Text: Nehemiah 2:1-10
In this scripture reading Nehemiah displayed faith that resulted from his season of prayer. I want to look at two specific characteristics of his faith today.
The first was that Nehemiah had the faith to wait. Four months after Nehemiah had received the bad report from his brother, he was still waiting, and Nehemiah was patiently waiting on the Lord for direction (see Hebrews 6:12). It is through faith and patience that we receive the promises of God.
Nehemiah took to heart that great verse in Psalm 46:10; “Be still and know that I am God”. Sometimes the best use of our time is to simply be still, and rest in the presence of God, being patient and secure in His faithfulness. When we wait on the Lord, we are not waiting in vain, it is not a waste of time, rather it is the greatest investment of our time as God is aligning our heart with His purposes. It is a fact that faith and patience go together.
This leads us to the next characteristic of faith that Nehemiah displayed in this chapter. Nehemiah had the opportunity to bring the wine before the King, and the king noticed that he was sad and not looking healthy. Immediately the King noticed, this was a serious issue. The king held the life of Nehemiah in his hands. Nehemiah states in verse 2; “I was very much afraid”. Nehemiah knew that this could end really badly for him. However the King discerned that Nehemiah was deeply troubled by something that did not relate to his serving the King as cupbearer and he asked him.
Nehemiah then had the faith to ask; This was his moment to shine, this was the open door that he had been waiting for. He had one shot, what was he going to do? Nehemiah explained to the King that he was deeply burdened for the city of his ancestors, note he did not mention Jerusalem by name, he did not want to risk upsetting the king by using a buzzword that would remind the King the former enemy. Then the king does something surprising, he asks Nehemiah in verse 4; “what is it you want?” Suddenly all the wealth and power of the kingdom supported the question from the King. Nehemiah knew that this was it! He had to act now! But what do we read in the second part of verse 4; “then I prayed to the God of heaven.” This was a very brief, telegraph prayer; he didn’t bow his head, get on his knees and pray. No, he simply and quietly asked the Lord for the right words to say and for favor. After his brief prayer, Nehemiah took a leap of faith. He asked the king to be allowed to go back and rebuild the city. Notice, in verse 6 we read that it pleased the king to send me and he asks him “how long will this journey take?” Nehemiah gives him a timeframe, which we are not given, but it was probably around six months to a year initially. We know from the rest of the book that Nehemiah eventually spent 12 years in Jerusalem. But before the king can give any further comment, in a rush of boldness, Nehemiah asks for letters of safe conduct to the governors of Trans- Euphrates and a letter to give him access to building materials. Nehemiah pushed king Artaxerxes to the limit. Here he was asking one of the nations that had destroyed Jerusalem to help rebuild it. He was literally pushing the limits of the king’s generosity.
This took courage, this was faith in action! The King granted him his request, as we know, the King’s heart had been prepared for this moment as well and the hand of God was directing the situation. Nehemiah went out with authority; he had letters showing that he had the Authority of the king of one of the world’s great superpowers.
This reminds me of the Great Commission, this story of Nehemiah is such a great picture of Matthew 28:18 and 19; When Jesus sends his followers out on the greatest mission of all mankind, he gives authority, but not just any authority; “all authority in heaven and earth”. We don’t have to be afraid or troubled by opposition. Were he sends we must go and have the faith that he will bring about the results. The important thing is that we do as he says.
Martin Luther once said; “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace. It is so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.” (See Matthew 17:20)
Faith is one of those attributes that is so easy to speak about, but so challenging to completely live out, because for faith to truly operate there needs to be a certain amount of fear and doubt. Without doubt there can be no faith; there must be an element of doubt, even small for faith to flourish.
Nehemiah 2:2 states that Nehemiah was “very much afraid” and for good reason, his life was on the line, everything he was praying for during the last 4 months was in the balance.
It is no small thing that the single command that occurs most in scripture is; “do not fear” This is God’s most frequently repeated instruction; “fear not” (Joshua 1:9). God consistently throughout his word states; “Do not be afraid, be courageous, you can trust me, fear not!”
But fear is such a normal human reaction. In fact fear is a healthy form of self preservation. So why does God tell human beings to stop being afraid more often than he tells them anything else?
I believe it is because fear paralyses us from doing what God asks us to do. Every time in scripture that God commands someone to not fear, it is on the brink of a momentous decision or life change that affects millions of people. Fear is the main reason why we do not do what God tells us to do.
Ten years ago, Debbie and I were both earning really good salaries, I as an engineer and she as a nurse, we had a nice house, a three year old little girl and life in America was good. Then God told us to give up our jobs and trust him to provide as we began our lives in fulltime missions. That first step to resign and begin trusting God for a paycheck was unnerving. How would we respond?
As we look back now we can see how each time God asked us to do something, or go somewhere, or give up something, it became easier and easier. Because we knew that our heavenly father would never let us fall. He was always there, around us and caring for us.
Joe Stowell says,
“In the midst of the changing circumstances of life, we have a choice. We can live in fear of all the uncertainties, or we can cling to the reality of God’s sustaining and intervening presence in our lives.”
What are you earnestly praying for? Will you be ready with faith when God opens the door? Don’t give up, keep pressing in, the Lord will open the door in his timing and you need to be ready.