#1  “Book of Nehemiah” Series




TEXT:         Nehemiah 1:1-2:10


INTRO:       One of the more difficult aspects of God's will is not so much knowing as much as it is DOING it!  How does one accomplish God's will?


What is it that makes a man or woman a great man or woman of God?


You will never know God's great rewards unless you have also known about the great risks involved in doing God's will.


Look in history, those we know today were men and women who took such great risks, but they were calculated risks, not foolish ones.  Such great courage had great payoffs:


Columbus' voyage to the new world.

Man's voyage to the moon.

The Apostle Paul's ministry brought the Gospel to the west and the world.

The ministry and life of Jesus.

Gideon's call to fight with only 300 men against a huge army!



ILLUS:    Why not go out on a limb?  Isn't that where the fruit is? -- Frank Scully -- Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 1940.


PROP. SENT:  You will never do anything for God if you don't have courage and take some risks!  It takes guts to do God's will ... sissies can't make it in the kingdom or they will just remain fruitless in their walk with God!


I.   CONCERN    Neh. 1:1-4


A.   Partnership   1:1-2

1.   "One of my brothers and some other men came..."

a.   Nehemiah's concern for his home territory was not alone!

b.   He questioned the men about Jerusalem.

2.   Prior to Nehemiah had been Ezra ... and before Ezra the beginning of Israel's return to Jerusalem to rebuild Solomon’s temple that had been destroyed.

a.   Haggai and Zechariah had ministered during this time period, and the story of Esther had happened.

b.   Finally a group had gone back to Jerusalem and started to rebuild the temple, starting first with the altar.

c.   When the foundation had been laid opposition had grown and they ceased from building until Haggai and Zechariah encouraged them onward.

d.   Finally the temple was rebuilt ... but no major return to Jerusalem had yet occurred.

3.   As the Israelites returned Ezra shows up and preaches to them the right way to worship and corrects them by the Law of Moses.

4.   Following Ezra and the passing of the prophets Jerusalem still sits in a semi-broken down condition although the temple was finished.

5.   This sets the stage for Nehemiah who requests from his brothers who had just returned from Jerusalem what the condition of Jerusalem was like.

a.   Nehemiah finds out that all is not well in Jerusalem!

b.   There was still a remnant living there while most of Israel was in captivity still.

6.   This captivity had destroyed their independent pride; now humble and needing one another God sets the stage for a new chapter in restoration!


B.   Pain   1:3-4

1.   Upon learning that all was not well in Jerusalem Nehemiah's heart is broken!

2.   This is the kind of man God can use!

3.   The first part of courage is starting to reveal itself here: BROKENNESS is the foundation to build COURAGE upon!


ILLUS:   A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are for. -- John A. Shedd -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 130.


4.   Nehemiah is so broken over the news that he begins to weep and fast ... a Biblical fast!

a.   He was fasting because the burden was so great food was unimportant!

b.   He was not fasting to pressure God or manipulate Him, this is not the purpose of a Biblical fast!

5.   There are always 2 reactions to pain!

a.   Bitterness and anger; a feeling like God cheated you – this kind of reaction goes on to produce bitterness!

b.   Burden and prayerfulness; a feeling that one must take on the burden in prayer – this goes on to produce a courageous saint!

c.   One must choose which response is theirs when pain happens!

6.   Pain CAN BE the first stage toward great blessing!

a.   READ PSALM 126

b.   Note verses 5-6


II.  CONFESSION   1:5-11


A.   Personal    1:5-7

1.   This pain generates a personal prayer, but not for the release of pain, but for forgiveness for himself!

a.   This accounts for the second great quality of courage: HUMILITY!

b.   This is humility born in prayerfulness!

2.   Nehemiah could have blamed his brethren for all the misery, if only they had not been so stubborn of heart we wouldn't be here now!

a.   But he starts with himself ... he does not blame others!

b.   This was no quirky prayer ... the burden was too great, he would pray until he felt resolve within his own spirit!

