“Living a Life that Counts”
January 17, 2016
Introduction: Did you hear about the ambitious fellow who wrote the book, “Humility and how I achieved it?” Much is written today about the essential qualities of greatness. World figures such as Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, Martin Luther King Jr., etc. come to mind as greatness is mentioned. Today we are going to take a look at 3 nails in the character of the life of Nehemiah.
Leslie Hindman has served as president of the Midwest’s premier auction firm. Each year she auctioned millions of dollars worth of decorative arts and home furnishings from the estates of the wealthy. This is a world of Van Gogh paintings and black lacquered desks that sell for tens of thousands of dollars. Nevertheless, her career has made material things one of the least of her priorities.
“I see people fighting about their stuff all the time, ” she says, “You realize life is not about possessions.”
“A few experiences early in Hindman’s career helped to cinch her disdain for material things,” says writer Adrienne Fawcett in the Chicago Tribune. “Once, she was hired to hold an auction in the modest home of a suburban family whose mother recently had died, As Hindman held court, the siblings bid against each other for their mother’s humble possessions, scarcely exchanging a word,”
Another experience she will never get over was finding “8 lifetime of diaries in the apartment of an elderly Oak Park woman who saved everything but had no children to whom to leave her things, Hindman tried to donate the diaries to historical societies, but none wanted them …, She saved them for a couple of years but finally threw them out. ‘So,’ she says emphatically, ‘I save absolutely nothing.”‘
After all is said and done, the true value of possessions is clearly seen. What is really of importance is relationships!
Motivational speakers remind us that true greatness must first be conceived. We hear visionary chants such as, “If you don’t see it before you see it you never will see it.” Comedian Flip Wilson instructed us, “What you see is what you get.” In other words, what is conceived may be achieved with the end result being personal greatness.
While perhaps none of us would dispute the value of a visionary approach to life, the issue of greatness involves an underlying biblical theme which must be considered, that of humility!
Nehemiah had returned to Jerusalem in the 400’s BC with the goal of rebuilding the walls of the city and the hearts of the people. The wall went up in an astounding 52 days! Nehemiah had been on the job a short time when confronted with the financially depressing conditions of most of the people. It is here that his greatness as a leader begins to emerge. Chosen as governor of Jerusalem, Nehemiah displays true greatness in his response to the needs of the people. Unlike previous leaders, Nehemiah sacrificed himself as no one had ever done.
Here are three nails on which to hang our hats when we consider greatness ,….
I.) Greatness is the fruit of humility (5:1415)
A.) The people recognized a real leader when they saw one.
1. Nehemiah says that in his twelve years as govemor that neither “I nor my brothers ate the food allotted the governor.”
2. The allowance, of course, would have been funded by heavy taxation on the people who were already poor due to taxes paid to the central government of Artaxerxes, the Persian king.
3. Nehemiah reveals his greatness, by being willing to make a personal sacrifice.
4. His attitude convinces us that his work in Jerusalem was not merely a job but his way of life, literally a calling from God, and as such, required personal sacrifice and commitment of his soul!
B.) As we study the life of Nehemiah and his humility and willingness to self#SYMBOL \f “Symbol”215sacrifice we are reminded of the greatest person who ever lived and who was himself a clear example of humility and the self-sacrificing lifestyle… Jesus!
1. Jesus is of course our model and example but he is much more than that he is also our closest friend when we ask his spirit to come and guide our lives! We then live lives of humility and self-sacrifice!
2. The Bible chronicles for us the lives of many great people and at the core of each of their lives is a willingness to selfsacrifice.
3. Do you want to live a life that is remembered for its greatness? Then learn humility!
Weaknesses do not deter those whom God has gifted.
1st nail – Greatness is the fruit of humility.
II.) 2nd nail- A fear of the Lord is the mark of Greatness (v.l 5b)
A.) Leaders are often know by phrases that become commonplace in society.
