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Rebuilding: Rebuilders build a team spirit - Part 2
Nehemiah is proving to be a wise sage when it comes to the process of rebuilding. We have seen that, in one way or another, we are all in this process. In many ways, rebuilding is a much more difficult task than building something from scratch. There are not just things that need to be done, in the rebuilding process, there are also things that need to be undone! Often there are habits that need to be broken and attitudes that need to be changed. Sometimes there are hurts that need to be healed. Anyone who has ever rebuilt a life after a broken marriage knows this to be true. Rebuilding is a challenge, but it is also an exciting and rewarding adventure.
We have seen that rebuilders get started right. Beginnings are vitally important. In fact, I doubt that anyone has seen the rebuilding process through to completion that did not get started right. He or she made an honest evaluation of the circumstance, identified with the need, took personal responsibility, and moved out of the comfort zone.
As we continue through Nehemiah’s memoirs, we now learn a second important lesson in rebuilding. Rebuilders build a team spirit. They say “we” a lot. This truth echoes throughout the verses of Nehemiah’s experience in chapter two of the book that bears his name. He is building team spirit. As we rebuild, it is essential to get those around us to be part of our team and to follow our leadership. It is a team sport, whether we are rebuilding a life, a business, a church, a marriage, or whatever.
The most successful athletic franchises are those who play as a team. 1998 was one of the great years in Major League Baseball history. Throughout most of the year, the spotlight shone on two individuals, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. They were involved in a nail-biting homerun race that eventually saw McGwire break the all-time record for homeruns in a season. However, neither of their teams won the big prize. The New York Yankees, setting a record for most wins in a season, won the World Series. They did it without one major superstar rising above the others. They played together as a team. It was one for all, and all for one, and they are the ones who wound up on top. Experience has proven that the most successful homes are those who play as a team. The most successful businesses are those who build a team spirit. The most successful churches are those who live and love together as a team. Getting started right is essential, but building a team spirit is what keeps the rebuilding process in motion.
How does one build a team spirit? Nehemiah shows us the way in chapter two of his memoirs as he outlines five steps for us to follow. He reminds us in Nehemiah 2:1-5 that if we are ever going to rebuild we must start with our goal in mind. People want to know where we are taking them and how we plan to get there. Before Nehemiah left Persia, before he recruited the first person in Jerusalem, before he motivated his people, before he removed the rubbish of the broken down walls, he started with his goal in mind.
Next, he reminds us to seize our opportunities (Neh. 2:4-10). Hear him as he beseeches the king to “send me” (Neh. 2:5). Here was a man who seized his opportunities and moved out of his comfort zone. Then he calls us to make a careful analysis of our situation (Neh. 2:11-16). That is, take a good and careful and honest look at the ruins that need to be rebuilt around our lives. Next, he challenges us to motivate our people to get off dead center (Neh. 2:17-18). Finally, in order to build a team spirit, Nehemiah speaks of the importance of staying on track (Neh. 2:19-20). If the rebuilding process is to be completed and team building is to be accomplished, we must not let anyone or anything divert us or get us off track. Rebuilders keep focused. They build a team spirit because they are convinced…it’s never too late for a new beginning.
I. Start with your goal in mind
Before Nehemiah ever laid a stone in the rebuilding process, before he ever recruited a worker, before he ever left Persia, he lived with a burden and started with his goal in mind. He knew where he was going, and he knew how he was going to get there. The king himself noticed his burden and asked, “Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing but sorrow of heart” (Neh. 2:2). Nehemiah had been carrying this burden for four months, since he had first heard the report of the broken down walls and the burned gates. His reply to the king biblically illustrates that his goal was in mind long before he set out for Jerusalem. He says, “Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire?” (Neh. 2:3). He had a passion for what God had put in his heart…to rebuild Jerusalem! Nehemiah laid bare his heart, and the king read him like a book. Here is a man who’s living with a goal in mind.
