Archive for February, 2012

I will be covering two principles from Nehemiah today.  They are found in the third and fourth chapters.

Chapter 3 – A leader is concerned about the home front.  

In chapter three we find the walls being rebuilt.  Yet, Nehemiah did not go outside the city to hire workers to rebuild the walls.  Instead he instructed his people to work on their own parts of the walls.  They were to walk out of their front doors and go to the walls closest to them and get to work.  Work on the homefront!  Don’t worry about what needs to occur outside the city, work on what matters now.  Until the wall and gates were fixed, the Israelites were easy targets to all their enemies.

Chapter 4 – A leader is always prepared. (vs. 18)

With the threat of outside forces breathing down the neck of the Jewish workers a plan was needed to be put into to place.  Nehemiah’s workers were facing the possibility of an attack.  An attack that was meant to halt all progress on their disheveled city.  Instead of giving up and feeling sorry for himself Nehemiah did the job that God had tasked him to do and developed a plan for dealing with the possible attack.  He armed his workers.  In verse 18 we find that the workers are wearing swords and verse 13 we find people standing guard who are heavily armed.  You see a good leader is prepared for attacks.  He has a plan to deal with the enemy before he ever gets there.  For those who are not prepared, an enemy can wreak havoc.  Yet for those who resist, an enemy will often flee.

Are you concerned about the homefront?  You should be if you are not.  In fact in in 1 Timothy 3 one of the qualifications for a Pastor is that they manage their household well.  It then asks the rhetorical question “if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God.”

Are you prepared to fight for what is right?  Nehemiah’s people were.  You and your people should be as well.  Fleeing is not an option when the battle in on your home turf.  Resistance is the necessary course of action.   In James 4.7 we are told of the twofold process of dealing with an attack from the enemy.  1.  Submit to God. 2. Resist the Devil and then he will flee from you.  However, step one is submission not resistance.  To overcome the enemy we must first allow ourselves to be overcome by God.



The second chapter of Nehemiah shows a man of action presenting, pursuing and communicating a plan.  Nehemiah meets his task head on in a manner in which all of us who lead can learn from.  He does not shy away from opportunity but rather manufactures opportunity to do the work of the Lord.  The following are some lessons on leadership that we find in the second chapter of the book of Nehemiah.

1. A leader uses all available resources he has to benefit those that he leads. (1.11; 2.1)

In the end of chapter one we find a statement that says, “I was the cupbearer to the king.”  Nehemiah utilizes this opportunity to leverage his mission.  Yet, he does not do this without putting his own neck first on the line.  In fact in requesting that King Artexerxes grant him the opportunity to return to Jerusalem and commence in rebuilding the city he potentially faced the kings wrath.  You see Nehemiah knew the practices of Kings to put to death those who offer unwanted input to the king (Esther 3.11).  Yet, this did not matter to Nehemiah.  He was the cupbearer to the king.  He had opportunity to present his case because he was the cupbearer and did just that.  He recognized that he was a steward not just of his possessions but also was a steward of his position and opportunity.

2. A Leader Goes Into A Volatile Situation With A Plan Already In Place (vs. 2-10)

Nehemiah did not just show up to the King and act boldly.  He knew exactly what he wanted.  He did not pause to think of what to do next once he realized he had the ear of the king.  He knew what must be done.  The fact that stress was high and the stakes were also high did not limit Nehemiah’s effectiveness.  He presented the king with a plan.  A plan for a trip and a plan for rebuilding.  Without a plan that was presented unapologetically it is quite possible God would have used another man to rebuild Jerusalem.  Nehemiah did not shy from a man that could have ended his life.  Rather he presented a plan boldly that he believed to be God’s plan.  Doing nothing is not an option for a true leader.  Situations like the one Nehemiah found himself in are what sets apart true leaders from the wanna-be leaders.

3. A True Leader Sees What The Issues Are Firsthand.  If The Issues Are Important Enough To Fix, They Are Important Enough To Inspect! (vs. 11-16)

Once Nehemiah finally arrived in Jerusalem, he did not sit and become overwhelmed with the severity of the situation.  Rather he snuck out of his shelter one evening and personally examined the city.  He wanted to see the devastation firsthand.  He did not want to merely listen to the reports of others.  A true leader will not demand an issue gets fixed until he first examines the issue.  If is important enough to fix, then it is important enough to inspect.  If a leader is not willing to get dirty and do some legwork to benefit those he serves, then he is not in it for service.  He is in it for recognition.  A leader that is not willing to fulfill the obligations that his position demands should not be a leader.

While chapter 2 has several other leadership principles, I wish to leave you only with the three I mentioned.  I also wish to ask do you view yourself as a steward of all you have and are?  If so, can this be seen by your actions?  Do you have a plan of action?  Are you proactive or merely reactive?  Finally, are you willing to see the issues firsthand?  Will you get your hands dirty to examine a need rather than mandating that others do it?  We must not tell people how to operate, we must show them.

Paul tells us that he learned to content in whatever state he was in.

What the Bible says…

The Bible has much to say about contentment both in the new and old testaments.  Yet the word is always used in the context of stuff; money, food, clothing, housing and things that are physical.

Scriptures examples:

In the Gospel of Luke we find John the Baptist engaging in a conversation with some soldiers and he tells them to be content with their pay (Luke 3.14).   Apparently their lack of contentment had caused them to abuse their positions and abuse others to use extortion as a means of padding their pockets. 

