#2  “Book of Nehemiah” Series




TEXT:         Nehemiah 2:11-20


INTRO:       Many Christians over spiritualize ministry ... that is they think that when God speaks you simply jump into action and miraculously things happen!  There are certainly times when this can be true, but if you look in the Bible you will discover that most of the mighty works of God through His prophets and servants INCLUDED a significant preparation time before their ministries were really effective.


1.   Moses ... needed an extra 40 years worth of preparation in the desert!

2.   Elisha ... did a long apprenticeship under Elijah.

3.   Jesus spent 30 years preparing for His 3 years of ministry ... the Bible speaks of His learning, submitting, discussing the law in the temple at 12 years of age, etc.  Jesus "grew in grace and knowledge."

4.   The apostle Paul who had a dramatic revelation of the risen Christ on the road to Damascus spent at least 3 years learning and submitting himself to the other Apostles ... some commentators list an even longer time including a 10 year silent period where Paul had evidently gone back to his home territory after a few years; then called back by Barnabus they went off in ministry, at first Paul under Barnabus.

5.   Samuel, the greatest prophet of Israel during the kings spent his entire youth in preparation for his later ministry under the High Priest Eli.

6.   To simply jump into ministry without preparation is presumption.  The only time we do this is when God is clearly indicating that this should be the case, and those times are rare.


ILLUS:     Some people think the prayer of faith is crawling out on a limb and then begging God to keep someone from sawing it off.  But that is not real prayer, that is presumption.  If God makes it clear that he wants you out on a limb, fine -- you will be perfectly safe there.  If not, it is presumptuous to crawl out on that limb, expecting God to keep you there. -- Ray C. Stedman in Man of Faith.  Christianity Today, Vol. 40, no. 7.


PROP. SENT:   Except under rare circumstances we should expect to do the best we can to prepare ourselves for effective ministry, careful preparations are a normal part of God's calling for ministry!  Failure to prepare for effective ministry is a failure to respond correctly to God’s call for ministry, and this is true for all levels of ministry:

a.   Nursery

b.   Youth

c.   Pastoring

d.   Whatever the ministry!




A.   Balances!     2:11

1.   Nehemiah finally arrives in Jerusalem after a long journey and is anxious to start on the call of God!

a.    However; understanding the need for proper rest after a long trip he wisely takes a few days off to recuperate!

b.    Years ago the concept of ministry was to go until you burned out for Jesus ... this never was good teaching!

c.    When you are exhausted and tired you are not as tuned in as you should be ... those are the times of mistakes and poor judgments.

2.   Even in Ecclesiastes 3 Solomon indicates that there is a “time for everything,” including “work & rest!”

a.    David talked about the importance of rest, notice: Psa 127:2  “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat -- for he grants sleep to those he loves.”

b.    The best servants of God needed proper rest and balance; NOTE Elijah after the victory with the prophets of Baal!  God gave him a forced rest and a leave of absence to correct the balances in Elijah's life again!

c.    Paul had to take rest after his great revelation on the road to Damascus.

3.   Balance is an important concept if you are going to be effective in God's work, whatever His call is upon your life!


ILLUS:      I'm constantly amazed by the number of people who can't seem to control their own schedules.  Over the years, I've had many executives come to me and say with pride, 'Boy, last year I worked so hard that I didn't take any vacation.'

   It's actually nothing to be proud of.  I always feel like responding, "You dummy.  You mean to tell me that you can take responsibility for an $80 million project, and you can't plan two weeks out of the year to go off with your family and have some fun?" -- Lee Iacocca.  Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 4.


4.   What is interesting here is that EZRA did exactly the same thing when he came to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple as does Nehemiah's when he came to rebuild the walls!  Ezra too rested 3 days after arriving!  (SEE EZRA 8:32)

5.   When God's call involves circumstances that require no time for balance, He will provide miraculously the strength required ... most of the time however, His call is more of a daily nature and thus the balances are left to good use of wisdom on our part!


B.   Boldness!     2:12

1.   With freshness of spirit and body Nehemiah is able to feel a sense of boldness as he begins to prepare for the time when they will build ... this included seeing the bigger picture!

2.   It is important in ministry to get the whole picture!

a.    If you only think your ministry is important you will be filled with pride!

b.    If you don't realize others are ministering also you will be filled with despair ... like Elijah who thought he was the only prophet of God left!

c.    Nehemiah wanted to survey the city walls ... get a realistic picture of what this call of God was to encompass!

3.   Before diving into the job and asking others to dive into it with him he knew he should be knowledgeable about the task ... as much as possible!

4.   He realized he wouldn't be able to do the ministry alone ... and felt responsible therefore to know as much as possible before asking others to join in!

