Sacrifice Unto Refreshing

I have been ministering recently from the book of Nehemiah where the Holy Spirit reveals several deep spiritual truths.  Nehemiah was an apostolic forerunner….a governmental leader who set things in order spiritually, organizationally, and relationally in Jerusalem. A kingdom principle revealed in Nehemiah’s story is that he sacrificed his rights for a greater good.  He gave up the right to acquire land and eat choice food allotted for governors. If you read Neh. 5:14-18 you will find that Nehemiah made this sacrifice ‘because the demands were heavy on the people’.  Even though he had such rights as governor he did not exercise those rights. He sacrificed them.

To sacrifice is to give up, to slay, to make holy; in this context one sacrifices for a greater good; figuratively one dies to self so fresh kingdom life comes forth beyond self. Leadership often includes sacrifice of your rights so that a kingdom purpose is fulfilled.  This kingdom principle is found throughout the Word of God. For example, Jesus said He did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mk. 10:45)

Nehemiah’s apostolic ministry differed dramatically from his governmental predecessors who had consumed the best food, amassed land and placed additional burdens on the people. Nehemiah sacrificed to bring forth a unique spiritual refreshing and social stability for his nation. Following Nehemiah’s leadership there is no historical account of God’s people going into exile and slavery for the 450 years leading up the birth of Christ! Nehemiah died to his ‘rights’, set things in order in Jerusalem, and refreshing came to the people who occupied the land for the next 450 years!!!! The sacrifice of one man led to new life for the entire nation. 

Consider you own ministry.  Do you desire refreshing for your ministry; for the people? What will you sacrifice for the greater good? What right will you give up so kingdom life may spring up forth?  It is a kingdom principle.  Sacrifice and watch refreshing come forth.   

Did you like this post? Check out, The Call to Leadership Costs, another leadership post by Harvey Wittmier.


Faith, Focus, Finish!

Manteo Mitchel (left) of the USA team. Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images
In this series of posts on Nehemiah, we see the character of God revealed through Nehemiah’s actions in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. After receiving from King Artaxerxes permission to rebuild, he engaged the Jewish people saying “you see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.”  I told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “let us start rebuilding.”  So they began this good work. (Neh. 2:17, 18)

Throughout the account of Nehemiah we see his faith, his focus, and his passion to finish a good work. 

His faith is revealed as he told them that the hand of God was upon him.  He prayed at least eleven times regarding the rebuilding of the walls.  From beginning to end, whether it was his response to opposition or the need to encourage the people, he spoke words of faith that revealed a heart of faith. Revealed faith is the outward manifestation of inner transformation. Every leader must have faith to lead, faith to encourage, and faith to finish the good work to which God has called you.

Nehemiah’s focus is first revealed as he spoke of the specific work to be done; ‘come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem’. He engaged the people with that same focus; rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. These rock walls were originally 8 feet thick. Tens of thousands of the rocks lay scattered and strewn about the city. The wooden gates, hinges and framing were burned beyond repair. The city was not a city. It was a collection of buildings without walls of protection for community and without an identity.  It was a disgrace. Nehemiah did not repair other buildings… not houses, not streets, and not market places. He focused on the walls! Leaders must be focused toward the good work God has for you.  Without focus you will scatter your energy, water down your vision, and diminish the impact and effectiveness of your ministry. 

A passion to finish is revealed in the emotional description of the condition of the city;  you see the trouble we are in’; Jerusalem lies in ruins, it’s gates are burned; we will no longer be in disgrace.  Nehemiah wept, fasted, prayed, repented, and humbled himself in so many ways because of the heart wrenching knowledge that his beloved home town was defenseless, vulnerable, and in disgrace. Every leader must come to a place of great humility, sometimes disgraced in the eyes of men, before there emerges a refined heart and a finishing passion. It is from this heart and passion that God’s plan goes forth to finish the work to which we are called. Humility emerges from burning away superficial cares and extraneous distractions of the world. It allows the silver and gold handiwork of God’s kingdom to come through us. 

A recent event from the Olympics in London reflects these principles found in Nehemiah. An American sprinter named Mitchell was in the 4X400 meter relay (1600 meters).  In the semi-final qualifying race, Mitchel broke his lower leg half way through his part of the race. The leg was completely fractured! Normal men would have stopped, writhed in pain, and failed to finish thus losing the race. However Mitchell ran on and finished his segment handing the baton to his teammate who went on to win the race and qualify for the finals. A doctor said that if Mitchell would have taken two or three more steps the broken bone would have burst through the skin of his leg. The relay team, with a replacement for Mitchell, went on to win the silver medal in the finals.  When asked by the media what drove him to continue running in such pain, he said his lifestyle is shaped by 3 words; Faith, Focus, Finish. What an inspiring account of commitment to finishing! 

