Restorers, Repairers and Rebuilders: #2 The Principle of PassionDocument
An Egyptian Pharaoh hired an engineer to raise an obelisk in his honor. The Pharaoh did not think that the engineer was being careful enough in his plans so as not to drop the huge stone pillar and break it. On the day the obelisk was to be raised the engineer walked out to the site and looked over the work. There he saw tied to the very top of the pillar as it lay on the ground his only son. When he went to the Pharaoh to ask to have his son released the pharaoh responded, "Now you will be very careful with my obelisk because now your heart will be in it."
Though we would not agree with the pharaohs means we would agree with his statement. In order to do anything right you must have your heart in it. You must care, you must possess passion for the undertaking. This is especially true in the work you do for God.
Through the next lesson we will look at the quality of Nehemiah which caused him to leave his job and risk his life as he rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. It is the quality of passion, caring enough for something to be moved to action. The same quality is needed in our life if we are to rebuild the ruins we will find in our lives.
The Burden Of The Work - Nehemiah 1:1-4
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,
Nehemiah Faces The Need For Rebuilding
Nehemiah receives information from his brother who has just returned from a trip to Jerusalem about the conditions he saw there. Nehemiah, the kings cupbearer, hears how the once mighty and great city has been laid waste. Where once silver was as common as stones, now wild animals roam the streets at night. Where once was heard the praise of Solomon’s wisdom now was heard the laughter of derision from Israel’s enemies. Where once a beautiful temple had stood filled with the glory of God now it was filled with the sounds of an open field no stone stood atop another.
What is Nehemiah's reaction to the news about Jerusalem?
His heart is broken by the ruin of Jerusalem. He weeps, prays and fasts.
Facing the ruins around us.
We do not need to worry about rebuilding a city, but there are many things in our lives needing to be rebuilt. List some things you see around you that need to be rebuilt.
Many lives are needing to be rebuilt.
Many families need to be rebuilt.
There are churches that need to be rebuilt.
There is a nation that need to be rebuilt.
Brokenness Before Blessings
Before Nehemiah could rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, what had to happen in his own life and heart?
He had to be broken by the burden of the task. Being a rebuilder is not a task lightly undertaken. It is not playing at being a Christian it is the true spirit of a willing sacrifice given to God. You must be willing to risk your emotional safety, sometimes even your physical safety to reach out to those who most times will not respond positively to your offer of help.
The Rebuilder’s Brokenness
To rebuild for the Lord, you must understand the principle of brokenness. For God to use us as a rebuilder, He must first rebuild us. That process begins with our own brokenness.
Read the following scripture and then give the guarantee and the condition of the passage.
Psalms 126:6 He that goeth forth with weeping bearing precious seed will doubtless come again with rejoicing bringing his sheaves with him.
This was a prophecy given to the people of Israel as they were taken into captivity. Their tears would be the guarantee of their return with rejoicing and reward.
For us the guarantee is that we will rejoice and bring our sheaves, the condition is going forth with weeping bearing precious seed.
Isaiah 6:5-8 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. hen flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
Isaiah was “undone”, he was broken by his encounter with God. God then rebuilt him with the coals off the altar, before Isaiah could serve.
Broken Servants Before Service. Look at the following great people of God and recall the brokenness they had to endure in order to serve God.
Jacob: Wrestled with an angel until he was crippled.
Joseph: Sold by his brothers into slavery then accused of adultery.
Moses: Driven from Pharaoh’s court to become a shepherd.
Peter: After denying Christ three times.
Paul: On the Damascus road and many time after.
Jesus: Crucified, died and buried before the resurrection.
Every person who has served God greatly has been broken. This is the result of being caught up in the passion of the work God has given us. Somewhere, we must be broken and the pieces gathered by God and put back together in the way we will best serve Him.
Listen to a man of passion from the early days of our country. Richard Baxter, an English pastor who led a revival in the town of Kiddermister, England in the 1690’s, writes about "The Need of Personal Revival"
“I know not what others think, but for my own part I am ashamed of my stupidity, and wonder at myself that I deal not wit my own and others souls as one that looks for the great day of the Lord; and that I can have room for almost any other thoughts and words; and that such astonishing matters do not wholly absorb my mind. I marvel how I can preach of them slightly and coldly; and how I can let men alone in their sins; and that I do not go to them, and beseech them, for the Lord's sake, to repent, however they may take, and whatever pain and trouble it should cost me. I seldom come out of the pulpit but my conscience smites me that I have been no more serious and fervent. It accuses me not so much of want of ornaments and elegancy, nor for letting fall and unhandsome word; but it asks me, "How couldst thou speak of heaven and hell in such a careless, sleepy manner? Dost thou believe what thou sayest? Art thou in earnest, or in jest? How canst thou tell people that sin is such a thing, and that so much misery is upon them and before them, and be no more affected with it? Shouldst thou not weep over such a people, and should not thy tears interrupt thy words? Shouldst thou not cry aloud, and show them their transgressions; and entreat and beseech them as for life and death?" And for myself, as I am ashamed of my dull and careless heart, and of my slow and unprofitable course of life, so the Lord knows, I am ashamed of every sermon I preach; when I think what I have been speaking of, and who sent me, and that men's salvation or damnation is so much concerned in it, I am ready to tremble lest God should judge me as a slighter of His truths and the souls of men, and lest in the best sermon I should be guilty of their blood. Me thinks we should not speak a word to men in matters of such consequence without tears, or the greatest earnestness that possible we can; were not we too much guilty of the sin which we reprove, it would be so.
