Nehemiah faced stiff opposition in his quest to follow God and “live a Godly life in Christ Jesus”. Faithful believers should expect persecution and opposition at the hands of a Christ rejecting world. Don’t be surprised when people misunderstand, malign, and criticize you because of your belief in Jesus Christ. Verse 12 is ultra-clear that this will and does occur. However, we are not to run scared and give up. As followers of Christ, we are to persevere with the power of the Holy Spirit and continue to fight for truth, especially in these uncertain times.
1. In what ways have you faced “persecution” for living a Godly life in Christ Jesus?
2. How do you see people react when you begin to talk about your faith in Jesus Christ? Is there anger? Are people quick to change the subject?
Challenge: Don’t expect false teachers and evil people to reform and change just because you talk about your faith in Christ. Left alone, they will go from bad to worse. Keep persevering and if given the opportunity, correct and admonish them to bring them to the one who can produce change; Jesus Christ.
Life can often be a struggle. It is for most of us, just as it was for Nehemiah (and, we’re not doing things nearly as hard as he was attempting). Yet, in trusting God, there is an endpoint. There IS a time of not merely doing, but of completion. Nehemiah trusted God, and God gave Him the strength to finish. As should we.
1. Do you sometimes feel yourself being tired, and wishing to quit, that which God has given you as tasks and purposes?
2. Are you even sometimes upset that He gave it to you in the first place, and wish to just stop?
Challenge: Like Nehemiah, have faith that God who gave you life and strength for living, will also give you strength and endurance for perseverance and completion. But, at the end, just as in Nehemiah’s time, there is a final victory in doing what God asked him, and you, to do. That satisfaction is beyond anything he or we could imagine. So, trust in Him, work, and enjoy the good work that He would have us do, as He did with Nehemiah. Thank you, Lord, for that good work. Amen.
Trusting God with whatever you’re sad or anxious about, and then trusting Him in the work is done. Now, the actual tough part begins: where to start? It can be a challenge, as Nehemiah knew of his abandoned country. Yet, he faced it as he knew he had to. God was with him and, so, the work began.
1. You’ve planned and trusted, but are you ready to actually begin the tasks that God has for you?
2. Do you pray for God to give you strength to begin those tasks and purposes?
Challenge: The hardest part of all: actually beginning whatever it is God wishes you to do. Yet, you know you must. Remember that He is with you in the actual doing, just as He was with you in overcoming your fears and anxieties, and even in the planning, to where you are now. Like Nehemiah, trust in God to help you complete a good work that the Lord has given you. He will not fail or abandon you, and it’s the best work you will be doing, period. Amen.
Often, going through hard things to deal with pain, sadness, etc., is tough enough. Making the decision to trust God with a decision to face it is also tough. But it must be done. Nehemiah knew that his task was difficult, which is why he gave it to the Lord, prayerfully and earnestly. Now, he had to trust Him to help Nehemiah carry it out. It would not be easy, but God’s peace passes all understanding, as always.
1. Once you’ve trusted God with an initial decision to face your fear and anxiety, do you have enough trust in Him to work through it with Him?
2. If not, did you really give it entirely up to Him in the first place?
Challenge: Let’s remember to give something to God, and then leave it with Him. That doesn’t mean we don’t do whatever task He would have us do, or created us to do. It does mean that we go forward with it despite difficulties and trials along the way. Trusting Him means to reside in Him while going through those hard things. So, keep trusting in Him, always. Amen.
Often, we are troubled by thoughts and feelings of sadness and helplessness. These thoughts and feelings may, or may not, even be valid. However, how many times do we keep things to ourselves, and don’t ask others for help, even those who are in a position to do so? Nehemiah didn’t have that problem. God gave him strength to ask King Artaxerxes for help, and he got it.
1. What things are you fearful of right now that you are bearing alone in silence?
2. Which of those things have you gone to the Lord for help in dealing with, and also asking for help from people you know who may be able to help you?
