|11.||"O Lord, I beseech Thee, may Thine ear be attentive to the prayer of Thy servant and the prayer of Thy servants who delight to revere Thy name, and make Thy servant successful today, and grant him compassion before this man." Now I was the cupbearer to the king.|
"Houston, we have a problem."
This is the most famous sentence in the history of space travel and is the greatest disaster signal in NASA history, consisting of just five words.
It was April 13, 1970. Three astronauts, Jim Lovell, John Swigert and Fred Haise, were in the lunar module - Apollo 13. They were 5/6th of the way to the moon, 200,000 miles from the Earth and 55 hours into their flight when disaster struck.
An unexplained explosion rocked the ship, leaving them in a permanent tomb in space of less than two hours. The crews were horrified as the cockpit grew darker, the air became thinner and the instruments went blank. Then Captain Jim Lovell got the radio and said "Houston, We Have A Problem." However, this has produced the greatest time in the chronology of space travel.
This is the message that the Book of Nehemiah is giving us this morning. Nehemiah is a man who is faced with an impossible and unsuccessful challenge. He talks about "His Finest Hour". If you think about it, life is a lot like Apollo 13. You are just looking at the moon, the stars, and the galaxies while you can cruise along the cozy little space ship of your life. You enjoy golf, enjoy a restaurant, and travel until you have a sudden explosion of your life.
But your spouse says "Houston, we have a problem - I do not love you anymore." The principal says, "Houston, we have a problem - your son is on drugs." After the doctor examines the patient, "Houston, we have a problem - there is something on the X-ray that does not look good." You see the wall of your life collapse in front of your eyes.
Nehemiah is the expert wall re-builder in the entire Bible. Several years before this book was written, Jerusalem was destroyed. The Jews were deported to Babylon which would be located today in Iraq. And fifty years later, some Jews could return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.
In the meantime, Jerusalem itself had sat in ruins. The city walls have been destroyed. The gates had been burned and people were totally demoralized. Everybody said "Houston We Have A Problem" but nobody was saying "I got the solution."
Nehemiah is one of my favorite books in all of the Bible. This is a great lesson for leadership. John Maxwell described leadership as an influence. Because you all have influence, you are all leaders. If you are a father and a husband, you must be the leader of your house. If you are staying at home, you have to lead your children all day long. You are a leader, about people who work with you, about friends who go with you and about those people you know that you have any influence with at all.
God has given us a wonderful opportunity for this wall we are keeping today. We now look at the wall of faith that must be renewed for the glory of God. Wall rebuilds can be more difficult than building walls from the beginning.
In this first chapter, Nehemiah laid the foundation for rebuilding the shattered walls. He teaches us how we face problems and overcome obstacles.
I would like to explain the process of rebuilding a broken wall in four steps.
1. We are looking at reality of the situation.
“The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. It came to pass in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the citadel, that Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, ‘The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.’" (Nehemiah 1:1-3, NKJV)
Someone said "Understanding the problem is half of the solution" and immediately we see the problem. The city walls have been broken down and the gates are in disrepair.
We do not build walls to protect our country and our family today. Instead we use fences, gates, alarm systems and radar. There is an invisible wall throughout our country in an organization called NORAD (The North American Aerospace Defense). The NOARD center is located at the Peterson Air Force Base in El Paso County, near Colorado Springs, Colorado and is a 24-hour system that monitors the status of space satellites, nuclear missiles and strategic bombers on the planet. Can you imagine what could happen in this country, if those communications were destroyed and the computers malfunctioned?
It happened in Jerusalem. Walls were the only means of protecting the city. In fact, there was no protection. Historically, Jerusalem has been attacked from time to time. And every time the enemy attacked the city they destroyed Walls first. Broken down walls were the disgrace. It was a disgrace to God Himself, as well as a shame for His people.
Jim Collins wrote a book called “Good to Great”, one of the great books on leadership that has been written over the last 20 years. In that book he explains how only a handful of good companies have become great companies. Jim Collins says one of the reasons for the company to develop into a good company in a difficult situation is the willingness to confront the brutal facts. We must do it right now in our church. We need to rebuild the walls. Within a 20-minute radius of this church, there are hundreds of thousands of people staying around broken down walls. They have nothing to do with the church. These are the walls that need to be rebuilt. Within 20 minutes of this church, there are houses that are broken down by walls of homes, walls of finance, walls of relationship and spiritual walls.
Within twenty minutes of this church, home after home after home there are marital walls falling down, financial walls falling down, and spiritual walls falling down.
When you face brutal facts in your life, you suffer unimaginable psychological pressure. You begin to have terribly financial pressure to lose your job. The doctor recommends that you're gonna do an MRI to be extra careful.. You are afraid to meet a doctor.
I was amazed at the fact that there are children in the United States who have a learning disability to one out of seven parents. One in eight children has a mental or emotion problem. One out of ten is child on drugs or alcohol. One out of ten is dealing with a pregnant teenager.
One of the first lessons we learned from Nehemiah is that you cannot solve a problem that you run away from. You cannot get the right answer until you ask the right question. That's why Nehemiah was with his brother.
2. We share the responsibility for the situation.
“So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said: “I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, 'please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father's house and I have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses." (Nehemiah 1: 4-7)
The most important word in understanding today's text is the pronoun used by Nehemiah. He used the word "they" instead of "we". If all you do is try to find the blame and fix it on somebody else, you will never be able to solve the problem. Today, people are more interested in avoiding responsibility than solving their problems.