5.   With boldness (and lots of rest beforehand) he sets out at night to get an honest picture of the damage!

a.    We need to have a realistic picture of what encompasses a call!

b.    Responsibility comes with the call ... a responsibility to do your homework!

c.    He didn't put the job on someone else either ... he took the responsibility to evaluate the situation as his own.

6.   This boldness was really just a good old dose of COURAGE -- and he had a few good men to go along with him!  (That’s another sermon though – but an important one!)

a.    He didn’t have to preach or speak a lot, but he did have to show the way!


ILLUS:      Not long ago at a high school, three military recruiters showed up to address some high school seniors.  Graduation was only a few months away, and the military men were there for the obvious -- to articulate to these graduating young men and women some of the options that military service would provide them.  The meeting was to last forty-five minutes.  Each recruiter -- representing Army, Navy, and Marine Corps -- was to have fifteen minutes.

   Well, the Army and Navy recruiters got carried away.  When it came time for the Marine to speak, he had two minutes.  So he walked up with two minutes to make his pitch.  He stood utterly silent for a full sixty seconds -- half of his time.  Then he said this:

   "I doubt whether there are two or three of you in this room who could even cut it in the Marine Corps.  I want to see those two or three immediately in the dining hall when we are dismissed."  He turned smartly and sat down.  When he arrived in the dining hall, those students interested in the Marines were a mob.  They acted without delay.  He appealed to the heroic dimension in every heart. -- W. Frank Harrington, "It's Decision Time," Preaching Today, Tape No. 162.


b.    His own bravery would demonstrate the way to stand up to the enemy, and would encourage a response of courage from others as well.

c.    Someone has to lead the way, and we would probably be amazed at how many brave soldiers there are who are willing to follow a real leader!




A.   Broken!     2:13-15

1.   When it came to sharing the burden and the call Nehemiah does not CONFESS that things are better than they really are ... he tells it like it is!

2.   He needed to be honest about the real conditions ... and a full survey of the existing mess proved to be a real disaster!

a.    Things were really broken down ... destruction had been widespread!

b.    But to a man with a call from God this wasn't discouraging ... just a better challenge!

c.    The greater the problem ... the greater the praise!

d.    Great risks ... GREAT REWARDS!!

3.   like David; when Israel only saw a GIANT OPPOSITION in Goliath, DAVID SAW a GIANT OPPORTUNITY; they saw a GIANT TYRANT, DAVID SAW A GIANT TARGET – he couldn’t miss!

4.   Be realistic ... then be BOLD!

a.    Nehemiah wasn't bothered by a huge task ... it would only make the reward that much more supernatural!

b.    There is nothing supernatural per se in confessing away reality ... but there sure is in confessing something realistically and then believing God to give victory over it anyway!


B.   Bearable!    2:16

1.   It was important for Nehemiah to first know the real extent of what the job was going to be and then to know that he could encourage his brethren with confidence and boldness to do the task!

2.   If he wouldn't see the job as bearable he could hardly expect to have the people believe it was!

3.   He first therefore PREPARES himself before he CALLS on others to join him!


ILLUS:      In Booker T. Washington's autobiography, “Up from Slavery,” Mr. Washington recalled a beautiful incident of an older brother's love.  He said the shirts worn on his plantation by the slaves were made of a rough, bristly, inexpensive flax fiber.  As a young boy, the garment was so abrasive to his tender, sensitive skin that it caused him a great deal of pain and discomfort.  His older brother, moved by his brother's suffering, would wear Booker's new shirts, until they were broken in and smoother to the touch.  Booker said it was one of the most striking acts of kindness he had experienced among his fellow slaves.  What a beautiful illustration of "bearing one another's burdens," which we are admonished to do in Galatians 6:20. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 117.


4.   Setting the example is an absolute for ministry ... those you minister to will not be so willing to serve if you are not willing to serve ... if you are unfaith­ful they will not be encouraged to be faithful to the task!

5.   Nehemiah was ready, he had done his homework ... he knew the damage, and he KNEW His God ... and what was possible by faith and work!




A.   Burden     2:17

1.   These people certainly knew the conditions of the wall ... they had been living there without repairing the walls ... they had been complacent about repairs.

2.   They didn't rebuild the walls because they lacked courage and a burden to do so ... they just didn't see how it was possible!

3.   They lacked badly needed leadership, someone who could help restore a sense of burden and faith to do the work!

4.   It is very significant the Nehemiah gives them an honest appraisal of how bad the damage was ... lest they think him a fool or just a "POSSIBILITY THINKER" ... ignorant of the real truth.

a.    But he had done his homework and his telling them the conditions as they really existed told them that this man knew what they were facing!

b.    He didn't deny the enormity of the problem ... if he had they might have written him off as another outsider with great fantasy problems!

c.    His full and real description made them realize here was a guy who knew how big the task would really be ...  and thus perhaps he knows a real way to tackle it!

