Nehemiah – Lesson Three
How do you know that you are where you need to be in ministry? How do you know that you are doing what God would have you do? Do you ever wonder if your current ministry involvement is just wasted time and energy? How can you be sure that the work that you are doing today is God-ordained, eternal and will be rewarded?
Frequently, I find myself concerned with these types of questions: “Lord, is this really where you want me to be?” Possibly because I’m past the mid-life point and sense the limits of time, I want to know that what I am doing is actually fulfilling the purpose God has in mind for me. I’m sure that I’m not alone in my concerns. Those of you who have committed your lives to serving the cause of Christ in the world can readily relate.
God’s call upon Nehemiah to serve in a foreign field is the model for how God directs His children today into the various responsibilities He has in mind for them. As we study chapter 2, we shall look for a clear understanding of how God directs our steps into the place He has for us to serve. Along with that, we will seek to find encouragement that God has led us and that we are fulfilling His purpose for our lives.
DAYS ONE through THREE: The Call To Leadership Selected Scriptures
For the sake of clarity, let’s begin where God begins with each of us.
A. The Call to Salvation:
1. How does the Apostle Paul address believers? (Rom. 1:6-7; 8:28-30; I Cor. 1:2,9) Note that these are but a few of the numerous New Testament texts that use this term to describe those who have been brought to faith in Christ.
2. In our previous lesson we studied the character of Nehemiah. There can be no doubt that Nehemiah was a man “called” by God in the first sense of the word. His sensitivity to God and concern for His glory along with his prayers and confidence in His promises assure us that Nehemiah knew God intimately.
B. The Call to Serve: Believers are not only “called” to belong to Christ but also “called” to a specific function within the community of believers, which is the Body of Christ (Rom. 12:4-5).
1. How does Paul speak of his role in Christian service according to Rom. 1:1; I Cor. 1:1? If time permits, look at the similar statements in Paul’s greetings in other New Testament letters.
2. How does Paul address the fact that all Christians are equipped and “called” to serve in the cause of Christ in Romans 12:3-8?
3. How does Paul emphasize the fact that all Christians are equipped for service in I Corinthians 12:4-11? Paul continues teaching about the purpose and function of those God has “called” in I Cor. 12:12-31. What new thought or encouragement do you find there?
4. According to Eph. 4:7-16, what is the purpose of the diverse gifts within the body of Christ?
C. Every person who has answered the call to salvation has also been called to serve Christ. But the question remains, how can one know that they have been called to a specific area of ministry? Basically, there are three factors to consider when determining God’s special purpose for the use of one’s gifts in the body of Christ.
1. The Word of God: Through study of the Word we come to understand the parameters within which one can serve. As we read Scripture we learn about activities and actions that are worthy of our time and energy and those that are not. We learn about the objectives and priorities that others have had and the end result of their efforts. As one is consciously seeking wisdom from the Word for direction in ministry in this way, there is often one passage that speaks, clearly giving direction. It is a good idea to record the text in one’s journal along with any other passages that seem to stand out.
2. The Inward Witness of the Holy Spirit: This determining factor could be described as a strong desire for a certain area of service. It may come as a burden or concern that overrides all others. It could be described as a prod or pressure from the Holy Spirit. It may come repeatedly to the point that a response is required. However the inward witness of the Holy Spirit may be experienced, there is most markedly an accompanying sense of peace when the right decision is made. Acts 16:6-8 is an example of this kind of leading.
3. The Confirming Circumstances: Finally, with the first two factors in place, one needs to consider the surrounding circumstances. One circumstance to consider is the opinion of other godly Christians who know you well. Often one’s call to serve comes through those who have worked with you and realize that you are gifted and suited for a certain task. The second confirming circumstance is the opportunity – the door must be open. Frequently, God confirms His leading through circumstances that seem to dovetail.
In light of these factors, trace in your journal the way in which God led you to your present place of ministry? How might these factors indicate that God may be leading you into a new or different sphere of service?
DAYS FOUR And FIVE: Nehemiah’s Call: Nehemiah 2:1-9
Now we turn to the details of Nehemiah’s call. We will observe God’s method of enlisting Nehemiah to serve His purpose along the same three lines as per yesterday’s discussion.
A. Nehemiah’s burden:
Compare 1:1 with 2:1. Remember that Chislev corresponds to our November/December and Nisan to March/April. How long had it been since Nehemiah first learned of the conditions in Jerusalem and God began to move? From chapter one, when did Nehemiah first begin to feel the intense burden for Jerusalem? Compare 1:4 with 2:1-2; do you think the burden intensified as the months passed? How did the burden affect his prayer life? Do you think the recorded prayer in chapter one is a single prayer or summary of long hours of thinking things over before the Lord?
