A Biblical Success Story
Many people strive diligently to be successful in all their endeavors. They yearn to bask in the glow of accomplishment. Incredible amounts of energy and resources are given to the pursuit of success. But, how does one determine and measure success? Is it a certain balance in our bank account? Is it a level of lifestyle? Is it the size and closeness of our family? Is it earning a title in our career? While being successful in all things is a noble goal, nowhere is this more important than in our spiritual endeavors.
After the Babylonian captivity, Nehemiah set out to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Despite logistical challenges, internal disputes, and external opposition, he succeeds in restoring the defenses of Jerusalem. In fact, he completes the task in an astounding fifty-two days (Neh. 6:15). What made Nehemiah so successful and how is that success measured? More importantly, how can we be that successful with our own God-appointed tasks? In my Bible I made note of five observations of Nehemiah’s success and what is necessary for us to duplicate that success.
Contrition. When Nehemiah receives the report on the condition of Jerusalem, he recognizes the hindrance to the work is sin (1:1-7). Jerusalem’s walls are rubble, their gates are burned, and worst of all the people are a reproach. They have gotten off track and lost sight of God, His place among them and His purpose for them. Immediately Nehemiah seeks God’s forgiveness for his personal sins and for the sins of his people.
Commitment. Nehemiah shows commitment to his people, his king, and his God (2:1-5). There is a burden on His heart to rebuild the city of his father’s graves. There is a risk in his request for a leave of absence from the king. There is a dependence in his prayer that God will grant him success. He overcomes his obvious fear in order to carry out the mission God has put in his heart.
Cooperation. His plan calls for cooperation between the workers of Jerusalem (3:1-2). Chapter three is a beautiful description of how God’s people are successful when they are focused on a common goal and work together. It is important to note that Eliashib and the priests are not trying to direct the work of Hassenaah at the fish gate. They are focused on their task, setting the doors and consecrating the sheep gate. As each person and team fulfill their respective roles success is realized in record time.
Communication. Having good communication between all workers is good, but even more necessary is the communication with God (4:4-6). Nehemiah’s success is most certainly attributed to being a man of prayer. Prayer is the one constant in successful ministry. It’s one of the links that holds families together. Communication between one another is also a crucial element of strong families and successful ministry. Nehemiah brings clarity to the mission and his communication skills give the people a mind to work. Families, friendships, and ministries are only as strong as their ability to communicate the mission and each person’s role within that mission.
Completion. Nehemiah has a three-fold goal in mind: rebuilding the wall, restoring the faith of the people, and reestablishing the reputation of God (6:15-19). He is both discerning and decisive in addressing the internal disputes and discouragement. He recognizes the external threats as deterrents and distractions to completing God’s work. The Hebrew writer encourages Christians to be alert for the same dangers. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses (of which Nehemiah must be one), let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:1-2). God’s work, whether on our own walk, in our families, or in the church, requires a focus on fighting the good fight, finishing the race, and keeping the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).
Like Nehemiah, we must show a contrite heart over our sin; we must demonstrate a commitment to overcome our guilt through Jesus; we must cooperate with God on his terms for His work; we must communicate with him earnestly and often; and we must visualize our completed mission. In these observations we find spiritual success.