Title: DEMOTIONS HURT…BUT PROMOTIONS CAN BE TOUGH
Text: Nehemiah 5:14-19
Being knocked down a notch at work can play a real number on your self-esteem. But you might not be ready for the even greater devastation that can be brought on by a promotion. Few people are able to maintain their spiritual balance when they are promoted up the financial ladder. It can set you up on a pedestal that leads to pride and then a fall.
The Psalm writer, Asaph, wrote about what God says to people with pride and then makes his own comment about it, in Psalm 75:5-7. Pay attention to what’s in quote marks and what is not:
“I said to the boastful, ‘Do no boast,’ and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up the horn; do not lift up your horn on high, do not speak with insolent pride.’” For not from the east, nor from the west, nor from the desert comes exaltation; but God is the Judge; He puts down one, and exalts another.
The word used for exaltation here means, “promotion, being made great.” Asaph wrote this Psalm for the Choir Director, and he warned: every promotion of the child of God is because of the Lord’s goodness. It’s not because we are there at the right place at the right time. It’s not because we are more gifted, educated or trained than others. Promotions come because God in His goodness said, “I wish to exalt you at this time.”
Such was the case with Nehemiah. He was a son of a slave, and he himself was born and raised in captivity. It was through the hand of God that Nehemiah was promoted to the prominent place next to King Artaxerxes as his cupbearer. Nehemiah voluntarily laid down that position to take up the reproach of his people and the rebuilding of the walls in Jerusalem. But as we shall see in tonight’s text, God had another promotion planned for him. Read text.
1. The phrase, “Moreover, from that day…” is tied into the previous text. Recap the previous events to bring us to this verse. (Nehemiah came up with a plan to squelch the inner strife going on between one another because of a famine, the King’s taxes, and the people selling their children as slaves to keep afloat financially.)
2. Because of how Nehemiah handled their crisis, the people promoted him to governor of Judah. How would you react to being thrown into more responsibility and headaches on a bigger scale than just the immediate ones you face every day?
Insight: Not many are willing to step up to the challenge when promotions bring with them problems of a bigger scale. Even in churches, not many are willing to step into leadership positions. The truth is that God needs humble, but faithful people to move into strategic positions of influence…He needs uncompromising Christians in all levels of society. Prov. 29:2
3. God’s Word is awesome; scattered on every page are insights to the challenges we face every day. Such is the case here with Nehemiah and promotions. The first challenge he faced as the new governor are the special privileges, rights and benefits that go with the position. How did Nehemiah face this challenge? (He resisted them and did not abuse them.)
Insight: Integrity is the word that comes to mind when I see how Nehemiah resisted abuse, but then went the extra mile denying the “benies” for 12 years, choosing instead to live at the same level as the commoner. When his people were still facing hardship, he earned their loyalty by living like they did instead of insulating himself from their hardship. That’s a leader I would choose to promote and follow!
Insight: Look at the opposite example of Absalom in 2 Sam. 15:1-12.
4. The next challenge Nehemiah faced with his promotion is revealed in the first few words of verse 15. How would you phrase this challenge? (“But the former governors who were before me…” – stepping into someone else’s shoes and policies.)
Insight: The heavy weight of leadership carries with it two pressures: Do I do what always has been done, or do I try to promote change?
5. What three corrupt policies were passed on to Nehemiah from his not-so-scrupulous predecessors? (They had enforced heavy taxes, extorted food and money, and allowed their servants to oppress the people. V.15)
Insight: The scavengers before him indirectly put the pressure upon him to look the other way and extort the commoner so they could live in plush mansions. Nehemiah banished the thought with just five words, “I did not do so.”
6. What was the motivation that kept Nehemiah from being like his predecessors? (“Because of the fear of God.)
Insight: It doesn’t really matter how great the pressure is…it only matters where the pressure lies. For the man of integrity, the pressure will only press you harder against the breast of the Lord. It is there the Father will speak in your ear and give you courage to stand alone with Him invisibly behind you. Prov. 16:6
7. We have seen that Nehemiah didn’t take advantage of the people; he stood out above those before him in another way. According to verse 16, what is it? (He didn’t slack off; he rolled up his sleeves and joined them in the work.)
Insight: Former governors pressed the people for all they could get. Not this one. He didn’t lose sight of the project before him. He took off the robe and put on the apron of a servant and worked side-by-side with his fellow countrymen.
8. 5:17 With 150 officials and dignitaries from other nations sitting at his table every day, how would Nehemiah keep from being distracted by parties, protocol and visiting? (He focused on his objective, listened to his guests, but went back to work when the meal was done.)
9. Meat and potatoes for 150 guests every day without tapping the governor entertainment allowance, but rather footing the bill out of his own pocket says something. What’s it say to you?
Insight: The integrity level of this man keeps rising in my eyes. He doesn’t run roughshod over everyone to accomplish his objectives. Not this man. He is sensitive to the servitude load of his people, so he bears a significant burden of his own to lighten their load. Don’t think that make his people put their back to the load a little harder? 1 Pet. 4:9
Insight: It is still the practice in the East to calculate the expenses of the table, not by the money paid, but by the provisions consumed by the guests. There was enough on this table for 200 plus all the servants after the guests had left. Ps. 37:21, 26
10. Though Nehemiah denied himself the “benies” of the position, and bore his own share of sacrifice, who was he looking to for his reward? 5:19
Insight: No earthly remuneration can equal an eternal reward. Blessed indeed is the man who sees that, and is not distracted by the momentary plushness he could amass, but would all-too-quickly fade away. Ps. 40:17; 18:23-25; Mk. 9:41
Being demoted is tough, but surviving a promotion can be even tougher. The next time you are faced with a promotion, step into Nehemiah’s sandals and become a man of integrity. Rom. 15:1-2
What inspired you the most about tonight’s study?