Nehemiah leaved in Babylon in the equivalent of Windsor Palace during the exile. He got a great job being cup bearer – either chief waiter or testing the wine for poison or head of security – the chances are he was chief waiter.
You must start with tears
Nehemiah hears from his family the state of Jerusalem, when he heard this news he wept – our ministry should begin with tears not seeing a gap in the market or a ministry potential. We need to follow this model. Following this he intercedes for the situation – praying into it.
Jesus tells us we need to sow in tears to reap. In ch. 1 he prays, but he doesn’t tell God all the problems, he begins his prayer with “Lord the God of heaven, the great and awesome God” starting as do so many biblical prayers (e.g. the Lord’s prayer) with praise.
You can’t authentically minister from a distance
He then goes on to confess, but we see Nehemiah as a righteous God, we would more likely confess for their sins not our sins. Nehemiah prayers incarnately, he includes himself in this prayer not just talking about his people.
On a camel of average speed it took 3 and a half months – Nehemiah had burned his bridges – it would take 7 months to do the round trip if he realised it wasn’t working. Planting churches is really difficult, working with young people is hard – one minute it seems like revival is about to happen, the next it feels like we might as well end it.
The gift of plodding
We need the gift of plodding in 21st century youth ministry, Nehemiah models this. Something happens when we outlast the enemy, when go one more round, last one minute longer.
Having arrived in Jerusalem Nehemiah calls the people together and says lets build. Every story is a hero and villain – Nehemiah is our hero and Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arab.
These three attacks seem to come:
- The attack of ridicule: 4:1-5 – who do you think you are, you think God can use you. What the enemy does is he knows each of us and so he gets us on our weak points. The devil’s strategy is lying, Jesus describes him as the father of lies. The best lies are the half-truths, he doesn’t waste himself with lies that are so far fetched, e.g. Mike Pilavachi is anorexic, Mike looks in the mirror and sees that isn’t true, but Mike Pilavachi can’t do administration etc., which is semi-true so we then believe he won’t use us. But God uses us because of his grace, he uses us in his mercy. Nehemiah didn’t argue with Sanballat, he turned it into prayer; but that’s where we fall short as we argue with ourselves about we’re not that bad, but we are, we’re all that bad; let God defend us. God couldn’t use you, you don’t pray enough. The genius of that challenge is how much is enough? Is it 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2.4 hours, and then pray without easing!
- A full frontal assault: 4:6-11 – you’ve seen massive growth and then a lack of support, illness, finances suddenly stop, criticsm and attacks from our Christian brothers and sisters. Our first response is what are we doing, we must be outside His will as he’s lifted His protection from us – it shouldn’t be so hard. But isn’t that the exact indication that you are in God’s will, if you weren’t doing something right the enemy wouldn’t bother with you. The enemy is evil but he’s not daft, he only attacks when he thinks he needs to.
- Compromise: 6:1-10 – the thing you dreamt about, it’s happening, young people are coming to faith, there’s still problems but lots is happening. When you are physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted you are susceptible to compromise.
- Calling to ministry: we compromise our calling, we don’t fully do what God calls us to do. But we don’t have any right to negotiate any of God’s calling away, 90% obedience isn’t good enough.
- Personal ministry: we hear stories of Christian leaders mucking up big time, normally because little things weren’t dealt with, e.g. David not going to war in the spring to take a year sunbathing and then he sees Bathsheba. We need to know ourselves to know when that might happen. When we give out we can end up having a pity party and before you know it you’ve messed up. That’s the story of Elijah, a miracle on a mountain and then the next day he runs away from 1 women and sucks his thumb in the desert having a pity party. The Lord tells him to sleep, then he sends some angels from the catering corp, then another sleep and some more food. When he was rested the Lord takes him up the mountain into the cave, and having heard the earthquake, wind and fire, but then hears the whisper and goes back to battle. The earthquake, wind and fire of Soul Survivor, Spring Harvest, seeing people come to faith in our youth ministry. We need to learn to rest in the whisper. We need to develop our disciplines: we need to learn to hear the whisper, and to be sustained by him. He’s also provided the body of Christ, lone-ranger Christianity is just not biblical. Been amazed to realise how individualistic society is, individualism is sin. After God in the Old Testament the most important character is Israel, in the New Testament it is the Church. We affect one another, for good and for bad – that is the principle of salvation – someone else ding on the cross is a merit for me. We are a family, we need one another, we need to sustain one another. It’s not just the vertical relationship, but also horizontal relationships.