Challenge: God answers us in myriad ways for things that we ask. Many times, he puts people in our lives that exactly can help us with something on our hearts and minds. May we remember to seek Him first, but, secondly, to earnestly seek those who He puts in our lives to help us. Our pride in suffering silently does no one any good, least of all ourselves. It’s just wasted time and needless suffering, and has no good purpose at all.
Have you ever felt completely, utterly sad, and you weren’t sure why? Or, you had a “feeling” about it, but still weren’t sure whether you should or not? It might be that God is stirring your heart for His calling. Nehemiah felt that same calling. It was time to inquire of the Lord as to what that meant.
1. Do we often feel unsettled, sad, and unsure why the same way Nehemiah did?
2. Do we suffer through it, or do we ask God to help us understand what it might be?
Challenge: There will be many times in our lives when, perhaps, the pain of our lives will make us sad, and we aren’t entirely sure why. Rather than shutting it out, let’s talk honestly (and pray) with our Father, and question Him as to what it means. He will have the answers for us, if we but listen to Him.
Sometimes, we may feel that only extraordinary people can truly make a difference. The truth is, no one is born extraordinary and God delights in using ordinary people. In Jesus’ day, fishermen were pretty ordinary folks. When a few of them made the decision to completely commit to Jesus’ leadership, the world was changed. Success in service comes by allowing the power of the Spirit to work through us.
Questions for further thought:
1. How do you see yourself? What inputs do you allow to shape your self-image?
2. Think of one Old Testament and one New Testament “hero.” Skim through the Biblical accounts of their lives. Were they extraordinary by birth, or were they more like you and I? What made them heroes?
Challenge: Take time this week to search the Bible and affirm how God sees you. Searching “Who does God say I am?” is one good way to go. Write down the verses that have a particular impact.
This passage recounts the story of God’s calling of Gideon to save his people. Gideon’s uncertainty is clear—surely God has the wrong person. It’s worth reading the entire story as Gideon asks first for God to prove the message is from him, then to confirm it through the novel use of fleece. Scholars debate whether this is an endorsement of the fleece method. What it does show is that God is patient—and persistent—as we work to address our self-doubts and confirm His call.
Questions for further thought:
1. Have you ever felt a strong pull to take on something new but talked yourself out of it? What did that self-discussion sound like? Was it the right decision?
2. Are you feeling a tug toward a new undertaking right now, either in your career or in an area of service?
Challenge: Take a step toward that thing to which you feel called. Whether you need to do some research, visit an organization involved in the work, or simply volunteer and dive in, make a move in that direction…and keep moving.
No matter how much power you have under the hood, you’re not going anywhere if that power can’t make the wheels turn. That’s what a transmission does. Nehemiah had a burden for the Hebrews who had returned to Jerusalem. He prayed to God, the source of power he knew they would need to get the work done. But he did more. He played a key role in turning that power into motion by taking action. He prayed, then asked the king to provide the supplies needed for the work and grant him leave to go and supervise. Prayer and acting in faith are both necessary to get the wheels turning.
Questions for further thought:
1. When you consider your prayer life, are your prayers primarily self-directed or a balanced blend of personal concerns and the needs of others?
2. Think of a time when God showed you that you were the answer to your prayers for a person or situation. How did you respond?
Challenge: Examine your prayers. If you haven’t been praying for the needs of others, shift the balance. If you have, listen to God to hear if he’s calling you to be the answer.
Sometimes, we doubt that we have the ability to do good and make a difference in our world. This passage says otherwise. Each of us was created for good works, and God has already provided them for us. Christ followers are hard wired for service and compassion for others. We are here to make a difference.
Questions for further thought:
1. Which issues, groups or individuals do you feel a particular concern for?
2. Think of service experiences in your past that have brought you particular satisfaction. What does that tell you about your serving DNA?
Challenge: Take a look at your everyday life (pre-COVID). Do you have space in your schedule to serve? Or, what are the service opportunities that exist in connection with the things you are already doing?
This devotional is written every week by Hillcrest members.
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