Conclusion: Maintaining What You’ve Built

Conclusion: Maintaining What You’ve Built

You're reading NEHEMIAH: LESSONS IN REBUILDING, by Eric Elder, featuring 15 inspiring devotionals based on one of the most ambitious rebuilding projects of all time. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!

You’re reading NEHEMIAH: LESSONS IN REBUILDING, by Eric Elder, featuring 15 inspiring devotionals based on one of the most ambitious rebuilding projects of all time. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!

Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 7-13 

I was working on a project one day and called a friend for help.  I told him I was reading the directions and he said, “The first thing to do is to throw away the directions!”  He offered to come and help me himself.

I appreciated his offer, but I soon found out he had only done this once before and the project was bigger than he thought.  I decided it was time to pull out the directions again!

Perhaps the best advice I can give you for how to maintain what you’ve worked so hard to build is this:  Read the directions!  Pull out a copy of God’s Word and do what it says.  The same directions that helped you to rebuild what’s broken in your life can help you maintain what you’ve built.

This is exactly what Nehemiah did when they finished rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem.  Nehemiah assembled all the people in one place and had Ezra the scribe, along with the Levites,  read and explain God’s Word to the people.  Nehemiah says:

“They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read” (Nehemiah 8:8).

The rest of the book of Nehemiah describes the effects God’s Word had on the people―the same effects it can have on you:

1)  It caused them to weep for what they had lost, due to their own sins and the sins of their fathers.  Nehemiah says,

“For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law” (Nehemiah 8:9b).  

God knew how the wall fell into disrepair in the first place, and He knew how to put it together again.

2)  It caused them to praise God for what He had done.  Nehemiah knew they were heartbroken over what had been lost, but he lifted their spirits by telling them,

“Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).  

God wanted them to know what had gone wrong, but He also wanted them to get up and move on.

3)  It caused them to recommit their future to God.  The people said,

“In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it” (Nehemiah 9:38).  

After rebuilding the wall, they wanted to rebuild their lives in a way that honored God.

4)  It caused them to dedicate the work to God.  The party they held to dedicate the wall was so exuberant that Nehemiah said,

“The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away” (Nehemiah 12:43b).  

They marked the occasion with an all-out celebration, dedicating the work of their hands into God’s hands.

Nehemiah did it, and so can you.  He set out to achieve what God had put on his heart, then he followed through with the hard work to get it done.  Even though the project seemed imposing, impractical and nearly impossible, God helped Nehemiah all along the way.  God provided Nehemiah with the wisdom, resources, strength and people to pull it off, just like God will do for you when He gives you the green light to do something for Him.

The same God who helped Nehemiah will help you, too.  God loves you.  He is for you.  And He wants you to succeed, not only for Your sake, but for His sake, and for the sake of all those who will be touched by the work of your hands in the future.

Just because our study of the book of Nehemiah is finished, it doesn’t mean that your study of God’s Word has to stop here.  Don’t throw out the directions just because the project is finished!  Keep reading and rereading God’s Word every day for the rest of your life!

I pray that as you read it, like Nehemiah, you’ll find that the joy of the Lord is your strength as well.

Prayer: Father, thank You for giving me Your Word to help me rebuild my life and maintain what I’ve rebuilt.  Lord, help me to keep reading and rereading Your Word, and in so doing, help me to find that Your joy is my strength.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Lesson 15: The Wall Is Complete!

Lesson 15: The Wall Is Complete!

You're reading NEHEMIAH: LESSONS IN REBUILDING, by Eric Elder, featuring 15 inspiring devotionals based on one of the most ambitious rebuilding projects of all time. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!

You’re reading NEHEMIAH: LESSONS IN REBUILDING, by Eric Elder, featuring 15 inspiring devotionals based on one of the most ambitious rebuilding projects of all time. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!

Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 6:15-19

Just when Nehemiah’s storm seemed the darkest, a ray of light broke though.  In the face of death threats and lies, Nehemiah finally achieved what he had set out to do.

The description of it is tucked in the middle of the book of Nehemiah, in the middle of a chapter.  But those two simple lines must have spoken volumes to Nehemiah, just as they did to the surrounding nations:

“So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days.  When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God” (Nehemiah 6:15-16).

After all his prayers, tears and hard work, Nehemiah finally saw the fruit of his labor.

The completion of the wall didn’t mean that his life’s work was over: he continued to serve as the governor over that region for another twelve years.  And it didn’t mean that his battles were over: he would still have to deal with his opponents from time to time.