3.   He doesn't have an answer to the problem, YET, but he is on the right track!

a.   Sometimes praying is NOT for an answer but to prepare us to BE THE ANSWER!

b.   How would God solve this major problem with Israel’s powerlessness in captivity?

4.   Nehemiah in his prayer for Israel's forgiveness DOESN'T DISPLAY a prayer of BLAMING them but one of INTERCESSION for them, the attitude is very obvious!


B.   Promise   1:8-9

1.   Fortunately Nehemiah knows God's Word and knows the faithfulness of God!

2.   This is the third phase of courage, knowing God's character and TRUSTING HIM!


ILLUS:      My son-in-law, Alan Jones, told me a story of a Hassidic rabbi, renowned for his piety.  He was unexpectedly confronted one day by one of his devoted youthful disciples.  In a burst of feeling, the young disciple exclaimed, "My master, I love you!"  The ancient teacher looked up from his books and asked his fervent disciple, "Do you know what hurts me, my son?"

   The young man was puzzled.  Composing himself, he stuttered, "I don't understand your question, Rabbi.  I am trying to tell you how much you mean to me, and you confuse me with irrelevant questions." "My question is neither confusing nor irrelevant," rejoined the rabbi.  "For if you do not know what hurts me, how can you truly love me?" -- Madeleine L'Engle in Walking on Water.  Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 14.


3.   Nehemiah was not so much reminding God of His promise as he was reminding Himself of God's character to restore a remnant of His people!

4.   In other words he was counting God as FAITHFUL!

5.   This gives us the FOURTH characteristic of COURAGE: HOPE!


C.   Petition    1:10-11

1.   Now he does petition God, after reminding himself of God's faithfulness he feels enough courage to ask of God for an answer, BUT NOTICE HIS REQUEST OF GOD INCLUDES HIS OWN WILLINGNESS TO BE THE CHANNEL USED BY GOD, the fifth step of COURAGE: Availability!

2.   While he is asking God for help he is preparing himself to be used if needed!

3.   It is not enough to ask God for help if you are unwilling to be used if He calls you.

4.   The final sentence of chapter one finally reveals the emerging courage Nehemiah really has: "I WAS CUPBEARER TO THE KING."

a.   He was actually a nobody, but he was ready to get involved anyway!

b.   A simple servant is all he was ... WAIT! perhaps that is the secret!


(1.   Why didn't he just shout at the king and state: "I AM GOD'S SERVANT, AND I TAKE AUTHORITY OVER YOU!"


5.   NOTICE carefully the wording of this last verse:

a.   Nehemiah was a servant to the REAL KING ... he states he “DELIGHTS IN REVERING GOD'S NAME!”

b.   His real king is GOD ... and He is but a servant!

6.   NOTICE his perspective of the earthly king -- CALLS HIM BUT A "MAN!"

7.   But he is not disrespectful of the position of the earthly king!

8.   His request was for God to give him favor as A SIMPLE CUPBEARER to an earthly king.

a.   After all what could happen ... only the possibility of having his head removed or something similar!

b.   In those days you did not SPEAK TO AN earthly king ever unless he spoke to you first!

c.   Aren't you glad God is different!

d.   How would Nehemiah get this king to ask him about his concern for Jerusalem!

9.   We now have revealed the SIXTH characteristic of COURAGE: Creative solutions!


ILLUS:    Give me a hundred men who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I will shake the world. I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen; and such alone will overthrow the kingdom of Satan and build up the kingdom of God on earth. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 128.


III.  COURAGE!    2:1-10


A.   Position!    2:1-2a

1.   When God calls you to minister He often uses you right where you are already, including the skills you already have!

a.   Nehemiah couldn't ask the king outright ... he was but a servant.

b.   However, the king had to look him in the eye every time he served him his cup ... and one can look very concerned and sad and it would be noticed because this would be the UNUSUAL look of Nehemiah!

2.   Had Nehemiah been like many Christians today who walk around more like the Devil has won most of the time the king might not of noticed his sadness and said to himself,


b.   The reason the king would notice is because this sad look was NOT common for Nehemiah!