Anyone who’s ever accomplished the process of rebuilding in life knows where they’re going and how they’re going to get there. In our sports-crazed Western world, the most recognized face and name is Michael Jordan. Words are useless to attempt to describe his athletic prowess on the basketball court as he played for the Chicago Bulls. After 15 years of playing in the National Basketball Association, Michael Jordan averaged 32 points a game during that entire span of years. It didn’t matter who the Chicago Bulls were playing, who was guarding him, or what injuries he may have been nursing, he managed to get 32 points a game. Some time ago, a reporter asked him how he was able to maintain this average for all those years. Michael Jordan replied, “I simplify the matter. It takes only eight points per quarter to score 32 points a game. I find some way each quarter to simply get those eight points.” What is Michael Jordan saying? He is saying that he started each game with a goal in mind. He knew where he was going and how he was going to get there before the opening tip-off even occurred. Those in the process of rebuilding could learn a lesson from Nehemiah and Michael Jordan, and see the importance of starting with your goal in mind, particularly if you are interested in building team spirit.
As we read these verses from Nehemiah chapter two, it is apparent what he had in mind. What was his goal? To rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He knew where he was going and how he was going to get there. Later in his book, we will see hundreds and hundreds of people following his leadership as the walls are being rebuilt. Why? Because Nehemiah built a team spirit and he began by starting with his goal in mind.
There are many homes in trouble today because men and women do not know where they are going. They have no goal in mind, with family goals that are broken down by “quarters.” Thus, there is no direction or purpose. The Bible clearly delineates goals for the home in Ephesians 5. The husband is the key in loving his wife sacrificially and selflessly, as Christ loved the church. It is easy to respond in loving mutual submission to that kind of love, because it always has your highest goal in mind.
The reason many churches in America are stagnant or dying is because there is no team spirit. Why? It is at this very point…they have no goal in mind and do not know where they are going, much less how they are going to get there. The Lord Jesus Christ has given the goal of the church in explicit terms in the New Testament. We are to fulfill the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. It is the church’s task to share the gospel of Christ with everyone, baptize them into the family of faith, and teach them to grow to maturity. The church is also to love the Lord supremely and our neighbors as ourselves.
Is anyone reading these words that is in need of rebuilding something in your life? Rebuilding is a team sport, and we begin playing as a team when we start with our goal in mind. Rebuilders not only get started right, they build a team spirit by knowing where they are going and how they are going to get there. Therefore, they know…it’s never too late for a new beginning.
II. Seize your opportunities
In Nehemiah chapter two, we find Nehemiah standing before King Artaxerxes, who asked a pointed question, “What do you request?” Nehemiah seized his opportunity and said, “…send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it” (Neh. 2:5). Carpe Diem! He seized the day. He took advantage of his opportunity. The king then asked three more questions, “What do you request?” (Neh. 2:4), “How long will your journey be? And when will you return?” (Neh. 2:6). Nehemiah had been praying and planning for four months, and now he seized his opportunities. He had thought it through, and had all the right answers for the king. He even knew that Asaph, the king’s forester, could furnish the needed materials. And he was cautious to give God all the credit (Neh. 2:8).
How many opportunities to rebuild come our way and pass us by because we never seize our opportunities? We are what we are in part because of what we do with opportunities that come our way. For some time now, Nehemiah had prayed and planned and prepared. When the door cracked open, he seized his opportunity and requested to be sent back to Judah to become the agent of rebuilding. Tragically, some of us never rebuild, even though we may get started right. We begin to build team spirit with a goal in mind, but never seize our opportunities when they come. Perhaps God is asking you today, “what do you want?” or, “what do you need?” He is saying to you…it’s never too late for a new beginning.
III. Make a careful analysis of your situation
Before the rebuilding process in Jerusalem had begun or a single person had been recruited and motivated for the task, Nehemiah made a careful analysis of his situation. When he came to Jerusalem, he waited for three days, and in the middle of the night made a midnight ride to survey the ruined walls. “I told no one what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem” (Neh. 2:12). Nehemiah made a careful analysis of the situation.
