July 10, 2020
So we built the wall and the whole wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. (Nehemiah 4:6)
Every pastor and spiritual leader I know is experiencing waves of discouragement and confusion during the COVID19 pandemic. Leaders lead. Leaders want to move the ball forward and get things done. Spiritual leaders want to see the kingdom advance. No true man or woman of God wants to just survive. To get by. To merely tread water. To see the work of God slowed or even stopped.
It’s frustrating. It feels like we can’t plan (for we don’t know what the future holds). We can’t advance (for all our energy is given to just surviving). And we don’t know what to do because our NORMAL means of doing things are gone. The old wineskins don’t seem to be working right now.
So, what do we do? How do we lead in this moment? How do we advance the work of God when it seems that everything is working against us?
A NATIONAL SHUT DOWN
… happened in Nehemiah’s day. Most of the people in the nation of Israel had been taken into captivity in Babylon. There was just a small remnant left to tend the fields in Israel (surely not enough to get anything done.) Over time, the primary city (Jerusalem) had fallen into ruins. The wall was destroyed around the city and the gates had been “burned with fire.” This is a picture of a city totally defenseless and vulnerable. Everything had fallen apart during a confusing season and it seemed there was nothing anyone could do to stop it.
But God, as He always does, raised a spiritual leader named Nehemiah to lead during the crisis. Nehemiah could have resisted. He could have said, “This is just too hard. I don’t have the personnel nor the tools to get anything done. I don’t have a clue what to do.” A lesser leader would have sat down, shaken his head, and done nothing. No one would have blamed him.
Not this leader. He prayed incessantly (eight of his prayers are recorded in the book of Nehemiah—the first prayer and fasting lasting for four months—illustrating that prayer was the foundation for his approach). He surveyed the devastation, took what he had, rallied the people and advanced the work in record fashion. In a miraculous display of God-initiated leadership by Nehemiah and his friend, Ezra, and personal cooperation by the people, the city of God was completely rebuilt in 52 days.
And, it was all accomplished in the midst of devastating national conditions.
WHAT EVERYONE HAD TO DO
… to get the work done was to take care of their part of the wall in front of their house. Don’t miss this. Read Nehemiah 3-4. You will see an accounting of the individual families and how each of them worked.
Almost every verse starts with this type of phrase, “Next to him (them) was (the name of the family) and they made repairs (in front of their house and to the next house).” Some of these verses stand out.
And on and on the record of this joint effort goes.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR US NOW?
We can sit down during the COVID19 pandemic and seek to “ride it out.” We can do nothing to advance God’s kingdom and the work of God will deteriorate in front of our eyes. We will be worse at the end of the pandemic if spiritual inactivity becomes our new lifestyle.
Or, as leaders, we can pray and get God’s plan. In this time, it will probably not be a grandiose design, but a simple plan to enlist every family to build their part of the wall. For instance ...
If each leader would lead with prayerful courage like Nehemiah, and each family would work their part of the wall like the remnant in Jerusalem, the work of God could advance IN RECORD TIME! In fact, we might even discover new wineskins of ministry—whole new paradigms for how to get the work of God done (in world evangelization) more quickly and efficiently done.
Perhaps the pandemic is not designed by God to paralyze us, but to mobilize us to unceasing, fervent prayer and effective, personal and family ministry to our part of the wall.
There will be enemies …
Read Nehemaiah 5-6, but they can be handled just as Nehemiah and his people did, refusing to be distracted from the main work of rebuilding.
There will be fear …
Read Nehemiah 4:14 and following. But we can address and overcome our fear in the same way that Nehemiah led his people to believe that God was fighting for them. We can arm ourselves with our work tools in one hand and the sword in the other, as they did.
WE ARE NOT POWERLESS DURING THE PANDEMIC!
We can sit down during this panademic and let the walls collapse around us. Or, we can each (both leaders and people) pray, find God’s plan for advancing the Kingdom and put our hands to the task with a “mind to work” and see things done that will astound a watching world.
And it just could be that our fervent prayer and personal work on our part of the wall could lead to a nationwide revival and spiritual awakening. Nehemiah and the people’s work led to one of the greatest nationwide revivals in history (Read Nehemiah 8-9).
We’ve been rattled by the pandemic. Confused and baffled by what’s happening. And, this plague may continue and even accelerate. But it is in these moments that the light of God and His people can shine most brilliantly.
It’s time to get back to our most important work.
Father, help us to see what You’re doing right now. Thank You for men like Moses, Joshua, David, Nehemiah, and the New Testament disciples who were used to advance Your kingdom under horrible national conditions. Thank You for stripping away things that we’ve vainly relied on that could actually be hindering Your work. Thank You that You are building Your church and the gates of hell will not prevail against this work! And thank you that every single leader and every single follower of Christ can be used to build their part of the wall. Help us arise and build!
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