When it comes to rebuilding your life and rebuilding your church, we have already considered the question, ‘Where do we begin?’ In looking at that question we discovered that any rebuilding process should begin with evaluation and prayer. The next question that we should consider is, ‘What does it take’? Once we have made the decision that rebuilding is in order and necessary, then we must consider what it takes to rebuild.
Rebuilding requires taking a risk (2:1-10). In the first ten verses of Nehemiah chapter two, we find that Nehemiah took a great risk in setting out on the task of rebuilding Jerusalem. Anytime we set out to do anything for God, there is always risks involve.
(1) The risk of rejection (v. 1-6). As the cupbearer to the king, Nehemiah held a very high position but also a very volatile position. If he made one wrong move or said anything to upset the king, his life could be in danger. Having a sad countenance in front of the king is not recommended. As the king saw the countenance of Nehemiah he inquires as to his emotional state. Nehemiah took another great risk by requesting of the king that he be allowed to go to Jerusalem to begin the rebuilding process. Nehemiah was risking not just rejection by the king, but also his job and even his life by making such a request to the king. Anytime you set out to do great things for God, there is the risk of rejection. You may be rejected by your friends and family. You may be rejected by those you are trying to reach. You may be rejected even by people in the church. However, do not fear such rejection, for Jesus Himself was also rejected. As Isaiah said, “He was rejected and despised by men.” Most people never fulfill their God-given potential because of the fear of rejection. We all want to be accepted by others. We want praise from men. Therefore, we tend to take the easy road and have an indecisive attitude because we fear rejection. If you examine some of the greatest men and women of faith down through the years, you will find that they were some of the loneliest people. Why? Because when you do great things for God, people will abandon you. Most all of the great tasks that are done for the kingdom of God begins with one person with a great vision who has the wherewithal to do the work by his or herself if need be. As a church, if we set out to rebuild and revitalize there will be those who will reject us. The question is, are we willing to take such a risk in order to accomplish great things for the kingdom of God?
(2) The risk of division (v. 7-9). Thankfully, the king allowed Nehemiah to go do the work of rebuilding Jerusalem. The king gave Nehemiah letters that enabled him to get the supplies needed for the work. This also was a great risk. Those whom Nehemiah went to in order to get the needed supplies may have disagreed with the king’s decision and could have given Nehemiah a hard time. When it comes to life in the local church it needs to be understood that anytime you are dealing with a group of people, not everyone will be in agreement. Everybody has their own ideas and opinions as to the purpose and vision of the church. This is why churches need strong leaders who are willing to do what needs to be done even if there is the risk of division. Yes, we are to strive to keep the unity of the church. But, keeping the unity of the church does not mean that we never do anything great for God for the sake of unity. Many churches are indecisive and never take a step of faith because they are more concerned about keeping everybody happy than they are about fulfilling God’s plan and purpose for the church. Sometimes division is a necessary evil in order to move forward. There are ways to avoid division such as prayer, proper communication, teaching and training, etc. However, the risk of division should not keep us from doing what it takes to rebuild.
(3) The risk of igniting the enemy (v. 10). There were two men who heard of what Nehemiah was doing and they did not like it one bit. The scripture says that they were ‘grieved exceedingly’ that Nehemiah would set out to do such a task. We must be aware that anytime we set out on a process of rebuilding and doing great things for God, the enemy will be enraged and will do everything he can to stop it. Our enemy is Satan. He is opposed to anything we do to promote the Gospel and to strengthen the work of the church. The attacks of Satan will come in various forms. Some attacks will come from outside the church. Unfortunately, many attacks will come from within the church. Satan will prey on the minds of those in the church who have not grown in their faith and will use them to cause disruptions of the work. We also must realize that not everyone who goes to church is truly saved. Many have simply made a public ‘profession of faith’ but yet their heart has never truly been changed. Satan will prey on such people and use them to stir up strife and division and opposition to the work. As we set out to rebuild we must be aware of the risk that comes from the enemy and we should be in a constant state of prayer. We should pray that God would put a hedge around the church and protect us from the enemy. We should pray that God would guard our hearts that we ourselves are not deceived by the enemy and become a hindrance to the work. We should fill our hearts and minds with the Word of God so that we may be fully equipped to take on whatever attacks that come from Satan.
Rebuilding does come with risks. However, nothing of good has ever been accomplished without risks involved. We must be willing to move forward and do the work that God has called us to do even if it means taking a risk.
Rebuilding begins with evaluation (2:11-15). As we begin a process of rebuilding our lives and rebuilding the church there must be an evaluation of what is needed. Nehemiah took a tour of the city to see what exactly needed to be done. Part of this evaluation included prioritizing the work and seeing what needed to be done first and so forth. When it comes to rebuilding the ministry of a church there needs to be a careful evaluation of what needs to be fixed. If something does not need fixing, then don’t touch it. However, there may be those things that need some rebuilding or just some fine tuning. An evaluation should be made of the strengths and weaknesses of the church in order to determine what needs work and what just simply needs support and encouragement.
Rebuilding proceeds with vision (2:16-17). In verses 16-17, Nehemiah presents the vision for the work to the people of Jerusalem. In order to perform any task there must be a vision. What is the vision for your life? What do you hope to accomplish with the time that God has given you? What is the vision for your church? A good way to consider a vision is to think of what you would like to see 5 or even 10 years in the future. When you think about your church, what do you envision the church being and doing 5 or 10 years from now? I would encourage you to dream big. Remember, nothing is impossible with God. 1 Corinthians 2:9 says, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him.” You can never out dream God. The plan that God has for your life and the life of your church goes far beyond anything we could ever think or imagine. I dare you to try and out dream God. I dare you to come up with a greater plan than His. No matter how big your dream, God has something far greater in store. We serve a big God, therefore, we should dream big. As you develop a vision, you must then set various goals in order to fulfill that vision. Prioritize projects and have a timeline to fulfill the various tasks. Are you a person with a vision? Is your church a church of vision? Without a vision, nothing will ever be accomplished for the kingdom of God.
Rebuilding demands determination (v. 18). Notice the people’s response to Nehemiah in verse 18. They said, ‘let us rise up and build!’ There was a determination to get the job done. When God’s people are determined nothing can stand in their way. We should have such a concern for our families, our church, our community, and our nation that we are determined to make a difference no matter what the cost. We need to have a narrow determined focus. No job will ever get done, no vision will ever be fulfilled without raw determination.
Rebuilding always comes with criticism (v. 19-20). In verses 19-20 we find a group of men who mocked the work that Nehemiah was doing. For whatever reason, they were against the rebuilding process. Anytime we set out to do great things for God, anytime we start to rebuild there will be those who will criticize us. However we cannot allow the criticism of a few to hinder the work. In verse 20 Nehemiah responded to the criticism by declaring that it did no matter what they thought, the work would go on. He would not allow the criticism to sway him from doing what God called him to do. I was visiting with a pastor once in his office and he had a backdoor to his office that led to the back parking lot of the church. On the door he had a sign that said, ‘complaint closet.’ In other words, if someone came to complain, he sent them out the backdoor. As a church, we should have such a determination to fulfill our God-given vision that we pay no attention to those who complain and criticize. Now, this does not mean that we do not listen to the legitimate concerns of others. There is a difference between having concerns and having complaints. We must learn to differentiate between the two and listen to concerns but ignore complaints and criticism.
As we continue to study the book of Nehemiah, we find that any rebuilding process takes a lot of work. The question is, do we care enough to do what it takes to get the job done?