Leadership can be lonely. Before any major work of rebuilding, someone must take a midnight ride and make a careful analysis of the situation, and perhaps, like Nehemiah, even weep over the ruins. He did not send someone to check it out for him. There are some things that simply cannot be delegated. Those who lead others to accomplish great tasks usually struggle long and hard and alone before their plans are ever made public. They, like Nehemiah, saddle up and take a late-night ride to review the ruins. In building a team spirit, they make a careful analysis of their situation.
Those who get the job of rebuilding done do not rush in before they do their homework. They take a good long look at the situation for themselves. It is part of the price of leadership. Some do not accomplish rebuilding not necessarily because they do not start with a goal in mind or seize their opportunities. It is due to the fact that they fail to make a careful and detailed analysis of the situation as it really is.
Nehemiah’s midnight journey was not simply a casual glance at the ruins. The Bible tells us that he “viewed” the broken down walls (Neh. 2:13-15). The Hebrew word which we translate “viewed” into our English Bibles is actually a medical term that describes a physician “who looks into a wound very carefully.” The word describes a doctor who “probes the wound to fully examine it.” This was no casual glance at some broken down stones. It was a careful analysis of the situation.
My first pastorate was in the wheat farming country of southwestern Oklahoma in the small town of Hobart. On rare occasions, a few of the old-timers would make a request that the pastor be in the operating room when they were having surgery. As a young pastor, I would “scrub up” with the local surgeon and be present in the operating room for prayer during the surgery. It was an amazing education for me! In biology classes, I had seen diagrams of the human organs that appeared to be so neatly in place within our abdomens. Not true! I would watch that skilled surgeon probe all of the vital organs in an exploratory abdominal surgery. He would lift them in his hands, examine them, and thoroughly “view” those organs that were vital to the person’s well-being. This is the same word that Nehemiah used to describe what he did that evening as he took his midnight ride to “view” the walls of Jerusalem. He made a careful analysis of the situation.
Nehemiah viewed all of the debris that had been piled up for years. There was accumulated trash around the walls of Jerusalem, and nothing had been done to remove it. I’ve seen this happen in many lives. I’ve seen it happen in marriages, in businesses, even in churches. There are things that begin to pile up over the years and get in the way of healthy and wholesome relationships, and often nothing is done. Rebuilding demands that we have the courage to make a careful analysis of our situation.
Rebuilders build a team spirit. How? They get people on their team by starting with their goal in mind, by seizing their opportunities, and by making a careful analysis of their situation. Perhaps there are attitudes, actions, or other debris that have piled up in our lives over the years and have gotten in the way of the rebuilding process. Rebuilders have one thing in common…they know it’s never too late for a new beginning.
IV. Motivate your people to get off dead center
When we come to chapter three of the book of Nehemiah, we see that the actual rebuilding process begins. However, before it does, we find in chapter two that Nehemiah is building a team spirit with his people. He encourages them to get off dead center. He is able to motivate them to adopt his goal because he followed three important lessons in goal setting. (1) He made sure that his goal of rebuilding was conceivable. That is, he wanted to know that others could easily conceive of the task ahead. He wanted them to understand what needed to be done. (2) He made sure his goal of rebuilding was believable. He had some goals people could believe in. He was dealing with men and women who had been living in discouragement for years who needed to believe again. Hear him as he challenges them in Nehemiah 2: 17-18 saying, “Let’s do it; we can do it. The hand of our God is with us.” The people not only conceived the goal, they began to believe it. (3) Then Nehemiah made sure that his goal was achievable. This goal was not outside their reach. They could do it. If they could rebuild the temple, they could rebuild the walls and the gates.
Here is some wonderful practical advice from one of the greatest motivators of men and women and one of the most effective rebuilders the world has ever known. Can you see what he is doing? Nehemiah is building a team spirit. How? He has started with his goal in mind; he has seized his opportunities; he has made a careful analysis of his situation; and now he’s beginning to motivate his people to get off dead center.
If every church could get people to see the dynamic of Nehemiah 2:17-18, they would impact their neighborhoods and beyond them, their worlds. In these verses Nehemiah said to them, “‘You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.’ And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me. So they said, ‘Let us rise up and build.’ Then they set their hands to this good work” (Neh. 2:17-18). Nehemiah motivates his people to get off dead center. How? He led them to do four things in building this team spirit. He led them to face up, team up, gird up, and look up.
