The book of Nehemiah is one of my absolute favorites in the Bible. It is packed full of practical application on leadership, humility, unity, serving, and dealing with opposition. I would encourage you to study the first few chapters, at least! God has been showing me how chapters 3-4 are such a wonderful picture of how the body of Christ should function together in unity.
Follow the leader
Nehemiah was a good (not perfect) leader. He prayed, fasted, planned, humbly identified himself with and served alongside the people of Israel, watched for the enemy, encouraged the people, and kept reminding them to remember the Lord. The people of Israel were quick to get behind him and follow his lead because HE was following the Lord. When he said they should rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, they responded with, “‘Let us rise up and build.’ Then they set their hands to this good work.” (Nehemiah 2:18b)
Are you following the lead that Pastor Matt and the other pastors/leaders set, or are you secretly grumbling about them and trying to stir up division? If you haven’t figured it out yet, no church is perfect, and no church is going to be in exact alignment with your expectations. However, God has set leadership over the church body, and we are to “Obey those who rule over (us), and be submissive, for they watch out for (our) souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for (us).” (Hebrews 13:17) 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 adds, “And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.” Isn’t there more peace and unity when we just trust the leadership of the church and submit to their authority? As long as someone is not asking us to sin, we are to trust that the Lord is leading them in wisdom and prayerfully follow their humble leadership. When you go to leadership for counsel, go to the Word and see how it lines up, and then do what they say! God will reward your obedience.
There will be opposition
I guarantee you will be met with opposition when you actually start doing something for the Lord. The opposition to rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall did not happen during the praying, the fasting, or the planning (though those were all critical steps, and opposition certainly can come during those times). The opposition really started when the people came together and began building the wall.
Satan isn’t afraid of our good intentions.
He isn’t trembling when we stand around talking about starting up a ministry or how we need to share the gospel with our coworkers. What makes him start worrying is when we actually unify and DO what God’s Word says! James 1:22 (NIV) says, “Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” Do not allow the fear of opposition stop you from following God’s Word and doing what He has called you to do!
When opposition does come, meet it with prayer and confidence in the Lord. Nehemiah responded to the mockery of Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem with amazing boldness: “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem.” (Nehemiah 2:20)
When doubt, fear, and mocking start creeping in, proclaim who God is. Proclaim who you are in Christ. Proclaim that you will complete what God has called you to do. Proclaim that the enemy has no right or place in God’s work. And then press on! God has already given you victory through Jesus Christ!
Do your part!
Nehemiah 3-4 lays out how each person, many times an entire family, worked side by side, rebuilding the gates and the part of the wall in front of their house until it was half done, “for the people had a mind to work” (Nehemiah 4:6). After 52 days, they had completed the entire wall!
Not all of these people had experience in construction. In fact, there were perfumers, goldsmiths, young, old, men, women, priests, and common people who had zero experience. They knew God wanted them to rebuild the wall, so they took a step of faith and started working on it. They learned along the way. God equipped them with the materials and the skills they needed. Some people stood as watchmen while others continued to build. But they were all armed and ready for anything, which is great practical application for us-- we need to always have the armor of God on! (Check out Ephesians 6.)
Has God called you to do something outside your comfort zone?
Go for it! He will be faithful to equip you as you go. When I led Children’s Ministry, some of the most amazing teachers/leaders we had for the ministry were those that had zero experience with kids OR teaching and never dreamed they would have ended up there! God has an amazing way of stretching us and bringing us into situations where we have to completely rely on Him, and that’s when He can truly get all the glory. Step out in faith and see what God does!
Notice that everyone rebuilt the wall that was in front of their own home. That’s where it starts-- in our own homes. If our own homes are falling apart, how can we help others rebuild? Let’s take a look at our families and seek the Lord as to how we can build them up and lead them in His ways. Invest in your marriage. Invest in your kids. Those things have eternal value.
There is no way this wall would have gotten built if everyone had not done their part. Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 both talk about how Jesus is the Head of the body of Christ, and we make up all the other parts of the body, each with a different role. A body will have a very hard time functioning and moving forward if even one part is “asleep” or giving resistance. Ask God to show you what your part in the body of Christ is, and then move forward with it! Don’t sit back and watch the rest of the body work. Join in! What is holding you back? Ephesians 4:15-16 says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
It’s time to get off the sidelines and join in what the Lord is doing in and through the body of Christ. Don't leave a gap in the wall!
In conclusion, there are a LOT of extras in Nehemiah that I didn’t have the space to get to in this post. I would again encourage you to study this book for yourself and dig deeper! For starters, check out Proverbs 25:28, “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit Is like a city broken down, without walls.” How could the book of Nehemiah apply to your own life?