Where do we begin?

Do you ever feel as if you need a spiritual shot in the arm? Has your walk with God become stagnant? What about your church? Has your church lost its passion and fire? Has the ministries that were once active and vibrant become almost nonexistent? From time to time we need to hit the reset button in our lives and in our church. The book of Nehemiah teaches us how to do just that.

The book of Nehemiah, like the book of Ezra, is a record of God fulfilling His promise to restore Israel after 70 years of captivity in Babylon. Nehemiah held a very important position during the reign of king Artaxerxes. As the king’s cupbearer, he was responsible for sampling the king’s food in order to ensure that there was no attempt to harm the king. In a sense, he was the king’s butler and, therefore, had great influence within the kingdom. It just so happens that one of Nehemiah’s brothers, who apparently lived in Jerusalem, crossed paths with him. This, I believe, did not happen by chance. However, it was a Divine appointment which lead to the restoration of the people of Israel. There is a lesson to be learned here. We serve a sovereign God who directs our paths. He will work in ways in our lives to bring about His perfect will and plan. As believers, we should be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and make ourselves aware of the people that God brings across our paths. As Nehemiah spoke with his brother, he asks him concerning the condition of those who escaped the captivity and were living in Jerusalem. It is in what Nehemiah is told that we begin our study on rebuilding your life and rebuilding your church.

The first question that we may ask when launching out on a journey of rebuilding and restoration is simply, where do we begin? In asking this question there are two major things that we must begin with.

Evaluation (1:3). Nehemiah was a man that had a concern for his people. Warren Wiersbe writes, “Nehemiah was the kind of person who cared. He cared about the traditions of the past and the needs of the present. He cared about the hopes for the future. He cared about his heritage, his ancestral city, and the glory of his God.”[1] Because of the concern that Nehemiah had, he wanted to know how things were going in Jerusalem. You and I should also have a concern for others and for the work of the church. We should have an awareness of the state of our lives and of our church. To have such an awareness, we must make a careful and honest evaluation of the situation. When you examine your life, what do you see? When you evaluate where you are in your walk with God, what is revealed to you? What do you see when you examine the state of the church? Is the church you attend a healthy church? Are there unresolved problems and issues that need to be dealt with? Are there ministries that need to be revived? Before any rebuilding project begins, there must be a careful evaluation of the current situation.

Prayer (1:4-11). What Nehemiah heard concerning the state of Jerusalem led him to his knees. There are several things that we see in the prayer of Nehemiah that provides an example to us as to the steps we must take in order to begin a process of rebuilding.

(1) Brokenness. In verse 4, we see that Nehemiah was broken over the results of the evaluation that was made. As reality set in, it drove him to tears. In order for any type of rebuilding, restoration, or revival to occur; there must be a time of complete brokenness. Does your heart break over the condition of your life? Does your heart break over the condition of your church? When was the last time you were truly broken before God? Too often we try to fix things in our own efforts. However, we must get to the point where we realize that we are desperate and we need God to do something.

(2) Recognition of the One who can help. In verse 5, Nehemiah recognized the only one that could help him in the midst of his brokenness. Nehemiah cries out to God and acknowledges how wonderful God is. He mentions that God is the Lord of heaven and that He is a great and awesome God. He acknowledges the fact that God grants mercy for all those who love Him and lives in obedience to Him. Anytime we go before God in prayer, we must remember who it is that we are talking to. We need to understand that God is not just one of the guys. He is not just a buddy. Yes, we can talk to Him about anything; however, we must understand that God is God. He is our creator. He is the King of heaven and earth. He is the Lord of all. He is powerful and we are weak. He is holy and we are full of sin. He is righteous and we are totally depraved. He can do all things and we can do nothing. When we go before God in prayer, there must be a sense of awe and wonder as to who it is that we are communicating with. God demands and deserves our respect. Therefore, as we cry out to Him for help, we must understand who it is that we are dealing with.

(3) Confession of sin. After Nehemiah is broken before God and acknowledges who God is, he is then compelled to confess sin. Standing in the presence of a holy God always leads to confession. When you truly come into the presence of God it will not cause you to break out in a charismatic celebration. Instead, when you come into the presence of God, it will drive you to your knees and lead you to confession. Nehemiah came to grips with the fact that God is holy and he is not. He understood that in order for God to help him then there must be a time of confession. Notice in these verses that Nehemiah’s confession was two-fold. (a) Personal Confession. Nehemiah said, “I have sinned.” Before we can even begin to talk about rebuilding our lives and rebuilding our church, we must come to grips with our own personal sinfulness. All of us are sinners both by birth and by choice. Not only have we inherited a sin nature, but we have also willfully sinned against God. We know right from wrong. We have a conscience. Yet, we still choose to sin. We know what God expects of us, yet we still choose to go our own way. Personal confession is key to rebuilding our lives and rebuilding the church. This personal confession should be a daily practice. As we confess our sins daily we can claim the promise of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (b) Corporate Confession. In order to rebuild, we must not only confess our sins personally, but we must also confess our sins corporately. Nehemiah confessed the sins of his people, the children of Israel. In order to rebuild the church, there must be a corporate acknowledgement of our sins as a people. If the church is not what it ought to be, it is because somewhere along the way we have dropped the ball. It is easy to point fingers at each other, however, we must stop the finger pointing and take responsibility for the fact that we all have sinned. Our nation is in the shape it is in today, not because of crooked politicians and sinful societies. Our nation is in the shape it is in today because the church has failed to be salt and light to this nation. Our nation is in the shape it is in today because the church has compromised on the scriptures and has adopted the ways of the world. Until we realize that we as the church has sinned against God, then our nation will never have any hope for revival.

(4) Repentance. You cannot have confession without repentance and you cannot have repentance without confession. True confession of sin always leads to repentance of sin. In verses 8-9, Nehemiah remembers the promise of God that if they returned to Him then He will restore them. Repentance is confession made into action. Repentance is a change of mind or a change of direction. It is turning away from one direction and turning to a completely different path. Your life and the life of the church can never be rebuilt unless there is true repentance. We must make a complete u-turn and change the course of our life. Repentance is starting over. It is a new beginning, a fresh start. Sometimes we need to hit the reset button on our life and on our church. As we confess our sins and make a new and fresh commitment to Christ, He we will give us the strength and boldness to begin anew.

(5) Cry for mercy. As confession and repentance is made, a cry for mercy goes forth. In verses 10-11, Nehemiah cries out to God on behalf of the children of Israel. He realizes that they deserve God’s wrath and judgement. He realizes that they do not deserve revival and restoration, therefore, he asks God for mercy. As a church, we must understand that we are undeserving of God’s blessing. If God were to give up on us, He would be in the right. Yet, God loves us. If we cry out to Him for mercy, for another chance, He will grant our request.

I believe that God has great things in store for the church in the last days. However, in order to see the miraculous hand of God sweep through our lives and our church again, we must make an honest and evaluation and then go before God in prayer with brokenness, recognition of the One who can help, confession, repentance, and then cry out for God’s mercy; realizing that we can do nothing apart from Him.

[1] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Determined (Ne 1). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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