First, Nehemiah led his people to “face up”. He said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste…?” (Neh. 2:17). He’s calling upon them to wake up, to face up, and open their eyes. They had been looking, but now he wanted them to see. For years they had been looking at that wall. They had gotten used to it. Others had come to Jerusalem and seen it as a reproach, but they were blind to it. We will never rebuild our individual lives until we, too, face up. This is true whether we are trying to rebuild a marriage, a life, a business, a church, or whatever. It is ironic, but it often takes someone new to get us to see things that are right under our noses. Years of familiarity have a way of causing us to look at things without really seeing them. This is exactly why the wise counsel of Christian friends is so valuable. Quite often, it takes someone new, like Nehemiah, to get us to face up to our own needs around us. We will never be motivated to complete our task until we “face up.”
Next, Nehemiah called upon his people to “team up.” There are three very important words he uses in Nehemiah 2:17: “we,” “us,” “we.” Nehemiah uses plural pronouns a lot. Do you see what he is doing? He is challenging his people to work with him, not for him. What kind of response do you think he would have had from these people had he approached it by saying, “You people are unbelievable. You’ve been here all these years, and look at you. What have you been doing? You have gotten yourself into a pitiful position. You know what you need to do. You need to rebuild the walls. Why haven’t you done it? I am not the problem. I just got here. Now, get on with the task.” He could have berated them with second person pronouns: “you,” “you,” “you.” Playing the blame game with constant criticism will squelch motivation. Listen to what Nehemiah is saying by using these plural pronouns. He is saying, “Team up.”
Some never rebuild because it’s always a matter of “you,” “you,” “you. “We are often quick to have the attitude that says, “You see the mess you are in. You made your own bed. You’d better get your act together.” How many parents have said that to their children and squelched any motivation they may have had? How much better the result might have been had we said “we” more than “you.” How many husband-wife relationships might have been rebuilt had we faced up and teamed up? How many pastors have never really rebuilt because they used their pulpit to berate and bully, instead of building team spirit? Rebuilders use “we” a lot. They know that unless they build a team spirit, they will never see the rebuilding process completed.
California anthropologist, Angeles Arrien, draws some very important corporate and business principles from the study of migrating geese. We have all seen them flying in their “V” formation. What can we learn about building team spirit, about facing up, and teaming up from a bunch of geese?
- Each bird flaps his wings and creates an uplift for the birds behind. A bird has 71% more flying range in a “V” formation than he does by flying alone. The lesson is obvious. When we share a common purpose and direction, we can all get there quicker and with much less effort.
- Whenever a goose gets out of formation, he immediately feels resistance in trying to go it alone, and gets back into the formation with the others. Again, the lesson should be pretty obvious. If we had as much sense as a goose, we would stay in formation with those who are going the same way we are. It’s much harder to get the job done when we are always flying alone.
- When the lead goose gets tired, he rotates back into the formation and another goose flies on the point. The lesson? We all need each other, and everyone should share the harder jobs so we can all reach our goal together. Also, the geese in the formation honk from behind to encourage those in front to keep up their speed. If you happen to be fortunate enough to see them flying over, you will hear them honking to one another. The lesson is, when we honk at those in the lead, we should make sure we are honking words of encouragement and not words of discouragement.
- When one of the geese is sick or wounded and falls out of the formation to the ground, two others fall out and follow the wounded goose, staying with it until it either revives or dies. What a lesson! If men and women knew we stood together like that in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, there would be more people on our team and sharing our vision. Nehemiah is building a team spirit. How? He is motivating his people to get off dead center by causing them to face up and team up.
Nehemiah also calls upon his people to “gird up.” Listen to him as he says, “Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem…” (Neh. 2:17). It is impossible to get people to gird up if they don’t first face up and team up. These people were not following Nehemiah. They were following his vision! People do not give themselves to needs; they give themselves to visions. These people had seen the need for years and had done nothing about it. When a dad gets a vision for his home, it’s easy for the other team members to get on board. The same is true in the office, in the church, or wherever we may be.
