Over the last few months I have spent much time studying Nehemiah and learning from his leadership example. As I look ahead to 2013, I see many parallels and lessons from Nehemiah for the church in America.
In 2012, we witnessed mass shootings leaving dozens dead; the breakdown of the family through divorce, absent fathers, and the legalization of same-sex marriage; an estimated 1.2 million abortions; rampant sexual immorality; and corporate ethical failures. This is just a snapshot of the current state of America.
As cup bearer to the king, Nehemiah held a very important position, akin to the role of Secretary of State in our society. As Christians, we are children of the King- ambassadors for Him (2 Cor 5:20) and part of the royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9).
Nehemiah was broken over the condition of the walls in Jerusalem when approached by his brother. Just as the current state of America is nothing really new or unique- the walls had fallen 140 years prior to Nehemiah 1. Will 2013 be the year where the current state of America will break our hearts? Will 2013 be the year that we fall before the Lord in weeping, mourning, and fasting as we look around us? Will we be marked by prayer of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication as Nehemiah was in chapter 1? We must express adoration to the Lord for who He is and how He has revealed Himself to us in Scripture. We must confess our sins as individuals and churches. We must thank Him for the great promises that the gates of hell will not withstand the moving church (Matthew 16:18) and that all of our needs will be supplied (Philippians 4:19). We must go before Him with our specific needs moving forward. We must truly be people of prayer!
Nehemiah demonstrated great respect to those in power, specifically King Artaxerxes. As the people of God, we must demonstrate respect toward those in power (Romans 13:1, 1 Peter 2:13) because God may also grant some of them to look up on us with favor as Artaxerxes did toward Nehemiah, and pray to that end. As missionary Hudson Taylor said, “it is possible to move men through God by prayer alone.”
Nehemiah had a clear sense of calling to the task and knew what he needed to do. Likewise, as Christians in America at the start of 2013, we know what we must do: proclaim the gospel and make disciples- teaching them to obey the Word of God (Matthew 28:18-20). Nehemiah exhibited a strategic plan (2:5-8), so must we as the church in America- proceeding forward with specificity and clarity. Like Nehemiah, we must also recognize it is because of God’s hand being upon us as His church that we can accomplish anything (2:8)!
A key leadership strategy for Nehemiah was that he laid out the work into manageable sections. The wall to be repaired was several miles in length, an overwhelming task for many. Yet, Nehemiah broke down the work into doable sections and got everybody involved in the coordinated effort. As we look at the state of America today, the tasks and problems seem equally overwhelming. Yet, as individual believers, we all have small/manageable spheres to have a significant kingdom impact- our schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, and communities. Many small works will have tremendous kingdom impact.
Nehemiah was no stranger opposition and encountered it throughout his work: ridicule, threats of violence, internal opposition and personal attacks. As we complete the work we have been called to we should expect nothing less; we are at war. Nehemiah did not retaliate, prayed continually, and persevered in the work while taking specific actions when needed (e.g. setting up the guard, addressing sin within the people of God); recognizing that God is the one who will fight for them (4:20). We must approach opposition in the same way.
Nehemiah addressed internal sins and the call to holiness in chapter 5. As churches and individual believers, we must be striving to live lives of holiness in every area. In addition to being called to holiness (1 Peter 1:15, 2 Peter 3:11), as the church we do not want to give any fuel for our opponents (5:9).
As a result of Nehemiah’s courageous leadership, empowered by God and rooted in prayer, the wall was completed in 52 days. Likewise, as we move forward as the church in 2013, rooted in prayer and empowered by the Lord’s strength- there will be a Kingdom impact!
I believe that 2013 will be a challenging year in many regards. However, as individual Christ-followers and as His church, our mission has not changed. May we be broken over the current state in America and move forward: grounded in the Word, rooted in prayer, and led by the indwelling Holy Spirit. May our actions in 2013 have a tremendous impact that will ripple into eternity!