Pass the Tests – A Lesson From Nehemiah

What thoughts do you associate with tests? Are they fear-filled or hopeful? How can we prepare to pass the tests life throws our way? Writing this blog became a test when my website crashed midway through preparation!

Nehemiah teaches us how to pass the tests, even when they come in unexpected ways. Each test presented a different range of problems he overcame as he consistently moved toward his goal.

We, too, will face challenges and hurdles as we press toward all God has for us, testing our character, commitment, and courage.

Nehemiah began his journey the best way possible through prayer.

“When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”
Nehemiah 1:4

Nehemiah had received news that the walls and gates of Jerusalem lay in piles of burnt rubble. Deeply distressed, he sought God’s direction and intervention. Unprotected, vulnerable, and open to enemy attack, the people he loved were in the worst possible position.

Serving under the king’s authority, Nehemiah set out for Jerusalem.

Test of Motive

It didn’t take long for Nehemiah’s enemies to push back. Whenever we attempt to serve God, we will experience similar opposition. Three men, in particular, faced off against Nehemiah — Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem.

” . . . they mocked and ridiculed us. ‘What is this you are doing? . . . Are you rebelling against the king?'” Nehemiah 2:19

Their attacks against Nehemiah aimed deep. Verbal arrows pointed at his motivation, judging him as rebellious.

“I answered them by saying, ‘The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.'”
Nehemiah 2:20

Some people may delight in questioning our motives — even publicly.

Without anything to fear, this test offers a perfect opportunity to expose our true motive for the Lord’s examination. With the king’s orders in his hand, Nehemiah knew their empty claims were groundless.

Test of Ability

When Nehemiah passed his first test, his enemies became even more aggressive.

“When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, ‘What are those feeble Jews doing. Will they restore their wall . . . offer sacrifices . . . finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble — burned as they are?'”
Nehemiah 4:1-2

Our inner critic echoes similar questions. Will you? Can you?

Nehemiah wasted no time defending himself. He knew the task far exceeded human ability. The test of ability drove Nehemiah to his knees before God, asking Him to turn the enemies’ insults back upon them.

“So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.” Nehemiah 4:6

As a result, God protected the hearts of the workers. With hearts completely dedicated and trusting in God, all things are possible. Ability with heart will take anyone anywhere God leads.

Test of Courage

To pass the tests of motive and ability Nehemiah and his team consistently focused on the goal. Immediately, the troubling trio enlisted the assistance of Arabs, Ammonites and the people of Ashdod — increasing the troops of opposition.

“They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it.”
Nehemiah 4:8

Nehemiah faced the threatening declarations of war in the same way he withstood every test — through prayer. The mission conceived in prayer continued in prayer. Prayer formed a solid foundation for effective, continued ministry.

“But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.”
Nehemiah 4:9

Little by little, a wall began to rise from the rubble. The warrior-builders proceeded with “swords, spears, and bows” strapped to their sides (4:13).

Test of Dedication

As the work continued unabated, the trio attempted to lead Nehemiah into yet another trap. Without a leader, the work would surely stop.

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

No matter how persistent, we must never “meet together” with the enemy at Ono or anywhere else! Four times they sent the same message. Four times Nehemiah refused (6:4).

“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?'”
Nehemiah 6:3

Distraction and failure to recognize the significance of a task may become the greatest obstacles to reaching any goal.

In the fifth attempt the enemy added even more lies and intimadation “trying to frighten us” (6:9). Again, Nehemiah prayed.

Taking everything to God in prayer will strategically lead us to victory. We may consider our mission minor compared to what God asked Nehemiah to do, but whatever our mission, may we face every test with determination and dedication. The smallest actions may prove to have the greatest impact in the Kingdom of God.

Test of Reliance

One final test of reliance awaited Nehemiah, when a false prophet attempted to entice Nehemiah to protect himself.

” . . . Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you — by night they are coming to kill you.”
Nehemiah 6:10

Nehemiah trusted God alone as his protection. Self-protection placed above the call to shield his people would be nothing short of sin!

“But I said, ‘Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!'”
Nehemiah 6:11

Even here, Nehemiah would pass the tests with character, commitment, and courage. As servant leader, Nehemiah set the example by placing the needs of the vulnerable above his own.

Passing the Test

By the grace of God, they completed a humanly impossible task in fifty-two days (6:15). Nehemiah trusted in God, leading the people to accomplish God’s desire for Jerusalem.

What is our calling? What mission has God placed before us? Is it raising our families, teaching a Sunday School class, or leading a small home group? Perhaps, it is boldly living our faith in the marketplace.