Mitchell is a modern day Nehemiah pushing beyond opposition; pushing beyond normal, pushing beyond the realm of the natural into the supernatural to finish a ‘good work’! You can be a Nehemiah! You have faith. You have focus. You MUST finish the work of your calling; the work of bringing God’s kingdom through you!


Consistent and Firm-Your Response to Opposition

Neh. 4:7, 8 When Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the men of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it.

The account of Nehemiah rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem reveals many Kingdom principles for today’s leaders.  Nehemiah faced spiritual opposition from neighboring pagan groups who were against God’s plan of restoration. These groups were in spiritual agreement with demonic forces empowered by their idolatrous worship of false gods. 

Today’s leaders will face opposition to bringing God’s plan for individuals, churches and ministries to fulfillment.  We do not fight against flesh and blood, but we do fight.  We must resist evil and continue with the work of God’s plan. One key principle for succeeding with God’s plan is found in how Nehemiah responded to opposition. Each time Sanballat and allies devised a plan to undermine Nehemiah’s work; Nehemiah had a consistent and firm response.

Nehemiah’s first response to news that Sanballat was opposing God’s plan was, “The God of heaven will give us success……..you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.” Neh. 2:20

Nehemiah’s words to his Jewish brothers as they considered the opposition were, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your homes.” Neh. 4:14

Sanballat sent a nice sounding message, but Nehemiah discerned the motives saying, “But they were scheming to harm me; so I 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?’”  Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer. Neh. 6:3, 4

When Sanballat devised a lie about Nehemiah’s motives for rebuilding the wall, Nehemiah responded with “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” Neh. 6:8

When all external attempts to get Nehemiah off track failed, the opposition arose internally among his people. A prominent man in the priesthood, Shemaiah, was used in an attempt to manipulate Nehemiah into hiding. Nehemiah replied by 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!” Neh. 6:11

A key reason for success in repairing the walls was Nehemiah’s response to opposition. No matter the form of opposition, the tactics of the enemy, or the subtlety of manipulation he chose a consistent and firm response. He refused to withdraw. He refused to be manipulated by strategies of the enemy, even when they came from within! 

You may be encountering opposition to God’s plan in your personal life or ministry. I encourage you to be the Nehemiah of today!  Be consistent and firm in declaring God’s victory and your resistance to every attempt by spiritual opposition to what God has called you to accomplish.  Let every attempt by the enemy to get you off track be met with the same powerful response!!  “I will not!”


United Toward a "Good Work"

In Nehemiah 2:17, 18 we find that Nehemiah has garnered the support of the entire city of Jerusalem in his effort to repair the walls of the city. He says,

‘come let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.  I told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the King had said to me. They replied, ‘let us start rebuilding”.
So, together they began this good work.

Nehemiah began his project with the people united toward the ‘good work’.  Nehemiah had the great advantage of a unified people focused on a specific work.  There is something about unity that brings forth the power and glory of God.  Unity is very important to the Lord.  We are united under one head, Jesus, and individually and corporately we are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory. (2 Cor. 3:18)

So, if unity is so important, why is it often difficult to achieve in organizations, especially in the church? Paul chastised the believers in Corinth for not receiving communion in unity (1 Cor. 11:17-26).  Solomon spoke of 7 things that are detestable to God, the seventh being ‘one who stirs up dissension among the brothers’.  (Prov. 6:19) Dissension and division are the opposite of unity and the Word of God reveals that it weakens the body. 

I believe that unity dissolves whenever we take our eyes off Jesus and fix them on circumstances and people.  God’s plan for Jerusalem was to repair the walls. Nehemiah communicated the plan as God’s plan and the people got on board. They completed the wall, in spite of opposition, in 52 days!  God has a plan and vision for every church and ministry. God has a plan to show forth His glory and likeness and make known His wisdom on earth.

People are united as they keep their eyes fixed on Jesus as the head and on His plan as the vision.  As soon as people fix their eyes on imperfections of people in the church, imperfections in leaders, imperfections in organization, etc. unity dissolves and agreement with God’s plan disintegrates. Dissension and division enter as devices of the enemy intent on undermining and subverting God’s design.

However, we have authority and dominion over dissension and division through Jesus Christ. We have the power to resist the enemy. We have a choice to choose glory. We have a choice to focus on the ‘good work’ that God prepared before the foundations of the earth for you, for me, for the church. Submit to God, resist the devil (James 4:7), and you WILL complete the ‘good work’ He prepared for you. Praise His Name!!