In the last post we looked at getting support from those in authority, now lets look at how to Get Support from Others…
- Wait for the Right Time
In motivating others and suggesting change, timing is everything! Have you ever had a good idea killed because of bad timing? Timing makes a big difference. V. 11 says “I went to Jerusalem and after staying there three days I set out…” He stops for three days. Nehemiah does not make some grand entrance, flash the flags, bands playing, arrives in on a white horse. He doesn’t proclaim, “I’m here to save the day. Now get to work!” When he arrives in Jerusalem, the first thing he doesn’t do is get brick and mortar together. He didn’t even announce why he was there. He did nothing for three days.
What was he doing for those three days? We don’t know. Four probabilities:
- He was probably resting, recovering from a long journey. He had been on a camel, crossing the desert. This is wise because you never make a major decision when you’re tire. It will probably be wrong. Fatigue clouds your perspective.
- He may have been praying. We know he was a man of prayer.
- He most likely was planning. He probably was reviewing his strategy.
- He was building curiosity. He arrives with a king’s escort, into a town that is defeated and discouraged. He goes to his home and says nothing for three days. Don’t you think that caused a little curiosity? Do you think the existing power structures in Jerusalem said, “What is this guy here for? What is he going to be doing?” For three days the speculation is rising. What is Nehemiah doing? By the third day everybody has heard of Nehemiah. He’s actually using the delay to his advantage. He’s using it for psychological edge so that when he presents the proposal, they’ll be ready to listen. Before he says a word he does his homework. Have you done your homework?
- Do My Homework
In v. 12-16 we have Nehemiah’s research party of actually going out and inspecting the walls of Jerusalem. You’ve heard of Paul Revere’s midnight ride. This is Nehemiah’s midnight ride.
12 I set out during the night with a few men. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on.
13 By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; 15 so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate.
He goes on and explains how at night he’s out traveling around the walls of the city, actually inspecting. He is personally inspecting the damage in the middle of the night. He only takes a small group with him. He obviously didn’t want to attract attention.
Every good leader knows exactly what Nehemiah is doing here. He is doing his homework, his background checks. This is the lonely part of leadership, the un-glamorous part of leadership. It’s the part nobody ever hears about. It’s the guy doing his preparation, checking out the situation, getting the facts. v. 14 says there was so much rubble he even had to get off his horse and walk through it. At this point the size of the project probably starts to sink in and he thinks, “This is worse than I thought. Why did I volunteer for this? I’ve never built anything in my life.”
16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work.
Why is he being so secretive about this survey? Because he didn’t want the plan to be stalled before it got out of the starting gate. There had been 90 years of negativism and he didn’t have all the facts yet. Is it easier to promote a good idea or kill a good idea? Have you noticed that negative people tend to be more vocal than positive people? Nehemiah doesn’t have all the facts yet so he says before I even announce what I’m going to be doing, I’m going to get the facts. Then…
- Own and Identify the Problem
17a Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire.
He didn’t walk in as an outsider, having never been to Jerusalem and say, “You guys are a bunch of failures. You can’t get this thing rebuilt. It’s been 90 years and nothing’s been done on it.” When you blame other people you decrease the motivation. When you accept the blame you increase the motivation. He doesn’t play the role of an outside expert here. He doesn’t say, “I’m going to rebuild the wall… I’m going to be your savior.” He says, “I’m one of you and it’s our problem.”
Then he says, “Jerusalem lies in ruin … burned with fire … we’re in disgrace.” He’s pointing out the problems. Why? Because these guys had been living with this for years. Isn’t it a fact of life that when you live with a bad situation long enough, you start ignoring it? If something breaks in your house the first two or three weeks it really bugs you; six months later it’s still broken. When you live with a situation long enough you can become apathetic about how it is. Change never occurs until we become discontent. If you want to create change in your school, work, home, office — one of the ways is to create discontent.
Let me show you some pictures of the rubble from that time period and some of the walls that were built by Nehemiah.
