So I’m continuing to soak in the lessons presented under a tent in the front yard of a farm in Iowa from the book of Nehemiah. Sometimes it’s really good to do something different than what you are used to when studying God’s word. It just gives you a fresh perspective. You might not have been with us on the farm, but you can go outside and read your Bible. Sitting quietly in God’s creation for even a few minutes can really clear out the cobwebs, opening you up to hear from God. But of course that takes a little time….
The next phase of leadership noted in Nehemiah chapters 1 and 2 is a phase of prayer and planning. UGH. Most of us would tell you that makes perfect sense. How or why would a Christian start a project, run a business or raise a child any other way? But in reality these are the things, especially the prayer part that are first to go or at the very least are short-changed. Why? Simple, we say we don’t have enough time! Think about it. How many times in the last week have you told someone you just didn’t have time to …? (you fill in the blank) Our quiet times with God often get cut short by sleeping just a few more minutes or the long list of “to dos” in our mind. Sadly this is so common that we slip into believing that is just the way life is in this world. While it’s true we live in this world and it is broken and busy. We (Christians) are not supposed to be “of” this world, which means we can live differently.
Let’s start with prayer, since that is where we should start. When Nehemiah got the news that his people were in trouble, living in unprotected territory the first thing he did was fall to his knees and pray. He knew that the Lord was his source of wisdom and strength. He starts with acknowledging that God is God. The one and only God, who keeps His word. Then he confesses the sins of his people and himself. As I sit here this morning it strikes me that if I would start each day, each project/assignment acknowledging that God is God and I’m a sinner I would be in the right frame of mind. A setting of truth would be the stage from which I’d be making all of my decisions. That alone would help me make good decisions. Following that acknowledgement Nehemiah goes on to recall God’s promises to His people. The point was made this weekend that was possible because Nehemiah knew the Word of God. He was familiar with the promises available to him. Point well taken. We need to know what our resources are. He finishes the prayer asking for God’s favor as he speaks with the King. What he is asking for is God’s will to be done in this human situation. The first time someone told me I could pray for God’s favor in a situation I wasn’t sure about that thought. It seemed kind of selfish or like something a spoiled kid might do. But as I learned that God has a plan for me, but this sinful, broken world and man’s sinful ways sometimes cause difficulties for us praying for God’s will/favor in my individual circumstance made perfect sense! Try it! Watch for God to open doors, change attitudes or help someone listen or notice you when you didn’t think it was possible.
Then with God’s favor on your side and your mind thinking truth, make a plan. Again, that is probably going to take some of your time when you’d really rather be out there, “doing something” but it’s worth it. Nehemiah made a plan. How do we know that? When the time was right and the King asked, he was ready with an answer. The men who studied this portion of scripture for our time on the farm tell me that there were 4 months between the start of this story and the time the King and Nehemiah talked. That’s a long time! I don’t know about you but when I think the Lord has shown me something needs to be done I tend to want to get at it. After all why would the Lord let me know about it now if it didn’t need to be done now? (I’m smiling) Could it be so that we have time to pray, prepare our hearts and to plan? If we truly believe God is God and His promises are true, then we can believe he will show us favor when the time is right. Nehemiah’s requests were ALL granted by the King. Now he was ready to move ahead with protection and supplies. How much time could we save if when we actually started our day or our project we were actually prepared to do it?
Wow, who would have thought studying one Old Testament book for a few hours over the weekend, on a farm in Iowa would give us so much to think about for our everyday life?