5.   Notice after his honest description of the problem he also presents them with hope: “COME, LET US BUILD!”

a.    Here is a man who knew what leadership really meant ... he didn't say, "YOU BUILD while I tell you what to do."

b.    He offers himself as a fellow servant, this inspires them and they respect his leadership for this!

c.    A TITLE won't give you respect ... you earn that by being a servant!

6.   He adds an important reason for rebuilding too … so that “we won't be in disgrace!”

a.    What's the point ... this was the "CITY OF PEACE" ... God's chosen place for His people ... His temple dwelt here, meaning His presence was among them in this city!

b.    It was a disgrace that God's dwelling place should be encompassed by brokenness without concern.

(1.   Brokenness itself was not the problem.

(2.   It was the lack of concern about the brokenness that was the problem!


B.   Building!     2:18

1.   Their combined response: “LET US START REBUILDING!”

a.   All they need was someone to lead the way!

b.   They needed a new look at an old problem.

c.   Leadership from Nehemiah provided the boost.

2.   Encouraged to believe the job was possible with God's help and their being united though small in number go them going full steam!

3.   If only the story would end here it would have been a happy ending ... it will be a happy ending, but with a lot of struggle in between!

4.   Their perspective had shifted now to seeing the job as a “GOOD WORK!”

5.   There is nothing wrong about “WORKS” in the Christian vocabulary ... IT IS CERTAINLY TRUE THAT WE ARE NOT SAVED BY “GOOD WORKS” BUT WE ARE SAVED TO DO GOOD WORKS!

6.   James went so far as to declare, "SHOW ME YOUR FAITH BY YOUR WORKS!" the point: real faith has real evidence!  Only when real pressure has been applied can the strength of something be determined.


ILLUS:     In 1938 a hurricane threatened the New England coast. People feared that the railroad bridge at White River Junction would be destroyed.  The danger was averted when some thoughtful person backed a line of loaded freight cars onto the bridge.  The bridge withstood the force of the winds because of the weight that it bore.  The weight of your responsibilities may rest heavily upon you, but that weight may be the very thing that keeps you from being swept away by the storm of sin. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).




A.   Belittling!     2:19

1.   As soon as you do something for God you can be sure someone will come by and criticize you or the job you are doing!

a.    Three guys mocked the Jews for attempting to do the impossible, Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab!

b.    At first their complaint takes on sarcasm like "A BIG JOKE" ... they don't really believe the Jews can do it ... and they are mocking the people for being foolish!

2.   Their comments were totally stupid ... after all ... it did seem quite impossible to think that a few people who managed to escape the exile and were living still in the area could rebuild huge walls around and entire city!

3.   They even questioned their motives for rebuilding: "rebellion against the king" ... perhaps they thought this might put a scare into the locals!

4.   At a point like this it is important to hear from God … which in this case meant through God's servant Nehemiah!

a.    This was not a time for Nehemiah to be silent!

b.    It would be important for the people that they saw boldness and faith from their leader!  IT was also not a time to cave in to a few complainers!  So they were a few weak band, they could help each other out and be stronger for it!


ILLUS:      While walking through the mall, I smiled when I heard one elderly lady in a wheelchair say to her companion pushing her, "When you get tired, we'll trade." -- Betty Traver, Great Bend, Pennsylvania.  Christian Reader, "Lite Fare."


B.   Believing!    2:20

1.   Notice carefully how Nehemiah phrases his response, "THE GOD OF HEAVEN WILL GIVE US SUCCESS!"

a.    If only some preachers would have remembered this point they might not have fallen!

b.    Our success comes from God ... yet He expects our faithful service in the PROCESS OF SUCCESS!

2.   Nehemiah also carefully understands their role in the process "WE HIS SERVANTS WILL start rebuilding..."

3.   And he carefully notes that they who do not participate will not have any of the shares of the blessing that is to come!

4.   Some people are ready to jump on the bandwagon after success, but they really don't appreciate the success like those who built the bandwagon!

a.      Being involved in the process of God's work puts you in line to enjoy the fruit of God's work.

b.     After all, who doesn't want to be fruity!  I know I do!  (And some say, I am already!)

c.      Nehemiah states the facts ... these 3 troublemakers aren't even in the covenant family ... they have no historic right therefore to discourage God's people from doing God's work!

d.     If they listened to the outsiders they would never get anything done for God – this is still true!


CONCLUSION:   The most effective ministry is accomplished by God's call and power AND careful planning; patience, and a step by step process that can cover a significant amount of time!  This kind of ministry produces long lasting fruit!