“Finishing the Task”
January 31, 2016
Focus of message: The Israelites have lived among the ruins for over 100 years and have done nothing about them. With a fresh vision and a challenging leader they rebuild the wall in 52 days and revival breaks out!
Introduction: Let’s recap what we know so far. We have been studying the O.T. prophet Nehemiah over the course of the last three Sundays. Today is the fourth message in this series.
Here are the principles that we have learned so far: 1. The ministry of prayer is vital to any vision the Lord inspires in us. 2. A willingness to risk everything for the cause of God’s work in our world today (take a look at what we are not willing to risk, ie. Budget funds?). 3. Confidence in God/asking God for everything that is needed to carry out the vision. 4. Broken and burdened with a heart for the ruins that are all around us. 5. Everybody on the wall/everybody involved in ministry. Our prayer is for a heart that beats with God’s heart!
Last Sunday we talked about 3 nails we can hang our character on in order to achieve Godly greatness. The 1st nail is, “Greatness is the fruit of humility.” The 2nd nail is, “A fear of the Lord is the mark of greatness.” And the 3rd nail we talked about from Nehemiah’s life is, how “a thirst for Godly character replaces the lure for worldly success.”
We also talked about the question, “If York First Church of the Brethren were to be removed from this community would our neighbors notice we were gone?”
Now where will Nehemiah take us today?
I.) Chapter 5 — Interlude in the action
A.) Nehemiah helps the poor.
1. This completely captures Nehemiah’s heart and mind.
2. Remember early on, we saw that Nehemiah has a heart that beats with God’s heart and that his heart was broken over the things that break God’s heart?
3. ln ch.5 we discover that the poor are being taken advantage of in Jerusalem and in all Israel.
4. All that Nehemiah goes through to rebuild the wall: months of time spent in prayer, risking his life before the king, asking the king for everything he needs to fulfill the vision God has given him, he goes to Jerusalem and looks at the ruins for himself, he is then used by God to be a motivator to get the people to work on the wall, all of that stuff and now this!
5. He endures opposition from without and discouragement from within.
6. This has been a long, hard project _ and nothing is going to stop our man, Nehemiah — right’? WRONG!
Ex. In Ch.5: Nehemiah puts the wall rebuilding project on hold in order to deal with this situation. There’s something more important than building the wall. Look at verses 9 ll with me. Nehemiah tells us something about himself that ought to inspire and challenge each of us. We must get our priorities straight — God first in our hearts and lives, and everything else under God’s control! Look also at vs.l416. There is no compromise with the ways and laws of God for Nehemiah. He knows in his heart what is right in God’s eyes and he’s not afraid to follow after it!
B.) When the poor were being exploited, Nehemiah brings the work on the wall to a halt until the injustice is dealt with.
1.What good is it to build a wall if inside it we have people who take advantage of each other?
2. What good is it for us as God’s people to be in ministry to our community if we don’t love each other and support each other?
3. Nehemiah, as Governor had the right to receive support from the people but instead he was guided by the “principle of service” (servant-leadership) rather than opportunism.
C.) When it comes to the evangelical church in America today, we are unquestionably in a position of power in our culture today.
1. It is without a doubt that suburban white America has taken the evangelical church captive.
2. We have in many instances left the cities of our nation for the suburbs and countryside and here we have set up shop because the folks look and act like us and that’s who we’re comfortable with (those who are moving here are in for a rude awakening when they meet up with the Pennsylvania Dutch culture aren’t they?!).
3. It has been my pleasure to serve as a pastor in York co. for going on 24 years now and during that time we have watched as an increasing number of people from all over the world move into York city and York county.
4. “Natives” of this area are doing their best to slow down the influx, realizing that they are not going to stop it all together.
Ex. Let’s consider what‘s happening in this area right now. A family moves in, we offer all kinds of services in the area: ballet classes, music lessons, swimming lessons, voice lessons, horse back riding lessons, camping and of course fine schools and beautiful parks. That’s the community that we know and love, right? The churches in our area are set up to be one more service agency to those who already have so much!
In our cities there are huge sections of our society who don’t have the opportunities that we enjoy and take for granted. We have got to see the opportunities that are all around us. Honestly we do not have to go to the city to be in the ministry. There are ruins here just as well as in the city and what are we going to do about it? There are all kinds of opportunities for us to live out your faith and be involved in ministry.
If we will do one thing and do it seriously we will be amazed at the variety of ministries that God has in store for us. That one thing is to pray and when God speaks to our hearts respond with, “here am I send me!”
This is what ch.5 is all about! Modeling a willingness to respond when God shows you the ministry you are to be involved in. We have far to many people in the church today who are sitting on the sidelines and are not involved in any form of ministry and I believe this breaks God’s heart just as much as all of the ruins around us! Nehemiah models for the people of his day what it means to be a servant of all!
II.) In Chapter 6:15 the enemy makes one last attempt to stop the building of the wall.
A.) What is it that keeps people going and motivated to serve God with their lives?
l. Get the people and the programs out of the way so that God can motivate us, but how?
2. We learn from Nehemiah, as we learn at other places in the Bible to walk with God, and to have God for our best friend of all time!
3. Keeping our eyes and ears, hearts and minds so in tune with God and what God wants from us.
4. To many people in the church sit back and say we never did it that way before or let’s let the new people do the work. I have news for you, your best friend will one day ask you what you did with gifts he gave you starting with his presence in your life, and we will have to give an account. What then, what excuse will we have?
5. The fortress mentality of the church today has crippled our ability to see beyond ourselves, to see the ruins, to hear God’s still small voice speaking within our hearts that we are to love and keep on loving until he says stop.
Ex. Let me give you an area that I feel out of touch with in my life, young people. I’ve come to realize that as I will turn 60 this year that I don’t know what it takes to reach young people for Christ in our culture. We have got to find ways to pass on the promise of God’s love in Christ Jesus to the next generations.
6. Nehemiah says to those who would distract him from the work to which God has called him — “O no I’m doing something that counts.” He knows in his heart that the work he is involved with has eternal significance and must be completed!
7. If we are convinced that we’re doing something that counts for the kingdom of God and that it has eternal significance, then we will be motivated to keep at the work until it’s finished.
B.) One more crisis — vs.10
1.The last thing they try to do is get Nehemiah to go and hide in the temple for fear of his life.
2. The enemy will try everything to distract and stop the vision from going forward!
3. Would people like us hide in our churches? Well would we? Of course not!
4. Christ is going to show through in everything we say and do, so to run and hide makes no sense.
5. What matters to God — that must be the agenda for our lives and for this church!
6. We cannot afford to pull back inside the fortress, we must be impacting our culture for the cause of Christ and the kingdom of God!
Conclusion to message: Verses 15 & 16 bring us to our objective with Nehemiah, the completion of the wall.
There’s an analogy here for the church. The Israelites sit among the ruins for over 100 years; the wall is rebuilt in 52 days! We may not change the direction of this church that fast but we must remember Nehemiah was working with stone and we’re working with people. We must be a ministry force or else we will slip into irrelevancy and eventually disappear.