Title: FINDING THE MOTIVATION TO CARRY YOU THROUGH TOUGH TIMES
Text: Nehemiah 2:11-20; 4:1-23
Adversity makes men…prosperity makes monsters. It seems tough times don’t have any problem finding each of us. But I’ve noticed this about tough times…some faint from the pressure…others rise to the occasion and step out to lead others through it. What makes the difference? Reaching deep inside to find the motivation to carry you through depends on your reservoir of faith. If your reservoir is empty, perhaps we can find encouragement through a seasoned leader to replenish it. I’m speaking of Nehemiah.
In 444 B.C. the city walls of Jerusalem were in ruins and the gates of the city were burned. The smoke had long dissipated, but the people were still in great distress.
In 1940 A.D. London’s homes, businesses and churches were in ruins and the black smoke blocked out the sun. Despair had taken the heart out of the people, and now a ruthless Hitler was closing in on Great Britain.
Nehemiah and Winston Churchill were two great leaders that reached deep within to find the motivation to say, “Give me the tools, and we will finish the job!” At times like this, a mere speech can have a great impact on an army. Words may only be ink stains on paper, but they can find their way into fearful hears and liberate the disheartened soul! And when encouraged men unite, they can become a tenacious and formidable force that brings victory!
Defeat to victory…that’s God’s call upon our hearts this morning. Our businesses and families need someone in touch with a great God to lead us through the tough times.
I’m going to run quickly through a couple chapters in the Book of Nehemiah and highlight some of the principles that show us Nehemiah was a great example. Background – Nehemiah was in captivity in Babylon; heard of the hardship and ruin of Jerusalem’s walls/gates; asked to be allowed to go repair them; given permission & resources. We take up the story when he arrives. Neh. 2:11-20
· V.11 – Why did he wait 3 days before doing anything? No luncheons w/ city officials, no press conference, no guided tours…only silence. When faced with a big task, solitude in Jehovah is where our reservoir of faith gets refilled! Have you ever acted in haste or spoken too soon because you didn’t quit yourself before God first?
· V. 12, 16 – Why tour the walls at night? He wanted an honest appraisal of the damage without a bunch of people tagging along telling him it was impossible. Men of influence walk with their eyes open, looking at the problem with virgin eyes. Ostriches don’t make good leaders. Take ownership of the problem. These 3 days of silence was when God to put the plans in Nehemiah’s heart.
· Why the wall? Why wasn’t he concerned about their housing conditions? Because the wall was Jerusalem’s main defense against their enemies and they were vulnerable.
· V. 13-15 – Nehemiah’s path led him through the Kidron valley or Valley of Hinnom. This is where refuse was dumped and the smelly fires smoldered constantly; it became knows as the Refuse or Dung Gate. I don’t know about you, but my eyes perk up and notice the man who is willing to walk through the worst, smelliest valley to forge the thoughts of revival! Notice not even his mount could make it through all the debris, and he did it without an audience to boast to. Notice he walked around the entire wall; he began and ended at the Valley Gate.
· V. 17 – After the midnight tour in solitude, Nehemiah immerges to commit himself to the people to protect their homeland. (“us”) People will follow leaders that roll up their sleeves to join in on the hard task. When Churchill addressed the House of Commons during the war, he said, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” Notice Nehemiah’s only motivation was “to remove the reproach of Jerusalem.”
· V. 18 – The majority met the challenge with enthusiasm...but it was also accompanied with criticism. V. 19 The criticism came from within. Opposition often comes from those who like things the way they are…but growth often means that changes are in order…having to move out of our comfort zone.
· V. 20 – How do you account for Nehemiah’s boldness? He’s no milk toast…he knows God fights with them!
· Thus far we’ve seen a man who has an iron constitution…inexhaustible energy…total concentration…and faith in a powerful God. For those within your household and others whom you influence, when tough times come, they can easily faint from the size of the task. God can use you to fortify their walls……..but you must first have your OWN spiritual walls fortified!! I encourage you to undertake something that is difficult…it will do you good, because unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow to be a man of influence!
· (skip ch.3 – assigned people to tasks) There’s a cost to being a leader, and one of those costs is receiving criticism. 4:1-9 Sanballat & Tobiah not only criticize, but they stirs up others to join in on their critical mood. If a tongue sins in one area, you can just about count on it being unbridled and sinning in another area!
