Ever faced a seemingly impossible scenario?
- The college you applied to has denied you.
- Your boyfriend or girlfriend has broken up with you.
- You’ve just found out that a loved one has passed away.
- Your Mom has just been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Has it ever seemed like the mountain facing you is so high that it’s hopeless and pointless to do anything about it?
In the Bible, Nehemiah was faced with a mountain of an obstacle – he discovered that his homeland was in a state of turmoil and disarray – a homeland that he was passionate about and loved dearly. It was news that was devastating to Nehemiah – yet how he responded when faced with this news provides some clear decision-making processes that can help us.
1 – Nehemiah decided to confront the facts (Nehemiah 1:1-4)
Sometimes when we have a problem that doesn’t seem to have a reasonable solution we ignore the problem. It’s like the unexpected cell phone bill that gets tucked away – out of sight…out of mind. This is obviously a ridiculous way to deal not only with our cell phone bills, but many of life’s problems. It’s often times much easier to stick our heads in the sand and ignore the facts – but then you’ll often times be ignoring the truth, and truth doesn’t bring bondage…truth brings freedom. For Nehemiah to even make it above the ground floor in his thinking and his decision-making – he needed to know the raw, hard, unadulterated facts.
Here’s a reality check of the things that aren’t going to magically go away:
- Your strained relationship with your parent
- Your communication issues with your spouse
- Your debt
- Your guilt
But sometimes though we don’t want to know the facts – because the facts of a situation can sometimes be very scary and intimidating:
- I don’t want to know what she really thinks about me – it’s better the way things are now
- I don’t want to go out of my way to seek forgiveness – it’s easier to sweep it under the carpet
- I don’t want to go talk to that person about what I heard – then things will get messy.
So – what are the facts that you may be suppressing in your life that are prohibiting you from living the life of truth that God wants you to live?
2 – Nehemiah decided to depend on God through prayer (Nehemiah 1:5-11)
Nehemiah did what so many great men and women of the Bible did when faced with a difficulty. He prayed. And not one of those “and please help all the missionaries around the world” type prayers – but a prayer from the guts and the bowels of his heart. Prayer often is the 3rd or 4th option in our arsenal of weapons – but it’s the spiritual giants of life that have made the Lord their first call. Often times our first course of action when tragedy hits or when we’re confronted with the tough facts demonstrates the true state of our heart. Do we run to man, or God?
There are so many elements of Nehemiah’s prayer that we could take multiple blog posts to discuss them all – but there are a few things about Nehemiah’s prayer that really stand out to me:
i) His humility (1:6) – amazing, Nehemiah wasn’t carted off to Babylonian captivity, he was born into captivity, and yet, he is associating himself with the sins of the people – sins that he really had nothing to do with. That’s a humble, praying heart.
ii) His use of Scripture (1:8-9). Nehemiah’s humble appeal to his Lord was bathed in Scriptural truth. He knew the promises of God and was appealing to God in light of those promises. Scriptural praying is not just a good idea – it’s really what prayer should be all about. We’re praying God’s will because we know God’s will because we know God’s Word.
iii) What he didn’t pray for. Notice that Nehemiah doesn’t pray for guidance to know if he should go to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls, or if he should defend the honour of his family? Nehemiah already knew that’s what God would want – so he’s not praying about those things. And we have lessons to be learned from that (start making a list of all the things you pray about that God has already given guidance on)!
3 – Nehemiah decided to wait on the Lord’s timing (Nehemiah 2:1)
So, Nehemiah has prayed about this possibility of what might need to be done about the walls in Jerusalem being down – he’s completely committed it to the Lord – then Nehemiah does the one thing that we in western culture absolutely abhor – he waited. He waited for the Lord to make possible what He had been praying for. He didn’t get coercive or pushy or demanding. He just simply waited for the Lord to open the metaphorical door. “Well, he must have waited for a long time – like a couple of hours, right?” Try four months. You might think that’s no big deal, but if you were waiting for direction on a matter that was incredibly pressing in your life, we typically can’t wait till supper for direction or clarification, let alone four months.
Amazing the people in the Bible that had to wait:
Noah had to wait for the flood.
Abraham had to wait before he knew everything about God’s covenant to him.
Moses had to wait years in the wilderness.
Joseph had to wait while in prison.
David had to wait before he could be crowned King.
Job had to wait before he received his old way of life back.
Daniel had to wait in captivity.
Jesus waited till He was 30 before going into public ministry.
Paul had to wait in the Arabian desert before going into ministry.
So maybe a better question is – who in the Bible DIDN’T have to wait? And why not you or I?
- It could be that you need to wait to find out what you’re ultimately going to do with your life.
- It could be that you need to wait to find out if that girl/guy really likes you.
- It could be that you need to wait to get that ministry role you think you really want.
Are you in a period of waiting on the Lord? Are you doing it with a happy heart?
Do you need more self-discipline when it comes to waiting? What can you do to improve that?
4 – Nehemiah decided to make use of God’s resources (Nehemiah 2:7-8)
Without a doubt, the rebuilding of the walls was a miracle of God. The walls were rebuilt in 52 days (6:15) – and even Nehemiah’s enemies recognized that this was an act of God. Yet in the midst of all that God was doing, there were still things that men had to do to get the job done. If that wall was going to get rebuilt, Nehemiah was not going to be able to stand there and say “Ok God – go ahead…build your wall.” Had Nehemiah done that he would have been standing looking at the wall for a very, very long time.
Nehemiah needed letters from the keepers of the kings forest to get wood…not spiritual wood…actual wood.
Nehemiah needed protection from the king’s army….not spiritual protection…actual protection.
When we find ourselves facing a mighty big problem (let’s say it’s a financial problem) and we find ourselves staring up into the sky for something majestic to happen – or we start laying out fleeces all over the place waiting for some kind of sign – you might have better results by calling your parents and asking for money or by going out to get a job. Nehemiah wasn’t waiting around for the miraculous to take place – he saw God open a door and he used whatever resources were around him to make his need a reality. Nehemiah without a doubt knew that God would be working behind the scenes to make all those resources a reality.
So in other words – when you’re faced with a major obstacle – chances are you’ve got resources all around you placed by God to help with the problem you’re facing. It could be in the form of an encouraging word from a friend. It could be an emergency fund that your church has set aside to help people in need. Nehemiah wasn’t waiting around though – he was a man of great faith – and he was a man of great action.
What decisions in addition to these 4 do you make to help you make wise decisions when faced with obstacles?
Scott Foreman is the Executive Director of Word of Life Canada, a youth organization where he has ministered since 1999. Every year Scott is blessed with opportunities to speak at youth retreats, conferences and evangelistic events. You can read more about Scott’s ministry here.