty or opposition, but to prayerfully overcome all obstacles.
May our lives be pure and pleasing in Your eyes.
May Jesus alone be glorified in our lives, families, in His church and in this land.
The Pillar of Work – Ambassadors of Christ. Excerpt 21
A pattern to follow
Millions are lost in sin and trapped in despair. The darkness is growing in our age, and the enemy is ‘setting up camp’ everywhere. In these perilous times, it is lamentable that people no longer find a safe haven in the church; for our walls have been broken down. The house of God which is meant to be a ‘house of prayer for all nations’ now resembles a cattle market, rather than a sanctuary. It is time for us first to weep and mourn for the spiritual adultery of our generation, the disgrace and the desolation that has overtaken the church; and then to rise up and do something about the situation.
Christians have been entrusted with the task of bringing others to the knowledge of Christ’s redemption plan. Jesus said, “…You can do nothing unless you remain in Me.” A prayerful Christian who seeks God’s will and hears His heartbeat will bear much fruit. We are called to do great exploits even when the days are evil. Prayer must undergird all our labour so that the results endure the ‘fire test’ on the Last Day.
The Pillar of Work – Ambassadors of Christ. Excerpt 20
Overcoming opposition through prayer
Nehemiah’s men had hardly begun their work when they encountered opposition from apparently powerful quarters. Sanballat, Tobiah and others resorted to tactics similar to those the devil uses to undermine our work:
- They questioned the legitimacy of Nehemiah’s work.
- The ridiculed the Israelites and their efforts throughout the period of construction.
- They conspired with the surrounding nations to attack the Israelites, but were frustrated when Nehemiah, learning of their intentions in advance, posted guards and equipped workers with arms.
- They spread false rumours about Nehemiah’s character and supposed ambitions.
- They sought to distract him with proposals to hold discussions and make deals.
- Finally they tried to intimidate him with threats to his life, so that he would go away into hiding.
Nehemiah’s response is a model for us today. He refused to waste his time engaging with the scoffers keeping his replies brief and to the point. At every stage, he took their taunts and threats to God: “Hear O God what they are saying”. He depended on God ‘to reply to the insults’ and continued working. He focused his energies on his men, encouraging them where they faltered and preparing them to face various contingencies as they arose. When faced with a possible threat to his own life, he said, “Should someone like me run away… I will not go!” He realized that the emissary carrying threats was not ‘sent from God’ and refused to pay attention.
None of the dire events that his enemies predicted came to pass. The work progressed steadily, the walls were completed and doors set in place. The Israelites finished their tasks without, literally, lifting a finger to fight Sanballat’s men. Nehemiah himself was promoted to the post of governor, making it possible for him to do even more for his people. Finally, came the day of celebration, when the temple walls were dedicated and the worship of God reinstated in His city.
The Pillar of Work – Ambassadors of Christ. Excerpt 19
Conforming to the will of God in our lives
When Nehemiah was appointed governor of Judah, he was careful to put the needs of the people, particularly the poor, ahead of his own comfort. ‘Out of reverence for God’, he did not follow the example of former governors, and seek to acquire land, or demand privileges due his position or even claim the food allocated to him, for he was conscious what these demands would cost the people. He did not hesitate to censure the rich people for their cruel treatment of the poor.
As we pray for renewal in the church or in the community we ought to search our ways, to see whether they are upright. Our lives must demonstrate holiness and integrity. Isaiah pointed out to the Israelites that God rejected their prayer, fasting and self-abasement because of their quarrelling, unrighteous lifestyles and lack of concern for the suffering of their fellow men. During seasons of waiting in prayer, we may become aware of personal traits, character defects or problems in relationships which are contrary to the goals we seek. Then our response should be to prayerfully overcome these.
The Pillar of Work – Ambassadors of Christ. Excerpt 18
Dealing with problems through prayer
The priest dedicated the work to God and families were entrusted with rebuilding specific sections of the wall. Although Nehemiah had found people receptive to his call, “Come, let us rebuild” and the work had progressed in full swing for a while, they soon came up against some problems that we often encounter today: 1. the strength of the workers giving out; 2. there was too much rubble to clear, and; 3. threat from powerful enemies.
The second impediment “there is too much rubble” is especially true in the task of restoring the backslidden church in traditional Christian communities. Unlike the laying of foundations on new ground, the struggle to push through the Kingdom agenda is more difficult where the community has acquired prejudices, developed systems and mindsets that actively oppose the gospel. Yet the fruitfulness will be great if we persevere. Like a branch cut off from the Vine being re-grafted, the restored church will soon produce abundant fruit.
Nehemiah’s response was to seek God’s help and then to reorganize the workforce to meet these challenges. He equipped labourers with weapons and set up an alarm system for men to regroup, in times of danger. So the work continued unhindered.
The Pillar of Work – Ambassadors of Christ. Excerpt 17
Removing barriers to God’s will
Nehemiah understood that the sins of the Israelites – which resulted in God’s judgment and their ruin as a nation – had to be dealt with. So he confronted the people with specific sins that had led to their downfall; they were married to unbelievers, had desecrated the Sabbath, extracted usury and exploited their brothers for personal profit. They had not walked in the fear of God despite their troubles. He challenged them to set these things right.
The Pillar of Work – Ambassadors of Christ. Excerpt 16
Sharing God’s vision
On entering Jerusalem, Nehemiah chose not to reveal his plans at once to the officials or the people till he had explored the ruins by himself at night. This is an important principle for leaders to follow: that they study the situation properly before directing others. After this, Nehemiah mobilized the community to begin the work of rebuilding the city walls.
Teaching and team-building are integral parts of the building work. Most leaders understand that the vision and the methods must be shared with others for it is impossible to accomplish much single-handedly. There are no ‘solitary reapers’ among God’s workforce. God has promised His blessing, prosperity and power to the church that works together in love and unity.
A life of prayer empowers the one who speaks. When Jesus taught, the people were amazed because “He taught with authority unlike the teachers of the law.” The exhortations of leaders will fall on deaf ears, unless the Holy Spirit moves in the hearts of people to respond to the call. Again and again we read in the Bible how God moved the hearts of the people, to give or to work on His sanctuary. Moses was given the pattern and the design of God’s tabernacle; yet God’s Spirit directed Bezalel and his fellow craftsmen to do the work “exactly as the Lord commanded.”
Where the Spirit of God has stirred the hearts of people, they become willing and effective workers. Otherwise they will quickly fall away or offer half-hearted service. Reading the law and teaching God’s will was given prime importance in Nehemiah’s restoration plans because he realized that for the work to have lasting effect on the community, God had to effect the inward transformation.