Hope

Battling Discouragement

Have you ever been discouraged? Have you ever felt like giving up? I know I have.

In chapter 4 of his book, Nehemiah had bullies that ridiculed him, a workload that crushed him, friends who threatened to desert him, and sleep that eluded him. Yet he plowed through. Let’s look at three points and see how he found encouragement in the Lord:

  1. Haters hate (see Nehemiah 4:1-3, 10-12). The enemies of the Jews—Sanballat, the army of Samaria, and Tobiah—came against Nehemiah and the people with anger, insults, and intimidation. And some of what they said was absolutely true: the Jews were feeble and their building materials for the wall were worthless. But this was God’s job and God’s work, and He was going to make something of it.

Sometimes broken people using burnt stones need to confess their emptiness and look to Emmanuel for encouragement (for starters, see Matthew 19:26; John 15:5; Romans 7:18; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10). When haters start hating, sometimes you need to be weak so that God can be mighty on your behalf.

  1. Leaders lead (see Nehemiah 4:4-5, 9). Nehemiah didn’t retaliate against the haters. He prayed instead, first personally and then publically with the people. They had a mind to work but they also had a heart to pray, and if you have a heart to pray, you can keep your mind to work.

Then Nehemiah positioned his team along the wall (see vv. 13-14) and persevered right alongside them (see vv. 21-23). Nehemiah was not going to back down, back off, or back it on up. He knew that with God, nothing is impossible.

  1. Workers work (see Nehemiah 4:16-18, 19-21). The Jews forged ahead and worked with shovels and swords, using one hand to build and the other to battle. This is because when God builds something, Satan wants to tear it down. You must keep building while you’re battling or you’re not making progress.

And I love that they put a sword at their side. Do you know what our sword is? The Word of God (see Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12).

When haters hate, leaders lead, and workers work, God is glorified in our lives: “When our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work” (Nehemiah 4:15).

God can bring plots against you to nothing. Sometimes you just have to put one foot in front of the other. So if you’re discouraged today, don’t give up. I believe what God did with Nehemiah He can do for you, too. Let’s end with a prayer.

God, You are the God of the impossible. I pray that You would transform my thoughts of discouragement to encouragement. Renew me to go forth in Your strength, building and battling on the walls to which You’ve called me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Hope

Happy People Are Holy People

Did you know happiness is a by-product, not a product of direct pursuit?

Psalm 84 says, “Blessed are those who dwell in Your house; they will still be praising You” (v. 4). In other words, happy people are those who dwell in God’s house and seek His presence. As the Psalms say elsewhere, “In Your presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11).

The temple in Jerusalem used to be the place where people could meet with God and be happy in His presence—but in Nehemiah’s day, the city had been decimated. That’s why he went back to rebuild a wall of protection around it.

We read about the repairs he and the people made on the wall in Nehemiah 3. Everyone had a purpose in the efforts, and by the end of the chapter, they were halfway through the project! This was a real testament to their unity. They all obeyed the same leader—Nehemiah—and focused on the same goal, working for the glory of God.

I wonder what results we’d see today if the church rallied together like this. The worse it gets out there in the world, the more we should be together in unity and community (see Hebrews 10:24-25). This is because happy people pursue not just God’s presence, but the place and the people of His presence, too. And that’s what Nehemiah did as he got everybody working with their hands on the task before them.

And, boy, was it everybody: priests, political leaders, laypeople from all different backgrounds, and country folk from different towns. Not only that, but women also left the comfort and safety of their homes to work on the wall (see v. 12).

Ladies, it must be the same with us today. There must be a team effort in the local church for us to serve wherever God needs us. We should be on all parts of the wall of our local community, building up His kingdom.

If you’re not happy today, maybe you need to think about getting involved in God’s work with God’s people, dedicating all that you have to Him: your family, your things, your time, and your talent.

Remember, happiness is a by-product, not a product of direct pursuit. Happy people are holy people. They come to church, spend time in God’s presence, and work side by side with other believers on the walls of their community. In short, happy people seek to glorify the Lord.

Are you happy today?

Hope

Project Prep

Have you ever had good intentions for a project, only to find out you didn’t calculate everything very well? Maybe you weren’t able to finish it on time or it came out over budget.

We can learn a lot from how Nehemiah approached his project, Operation Rebuild Jerusalem. He succeeded in his venture by doing four things: conversing with the king, coordinating the details, canvassing the job site, and contending with difficulty.

First, he conversed with the king (see Nehemiah 2:1-5). Four months had passed between chapter 1 and 2, meaning Nehemiah had plenty of time not just to pray and prepare for this conversation with Artaxerxes, but also for the job ahead. And he let the king know that: he humbly, tactfully, and respectfully asked for permission to leave his job as cupbearer and help rebuild Jerusalem. His burden that began with weeping in chapter 1 had developed into a full-on calling. He knew he was the guy for the job.

So Nehemiah began to coordinate the much-needed details with the king (see Nehemiah 2:6-9). He set a time frame, got permits for traveling and building, and put together supplies. I think there are three reasons why Nehemiah received these requests: Number one, godly prayer (see v. 4). Number two, God’s partner. It’s thought that the queen mentioned in verse 6 was the only daughter of Queen Esther and believed in the Hebrew God. Do you think she had any influence in making sure all of Nehemiah’s needs were met? You bet. And number three was God’s providence. Anything can be done when the good hand of God is upon you (see v. 8).

