Title: A HEART STIRRED TO COMPASSION
Text: Nehemiah 1:1-11
Do you see the walking wounded? Do you hear the cry in the late night of the one desperate for help? They are all around us…perhaps as close as the bedroom down the hall in our own home…or the desk next to us at work. The barrier that keeps us from seeing or hearing them is that we are often desensitized to their needs because global media technology pours a constant stream of images of the destitute into our home from neighborhoods in our own town to countries 12 time zones away. We see so many needs that we insulate ourselves from the hurts of those walking right next to us. Our culture emphasizes comfort and success; therefore it’s easy to become self-focused.
But a quick glance through the pages of the Bible reveals Moses seeing the suffering of his own people and felt compelled to intervene. David heard the taunts of a giant against the people of the Most High God and was stirred to action. Esther was informed of a plot to exterminate her own people and took a huge risk. And Nehemiah heard a report about the condition of Jerusalem…the site of temple where God made covenants with his people, and it broke his heart and drove him to prayer and action.
Each of these compassionate people saw a huge need and it moved them into action. They saw that what was happening was not right and they couldn’t be content to do nothing. It’s time for another page to be written about our story…the story of God stirring our heart with compassion for someone overwhelmed with desperation. It won’t take much to stand out in a world that touts, “It’s not my problem.” It all starts with a heart that can’t live with that attitude…a heart God puts within you to act with compassion. Read Text.
1. What peer have you witnessed that was moved to compassion by God to reach out to a big need? Did it result in an inspiration for you to do something?
Insight: Inspiration is stirred most often from witnessing someone else or hearing a direct message from God. Your act of faith can be used by God to be a catalyst to inspire others. Ps. 69:9-10
2. Nehemiah’s heart of compassion to do something about the walls of Jerusalem was in response to a need bigger than he could accomplish…yet it became the catalyst to stir many others who did complete the task. How are those “one in a thousand” different than all the rest? (They didn’t close their heart to the stirring of God’s finger in their heart; they had faith in a great God that could accomplish the task. For Nehemiah, his prayer was birthed out of mourning, praying and fasting.) Neh. 1:4
3. As we look at the Nehemiah story closer, we see that the heart of compassion begins with a restored view of God. Neh. 1:5 (“The God of Heaven, the great and awesome God.”) Where was Nehemiah when he prayed this prayer? (In a foreign land among foreign gods.) In times of great need, what percentage of people turn God into a self-help-genie?
Insight: A broken spirit knows how high and holy God is, and is filled with awe. Nehemiah bowed low because he understood the greatness of the One he served.
4. Do you ever find your view of God changing, depending upon circumstances? What does it take to keep a consistent view of God when things get really tough?
5. Before interceding for his people, Nehemiah (who was a godly man) felt compelled to confess the sins of the nation. Why? (When we get near to God, we realize we’re not doing nearly as well as we thought; sin becomes evident in the light.) Neh. 1:6-7
Insight: We who come before God, come with mixed motives and self-centered plans; we are tainted with impurity. Our own goodness (poor as it may be) is not going to impress God to act on our behalf. On the other hand, a humble heart that confesses sin catches His eye and turns His heart to respond to our cry. The goal isn’t to feel bad about ourselves. We are significant in His eyes and He invites us to be a part of His plan. Humble intercession just keeps us from thinking too highly of our role in it, and our need for grace. Isa. 6:5
6. Gold-mining the meaning of the word “lovingkindness” in Neh. 1:5. checed – covenant keeping.
Insight: Great acts of compassion doesn’t depend upon our ability to step in and save the day…it depends upon God’s faithfulness to keep His covenant with lovingkindness. Deut. 7:9
7. What do verses 1:8-9 reveal about Nehemiah’s heart? (It shows his commitment to fulfill God’s agenda rather than his own.)
Insight: Nehemiah appealed to God’s promises in the covenant He had made with Israel long ago. This request is filled with references to God’s plan, God’s agenda, God’s power, and the reputation of God’s name.
8. According to later references in the book, Nehemiah prayed with a broken spirit for 4 months before God began to use him as a part of the solution. What encouragement do you have for those who pray in desperation for long periods before God provides? (NEVER forget His track record of the past of faithfulness to act in wisdom.)
Insight: Ever once in a while God acts speedily, but quite frequently He watches to see if we care deeply enough to really seek His voice. God works through broken spirits. God must work in us before He can work through us. Compassion drives us into deep prayer…and it is there that He stirs us into action in His power.
What is God saying to you through this study to stand in the gap for the walking wounded? Ask Him for a heart of compassion and bold faith that will invite His power and purposes into your life.