· Why was Sanballat, Tobiah and the wealthy men of Samaria against the rebuilding of Jerusalem? One of the main roads linking the Tigris-Euphrates river valley with Philistia & Egypt went right through Jerusalem. With Jerusalem once more well-protected, it would attract trade & Samaria’s would dwindle to nothing. Nehemiah now was in a battle of the survival of the fittest!
· Every man has a Sanballat in their life. Notice how Nehemiah reacts to him. 4:4-5 He keeps his cool and talks to God! When you feel revenge welling up inside toward your enemies, it’s best to leave it to God to execute! Instead of striking back, spend some time on your knees pouring the bitterness out to God!
· Instead of striking out at Sanballat, notice Nehemiah’s reaction to the criticism: 4:6 He stayed at the task. After getting off his knees with renewed strength, he pumped some of that determination into his workers. “Pass me another brick!”
· Notice the intensity of the reaction this caused in Sanballat: 4:7-8 Nothing riles a critic more than having their criticism result in more progress!
· Did Nehemiah let this distract him? No. Look at 4:9. He matched the intensity of the criticism with intensified prayer; but this time he brought the workers with him when he knelt before God!
· If you’re going to be a man of influence, you’re going to get criticism. Your knee-jerk reaction needs to be falling on your knees in prayer. But prayer isn’t the only thing we do…we need to buckle down and finish the task at hand! No man who takes on doing a difficult task and does it to the best of his ability ever loses self-respect!
· Next Nehemiah faces another problem: 4:10-12 When strength is waning and burnout is rampant among your workers, work comes to a standstill. Imagine the self-talk that was going on in their minds…an impossible task with sheer exhausting and the threat of enemies. In these kinds of situations, a leader of influence needs to keep his own thoughts in check and a secure faith in a God bigger than the problem!
· Let’s look at Nehemiah’s action plan in this crisis: 4:13-23 His insight is fantastic. He saw the basic unit of encouragement is the family. They had been broken up by working in different places on the wall, so the scattered family was counterproductive. So he reorganized the work around the family with a common goal.
· V.14 – When he saw their fear, he knew he had to act fast. The look of fear is quite recognizable; it spreads like wildfire. Until he changed this element, no progress would be made. There’s no greater way to push back fear than to point their attention to an Almighty God…and to rally them to defend their own family!
· V.15 – When you’ve done all you can do and the problem still exists…don’t give in yet…leave room for God to work! God can do something in the enemy’s camp that we would never be able to succeed in doing! Not only does He encourage our hearts, but He also frustrates the plans of our enemies!
· What was the result of Nehemiah’s insights and encouragement? 4:16-18 When discouraged, it’s easy to see only one view at a time instead of the whole picture. A man of influence is able to stick to the battle plan and not be distracted by distracting skirmishes! Nehemiah had a plan that gave them peace of mind while allowing the work to go on!
· Nehemiah had more strategies up his sleeve: 4:19-20 To stop infectious fear, sometimes it takes several bolstering encouragements to restore confidence and keep things on track. Nehemiah provided them a rallying point in the event of an attack and reminded them God was fighting with them!
· Now for his final strategy: 4:21-23 He created a protective buddy system. A wise leader gets people involved in helping one another…it boosts morale and creates confidence so the project can be completed. We all need someone who will drop what they are doing and come running when we need help!
I think all of us men started our walk with Christ with confidence and faith. We go after Moby Dick with a row boat, a harpoon and a jar of tartar sauce! But it doesn’t take long to start feeling the row boat is swamping and the waves of intimidation come crashing down upon us!
Perhaps it would be good for all of us to stop and take inventory…lest we find ourselves opting to stay on the shore instead of joining the hunt for Moby Dick! In small groups, let’s share our responses with one another to these questions.
· Are you facing the halfway mark in some task and seem to be stranded on the sandbar?
· How do you encourage someone who is feeling overwhelmed at the task before them?
· What can you do to gather wind behind your sails when you find yourself worn out?
· Are there things feeding your discouragement that need the attention of a caring brother? Like a lack of strength, lack of vision, lack of confidence, lack of security?
· What can you do that would help you push your boat off shore?
· Encourage one another through the Word: Isa. 40:28-31; Ps. 40:1-5, 16-17