ruly this is the peal that conscience doth ring in my ears, and yet my drowsy soul will not be awakened. Oh, what a thing is an insensible hardened heart! O Lord, save us from the plague of infidelity and hard-heartedness ourselves, or else how shall we be fit instruments of saving others from it? Oh, do that in our souls which thou wouldst use us to do on the souls of others.”
Nehemiah is broken but he is still not ready to be a rebuilder for his God. He must prepare and pray for the work that is before him.
Preparation For The Work. - Nehemiah 1:5-9
And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned. We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses. Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there. Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand. O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man. For I was the king's cupbearer.
Nehemiah Goes To God.
In his brokeness Nehemiah went to God. It was here in God's presence that he made the preparations needed for the work of rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls.
What two things did Nehemiah do to prepare for the work that lay before him?
He fasted and he prayed.
If I Am To Be A Rebuilder, I Must Prepare For The Task.
Before I can become a rebuilder, I must have a burden for the work, for those who need to be rebuilt. That burden must be great that God can use it to break me in order that I can myself be rebuilt by God before I be used by God to be a rebuilder of others.
Once I have be broken and rebuild by God I must prepare through fasting and praying.
Fasting Before The Work. First, I must fast.
Fasting is no longer held in popular religious practice. We look on it as an Old Testament ritual, even though the New Testament contain many examples of Christians fasting.
Matthew 6:16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
Luke 5:35 But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.
Matthew 17:21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
Acts 14:23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.
1 Corinthians 7:5
Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may
give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan
tempt you not for your incontinency.
Perhaps it would help us if we looked God’s purpose for fasting. Read the following passage and then explain what God wanted in a fast.
Isaiah 58:4 Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward. Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
What was God’s purpose for fasting?
The idea of fasting was for the purpose of devoting one's entire energy to a spiritual task especially on the behalf of others. So much so that even eating would be a distraction to seeking and serving God.
For us this may mean an actual fast from food or it may mean the cutting off of something which hinders our walk and work for God. What are some things that I should “fast” from in order to better serve God as a rebuilder?
Television, Radio, Music, Habits, Friendships, etc. Almost any worldly activity may be interfering with my walk and service to God.
Being a rebuilder requires every drop of concentration and a great deal of time, therefore some things must be dropped. We need a fast both of eating but also of interruptions and diversions from the task at hand.
Preparation Through Prayer.
Nehemiah fasted and he also began to pray. Read again Nehemiah’s prayer and then list the elements of his prayer.
vs. 5 Prayer contained praise of God
Vs. 6-7 Prayer contained confession to God
Vs. 8-9 Prayer contained an appeal based upon God's promises
Vs. 10 Prayer contained an appeal based upon God's relationship with Israel
Vs. 11 Pray contained a plea for God's power vs. 11
Before I can be a rebuilder for God, I must be broken and rebuilt by Him. The process of my own rebuilding begins with focusing on God through fasting and then turning to Him in prayer for the strength I will need.
Seeking the power of God
Psalms 62:5-8 My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.
With such power then the task of being a rebuilder is not one of being beat down, it is one of be lifted up in God’s own power. This is not a job that leaves you defeated and beaten, but one that empties you of yourself and fills you with the power of God. It is a joy, and honor and a privilege to serve as a rebuilder for God.
David Livingstone was a missionary to Africa who became a world hero. He knew that serving God to the fullest of one's life was the best of life. What he says here could easily be applied to the way we should view the task of becoming a rebuilder.
"People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of the great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own reward of healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter?
Away with such a word, such a view, and such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice, Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering or danger now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause and cause the spirit to waver and sink; but let this only be or a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall hereafter be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice! Of this we ought not to talk when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father's throne on high to give Himself for us."
There are crumbling ruins all around us. God is calling for rebuilders. People like Nehemiah who refused to accept the idea that it was too late to rebuild Jerusalem. It's not too late to rebuild lives, hearts and souls. It is not too late to rebuild families. It is not too late to rebuild our community and nation.
It will only be too late when we no longer care, no longer sacrifice, no longer pray, and no longer desire to be used by God.