Early the following spring, in the month of Nisan, during the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was serving the king his wine. I had never before appeared sad in his presence. 2 So the king asked me, “Why are you looking so sad? You don’t look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled.” Then I was terrified, 3 but I replied, “Long live the king! How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.” 4 The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?” With a prayer to the God of heaven, 5 I replied, “If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.” 6 The king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked, “How long will you be gone? When will you return?” After I told him how long I would be gone, the king agreed to my request. 7 I also said to the king, “If it please the king, let me have letters addressed to the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River, instructing them to let me travel safely through their territories on my way to Judah. 8 And please give me a letter addressed to Asaph, the manager of the king’s forest, instructing him to give me timber. I will need it to make beams for the gates of the Temple fortress, for the city walls, and for a house for myself.” And the king granted these requests, because the gracious hand of God was on me. 9 When I came to the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River, I delivered the king’s letters to them. The king, I should add, had sent along army officers and horsemen to protect me. 10 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of my arrival, they were very displeased that someone had come to help the people of Israel.
The third tool is one we all know we need but one very few of us consistently put into practice:
c. Prayer – vs 4
The pry bar of prayer has the power to move stubborn things. Sometimes we need to drive the nail but sometimes we need to pull it. Now I’m not going to say a lot about the tool of prayer as we have already talked about it in depth, but I do want you to notice that this was what I call a popcorn prayer. It’s very short and to the point, this is precise prayer. Like Nehemiah you may not have a lot of time, but you can still talk to God. When the king asked Nehemiah what he wanted notice that Nehemiah talked first to the heavenly king before he responded to the heathen king. There are times for popcorn prayers, but they can’t be our only source of strength and the only time we seek God. Remember this emergency S-O-S prayer was backed up by four months of fasting and praying. Nehemiah diligently prayed in private, and God answered his private prayer publicly. Nehemiah walked with God because he talked with God. He never lost sight of his dependence, even here with the opportunity of a lifetime staring him in the face, he dared not step out in his own strength. He didn’t utter a word before asking God for help. Nehemiah was bold because he bowed to the king of kings. The last tool I want to look at is unfortunately more widely used in secular circles than spiritual ones. It’s the tool of:
d. Planning – Vs 5-10
One of the most missing tools is the tape measure of planning. Nehemiah practiced both dependent praying and deliberate planning. One of the messages that the church needs to hear today is that there are two sides to the coin. Some people think that all you have to do is pray; others focus almost exclusively on planning. It shouldn’t be an “either/or” but both, we are called to pray and plan. We are called to worship and work. When the king asked how long it would take, Nehemiah knew because he had done his homework. Many of you have heard the saying, “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” We don’t like to wait and pray but waiting provided an opportunity to plan, just one more way that waiting isn’t worthless. Not only did Nehemiah have a timeframe he also knew how to plan the difficult and dangerous journey by asking for letters on the king’s stationery, because that would secure safe passage through the different territories he had to pass through. But he didn’t just stop there, in verse 8 we see that he asked for access to the king’s forest. His plan required resources, like timber to rebuild the city. Notice that Nehemiah had done a little research and knew who the keeper of the king’s forest was. Because Nehemiah understood the power of planning, he leveraged access to the lumber yard. Nehemiah needed three things which because he had a plan, he was able to asked for and receive, permission, protection, and provisions. It was the unsaved king who changed the law, provided the protection and funded the project. If we really believe that God is ultimately in charge and that he owns all the resources, then why are we so caught up in a panic over the current political process? The truth is most American Christians trust more in the constitution than they do in Christ. Let me share a little secrete with you, you can change the constitution, but you can’t change Christ. Nehemiah gave credit and glory to God, he understood the power wasn’t in his plan but in the provider. Unfortunately, today many Christians are paying the price of not thinking through their plans or not pursuing prayer. Many Christians today are unbalanced; either they have no plans and they are forging ahead on what they say is faith, but in reality, is just their feelings and so they flit from one failure to the next. Or they have a plan which they are pursuing, the problem is it never start with prayer and so what they are pursuing is their pleasure. Again, just like the first group what they are following is their feelings not the Father. So, let’s go back to the original question, “What are you really pursuing, your wants or God’s Will?” You see pursuing God’s plan caused the enemy to panic. Dependence on God put the devil on the defense. It’s time for the church to go on the offensive, to stop being passive and to start pursuing God purpose. Are there any tools missing from your toolbox?