3.   And so Nehemiah uses his lowly position as servant to try and save his own nation ... THESE ARE ALWAYS THE BEST FIGHTERS, THE ONES WHO ARE ALREADY SERVANTS AND HUMBLE!

4.   He was already in the position he needed to be in to be used of God in a great way ... humble and a FAITHFUL SERVANT!


B.   Panic!    2:2b-3

1.   It is also nice to know however that he is also very much like us!  What is his reaction to being able to present his petition to the king?  PANIC 2:2b

2.   This helps us to understand biblical courage, it is ok to be scared and be honest about it! ... BUT DON'T QUIT!

3.   Nehemiah was at the crucial point, would COURAGE hold out?

a.   Nehemiah is first of all polite, courage doesn't mean demanding!

b.   Secondly, he explains the honesty of his sadness, his concern over the brokenness of Jerusalem.

c.   It is noteworthy that he faced his fear honestly, but didn't give in to it!

4.   Thus the SEVENTH characteristic of COURAGE, Honesty with durability!


ILLUS:     When a storm comes at sea, a ship turns to face the tempest.  If the vessel allows the storm to hit its side, it will capsize.  If it turns its back to the storm, the storm will drive it wherever the wind blows.  Only in facing the storm is the ship safe. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).


C.   Prepared!    2:4-9

1.   It is interesting that when the king asks Nehemiah what it was that he wanted from the king that he had already PLANNED a response!

2.   THE EIGHTH characteristic of COURAGE, PREPAREDNESS!

a.   Nehemiah was planning for success, not failure ... even though he was afraid!

b.   He wasn't NEGATIVE!

3.   He had not been idle from prayer time to request time ... he had a plan ready in the hopes that the king would be favorable to letting him speak!

4.   Having courage to do something for God does not mean just sitting back and waiting for God to let you know what to do, some people would say this is so much more spiritual, but it can also be very foolish!

5.   Nehemiah had made plans, specific requests, note how the king continues to question him about specifics and how quickly he responds! VERSES 4-8

a.   He had thought of everything humanly possible ... good plans.

b.   He didn't just respond, "Well, however the lord leads me" … this can be proper as a response at some times, but not always!

6.   With success notice WHO Nehemiah gives the credit ... this is the NINTH characteristic of COURAGE: Acknowledging God in the process, not patting yourself on the back!  2:8

7.   The cupbearer is promoted to governor!  Promotion to leadership comes best through servanthood!


D.   Problems!    2:10

1.   It would have been a wonderful ending here, but courage is not enough for just start-ups, it is needed for the whole process!

2.   Courage had only gotten Nehemiah past the first stage, he would need to have a great deal of it to finish the course God had called him too!

3.   When you set out to do the will of God in your life don't be shocked by problems, they will be right there with you!

4.   If you lose courage you'll quit.

a.   Nehemiah finds 2 politically powerful guys who are going to fight against him all the way!

b.   One of these guys is SANBALLAT -- governor of Samaria ... the chief rival to Nehemiah who was just appointed governor of Israel, true rivals!

c.   The other man, TOBIAH was a fellow Jew or at least one who believed in the God of Israel … and he would become a great source of opposition, from one of his own brethren!

(1.   This man was bothered probably out of political concerns, he had sold his soul for politics!

(2.   Only God can knows how many still do this today, even in the church!

(3.   But there are those like Nehemiah who will stay the course and fight no matter what, they will take the challenge, nothing will dissuade them!


ILLUS:     When Napoleon was an artillery officer at the siege of Toulon, he built a battery in such an exposed position that he was told he would never find men to man it.  But Napoleon had a sure instinct for what was required.  He put up a sign saying The Battery of Men without Fear, and the battery was always manned. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 41.


5.   The bottom line: If you are going to do anything for God you are going to NEED COURAGE!  No one finds GREAT REWARDS that didn't take COURAGE over GREAT RISKS!  The first stage of accomplishing the will of God in your life is COURAGE!


CONCLUSION:    The first step in accomplishing God's will for your life will be large doses of COURAGE!  Anyone who has ever accomplished great things for God has had to overcome their fears and move with courage ... it takes GUTS to do God's will!