Despite our greatest efforts, our authority, wealth, and power cannot compare with receiving favor at the hand of God. In Nehemiah’s case, God’s favor multiplied exponentially, resulting in Nehemiah’s finding favor with the king who granted him everything he requested. But there’s preparation to be done before favor becomes a reality. No doubt Nehemiah planned (and rehearsed) his entire request before he had the opportunity to speak with the king. Note that even when the king asked what he wanted, in an instant, before he responded, Nehemiah sent up a quick silent prayer to God!
What do you want? Sometimes we are afraid to voice our request…out of fear…out of seeming greedy…out of feelings of unworthiness…out of feeling our request is beyond God’s capacity to deliver. Never doubt God nor limit his ability to bless you beyond comprehension. The Bible tells us that God’s “power at work in us can do far more than we dare ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3.20, 21) if we would ask, seek, knock (Matthew 7.7, 8). When you have had your audience kneeling in prayer before God, your king, and have found favor, it becomes much easier to stand in the presence of anyone.
Take the time to evaluate the needs of your city. When you pray, if God were to ask, “What do you want me to do?” are you prepared, as Nehemiah was, to give an answer?
When you receive favor at the hand of God, remember to acknowledge both the gift and the giver. From~ Restart: Stepping Out in Faith
Nehemiah seeks favor with the king. He reminds God that the people for whom he is praying are those who, in time past, God himself had rescued by his might and power. In essence, Nehemiah is saying, “Do it again, Lord. Do it again for me.” He intercedes not only for the people back in Jerusalem, but also on behalf of his fellow intercessors. What a big heart! He pleads with God to answer their prayer as well because together, as believers, they have a singular aim to see Jerusalem restored.
Do you join others in praying for issues that are close to their heart? The Bible says that when two or more gather in the name of Jesus and petition him concerning their needs, he will be there to bless them. What blessings are you seeking for your city and its people? Are there other groups with whom you are sharing your petitions?
What past victories can you recall? Will you ask God to do it again for you? With whom are you seeking favor? Have you petitioned God for help?
Join a rally that supports a cause that is close to your heart.
From~ Restart: Stepping Out in Faith
God keeps his promises. Nehemiah knew that firsthand, and he was convinced of it. Just as God had promised to punish the people for disobedience (and God followed through by allowing them to be taken captive), Nehemiah knew that godly repentance and obedience would bring the people once again into right standing with God. So, while in the presence of God, Nehemiah reminds God of his promise to bring restoration. The road to restoration is paved with the bricks of confession and repentance of sin. And Nehemiah was willing to start bricklaying.
Quite often we barter with God, trading what we consider righteous deeds in exchange for actually doing what God’s Word says we should. When we do that or willfully withhold our obedience, and consequently our obeisance, God considers it sin. However, the corollary is true. When we repent and obey God’s laws, God is faithful to his promise to restore us.
Think what would happen if people all over the city would be obedient to God’s Word. Think what would happen if Christians in your city would kneel before God and remind God of his promises. Nehemiah acted like a first responder in this crisis. Are there beginning steps you can take?
Search the Scriptures for God’s promises that address the troubles that plague your city. Find ways to show people in your community how positive changes in their behavior will help change the state of the city.
From~ Restart: Stepping Out in Faith
Nehemiah does not seek counsel from outside sources but goes directly to God in prayer. Here, he pours out his heart, acknowledging God as mighty and sovereign and one who is faithful in upholding the covenants he makes. Like a priest atoning for the sins of the people, Nehemiah begs for mercy as he confesses that all of Israel, including him and his family, has willfully disobeyed God’s commands.
In similar fashion, our own cities lie in ruins. Some of it is structural decay where buildings are burnt out, vandalized and unoccupied. At other times, it is moral and spiritual bankruptcy where godly living, ethics, morality and civility have morphed into everyone doing what is “right” in his or her own eyes. We have moved far away from the tenets upon which the Founding Fathers established our beloved country. Note, Nehemiah says the people sinned by “choosing to disobey” God’s laws. Can you see areas in which the leaders in our cities have chosen to disobey God’s laws? Like Nehemiah, we must unequivocally address our sin and disobedience as we come before God.
What responsibility do you take for the shape the city is in? When was the last time you earnestly prayed for the spiritual health of your city? What steps can you take to address some of its concerns?
Consider confessing your own sins, as Nehemiah did, in light of the spiritual decay in your city. Ask friends to join you at a regular time each week to pray for this particular issue.
From~ Restart: Stepping Out in Faith
Sometimes bad news catches us totally off guard and reduces us to tears. We hurt so badly that we need time to nurse the hurt; we need time away from distractions; we shun even physical sustenance. News about the destruction of Nehemiah’s beloved homeland evoked such a response in him. His feelings of patriotism, of concern for the Jews in Jerusalem, made him heartsick. As a royal cupbearer, Nehemiah was living a comfortable life in the palace of the king of Persia, far away from the strife and violence that ripped Jerusalem. Yet, he chose not to ignore the situation. He did not turn a deaf ear nor shrug his shoulders at the news. In his distress he wept bitterly and went to God in prayer for solace.
