Nehemiah, the Builder
by Rev. Randy Brown
I don’t know that I’ve ever began a sermon by the way I want to begin this morning. I do so with fear and trembling. I’ve got a rather personal question to ask you and I hope it’s okay that I ask you although I’ve really struggled with this. I know that we’ve been together for over three years and we’re starting our fourth year. I know we’ve build some good relationships, but I’m really struggling with where to or how to ask this question.
Maybe I should just change the scripture and the topic of the sermon and the theme, but I really want to ask you this question. Now it’s personal. I wish you already knew the question, so I’d know if it was okay to ask it or not. I’m not sure it’s okay. I tell you what. I don’t want anybody to get upset.
Turn to the person sitting close to you and say when he asks the question, I will not get upset.
Okay, now see I’ve got a witness because if anybody here gets upset, you’ve already told somebody you wouldn’t, so I’ve got a witness. They can hold you to it. Are you ready for the question? Donna’s ready. The question is: “Is it easy or difficult for you to ask for help?” Some people it’s hard for them to ask for help. Other people it’s easy. For myself it’s somewhat difficult to ask for help. We think we can do it all. We think we’re invincible. We think there’s nothing that we can’t do. Is it hard to ask for help?
Now I’ve got four sisters-in-law and at least three of them are going to be here in the next couple of weeks, so I’m not going to tell you which one I’m talking about now, okay. I will just leave that for you to try to figure out, but one of them tells the story that when she was a little girl, she was out on their farm and she was riding a bicycle. Low and behold, the chain came off the bicycle. She tried all day long to get that chain back on that bicycle. Her father, who was quite the mechanic and mechanically inclined came by her several times throughout the day before lunch and after lunch and said, “Honey would you like me to help you?” “No daddy, I can do it myself.”
You know anybody like that? “No daddy I can do it myself.” “Honey, are you sure?” It’s getting on in the afternoon and she’s wasted all this time when she could have been riding her bicycle. Finally in desperation she said, “Okay, okay, you can do this.” Within no time he had the chain back on the bicycle and off she road. Wasted all that time when she could have asked for help and had it done. She was the independent one.
Now Nehemiah had to deal with asking for help – or not. Nehemiah, the scripture tells us, was the cup-bearer among other things, to the king. Now a cup-bearer was a very important job. It was very highly thought of job but it wasn’t without it’s danger because the cup-bearer would be the taste tester for the king. If somebody put poison in his drink; the cup-bearer got it first. The king had to drink after the cup-bearer, but the cup-bearer drank first and if what was in the drink didn’t kill him, it was okay for the king.
Same thing as taste testing the food. He was also a kind of a secret service agent and a trusted ambassador. Nehemiah was a very important person in this time. The day came when Nehemiah got word that the city of Jerusalem was lying in ruins, that the walls were down and the gates were burned. The people were unprotected and that hit Nehemiah very hard. The first thing we hear about Nehemiah in this story is that he sat down and he wept. You could just see the tears gather in the corner of this eyes as this noble man stood there or sat there and wept.
He knew that there was a problem in Jerusalem and he knew that it was a big problem, but he also knew that there was no problem too big to ask God for help. When the walls of Jerusalem came down and the gates were burned and they began to build back, most of the credit went to Nehemiah, but Nehemiah knew that it was not a one man show. He knew that he had to have some help for it to be successful.
He asked the king for help and the king granted it. He asked the people for help, his kinsmen and they jumped right in there. They together, in 52 days, built it back. Now if Nehemiah was here today, he would tell us that there are times when it’s okay, there are even times when it’s good, to ask for help. We want to look at those times when it’s good to ask for help.
The first thing he would say to us, it’s okay to ask for help when the problem is bigger than you are. Nehemiah was 1000 miles away. There was no material to rebuild the walls. The people had a defeated attitude. There was opposition to building the wall back. There were people who were for it but they said, well we’ve never done that before. Must have been some Methodists in the crowd.
When we face problems that are bigger than we are, that is not the time to get discouraged. That is the time to get help. Nehemiah would tell us. It’s okay to ask for help when the problem’s bigger than we are. The second time he would tell us that it’s okay to ask for help is when the problem becomes personal. Now this was not just a national problem. Nehemiah took it personally. He wept. It was all he could think about, all he could do. He thought somebody’s got to do something and I’m the somebody but I need some help. He mourned for days. It was a personal problem. The first responsibility was that he had to define reality and he recognized that the destruction of the Judean capital was important and that it wasn’t good that it lay in ruins. He would tell you that it’s okay to ask for help when the problem’s bigger than you are. It’s okay to ask for help when the problem becomes personal.
The third time he would say it’s okay to ask for help is after you’ve shared the problem with God. The first thing he did was to find God and to tell God, God we got a problem. Not that God didn’t know it but that Nehemiah wanted God to know that he knew that there was a problem. See he got honest with God. He could have just walked on by or said I’m 1000 miles away I can’t do anything about that. That’s not what he did. He said, “God we got a problem.” He took it to God. It’s okay to ask for help when we’ve shared our problem with God.
Do you know in the hymnal, now don’t run out. I’m not going to sing. What a friend we have in Jesus. All our sins and grieves to bear. What a privilege it is to carry everything ... What? Everything to God in prayer. Oh what peace we often forfeit. Oh what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything, everything to God in prayer.
