By Lim Chong Teck
“And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon” (Neh. 2:12).
“And my God put into mine heart to gather together the nobles, and the rulers, and the people, that they might be reckoned by genealogy. And I found a register of the genealogy of them which came up at the first, and found written therein…” (Neh. 7:5).
Here we are again at the start of a new year. Three weeks have flown by. The church had her first business meeting on 7 January 2019. There were some plans tabled and some which were already put into action. As we begin the year, I am reminded by the scriptures in the book of Nehemiah on how one should lead and work together for God.
The book begins with reports from Jerusalem reaching the ears of Nehemiah in a distant place. He prayed to God humbly and fervently asking for forgiveness and for help to reach his brethren in Jerusalem. With this in mind he became a coworker with God to accomplish the work. His work followed with meticulous planning.
It started with getting permission from the King. It followed with letter of appointments and approvals for supplies to enable him to execute the work (Neh 2:1-9). It included a 3-day survey of the walls in Jerusalem Neh2:11-18). His plans and work were followed with unceasing prayers to God for help at each point of the work (Neh. 1:4-11, 2:4, 4:4 & 9, 5:19, 6:9 ,14.)
There are many lessons to be learned from the leadership and work of Nehemiah, but I wish to share 3 simple points as we begin the year:
1. God’s fellow co-worker
Like Nehemiah we should begin with a prayer humbly to God to cleanse us and prepare us for the work that we see is needful to do (2 Tim 2:19-21). It should begin with “what my God had put in my heart to do.” His passion for what was a needful work was always in consideration of God’s purpose for his people. It was not just what I want to do but prayerfully “what God had put in my heart to do.” This reminds us to know the affairs of the church so that we can give careful thought of which area of work is most needful and which task we believe we can best help to do. Every work we decide must have God as our co-worker and leader if we are to succeed. Nehemiah prayed unceasingly as he worked the plan, acknowledging the good hand of God as the key to the work’s success.
“Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain” (Psa 127:1)
“For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 2:9-11).
May we work together as God’s fellow worker according to the grace He has given us for the growth of the church.
2. Prayer and encouragement to work
Sometimes we try to do something without a careful thought through plan. Perhaps a work failed because not enough thought was put into it. Other times a well-planned plan came with some challenges which we did not foresee. We should encourage each other to continue to persevere through prayer and with our hands continuing the work. Prayer and encouragement is the key to keep on, keeping on the work till it brings forth fruits. It was the practice of Nehemiah to pray first before any action. And prayer was the first encouragement he received, and when Nehemiah was strengthened, he encouraged the people. They turned off the enemies’ mockery by praying to God. Again when mockery became real threats of war, again they prayed to God.
“And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it. Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them” (Neh. 4:8-9).
And as they prepared for a possible confrontation with the enemies, they continued to build the wall. Prayer and work went hand in hand. And when they were discouraged by the weight of the work and the constant threat of the enemies, Nehemiah encouraged the people to “remember the Lord” and that “God shall fight for us” (Neh 4:14, 20). He arranged the people into teams: half to work and half to keep watch of their enemies so that the work of building the wall could continue uninterrupted and they might be able to defend themselves against the enemy. The presence of God was with them; even their enemies knew God had helped them.
“And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to nought, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work. And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that
were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God” (Neh. 4:15-16).
Nehemiah continually acknowledged the providence of God in carrying out the task.
“And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me” (Neh. 2:8).
He encouraged his brethren of God’s help and to start the work that they would do together and convince the people to “rise up and build” ( Neh 2:18). He kept encouraging the brethren to keep on, keeping on despite the various challenges that they faced, both externally and internally. And they built the wall with God’s help in just 52 days (Neh 6:15). What an incredible feat!
As we begin a work, let’s continue to pray for God’s help and guidance. Let’s continue to encourage one another to accomplish the work to God’s glory.
3. Well organized and cooperative
In Nehemiah 3 as the construction work began, the work was distributed among the people with each team being led by a leader in the section. The work was done in a well-organized way with the full co-operation of the workers. The people had a mind to work. They were of the same mind to build the wall. They work together tirelessly and the result was half the wall was competed in a short space of time (Neh4 :4).
The work of the church is done by the effort of each member and is effective to help each other grow and edify the church as a whole. We should be of the same mind in purpose and have a same mind to work.
“But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makethincrease of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:15-16).
“So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness” (Rom. 12:5-8).
There is a work that each of us can do! Let’s work cooperatively having the same mind and help build up each other and the church as a whole.