We don’t have to search the media for bad news about our city. It is there, up front and personal, all around us. God expects us to be concerned. He wants our hearts to be broken as we consider those who are less fortunate and are experiencing pain and suffering. God wants us to act, but he desires that we come to him first, in prayer, for guidance and direction.
What is your typical reaction to bad news or news that involves harm or danger to your loved ones? Think about your city. Have you ever felt particularly moved by its conditions? What situations triggered this feeling and how did you respond? Did you pray?
Ask God to direct you to a particular troubling issue in your city. Spend time praying and fasting for its resolution. Pray: Lord, thank you that I can come boldly to your throne of grace. Make me sensitive to the needs of others, and let me seek your loving support through the gift of prayer.
From~ Restart: Stepping Out in Faith
I want to focus your attention on something that affects every Christian at one time or another: Losing our spiritual edge.
God wants us to stay spiritually sharp. Consider Ecclesiastes 10:10,
If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength; but wisdom brings success.
God is using this analogy to illustrate a very important truth: If you lose your edge spiritually, you lose your effectiveness as well.
Maybe you feel that way today. Though you are exerting strenuous effort, you are making little progress in your spiritual life. God wants you to go forward. He wants you to progress and not become stagnant in your spiritual life.
I have a friend whose father was a logger many years ago. It was a time when they cut all the timber by hand with just an ax.
One day his father shared about the way he would operate. After he chopped down a tree, he would sit on the stump of the tree he had just chopped down, take out a file he kept on his belt, and he would sharpen the edge of the ax. He would sit there until the ax was very sharp again, then he would go after the next tree.
Each time he chopped down a tree he would do exactly the same thing. But he said most of the other guys didn’t do that. They just wanted to keep going, never stopping to sharpen their axes.
Without fail, he said, he always got more done than they did, and he used a lot less effort. They had to exercise more strength, yet they got less done.
A word we don't hear much about today is prudence. It means "careful management: economy."
In the Bible, prudence, or prudent, means "being good stewards or managers of the gifts God has given us to use." Those gifts include time, energy, strength and health, even material possessions. They include our bodies, as well as our minds and spirits.
Just as each one of us has been given a different set of gifts, each of us has been given different levels of ability to manage those gifts.
Too many people burn themselves out, constantly using their gifts and abilities in ways that God did not intend them to. Instead of pushing ourselves too hard to please others or reach our own personal goals, we need to listen to God and do what He's telling us is wise.
Trying to impress people and live up to their standards isn't prudence. Prudence means asking God how He wants you to use your gifts and then obeying. Learn God's prudence today and put it into practice so you can enjoy your life the way He intended. ~Joyce Meyer
Sometimes we wish for things to change but are unwilling to do what it takes to make things better.
I was always upset about my circumstances. I wanted God to change them for me, and I wanted Him to change the people around me too. But then He showed me that I needed to work on changing my inner life before I could expect real change in my outer life.
Matthew 6:33 (NLT) says, "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need."
So what is God's kingdom? The Bible says the kingdom of God is in us. If you've accepted Christ, that means He's living in you, and He wants to live in a good spiritual home. That's why your inner life is so important to God.
We must seek first His kingdom, letting His Holy Spirit take hold of us on the inside. When we allow Him to work in us, eventually we won't be able to contain it, and it will spill out and change the world around us!
You may or may not remember the “get rich quick” commercials promising little work, lots of pay, and early retirement. The underlying messages were that the best life was to have more money than you could ever need, quit working, and be lazy gallivanting around in a beautiful mansion with everything you ever wanted. (i.e., cars, food, trips) This, however, is not how God designed us to function.
As humans, we’re made for work; work gives us meaning. In fact, work begins with God in the first book of the Bible: Genesis. In the creation story (see Genesis 1), God works for six days and rests on the seventh. This is the example we as people, made in the image of God, are suppose to follow. If we don’t, the Bible has some tough words for us. Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “...The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” (NIV)
How do we abandon laziness? We find what it is that we love doing that serves other people. Instead of focusing on what it is that will make us the most money for an "early retirement," we focus on what it is that God has called us to do to give back to the community. If you don’t know what it is that you love to do, then seek out someone who can pray with you and help you find it.
The fear of man (meaning: fear of people in authority or anyone other than God) can be paralyzing. We may fear that a boss is going to fire us if we don’t live up perfectly to his/her expectations. We may fear that a parent or guardian is going to punish us or not love us anymore if we don’t live up to their expectations. Last, we may fear that our friends aren’t going to like or accept us if we don’t do what they say. There are so many situations that try to bring fear into our hearts and minds.
This fear hinders us from living the way God intended us to live. Unfortunately, these circumstances are not the fault of our own; there are times when the people around us put us in a position of fear. For example, a boss, parent, or friend may have treated you in such a way that caused fear. Regardless of the source, we are meant to be in relationships built on love, trust, and mutual respect, not fear.
How do we abandon this fear of man? We must understand who we are and who God is. We are prized possessions made by a loving God. This loving God is our protector and provider. Psalm 91:1-2 says, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” (NIV) Even though people and circumstances may attempt to make us feel fear, it is our responsibility to focus on the God who goes before us and behind us to guide and protect.