In Ashwood, we have started 2021 by digging into the story of Nehemiah as we unfold our vision for this year. As we looked at what this amazing story has to say to us, we noticed a cycle of 4 key principles that can lead to flourishing:
Nehemiah was exiled at the beginning of the story: cut off from his people and his natural place of worship. Sound familiar? Yet he was not cut off from God, and he did not cut himself off from what was happening in the world. He asked the right questions:
WHAT IS HAPPENING IN JERUSALEM? WHAT IS THE NEWS OF MY PEOPLE?
Nehemiah was curious, inquisitive. He wanted to know what was happening in the world, in his community, to his people. He was AWAKE to the plight of his people.
We need to get in a position where we are asking the right questions, and really hearing the response, being AWAKE to the real issues facing those around us. Let’s not assume we know what is needed to make things better, let us not even assume we know what the problems are. Let us have eyes to see, ears to hear, and awaken our souls to the plight of our people.
Nehemiah’s response to hearing the situation of his people was to weep. Are we weeping for our communities? Does the plight of our people, God’s people, disturb us so much that our hearts break? Or are our hearts hard, accepting of the trouble that is before us? Are we so overwhelmed by the need that we are frozen, disabled by our inability to help? Or are we so used to the troubles facing our society that we have become apathetic?
After he wept, Nehemiah repented. The act of repentance is one of the greatest gifts the church can give to society in this moment.
Repentance is more than just a mumbled ‘sorry’ for our personal sin, but an owning up to the fact that our society has got it wrong. To call out the fact that there is a problem. Nehemiah’s prayer acknowledged both the sin of the nation and the role of himself and his family.
Repentance is also saying: NO MORE. It is turning away, rejecting what has been, and walking, with faith and hope, towards what can be.
As Christians, we have a vital part to play in acknowledging and bringing to the plight of our people to the attention of those who need to hear about it and getting on our knees before God on behalf of our nation, and saying no more! We have the hope and certainty of a better future to declare!
Nehemiah is a man of action. He doesn’t stay on his knees but gets up and goes to the King. With incredible boldness he asks to be released to go and do the thing he knows he is called to. And not only that, he has the tenacity to ask for every resource he needs while he is at it. When he encounters opposition, he steadfastly faces up to it without compromise. Maybe we have something to learn from his boldness in our approach to secular authorities. When we are doing a good thing, appointed by God, let’s believe for resource and blessing to be poured out from every arena!
When he encounters opposition, he steadfastly faces up to it without compromise – so often we fail at the first hurdle.
Nehemiah fully immerses himself in the building project. He brings the people with him, working together to rebuild the city. For those of us involved in mission in any sphere, this is so key. Doing WITH, not TO is something we have so often missed as Church. We have something to offer, but so has every member of our community. Every single one, made in the image of God and blessed with Kingdom assets. As we look to rebuild our cities, our communities, let’s not storm in with our solutions, but rather assess the land, listen and take people with us. This earns the authority to speak into people’s lives, When the people were tempted to give up, or fell into sin, Nehemiah’s people were willing to listen to him: he was able to lead them to repentance too.
The Jewish people certainly knew how to party! Celebrations full of food, wine, worship and praise were a regular occurrence throughout the Old Testament and Nehemiah was no exception. If we allow ourselves to always focus on the problem, or our dedicated hard work which we are called to, there is a danger we can be overwhelmed. Let’s make sure we pause to celebrate, thank God, to worship, to have fun together along the way!