Hebrews 6:16 tells us, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and that we may find grace to help in time of need.” It’s okay to ask for help when we’ve shared the problem with God.
The next time it’s okay to ask for help is when we’re willing to do our part. You’ve heard me say before, “Don’t pray a prayer that you’re not willing to be part of the answer to.” You’re an answer for somebody’s prayer. Don’t pray a prayer like, “Lord bless all the hungry people out there,” if we’re not going to do anything about it. Don’t pray a prayer on another’s behalf if you’re not willing to do something about it because God’s going to say to you, “Okay you do it. I’ve gifted you. I’ve resourced you. I’ve given you talents and abilities, now go answer that prayer.” God will use you to answer the prayer.
God wants to be our partner throughout life. Now there are two things, and I mentioned it earlier. Two sides of this asking for help. Sometimes we think we got to carry the whole load. Sometimes we think we just have to sit there. Neither one of them are correct. We don’t carry the whole load because he carries it and we don’t just sit there because he’s calling us to action. Sometimes God moves before us. Sometimes God moves after us, but God always moves with us. He never moves without us.
Now Nehemiah had to go back halfway across the then known world, but he did that because God had called him to do it. He didn’t just sit a long way off saying, “Oh I hope they’re getting it built.” When is it okay to ask for God’s help? When we sense God’s approval for the vision. Nehemiah prayed and he asked God’s favor and Nehemiah sensed that that God was being favorable to him and he had God’s increased awareness and He began to bless the efforts.
As I said a moment ago, in 52 days, they rebuilt the walls. Now how do you explain that? The only way to explain it is they obeyed God and God blessed. That’s something else Nehemiah would tell us. Never try to explain God until you have first obeyed him. “Trust and obey. There’s no other way. To be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey.” Let God set the agenda. So many times we set the agenda and ask God to bless it and God doesn’t, that’s not what God’s wanting for us. But say, “God, you set the agenda. Show me how I can be a part of what you want to do.”
That’s trusting. That’s obeying. “For there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey.” Now, one thing you need to realize is that when we get serious about this, and we ask God for help, there are going to be people who oppose us. When you seek to do something big for God, just watch out because somebody’s going to think it’s a bad idea. Not everybody’s going to be on the same page. When you take a stand, you’re going to have opposition.
Nehemiah 2:9-10 gives us this recording, he says, “So I went to the governors of trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letter and the king had also sent army officers to the cavalry. But the Horonite and the Amorites officials heard what we wanted to do and they were very disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.” Whenever you take a stand, there’s going to be somebody standing against you. We have to remember that.
When Nehemiah went there, and he got there and it all was getting ready to happen; they stood against him. He was probably the one that was the brunt of all the jokes in town. He was probably the one that people made fun of because these other folks that were in opposition, they became furious and they opposed what he wanted to do. Anytime there’s motion, there’s friction, right? Anytime there’s motion, there’s friction, but when there’s friction, that’s not the time to give up. It’s the time to get help.
Back to what I said at first. For some of us in this room, it’s not easy to ask for help. Some it is. Nehemiah knew that. He prayed and he planned and it was still hard, but he kept doing what God had for him to do. He had to let go of his ego. He had to let go of his insecurity. He had to let go of fear that he’d make a mistake. And then God lined up people to come alongside of him. You ever have that happen? When you didn’t know how it was going to turn out and all of a sudden, God had somebody there, exactly the right time for exactly the right reason that you needed that person to be there.
A couple of years ago we were coming back from my mother-in-law’s house and I noticed when we got out on the main highway getting ready to leave Spring Hill, something wasn’t exactly right about the van or the car we were driving. Then I realized that one side of the car was leaning way over. I knew real quick that we had a flat tire. I called my brother-in-law and he said, “I’ll be there in 30 minutes.” I said, “Can’t you speed up a little bit?”
It was almost as soon as I got off the phone, that a guy who I’d never seen before and never seen since pulled in and said, “You got a flat? I can fix it in 5 minutes.” I said, “Call back and tell him we don’t need him. We got somebody here to take care of us.” God sends somebody. He orchestrates things for our benefit. We don’t know where the help comes from. Yeah, we do, because the psalmist said it, “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Now He may send someone else in the flesh, but that’s God helping us out … being there in our time of trouble.
There’ll be sometimes when the people you think will help you won’t help you. You think they’re there to put in a shoulder and help you with the grind and they’re not there, but God will bring somebody else. The last thing I want to think that Nehemiah would tell us is that sometimes the miracle is found in the ordinary. A lot of times, we want the miraculous, and the miraculous a lot of times is in the ordinary. We want to see God do extraordinary things but we forget to watch what He does in the ordinary.
Tony Evans is an African-American pastor in Texas and I love what Tony says about this. He says, “When God is in the fire, any old bush will do.” Sometimes we look past God. We’re looking for the miraculous, the extraordinary, and He’s showing up in the ordinary and we miss Him. Let’s don’t miss Him. It’s okay to ask for help. That’s what He’s promised to be here for. It’s okay to ask for help when it’s personal, when we’ve shared it with God, when we’re willing to do our part. It’s okay to ask for help in the struggles of life.
Nehemiah knew that and we need to know it. We need each other, surrounded by witnesses. We’re not called to just run the race. We’re called to run it well and we can’t do that by ourselves. It’s okay. Whatever the struggle is that you’re facing, He’s there to help you, regardless of what it is. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s what the book says, and the book never lies.