May the testing of our motives, ability, courage, dedication, and reliance show a depth of character, a commitment to God, and an unwavering courage in the face of opposition. From here forward, may we learn from Nehemiah’s success and emulate his consistency in prayer. Whatever God calls us to, He will equip us for. There is no shortage with our God!

“Lord make us bold for the task. Give us ears to clearly hear your direction. Grant us a steadfast heart to serve You. Through You, we pick up spiritual weapons in one hand and tools to build your Kingdom in the other. We turn our whole hearts to follow You.”

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Rebuild the Walls! Fight for Your Families, Your Sons And Your Daughters!

Rebuild the Walls

God sent Nehemiah on a mission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, walls that were broken down through the actions of preceding generations. “Fight for your families, your sons, and your daughters!” He challenged the remnant.

We don’t have to look far to see the devastation surrounding homes and families today. Is it time for that deep cry to rise again?

“After I looked things over,
I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people…
 fight for your families, your sons and your daughters,
your wives and your homes.”
Nehemiah 4:14

Broken Walls

The walls have been broken and the gates have been burned around many of our homes. God’s defense system through marriages and families has been undermined, negated, legislated against, and maligned. The fires of hell are aimed to do irreparable damage.

Nehemiah began with prayer!

Prayer

Prayer was a constant part of Nehemiah’s life! There was more than a physical wall that needed rebuilding. Discouragement, despair and disgrace hovered over his people. God needed to first bring down internal walls of defeat  before they were able to actively rebuild the tangible walls around the city.

Every step included prayer!

God's plan is brilliant

Nehemiah began by confessing his own sin and the sins of his people. It wasn’t long before God began to release the strategies to rebuild the broken walls. God mobilizes his people to do kingdom work when they pray!

One person took the faith action of prayer! God gave direction on how to reverse the devastation!

Reinforce

A chain is only as a strong as its weakest link; a wall is only as strong as its lowest point. Nehemiah paid special attention to these exposed areas!

“Therefore I stationed some of the people
behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places…”
Nehemiah 4:14
 

We all carry brokenness and wounding! These are our lowest and most exposed places!

We bandage burns and cast broken bones, knowing damaged parts need extra protection and care. The same is true in the spiritual, relational and emotional dimensions of our lives.

The strong and brave!

Nehemiah sent the strongest and bravest to the positions of greatest weakness and highest need! If you are strong, ask God to put you in the right place at the right time to strengthen and help the broken and weak. If you are in need, take this moment to ask God to bring men and women of faith beside you!

Equip

The first step is placing the right people into the right position; the next step is equipping them to do the work!

“… posting them by families,
with their swords, spears and bows.”
Nehemiah 4:14

Never separate a bear from her cubs! Few survive the experience! Trying to take a newborn calf from its mother brings similar consequences. I have never experienced the first; I have had a few tangles with the latter!

Fight like a mother bear for her cubs

There is a God-given instinct in each of us to fight for and defend our families. We will risk for family what we would never risk for any other cause.

Nehemiah equipped them to fight:

  • swords for face to face combat
  • spears for an enemy advancing to engage in battle
  • bows and arrows for a pending assault from farther away

Families need the right tools to succeed! Pastors, mentors, Christian psychologists, inner healing therapists and many others form the front lines workers in the weakest and most vulnerable places among us.

These have all be an incredible healing influence in my life!

Encourage

We can easily become worn down by the sheer weight of the rebuild process. Carrying stones all day every day is tiring work!

“…Don’t be afraid of them.
Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome...”

Remember God is great and awesome!

The enemy is real! The problems unceasing! The odds seem impossible! In the midst of an overwhelming process, we can become so focused on the rocks in front of us that we miss the bigger picture.

In the midst of intense rebuilding it is necessary to zoom out and zoom up!

[bctt tweet=”Zoom out! Zoom up! God is bigger than your circumstance! Nothing can outdo the cross!” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

God is bigger than your circumstance! Nothing can outdo the cross!

Support

“The officers posted themselves behind all the people
…who were building the wall..”
Nehemiah 4:16

We all must take responsibility for our own destructive attitudes and behaviours. Willing and concentrated efforts by those actually living in broken situations is necessary!

Sometimes we think leadership is most effective in the front; Nehemiah knew his officers were most effective behind the workers!

What a difference it makes to know your back is covered! Secure leaders positions themselves behind the workers offering prayer and protection. Godly leaders hold up the weak until they reach a healthy level of stability.

Community

The enemy schemes to divide and conquer. In the rebuilding process developing a sense of community and belonging is critical.

“Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people,
“The work is extensive and spread out,
and we are widely separated from each other along the wall.”
Nehemiah 4:19

There is danger in being separated from the ones who are co-labouring with us. Seeking out support groups, community groups and mentors will help to validate and encourage us as we rebuild.

“Many hands make light work!” was a common saying in my home. It is true! Together we are strong!

Ready to Rebuild

“Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me
took off our clothes; each had his weapon,
even when he went for water.”
Nehemiah 4:23

God has given us the spiritual garments we need to live victorious. (Ephesians 6:10-18) It is up to us to put them on and to keep them on! Day and night!

At the same time, we cannot neglect the need to sustain and nurture ourselves. Water is a necessity! Water in the bible often refers to Holy Spirit. The greatest need we have is to be constantly filled with the life giving flow of the Spirit.

Without Him the task is impossible! We would be like an aimless wanderer in the desert dying of thirst!

The rebuild process can seem overwhelming. Make every effort to be refreshed and renewed spiritually, physically and emotionally.

Nehemiah followed these God strategies to rebuild the ruined walls of Jerusalem. God’s gracious hand was with him! The walls were rebuilt in just fifty-two days!

God is brilliant! His plans are perfect! Following His pattern to rebuild our homes and families, creates strong defenses to help us fight for our homes and families.

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More victorious reading! Trophies of Victory! Bring the Trophy Home!

 

Laughter – It’s Better Than Medicine! Choose Joy!

Laughter Better Than Medicine

Laughter is contagious! Laughter inspires us to let go of frets and worries engaging fully in the simplicity of life. Now that’s my kind of medicine!

“A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”
Proverbs 17:22

The word translated “medicine” [gehah] occurs nowhere else in the bible. Scholars believe it more accurately means “healing” or “relief.”

A Merry Heart

God Laughs

As nations conspire, people plot, and kings band together

“The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the LORD and against his anointed,
saying, “Let us break their chains
and throw off their shackles.”
The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.”
Psalm 2: 2-4

God’s laughter gives us the assurance that Christ will ultimately triumph over evil. Three times Revelation 4 tells us  there is One who sits on the throne. Envisioning the King of all kings enthroned in majesty, I rest. He has not abdicated! All authority in heaven and on earth belongs to Him.

Laughter Exalts God

Each of us experiences, at one time or another, the barrenness of a desert place. Everyone knows the pain of difficult a season. Some more extreme than others! When we approach the other side, laugh!

“Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.”
Psalm 126: 2

Laughter

 

Joyous enthusiasm convicts nations, convincing them of God’s greatness and goodness to His people. Has God done something good for you? Remember and be filled with joy and laugh!

People around you will notice and ask the reason for your joy.  What a perfect opportunity to share what God has done.

Waiting for Laughter

Life doesn’t always throw us something to laugh at. What do we do then?

Nehemiah had been given permission to return to Jerusalem. Many years prior walls of protection crumbled, gates smouldered and the stones of refuge scattered. With the help of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit, Nehemiah rebuilt in fifty two days what was impossible for decades.

The people gathered together listening intently to the reading of the Law. The realization of their sinfulness erupted in mourning and intense weeping.

Ezra, the Levites and Nehemiah stopped the people from weeping and mourning.

“This day is holy to the LORD your God.
Do not mourn or weep.”
Nehemiah 8:5

Joy

Do overwhelming circumstances grip you today? Are you experiencing deep pain right now? The distance between today and your last good laugh may seem miles apart. Take hope!

“…Weeping may last through the night,
but joy comes with the morning.”
Psalm 30:5

Be encouraged! Morning always comes! In the presence of the Lord there is neither weeping, sorrow nor sadness. None! Just as He was present in the midst of the people of Nehemiah’s day, He is present with you today.

Joy Produces Strength

“…the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Nehemiah 8:10

Nehemiah ties joy securely to strength. Strength here also means “fortified place, defence, fortress, or rock.” When we choose the position of joy we find strength that stands

  • against the assaults of the enemy
  • strong over condemnation from the Law
  • in the fullness of God’s promise toward us

Joy is Strength

Recently, I walked through a particularly difficult season that threatened to consume life, hope and peace. Every morning I was aware that God was granting me the option to choose joy. Daily joy was a deliberate decision, a purposeful intent. Joy became my personal fortress in the midst of intense struggle. The Rock of joy withstood!

Laughter isn’t just child’s play! Its good for us all! Let’s get serious about joy!

Laughter just might prove to the best medicine after all.

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For further reading:

Great Trials Matched by Great Joy – James 1 Perspective