Pretty much all of society continue to scream at us to hustle, work hard, achieve our dreams, and all the other go for it stuff.
Often, this makes me feel overwhelmed and stressed. To combat this feeling of being left behind, I paint, write, and allow myself to soak in the knowledge that God won’t leave me behind. I still work diligently at what I’ve been called to but I don’t want the work to become the focus.
More importantly, I don’t want the successes to convince me or anyone else of my own merit. Whatever I accomplish in this lifetime, however long it may be, I want it to be known that all my talents, skills, and successes were God given. They all ultimately belong to Him.
The book of Nehemiah says it like this…
…for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God. Nehemiah 6: 16
Nehemiah had been working for a king. He was cupbearer and his job would not have been too shabby. Sure, he took the chance of being poisoned since part of his job was to test the wine before the king drank but his work held esteem. Yet, when he learned that Jerusalem had no walls, he allowed God to speak through the burden. And with the permission, blessing, and gifts of the king, he went to rebuild those walls.
Rebuilding didn’t happen without opposition,even though it was king granted. At one point, the people of Jerusalem were even building while carrying swords (Nehemiah 4: 18)
Yet, when the wall was finished. And in record time. Nehemiah tells us that nations around Jerusalem became “afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem.”
There is work that I must do. I don’t have a wall like Nehemiah but I want to do what God has called me to do and do it with success. And I want to do it God’s way.
We cannot follow the world’s way to success and expect God results. So, what can we learn from the book of Nehemiah to ensure God gets the glory for success?
Nehemiah allowed time for God’s passion to grow inside him.
And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. Nehemiah 1: 3-4
Nehemiah didn’t feel a burden and then leave for Jerusalem that day. He let God direct his passions so he didn’t start a project with a passion that would eventually burn out. I struggle most here. That praying and fasting for days, yeah, it’s difficult. It requires listening to God and surrender. No matter how awesome the idea may be, surrender is required so that if that initial passion isn’t from Him — time will kill it. Further, time spent listening allows God to speak clear direction for that passion. It allows God to go before us and to prepare avenues. Time is beneficial so that non-God things can die and so God-ordained passion, understanding, and wisdom can grow.
Nehemiah didn’t let sin get close to the project.
So I said, “The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies? Nehemiah 5: 9
This frequently happens in churches. Someone is passionate about children’s ministry and their background check comes back fine, so let’s put them in charge. Wrong! A person’s life must be examined before being put in leadership. A church work day is a fine time for them to volunteer but a regular teacher? Nope. The project isn’t a wall but it is a Church that is holy and dedicated to God. If leadership isn’t seeking to live a holy life style then the project is tainted and corrupted. In smaller, personal endeavors, we must be vigilant to not let the world’s wisdom become our beacon. We much be constant in seeking God’s direction, guidance, and allow His passions to guide us. Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we ought to do something. And just because someone is qualified on paper to do something, doesn’t mean they are God’s choice for the call.
Nehemiah didn’t let fear cause him to stumble
For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me a bad name in order to taunt me. Nehemiah 6: 13
There’s the fear of not posting enough, not having a relevant product, or not having the most followers. There’s also fear of offending, not speaking what I’m supposed to, not doing something in love, or simply failing. Fear can lead us to follow the world’s wisdom and sin. It can make us lose sight of God’s passion. We may not necessarily acquire a bad name but God can no longer get the glory if we’re following the “tried and true” avenue. We’ve all heard the phrase, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” In a world that has a “tried and true” method for just about everything, it’s difficult to journey down a path that’s directed solely by God. It’s hard to throw conventional wisdom out the window when He asks us to. Conventional wisdom is safe — God’s ways don’t always seem safe. However, even when fear is telling us that what God is asking us to do is too much, not smart, or just not the way it’s done, we have to choose to behave contrary to what fear is telling us so that in the end God gets the greatest glory.
Before I go, sometimes it’s smart to take the “tried and true” road. Sometimes, God takes us down that path and he desires that we learn and grow. However, we should never be so comfortable there that we miss when God tells us He’s ready to do something much bigger than what the world expects.