Years ago a pastor I knew suggested I read the book of Nehemiah to learn about “leadership.” It was a real eye-opener for me because I’d never really studied this book of the Bible in depth, and I came to see what a remarkable “spiritual gift” of leadership and administration that Nehemiah had been given – all to accomplish God’s purposes and plans.
I suppose I’m thinking in this direction because of Pastor Sean’s message on Sunday, but also because I have been praying about leading a study on Spiritual Gifts. If you’ve ever been on an Alpha “Day-Away” you know that the talks focus on the Holy Spirit, and we take some time to talk very briefly about spiritual gifts. But now I think I’ve found a couple of good studies that will help put “shoe leather” on the talking. I’ll keep you posted on that!
On Sunday Pastor Sean referenced three types of people Nehemiah encountered once he was back in Jerusalem: the doers, the refusers, and the criticizers. Every leader knows these people – usually by name! One of the key ingredients in motivating the doers, in my opinion, is found in the talk Nehemiah gives when he returns from inspecting what was left of the city gates and walls. He states the facts plainly: “You see the trouble we are in…” (Neh. 2:17). But then he adds, “I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me…” (Neh. 2:18).
There is nothing quite as powerful as a person’s story, don’t you think? No one can refute it; no one can question its authenticity. It’s yours alone! And when it speaks of God’s miraculous ways, it’s powerful! If you’re anything like me, sometimes you’ve even found yourself asking: Why doesn’t God work like that in my life? Ever been there?
As Nehemiah went about his daily service as cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, do you think he ever asked the question you and I have asked? Do you think his duties and responsibilities crowded out thoughts of God and the city he’d left behind when exiled to Babylon? It’s highly likely – until a “brother” appeared from Nehemiah’s past with a report so disturbing that Nehemiah “sat down and wept…mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven” (Neh. 1:4). Do you think Nehemiah even realized he was about to be used by God in a supernatural way?
“Where God guides he will provide,” Pastor Sean encouraged us on Sunday, and God certainly did that for Nehemiah – though not without some struggles! In my own life I’ve seen this happen so many times that it’s easy for me to believe it. But if I spend some time with Nehemiah, I’m also reminded of waiting for God’s timing. I’m inspired by Nehemiah’s vulnerability when he tells us, “I was very much afraid, but I said to the king… (Neh. 2:2b-3). And I’m challenged by his courage when he asked the king, “…let him send me to the city…”(Neh. 2:5). Prayerful, humble, and willing to step outside the zone of his own comfort – that’s what I see in Nehemiah. I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of leader I want to follow!
Lord, fill us with the patience to wait, the boldness to speak, and the courage to go whenever and wherever you send us…in your name, Amen!