It is interesting to note here that Nehemiah called his people to do something tangible. He said, “Let’s build the walls.” He had a burden, but he didn’t motivate men and women by saying, “Let’s arise and get a burden like mine.” Also, he did not focus on the miserable state they were in. We do not motivate people to get off dead center by causing them to look backward, but by causing them to look forward. People are in need of a leader. Why? Because so many are discouraged. We never lead others by discouragement. Nehemiah lived with a burden for four months, but he did not try to motivate people out of sympathy. What leads men and women to accomplish their goals? It is optimism. It is that “can do” spirit. Listen to Nehemiah, “We are going to do it!” “Let’s get up and go for it!” “Let’s do it together!” “We can do it!”
Finally, Nehemiah motivates his people to get off dead center, not simply by facing up, teaming up, and girding up, but he challenges them to “look up.” He says, “I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me” (Neh. 2:18). He convinced his people that the hand of God was upon them. People have a way of rallying around something when they see God is in it! Now, what was Nehemiah’s motive? Was it to have the biggest wall in that part of the world? Was it to have more men and women than anywhere gather on that wall? What was Nehemiah’s motive? He explicitly reveals it in Nehemiah 2:17: “…that we may no longer be a reproach.” He is saying, “Look up! God is with us!” Nehemiah’s primary concern was for the glory of God.
Now, let’s make some application. Take a marriage, for example. How can we get off dead center in a marriage relationship and see it rebuilt for the glory of God? The first step is to “face up.” Some of us have been looking at our broken walls for years without taking any personal responsibility and admitting the “distress” we are in. Once you face up, then you can “team up.” You cannot rebuild alone. There is a synergy that comes when two are together. Then, quite honestly, there is a time to “gird up”. Marriage is hard work and it takes a “can do” attitude of those who will “put their hands to the plow and not look back.” Finally, it is necessary to “look up.” The truth is, we all need help outside ourselves. We all need to acknowledge that the hand of our God is good upon us, and our ultimate purpose is to bring Him glory.
These same four steps are motivational influences, no matter what we are seeking to rebuild. Those who are rebuilding after divorce, or even after the death of a spouse, can take the same route. That is, face up; stop blaming others and deal with the reality at hand. Team up; realize that we need each other. Gird up; get out of bed, and begin to work on the problems at hand. Accept the fact that life goes on and certain things must be done. Look up, and know that it is, in fact, never too late for a new beginning with God. We have an advantage as Christians. Others face up, team up, and gird up, but we are the only ones who can also “look up.”
Do you see what is happening here? We are seeing a vision birthed and adopted in Nehemiah chapter two. These men and women were motivated to get off dead center because their leader had a vision. He had started with his goal in mind, seized his opportunities, made a careful analysis of his situation, and now he motivates his people to get on his team with him.
The birth and maturity of a vision is like the birth of a baby. It involves several stages. There is the stage of conception. This takes place when the seed of man and the egg of woman come together and the baby is conceived. Nehemiah’s vision was conceived in Nehemiah 1:3-4. Next comes the stage of gestation. This is when, for months, the baby grows within the womb of the mother. For four months, Nehemiah gestated the vision God had given him (Neh. 2:12). Then comes birth. The baby is born! Nehemiah birthed his vision in Nehemiah 2:17. Here he let it out for all to see. This is followed by the stage of adoption, one of the most beautiful words in the English language. This is when two people adopt as their very own a child they haven’t physically conceived, gestated, or birthed. However, by all rights, that child becomes their very own. This is what Nehemiah saw happen in Nehemiah 2:18. The Bible says, “So they said, ‘Let us rise up and build.’ Then they set their hands to this good work.”