But the completion of the wall did mean that Nehemiah, with God’s help, was able to accomplish the monumental work that God had put on his heart.  He was able to do what others thought was impossible.  And he was able to take part in God’s plan to continue His mission in the world:  in this case, the restoration of the Israelites to the holy city of Jerusalem.

Now that the wall around the city was restored, Israelite families could begin moving back into Jerusalem, rebuilding their homes and rebuilding their lives. The rebuilding of the wall was an achievement in and of itself, but it was a means to an end for God’s overarching plan.

When God calls you to work on a project, I think it’s helpful to keep in mind both the project itself, and the future purpose for which God called you to it.

When God rebuilt the marriage of a couple whom I had been talking to and praying with for some time, I watched in amazement as God not only restored their marriage, but went on to redirect the husband into ministry, becoming a pastor and building up a new church in his city that reached out to his ethnic group.  He and the church then went on to begin a missions outreach back to their home country.

The restoration of their marriage was critical, and no small feat on its own.  But it served as a launching pad for what God had in mind for their lives once their marriage was restored.

As for me, as I write this, I’m still working on my renovation project at our Clover Ranch retreat.  It’s taken way more than fifty-two days, and some days I wonder if it will ever be done.  I was having that feeling this week again as I was putting a third coat of stain on some wood trim that will be used around the doorways and windows in the kitchen.  I was starting to wear out, thinking that I still have two coats of varnish to put on after this third coat of stain finally dried.

But when I looked at the wood again, it crossed my mind of just how long it had taken for the tree to grow that I was now staining.  I was thankful that I didn’t have to grow the tree from scratch as well!

In view of how long God has been at work trying to reach the people I’m hoping to reach through this retreat center, I realized that my little time spent on it is just a drop in the bucket.  It’s an important project, but it’s just one more step in the series of steps that God has been taking all along to see His work complete.

Don’t be discouraged if it takes longer than fifty-two days to complete your project.  Rather, be encouraged by the story of Nehemiah and by what God can do once your project is finished.  Also, be encouraged by the Word of God, which says in the book of Galatians:

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

Before I close for today, I’d like to say a word to those of you who have worked your hardest at something and yet, for various reasons aren’t able to see the work finished.  In the words of one wife who was trying her best to restore her relationship with her husband, she said:

“…even if there is no happy ending for our marriage, I will not regret the stand I have taken.  I will know that I made the right decision and followed the only course possible for me.  I will have done all that I could.” 

God knows your heart, and He’ll honor your heart as you honor His.  Don’t give up.  Don’t give in.  Keep pressing on with what God has called you to do.  Whatever the outcome, you will reap a harvest at the proper time, if you do not give up.

Prayer: Father, thank You for Nehemiah’s example of what it means to keep pressing on, and thank You for helping him to accomplish that which you put on his heart to do.  Father, help me to do the same, for Your sake, and for the sake of those who will be affected by my work both now and in the generations to come.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Lesson 14: Don’t Fall For Lies

Lesson 14: Don’t Fall For Lies

You're reading NEHEMIAH: LESSONS IN REBUILDING, by Eric Elder, featuring 15 inspiring devotionals based on one of the most ambitious rebuilding projects of all time.

You’re reading NEHEMIAH: LESSONS IN REBUILDING, by Eric Elder, featuring 15 inspiring devotionals based on one of the most ambitious rebuilding projects of all time.

Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 6:5-14

The Broadway musical, Wicked, tells the “untold” story of the witches of Oz.  Using some creative storytelling, the show’s writer convinces the audience that the Wicked Witch of the West was really just misunderstood, and that the supposedly “good” Wizard of Oz was really the one who was “wicked.”

By the end of the show, the audience is cheering for the green witch’s success, and hoping for the wizard’s defeat.  It’s a compelling story that shows the power of words to sway people’s thoughts, portraying that which is evil as good, and that which is good as evil.

Satan knows the power of words, too.  But when he speaks, he doesn’t just use “creative storytelling” to entertain an audience; he uses outright lies to destroy people’s lives.  Satan is so adept at lying that Jesus called him both “a liar” and the “father of lies.”  Jesus went on to say that lying is such an innate part of Satan’s character that, “when he lies, he speaks his native language” (John 8:44b).

I think it’s critical that you’re aware of this, because Satan wants to lie to you, too, especially when you’re doing the work of God.  Sometimes he’ll spread lies about you and your work, and sometimes he’ll lie to you directly to entice you to give up on your work and give in to his plan.