In 1 Timothy 6.6-8 Paul instructs ministers to be content as long as they have food and covering.  He obviously is speaking of contentment in the physical realm.

Philippians 4 is where most people get their view of “Biblical contentment”.  The apostle Paul writes the following in verses 11-14: “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.  Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.” 

Paul and Luke make it very clear that they are speaking in regards to physical states.  Not the spiritual. 

How many people interpret that…

Unfortunately for most people they impose the Bible’s response to physical needs onto their own spiritual shortcomings.  Lack of effectiveness becomes, I need to be content with the 10 people that God sent to my church.  I need to be content that I have led 3 people to the Lord in my life.

Why that is wrong…

Spiritual effectiveness is largely dependent upon whether or not Christians are willing to get to work or whether they are sitting around bemoaning the fact that the world is not a better a place.  As long as their people in your community dying and going to hell, you should not be content.  Jesus wept over Jerusalem, when was the last time you wept over yours?  As long as sin is acceptable in your church, you should not be content.    

As I have studied the western church I have come to the conclusion that it is suffering due to contentment.  Most churches are as effective as they want to be.  No, they will never admit this but their actions declare it.  Holy huddles do not reach the world.  Sunday mornings is not where Christians should do most of their ministry for the week.  Perhaps it is the fact that those of us who have been called to be spiritual leaders have failed.  We ask people to burn out in church programs that never go beyond our church walls while people outside our walls are hurting and dying.

So let me ask you a question that I often pose to myself: are you content with the state of your church?  If you answered no, do your actions declare yes?

In Nehemiah 1 we find Nehemiah ask a question of some fellow Jews.  He wants to know how his people are doing that are back in Jerusalem.  The answer he receives greatly distresses him.  He is told that they are in distress and reproach and that the walls of the city are broken down and the gates have been burned.  In other words, his people are exposed.  Exposed to the elements.  Exposed to enemies.  Exposed to wild animals.  They are both hopeless and helpless.  This drives Nehemiah to respond in three ways that all leaders need to embrace if they are going to lead well.

1. A leader has genuine concern for the people he or she leads. (vs. 2)

The first thing Jeremiah did when he saw his fellow Jews was inquire to the wellness of their people.  He did not throw a party and make small talk.  He got to root of the issue.  Why?  Because he cared!  Too many leaders are more concerned about themselves.  Failure to show concern for the people God has called you to lead is a good indicator you are not being the leader that God has called you to be.

2. A leader is emotionally invested in his followers.  It is not just a job, his heart is attached. (vs.4)

The response that Nehemiah had after he asked about his brothers in Jerusalem was one of a broken heart.  We are told that he sat down, mourned and wept for days.  Historically sitting is a posture of mourning.  In Job 1 and 2 we find Job mourning.  Each time he mourned he first sat down.  In Daniel 10 we find Danial mourning for 21 days.  What was he doing?  He was sitting.  In Psalm 137 we find a statement “we sat down and wept.”

Nehemiah allowed his heart to break for his people.  It killed him that his people were in pain.  Their pain was his pain.  A true leader is never doing just a job.  His heart is attached and intimately wound in and through not just his organization but through the lives of the people he serves with.  A leader who lacks love for his people will also lack effectiveness.  This is why we find Christ in the New Testament weeping over Jerusalem.  This is why we find so many statements about Jesus that say, when He saw them, He felt compassion.  It is easier for people to move for a leader who first allows his heart to be moved for them.

3. A leader recognizes the power of prayer, their own weakness and the greatness of God. (vs. 4-11)

The third thing we find out about Nehemiah and great leaders in general is that they yield themselves to a higher power.  Nehemiah knew a broken heart, a spirit of mourning and pain would not change the reality of a bad situation.  At that moment he did the only thing he could.  In his place of pain he cried out to the God of the universe.  He worshiped Him, he confessed to Him and implored God to intervene.  He looked for divine intervention!  A leader that does not pray is not a leader.  I know this is a bold statement but one cannot lead for God if he is not communicating with God.   A leader who fails to pray will sooner or later blur the lines between bringing God glory and serving to receive the glory himself.  After all, how can a man lead people to a God he himself is not communicating with?

As a leader….are you concerned about the people you lead???   ….are you emotionally invested in your followers???   ….are you regularly submitting yourself to the God you are called to serve???

The book of Nehemiah is a book that is jam packed with principles that spiritual leaders need to embrace.  In fact, out of the dozens of leadership books on my bookshelf, none measure up to this 13 chapter gem that is found in the Old Testament.

You see Nehemiah was not a theory or a manual that included “Top 10 Leadership Tips To Take Your Organization To The Next Level.”  He was man.  A man with a heart and a man with a mission.

My goal is to share with you 13 posts (14 if you include this one) on the book of Nehemiah.  There will be one for each of the chapters of Nehemiah.  I will be writing them from the leadership perspective but understand it is not limited to those who are in a position of leadership.  Biblical principles are for all to enjoy and benefit from.

One final thought before I throw this out in cyber world.  I will merely be referencing the book of Nehemiah.  For you fully receive the challenge and blessing that God desires for your life, you need to read the book of Nehemiah.  God’s Word is much more important than Jon Goodwin’s words so please do not read what I say and leave it at that.  Do some fact checking with your Bible!