The next stage in the development of a child is growth. This is when the child begins to grow through the stages and seasons of life. We will see in Nehemiah chapter three that the wall is going up. However, like a child, its growth is not without challenges. Then comes the stage of maturity, when everything we have dreamed of and hoped for in our child comes to maturity. For me, that took place not long ago when I walked my daughter down an aisle and put her hand in the hand of a handsome young man that God had chosen for her. Nehemiah’s vision becomes mature in Nehemiah 6:15 when the Bible records that “…the wall was finished.” After this, there comes the important stage of reproduction. There are many churches and individuals who see all of their vision reach maturity, but never dream again, never reproduce their vision again, and continue to live in mediocrity. In the following chapters after the wall was completed, Nehemiah begins to lead in the rebuilding of a nation. He challenges Judah to dream new dreams and have bigger visions.
When Nehemiah gave his challenge in Nehemiah 2:17-18, the people’s negative feelings turned to positive. Discouragement gave way to hope. They had something to look forward to, a goal in mind. A team spirit emerged. They had gotten off dead center.
It only takes one person with a God-given vision in the home, or the office, or church, or wherever, to make a difference. Often it takes someone new, like Nehemiah, to help us “see,” instead of simply “look.” Nehemiah was rebuilding. How? He had gotten started right, and now he’s building a team spirit. He has motivated his people to get off dead center. He has said to them, and now to us, “Face up, team up, gird up, and look up, because…it’s never too late for a new beginning.”
V. Stay on track
Nehemiah was successful in part because of one word… focus! He stayed on track. However, there will always be those who try to get us sidetracked. This is shown in Nehemiah through the verses which record, “But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they laughed at us and despised us, and said, ‘What is this thing that you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?’ So I answered them, and said to them, ‘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.’” (Neh. 2:19-20).
Here we see the origin of a group of negative individuals who did their best to divert Nehemiah from his goal. They begin here in chapter two, and they do not let up throughout the whole process of rebuilding. Their attempt to get Nehemiah sidetracked is continuous. It is revealed in Nehemiah 2:10, 19; 4:1-3, 7-8; 6:1-2. Nehemiah’s target was clearly defined. So, like a fighter pilot, he locked in on his goal of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and focused on staying on track. Those who are rebuilders recognize that they cannot, and will not, please everyone. Quite honestly, some folks are comfortable in their own ruins. It is often a fact that as soon as someone comes along with God’s vision of rebuilding there will always be someone else to oppose it.
Staying on track is vitally important. I lived in Fort Lauderdale for 15 years, and always enjoyed the time of spring training for the baseball season. Fort Lauderdale was the long-time home of the New York Yankees’ spring training camp. Many of the players attended our church, and for several years I participated in a motivational Bible study with them every Tuesday night. In those days, the Yankee team stayed at the old Galt Ocean Mile Hotel in Fort Lauderdale. Their general manager was Clyde King. Clyde pitched for the old Brooklyn Dodgers in the late 40’s and had been the manager of not only the New York Yankees, but the Atlanta Braves and the San Francisco Giants, as well. It was a great treat to sit outside in the evenings around the pool at that hotel and listen to all the baseball stories that were shared. But it was never a greater treat than when Yogi Berra, the homespun philosopher of baseball, and World Series catcher, would make his appearance. Yogi is famous for his inimitable way of coining a phrase. For example, he reminds us that, “It is never over ‘til it’s over.” Once, when ordering a pizza, he was asked if he wanted it cut into twelve slices. Yogi replied, “No, cut it into eight. I can’t eat 12!” When he was the field manager, he directed the outfielders by saying, “Go out into left field and pair off in threes.” It was also Yogi who said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” An interesting exchange occurred when the New York Yankees were playing the old Milwaukee Braves in the World Series. Yogi was known for his endless chatter behind the plate. He was constantly talking to his team and others. His purpose was two-fold: to motivate his own team, and distract the other team. Hank Aaron, the renowned all-time homerun leader, came to the plate. Yogi sought to distract him by yelling, “Hank, you’re holding the bat wrong. The trademark needs to be face up so you can read it.” Hank Aaron never said a word. He simply hit the next pitch over the left field fence for a homerun. As he trotted around the bases and crossed home plate, he looked at Yogi and said, “I didn’t come here to read.” Hank Aaron had started with his goal in mind and he stayed on track! Some of us have never homered in life because we have gotten off track. Perhaps we took our eye off the ball and lost our focus.