What can you do to defend yourself when Satan attacks you like this?  What can you do to combat the lies he throws at you?

You can do what Nehemiah did:  don’t fall for the lies; confront them with the truth.

When Nehemiah was nearly finished rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, his opponents brought on their fiercest attack.  They began to spread lies about Nehemiah to others, sending an “open” letter to Nehemiah that said:

“It is reported among the nations―and Geshem says it is true―that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us confer together” (Nehemiah 6:6-7).

What could Nehemiah do?  He could have panicked, even if it wasn’t true, and tried to meet with them so word didn’t get back to the king.  But doing so would have sent him directly into the trap they were setting for him.  So Nehemiah sent a reply back that said:

“Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head” (Nehemiah 6:8).

Rather than being intimidated and giving up on the work, he prayed to the Lord,

“Now strengthen my hands” (Nehemiah 6:9b).

Nehemiah’s opponents even hired some prophets to speak lies directly to Nehemiah, telling him that people were coming to kill him, warning him to run and hide inside the temple walls, thus causing him to sin and discredit his name.  But Nehemiah saw through those lies, too, saying:

“Should a man like me run away? Or should one like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” (Nehemiah 6:12-13).

Is Satan trying to lie to you today, whether in your head or by using someone else’s words?  If so, I want to encourage you:  don’t fall for the lies; confront them with the truth.  Confront them with the Truth of God as spoken in His Word and the Truth of God as spoken by His Holy Spirit to your heart.

There’s power in words, but there’s even more power in God’s Word.  Don’t let Satan call “wicked” that which God calls good.  Keep reminding yourself of God’s Word.  He loves you (John 3:16).  He’s for you, not against you (Romans 8:31).  He wants to give you a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).  Don’t fall for lies!  Confront them with the truth!  As you’ll find out in the next message, when the attack is fiercest, you may be closer to victory than you think!

Prayer: Father, help me to confront the lies of Satan with the Truth of Your Word.  Remind me of that Truth when I need it, and help me to speak that Truth, to myself and to others, so that I can see Your victory in the end.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Lesson 13: Don’t Give In

Lesson 13: Don’t Give In

You're reading NEHEMIAH: LESSONS IN REBUILDING, by Eric Elder, featuring 15 inspiring devotionals based on one of the most ambitious rebuilding projects of all time. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!

You’re reading NEHEMIAH: LESSONS IN REBUILDING, by Eric Elder, featuring 15 inspiring devotionals based on one of the most ambitious rebuilding projects of all time. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!

Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 6:1-4

Some people will try to discourage you from reaching your dreams because they love you, they care about you, and they don’t want to see you get hurt in pursuing something that may never happen.

But others will try to discourage you because they’re afraid you might actually accomplish what you’ve set out to do.  They’re not interested in your future, your success, your well-being.  They’re interested in their own dreams and goals and will do whatever they can to stop you from achieving yours.

Nehemiah faced his share of opposition.  But one group opposed him throughout his project because they were afraid he’d actually accomplish what he had set out to do.  They tried to lure him away from his project, calling out to him:

“Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.”  (Nehemiah 6:2).

But Nehemiah saw through their plan.  He knew they meant to harm him, not help him.  So he sent messengers to them with this reply:

“I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3).

Those who opposed Nehemiah didn’t just ask him to leave the work and meet with them once or twice.  Four times they tried to lure him away.  And four times, Nehemiah gave them the same answer: “Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?”

Sometimes it may seem impolite if we don’t respond to all of our critics.  We feel we need to explain ourselves to them, hear them out, and negotiate with them through our disagreements.  But sometimes we just need to follow Nehemiah’s example.  You don’t negotiate with a wolf.

Even Jesus warned his disciples:

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

When others want you to give up on your plans, give careful thought to their reasons.  Is their advice really for your benefit, or simply for their own?  While it’s important to listen to those who truly care about you and who care about what you feel God has called you to do, it can be just as important to ignore those who don’t care about you, who care mainly about their own plans instead.

I was hard at work renovating our Clover Ranch retreat center one day when a man came by and asked if I would be willing to sell the place.  He wasn’t a wolf, but he also wasn’t aware of what God had spoken to me about the project.  He said he’d had his eye on the property for some time and would really like to buy it if I’d like to sell it.  His offer was tempting.  I was starting to wear out from working on the project myself.  It would be much easier, I thought, to just give in and sell the place to him.