Ill. Trivia time: Who said: “Give me liberty or give me death” Patrick Henry, “Ask not what your country can do for you ask rather what you can do for your country.” John F. Kennedy. “I have a dream,” Martin Luther King Jr., how about “read my lips, no new taxes,” George Bush Sr., “I did not inhale,” Bill Clinton. This list could go on and on and my family will tell you not to get me started. One of my hidden talents is doing impersonations of people and believe me it’s best if it remain a hidden talent. But one thing I will say is that we must become imitators of Christ Jesus our Lord and his humility and selfsacrificing lifestyle!
1. Nehmiah’s sound bite could have been “But out of reverence for God, I did not do so because of the fear of God.” (v.l5b).
2. Nehemiah is referring here to the practice of former govemors who had extracted from the people bread, wine, and forty shekels of silver as a means to support the governors office and extravagant lifestyle.
3. Nehemiah refused the allowance!
4. Past leaders had “dominated,” (the Hebrew gives us the idea here of autocratic, dictatorial rule.)
5. lt was the people who felt the sting of oppression and longed for a leader who would care about their situation and needs.
1st nail: Greatness is the fruit of humility.
2nd nail: A fear of the Lord is the mark of Greatness
III,) 3rd nail: A thirst for Godly character replaces the lure of success (v. 16l 8)
A.) Thrusting himself into the work on the wall rather than supervising from a distance, Nehemiah saw an opportunity to take advantage of cheap land prices and amass a portfolio for himself that had no match and would guarantee his financial security for several lifetimes.
1. Notice, Nehemiah “did not buy” any land.
2. His greatness shone like a beacon for all to see.
3. Surely the people saw the love in his heart for them.
B.) The glamour of success was not his goal.
1. Service motivated his heart not greed!
2. The people had a need and he would fill it.
3. ln addition, he personally provided for 150 Jews and officials plus many others at his table.
4. lt was a costly show of love and he dug deeply into his pocket to foot the bill.
5. Nehemiah explained that the “demands were heavy on these people.”
6. The character of God which dwells within us is the basis for loving behavior!
Ill. Imitating God
On September 6, 1995, Cal Ripken, Jr., broke the baseball record that many believed would never be broken: Lou Gehrig’s iron-man feat of playing in 2,131 consecutive games. Ripken gives much of the credit for his accomplishments to the example and teaching of his father Cal Ripken, Sr., who played minor league baseball, and coached and managed for the Orioles.
During the 1996 season Ripken, Sr., was inducted into the Orioles Hall of Fame. After he gave his acceptance speech, the son came to the microphone, an emotional moment recalled in his book, “The Only Way I Know:”
It was difficult. I wasn’t certain I could say what I wanted about my father and what he means to me, So I told a little story about my two children, Rachel, six at the time, and Ryan, then three. They’d been bickering for weeks, and I explained how one day I heard Rachel taunt Ryan, “You’re just trying to be like Daddy. ”
After a few moments of indecision, I asked Rachel, “What’s wrong with trying to be like Dad?”
When I finished telling the story I looked at my father and added, “That’s what I’ve always tried to do.”
What could be more right than to try to be like you – heavenly Father! It brings true and lasting greatness.
7. Others see us, do they see that character surfacing in us?
Conclusion: Would we be here today talking about a man named Nehemiah, who lived 2400 years ago had he acted like every other governor the people had ever had? Of course not! We would not even remember his name except as a footnote somewhere. You see Nehemiah and many many other people down through history achieved greatness, not by brute force and political power but by following Godly direction and being a servant to others. You might say that Nehemiah had wealth and power to begin with and you would be right. But he didn’t have to use it to help others! He could have sat back in the lap of luxury and enjoyed life and took it easy as many want to do today, but God wouldn’t let that happen. He put a burden on Nehemiah’s heart to serve others and Nehemiah was faithful!
What burden is God trying to put on our hearts today? Who is God calling us to help rebuild the wall of their life? We are the rich and powerful in our world today and we will be held accountable for what we have done with God’s blessings to us!
As I shared last Sunday, the altar is open for anyone desiring prayer, anointing or a re-comment of your life to Jesus Christ.