Nehemiah gives us some important steps that will enable us to stay on track. How can we do it? First, keep faith in God. As believers, our ultimate success is not in our own ability, in the workers around us, or in the king. Listen to Nehemiah, “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us” (Neh. 2:20). This is what keeps us going in our rebuilding process. This is what should keep our focus. God is with us, and the God of heaven Himself will prosper us. In times of my own personal discouragement, this is what has kept me going.
Second, Nehemiah reminds us to keep a servant’s heart. He says, “…we His servants” (Neh. 2:20). Our Lord reminds us that if we want to be great in His kingdom we need to become the servant of all. When I came to be the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas and began the rebuilding process there, I kept a verse of scripture on my phone and desk at all times. Every day I looked at that verse dozens of times. It was the promise of God from I Kings 12:7, “If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.” Keeping a servant’s heart will keep us on track.
It is not only important to keep our faith in God and keep a servant’s heart, but next, Nehemiah calls upon us to get busy with the task. He says, “…therefore we His servants will arise and build” (Neh. 2:20). We are to get busy doing what we know we should do. This will keep us on track. If we are in sales, then we know we should be making calls. Get busy with the task. Don’t let anything keep you from it. If you have a marriage that needs to be rebuilt, it’s easier to act your way into a new way of feeling than to feel your way into a new way of acting. How can we stay on track? Keep faith in God, keep a servant’s heart, and get busy with the task.
Finally, Nehemiah reminds us to see our critics for what they are. Hear him as he says to his accusers, “…you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem” (Neh. 2:20). He boldly confronts his critics and refuses to play their game. He uses a “get tough” policy at just the right time. Leaders have to do this from time to time. It goes with the turf. If we don’t do it we’ll get off track. These men did not have the well-being of Jerusalem in mind. Nehemiah 2:10 attests to this when they were disturbed that “a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel.”
There will always be a Sanballat or a Tobiah to get you off track. There will always be someone or some thing that seeks to divert your focus. See them for what they are and don’t let them get you off track. Some criticism is justified and should be evaluated and valued, but often it is only there to take away your focus and get you off track.
Nehemiah did not argue with the opposition, nor was he discouraged by it. He confronted them head-on and said, “You have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem.” So bug off. Nehemiah knew he and the people were about God’s work. He wouldn’t listen to anyone who was actively opposed to what he knew was right. And he didn’t give his time to those who were in the way of where God was moving. He stayed on track.
I often wonder how many times those vocal critics who oppose something new stymie the work of God. They often say, “Why, we have lived with these walls for years. We’re used to them now. We don’t want to change them.” Nehemiah planted his feet firmly and built a team spirit. A wise leader evaluates criticism in light of the spirit and attitude in which it is given, and stays on track!
Rebuilders build a team spirit before they see the fruition of their vision. They teach us to start with our goal in mind, to know where we are going, and how we are going to get there. They challenge us to seize our opportunities and walk through doors that are open for us. They call upon us to make a careful analysis of our situation, to see if there are any broken down walls in our own experience. They motivate us to get off dead center. How? By causing us to face up – team up – gird up – and look up.
Finally, they challenge us to “stay on track.” Perhaps someone is reading these words that needs to get back on track today. The Lord Jesus Christ wants you on His team. He chose you! He wants to be your rebuilder. He wants to be the agent that rebuilds your life or whatever it is around you that may be broken. He has a goal for you, a vision of what He wants you to be with Him. You can conceive it, you can believe it, and you can achieve it…with His help. He is in the process of building team spirit and reminding us all that…it’s never too late for a new beginning.
Did you miss Part 1 of this sermon series on Nehemiah? Find it here.
- Rebuilding: Rebuilders finish strong - Part 6
- Rebuilding: Rebuilders never cut what they can untie - Part 5
- Rebuilding: Rebuilders understand "YAC" is what really matters - Part 4
- Rebuilding: Rebuilders let go without letting up - Part 3
- Rebuilding: Rebuilders build a team spirit - Part 2
- Rebuilding: Rebuilders get started right - Part 1