I talked to my Dad later that day and mentioned this man’s offer.  My Dad said, “Don’t sell it to him.  You’ve put in too much work into it to sell it off now.”  His words woke me up to the reality of the situation, and to the vision that God had put on my heart for the project in the first place.  My Dad was right.  The project had been a lot of work, but this wasn’t the time to give in.  This was the time to press on and finish what God had put on my heart to do.

There are times when you might be tempted to give in to the demands of others.  You may even see their offer as a welcome relief at the time, getting you out of more hard work.  But if God has put this project on your heart, don’t even go there.  Don’t give up.  Don’t give in.  Don’t go down and meet with those who would try to distract you from what God has called you to do, especially wolves who don’t have your best interest at heart.

Don’t give in.  Keep pressing on with all that God has put on your heart to do.

Prayer: Father, help me to not give in to the demands of others who don’t have my best interest at heart.  Help me to put Your priorities ahead of even my own, so that I can finish the work You’ve called me to do.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Lesson 12: Help Those Who Are Helping You

Lesson 12: Help Those Who Are Helping You

You're reading NEHEMIAH: LESSONS IN REBUILDING, by Eric Elder, featuring 15 inspiring devotionals based on one of the most ambitious rebuilding projects of all time. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!

You’re reading NEHEMIAH: LESSONS IN REBUILDING, by Eric Elder, featuring 15 inspiring devotionals based on one of the most ambitious rebuilding projects of all time. Also available in paperback and eBook formats in our bookstore for a donation of any size!

Scripture Reading: Nehemiah 5

There was a creative ad campaign a few years ago called, “Don’t Almost Give.”  It’s purpose was to raise people’s awareness of the needs around them, encouraging people to help meet those needs.

One ad showed an elderly woman sitting alone in her chair, staring blankly ahead.  The narrator said,

“This is Sarah Watkins.  A lot of people almost helped her.  One almost cooked for her.  Another almost drove her to the doctor.  Still another almost stopped by to say ‘Hello.’  They almost helped.  They almost gave of themselves.  But almost giving is the same as not giving at all.”

The series of ads concluded with the words,

“Remember all those times you almost helped?  You meant to, but somehow you forgot.  You were too busy and it slipped your mind.  Well, it’s only human, this almost giving.  But if you almost gave, there’s a good chance everybody else almost gave, too.  Don’t almost give.  Give.” 

In the story of Nehemiah, there was a point where Nehemiah became aware of the needs of those who were helping him rebuild the wall around Jerusalem.  When Nehemiah recognized their need, he didn’t just “almost give.” He gave, in terms of both his personal resources and his influence over others, to help ease their burden.

Nehemiah found out that the Jews who were working with him were having to mortgage their fields, their vineyards and their homes just to get food to survive.  They were selling their sons and daughters into temporary slavery until they could pay off their debts.  Unfortunately, it was their fellow Jews who were buying these slaves and charging interest on the loans.

When Nehemiah heard these things, he was angry.  The Jewish law was clear that while there was nothing wrong with lending money to their brothers in need, the Jews were not to charge interest to their fellow Jews, which they were doing.  And by holding their property as collateral, those who needed the money could not continue making a living.  So Nehemiah gathered the nobles who were making these loans and told them:

“What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury [charging interest] stop! Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the usury you are charging them―the hundredth part of the money, grain, new wine and oil” (Nehemiah 5:9-11).

The people responded:  

“We will give it back.  And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say” (Nehemiah 5:12).

Nehemiah also agreed to ease their burden by not collecting the tax that was due to him to meet his own needs during the entire time that he served as their governor.  Instead, Nehemiah regularly had a hundred and fifty Jews and nobles eating around his table, as well as those from surrounding nations.  Nehemiah did this from his own resources, because the demands on his people were so heavy.

Because of the nature of my work, I often have to call on others to help me do what God has put on my heart to do.  Nehemiah’s actions are a helpful and necessary reminder to think about ways I can practically help those who are helping me, both for their own sake, and for the sake of the project that God has called us to do together.

If there are people helping you do what God has put on your heart to do, I’d like to encourage you to take some time in the coming days to listen to their hearts.  See if they have needs that you could help meet, whether directly or through your influence, then do what you can to meet those needs.

Don’t almost give.  Give.  Help those who are helping you so that together you can do all that God has called you to do.

Prayer: Father, show me the needs of those who are helping me so that I can help them as well.  Give me the resources and influence to help meet their needs in practical ways so that together we can accomplish all that You’ve put on our hearts to do.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.