Next, Nehemiah went and canvassed the job site: Jerusalem (see Nehemiah 2:11-16). If the news of Jerusalem had brought tears to his eyes, imagine what it was like seeing it in person. But great works begin when we walk through the nighttime of sorrow and our hearts are broken by Gethsemane’s darkness. When Nehemiah returned, he rallied the people together to begin building, and they said, “‘Let us rise up and build.’ Then they set their hands to this good work” (v. 18).

And right off the bat, Nehemiah had to contend with difficulty, which came in the form of three men: Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem. These men used the weapons of ridicule and doubt to try to stop Nehemiah’s efforts (see Nehemiah 2:19)—but just read his response: “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem” (v. 20).

He didn’t attempt to negotiate; after all, if you play tug-of-war with your enemy long enough, someone’s going to get pulled down into the mud. So he simply let go of the rope. And guess what? God took hold of it. But more on that next time.

Take some time to examine your heart: What projects do you need to turn over to the Lord today? How are you trusting Him with your plans and desires?

Hope

What If?

That tiny, two‑letter word if can either make us or break us. It offers spectacular possibility or eternal regret: What if I were to grasp all that life had to offer me? or If only I had taken that opportunity!

Nehemiah wasn’t an “if only” regretter, but a “what iffer,” someone who said, “What if God were to use me?” Let’s look at four questions he asked in Nehemiah 1 and see how they apply to us today.

  1. What if you don’t like the answers? When Nehemiah asked, “How are my people faring in Jerusalem?” the answer broke his heart: the city walls were broken down, its gates were burned with fire, and its people were bruised and broken, vulnerable to enemies (see Nehemiah 1:1-3).

How are the walls around your heart and home? Are the gates keeping the enemies out—those certain things on television and the Internet? To find out, we, like Nehemiah, need to ask the right questions—even if it’s hard, and even if we don’t like the answers. So be a Nehemiah to your family and friends. Don’t wonder one day, What if I would have asked them, “Are you really doing okay?”

  1. What if life gives you lemons? When Nehemiah heard the bad news, he “sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven” (v. 4). First off, bravo to him for not being afraid to weep over the things that make God weep. Life handed him a lot of lemons, and he responded by mourning, fasting, and praying. So if life gives you lemons, go ahead and cry, but then try to make lemonade—see what God will do with your tears and prayers.
  2. What if at first you don’t succeed? This is where we find the nation of Israel: they had broken the Mosaic covenant (see v. 7), and Babylon had taken them off into exile. So Nehemiah prayed a specific prayer, looking up, in, and around.

First, he looked up. He remembered who God is and what He had done (see v. 5). God had kept His promises to Israel before, and He would keep them again.

Second, Nehemiah looked in (see vv. 6-9), saying, “I know why we’re in exile: we worshiped false idols. But if we turn around and repent, the blessings are ours once again.” When we get real and repent of the sins we’ve committed—sins that contribute to the decline of our nation, by the way—and say, “O God, we’ll return to You,” do you think revival could happen in our country once again? I believe it with all of my heart. But it starts by looking inward.

Finally, Nehemiah looked around (see v. 10). This was the hopeful part of his prayer: he realized he was part of a nation that could play a big role in God’s plan. Ladies, each one of us are bricks in the wall of God’s holy temple. We need to look around and find other women who are ready to lock shields with us and get their hands dirty in the Lord’s work.

  1. What if the shoe fits? Nehemiah ended his prayer by simply saying, “Let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man” (v. 11)—his boss, the heathen king of Persia. He resolved his “what if” pretty easily, didn’t he? What if God could use me in this situation? Well, I’ll just ask the king and find out.

So what about you? Are you content to be filled with the regrets, with “if only”s? Or are you ready to see God bring spectacular results by stepping out in a few “what if”s?

Hope

Hope Changes Everything

Do you need a little hope refresher today?

Hope is not wishing on a star: “Star light, star bright, the first star I see tonight….” Hope is not blowing out the candles on your birthday cake. Hope is not crossing your fingers before buying a lottery ticket.

Real, biblical hope is a strong, confident expectation for a future reward. And hope and faith are inextricably intertwined. As Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” And Romans 8:24-25 says, “Hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.”

Did you know this is the kind of hope Nehemiah had? The Jewish people had been in Babylonian exile for seventy years, and one day Nehemiah said, “I want to go back to Jerusalem and help rebuild.” So he did—he left his job as cupbearer to the king and went to rebuild the walls of the city that had been decimated decades earlier by Nebuchadnezzar.

When he got there, the damage was worse than what he’d been told. There was so much ruin that an average guy might have thought rebuilding wasn’t such a good idea after all. But Nehemiah wasn’t your average Joe.

Do you know how long it took him and the people to build the walls? Fifty-two days. When you look at that in the light of history, it’s amazing.

That’s not to say he didn’t run into obstacles. Nehemiah faced setbacks, fought spiritual battles, and had to deal with Israel’s enemies and their threats. Yet he had a hope that anchored his soul (see Hebrews 6:19). He was like Tigger in Winnie the Pooh: he was bouncy, bouncy, bouncy. No obstacle in the way of a Tigger, right?

I don’t know what you’re facing in this season in your life, but I know God can take whatever it is and do something amazing. You know why? Because hope changes everything.

So I invite you to join me on this blog over the coming months as we take a fresh look at the life of Nehemiah, discovering not just how he was able to live so full of hope—but how you can, too.