Nehemiah could have easily said, "It's their problem and let them deal with it. I have nothing to do with their work. I have never even seen Jerusalem. I do not even know who lives there."
Have you shared responsibility for something you did not participate in? Have you ever been angry at something not directly related to you? If you are going to rebuild walls, you've got to be willing to feel what others feel and walk where other people walk.
Somebody uses a soccer analogy and says, "The winning coach remains in his position and notes the situation in detail, but the defeated coach goes out to the ground." The winning leader checks the gap of the wall, and the leader lost the game leaves the wall.
We look around and see walls in my own community crumbling and falling apart. The church will help heal the wounded, give hope to hopeless people, and become a spiritual home to the lonely. How can you help them?
3. It's a step to get leadership for the situation.
"So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven." (Nehemiah 1:4)
When Nehemiah heard about the state of Jerusalem, the first thing he did was prayer. At that point, he could do nothing but prayer, because at that time, he was in the wrong place with the wrong job working for the wrong person.
The important lesson we learn from Nehemiah is that whenever we face a broken wall, the first place we must look for is the place of prayer.
Jeremiah said: “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.'” (Jeremiah 33:3)
Nehemiah prayed like this.
"Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.' (Nehemiah 1:8-9)
He recounts a promise that God had made earlier to the people who were facing broken down walls.
He talks about God's relationship with his people. "They are Thy servants and Thy people." (1:10) He told God. These are your people. These are your servants. These are your responsibilities. These get lost unless you save them.
Nehemiah could not rebuild the city walls without the help of the king. He needed three help from the king to rebuild the walls. 1) He needed permission from the king. The king gave him the task of ruling the city. Likewise, if the king allows, he has the right to rebuild the walls. 2) He needed the protection of the king. When the enemies of Jerusalem hear that Nehemiah will rebuild the city walls, they will interfere and try to kill Nehemiah. 3) He cannot rebuild walls without bricks and money. He needs the financial help of the king.
In other words, if you want to share the reality of the situation with someone, you have to admit that the first thing you need to do is not be able to do it apart from God. You must seek God's help. What can you do when the walls you face in your life collapse? I can say the answer. All the things you pray for are things that you depend on God. Every broken wall you face in your life is God's way to let you focus on Him.
4. It is the stage to stand as a resource in the situation.
"O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man." For I was the king's cupbearer. (1:11)
Now there is a surprising twist in this story. Nehemiah says he is "the king's cupbearer". In ancient times, the king believed the most believed person as "the king's cupbearer". At that time, "the king's cupbearer" had to check the king's drink or wine for poison, before the king drank it. He drank countless wines and soups on behalf of his king. But he lived long without any problems! So Nehemiah was an incredibly influential person.
He was the second most powerful man in the kingdom as the most trusted person in the kingdom. God called the person to rebuild the city walls. He never knew how to rebuild city walls. He was not a contractor, nor was he a builder, but he was the right man in the right place at the right time for the right job.
When God wants to accomplish his work, he always puts them in the right place at the right time. So Nehemiah says, "Make your servant successful today." He didn't pray for a miracle. He prayed for an opportunity.
If you want God to respond to your prayers, you must be part of the answer. If you are responsible for the salvation of unbelieving friends, it is not enough for you to pray for them. You must pray to them to have the opportunity to speak about your faith in Christ.
Nehemiah did not pray for God to rebuild the wall. He prayed for an opportunity to rebuild on his own. This is the difference between dreamers and leaders. Dreamers dream about things being different. Leaders determine to make a difference.
There is a cost to be born and a price to be paid in rebuilding walls. And he was willing to pay the price and carry the cost that in fifty-two days those walls were rebuilt, the gates were restored, and the people were rejoicing.
In every person's life there is a time called a Nehemiah moment. It is the moment when your car is in a lane, where only two or more people can ride. During rush hour, one lane earns time and the other loses time. At that moment you have to decide whether to serve yourself or to serve God. You have to decide whether to put treasure on earth or treasure in heaven. You have to decide whether you are more interested in your comfort or more about his kingdom. We can see his greatest ability in the selection and concentration of Nehemiah. On the contrary, there are no problems that people can't solve, but there are people unwilling to solve them.
Reality accuses. Houston, we have a problem. It’s on this property a massive project before us. It is an unbelievable opportunity given to us by God Himself to take buildings. You have been called to leadership in building walls by participating in the lives of others in everyday life, home, work, and leisure. God has given you immense influence for that work.
There was Nehemiah's prayer and dedication in rebuilding the ruined walls, but there is one important fact that we should not forget, that God helped Nehemiah. It was because of God's help and providence that Nehemiah could become the king's cupbearer. Through Nehemiah, God brought Nehemiah to the position of the king's cupbearer to rebuild the city walls of Jerusalem that had long ago collapsed.
Even when Nehemiah was appointed governor of Judea, God moved the king's heart to help Nehemiah (2:8) and helped him to complete the task safely, until the broken walls rebuilt. (6:16) The walls rebuild would be said to have been the result of God's help. Nehemiah was able to rebuild the broken wall because of his prayer and dedication and diligence, but we must not forget that there was God's providence and help in doing the work behind him.