“It is only the man with a crushing sense of burden and responsibility whom God can trust with His work. If you don’t have a heart that is burdened with an overwhelming sense of conviction you will never be fruitful in the service of the Lord. The need never constitutes the call.”1
B. Nehemiah’s confirmation from the Word:
As we learned in our previous lesson, Nehemiah chose to stand in solidarity with God’s people confessing his sins and those of the nation as if they were all his own. Then he claimed the promises from God’s Word (Lev. 26:33; Deut. 30:2-5). Do you think Nehemiah’s understanding of God’s plan for Israel added to or diminished the sense of burden he felt?
C. Nehemiah’s confirming circumstances:
1. Others who saw Nehemiah’s leadership potential: From 1:11 notice that Nehemiah mentions not only himself as God’s servant but others. How does Nehemiah describe this group? Who do you think these people are? In your opinion, is it plausible that they were all praying and coming to the same realization that God had chosen Nehemiah to lead at this time?
2. The King: Nehemiah had prayed for favor in the sight of the King (1:11). Do you think that Nehemiah had planned to look sad so as to arouse the King’s interest in his problems? Or do you think that his sadness was an involuntary response to the burden he felt?
The most significant confirming circumstance up to this point was the fact that the king was willing to allow his most trusted employee to take an extended leave of absence (2:6). Consider Proverbs 21:1. How might you be encouraged that God can change the heart and course of action of the most difficult person in your life? (This would be a good promise to apply in prayer.)
3. Documentation: How did Nehemiah seek to have his mission validated by the King’s authority? Do you think this might have been a lack of faith on Nehemiah’s part? Have you ever been in a situation where you have been given a responsibility without the necessary authority to get the job done? The balance between seeking public approval and arrogance is a delicate one. If you are in this situation, plan to take time in prayer. Examine your motives thoroughly and honestly before asking for public validation of authority. It is best to deal with this issue and those who are enlisting your service before accepting any position of leadership.
4. Provisions: What supplies did Nehemiah request from the King? The King granted Nehemiah’s request, but how did Nehemiah acknowledge the true source of the provisions granted? What further provision did the King make for Nehemiah’s safety?
Nehemiah must have kept a record of these situations that confirmed God’s call upon his life. Imagine how encouraging the remembrance of this state of affairs would be in the difficult days ahead. The good hand of God had been upon him (2:8, 18) when he left. He could expect that God’s hand would remain upon him—even through dark days of opposition—because God had confirmed his call. In much the same way, if we can look back upon God’s clear leading through the dovetailing circumstances and confirmations given, we will remain confident and steadfast despite crushing opposition and discouragement.
Motivation to accomplish a task must come from God alone. The source cannot be found in the need of the people but must be because God has sent one to do a certain job. A cross-cultural worker is someone who is sent by the Lord; “As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” (Jn. 20:21 NKJV)
“….the true source of inspiration for service is always behind me and never in front of me. The challenge will always be in front of me; as will the means. But the power and the motive of all Christian work is never what I see ahead, but is that indescribable, indefinable pressure of the Holy Spirit that has put me there. It is only that, dear Christian, which will keep your hand upon the plough when the going is hard. It is only such conviction that will give “stickability” at the task.”2
For most of us, the call to minister is the call to obscurity – to smallness – to loneliness – and to meager means. But if our sole motivation is because God has sent us, then none of that matters. We are satisfied because we know that we have been sent. We are secure because God is with us, providing spiritual safety and protection. And we are sure of our resources because God has promised to supply our every need.
Have you been sent?
1. Alan Redpath Victorious Christian Service (Old Tappan, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1958), p.31
2. Ibid. pp.33-34
About the author
Donna Jeffries has been involved in Women’s Ministries for thirty-four years. Her ministry responsibilities have included Bible Study Fellowship Teaching Leader, Director of Women’s Ministries and Bible Study teacher at Calvary Bible Church. Most recently, she serves with Campus Crusade for Christ and travels as a volunteer with the International School Project. She has also traveled with Women of the Harvest to several counties as a Retreat Volunteer and has served on the Board of Directors. Donna and her husband Don have been married 40 years and have three married children and seven grandchildren. They are business owners and reside in Bakersfield, Calif., USA.View all articles by: Donna Jeffries
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