How did he do it? He used two motivators. He appealed to their self-esteem. He said, “We’ve got to go out and build this; we’re in disgrace. We could do better than this. We’re God’s people and we’re living in rubble. The city is torn down. The walls are torn down. The place is in shambles and a mess. We’re in disgrace.” I think that was a breath of fresh air to these people. This leader is different because he’s concerned about us. He doesn’t just have his own agenda. He’s concerned about us and he realizes we’re demoralized. He’s says I want to come in here and raise your level of esteem so you’re not in disgrace any more. This was a strong motivator.
But even deeper than that, he appealed to a higher motive which was concern for God’s glory, not only were the Jews being disgraced but God was being disgraced. Who were the Jews? God’s people the whole world was laughing: “Those poor Jews! They say they worship the true God. They can’t even rebuild their own city. They say their God’s the greatest God of the whole world, but they can’t even get their walls rebuilt; they’re living in rubble.” It was an embarrassment to God and a poor testimony. When Nehemiah said, “we’re in disgrace!” he was not only appealing to personal self esteem but he was appealing to the fact that God’s name was being defamed. It was a bad testimony.
When Nehemiah identifies the problem he does not rely only on external motivators, “We’re going to rebuild this wall; whoever gets their section done first gets an all expense paid vacation to the Dead Sea! He uses internal motivators: self-esteem and God’s glory. Next…
- Propose a Solution and Ask for a Response
17b Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.”
In v. 17 he says, “let us rebuild the wall.” He calls for action. He appeals for help. He asks for a response.
Notice that Nehemiah was both realistic and optimistic. Nehemiah was realistic because he did get the facts on his night ride. He saw really how bad the place was. He tells them: the walls have been destroyed the gates have been burned. But he’s also optimistic. After honestly laying out the problem, he says, “Let’s rebuild.”
Not too many of us like to ask for help. Most of the time we’re afraid to ask for help and say, “I’ll just do it myself!”
During our building campaign, it was the first time that I had to ask people to really give, to really dig deep to make a sacrifice. I was uncomfortable doing so, but that was my job. Our church was not going to be built unless I said, its time lets do it! The wall around Jerusalem was not going to be built until someone stood up and said, “It’s going to take sacrifice. We’re going to have to put time, money, effort, energy to do this.” Then…
- Share My Heart
In v. 18 we have Nehemiah sharing his heart and there are two parts to it. “I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me.” He tells them about how God had called him to lead the project. The second part he tells them how circumstances confirmed his calling. “I also told them what the king had said to me.” He was saying, “I didn’t want this job, but I was praying over there in Susa. As I prayed for four months, I got a burden. The more I prayed about it God said, Why don’t you be the answer to it. The burden turned into a vision. I said, `OK, God, I’ll do it.’ It was really God’s idea. He called me to come do this project. Not only did God call me but He confirmed the call when I went to the king and the king said Yes. He gave me a cavalry guard and he’s going to pay for it.”
That is a legitimate thing to ask for if somebody comes to you and says, “God told me to do this.” A legitimate response is “Is anybody confirming this in your life? Or is this just something you thought up? Are there any confirmation signs?”
The testimony of how we got started is that I did not want to start a church initially. That seemed crazy. I would have never picked this for myself. I prefer a bit more stability, but God put it on my heart in 1999 to start a new church. God called me. He confirmed this through his intervention to make all of what you see now happen. I don’t know a whole lot, but I know God called me to begin this church and I see his hands all over it!
Nehemiah shares his testimony of how God had called him and the circumstances confirmed his calling. V. 18b is the people’s response, “I told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said then they replied, `Let’s start rebuilding.'” They were excited! For ninety years nothing is going on, then Nehemiah comes saying, “God’s put me here to do this. And we’ve got the king’s permission — the guy who wouldn’t allow it to be done before is paying for it.”
The vision has been transferred. First he said this is my vision. He guarded it very carefully at first — he didn’t tell anybody. He went out, did the survey, didn’t tell anybody. He was waiting for the right timing. Once he had all the facts, he dramatized the problem, he asked for a specific response and then encouraged them with his own personal testimony about how God called him to do this and how the circumstances confirmed God’s call. Now the vision has been transferred. It’s not Nehemiah’s vision any more; it’s the people’s vision. What was a secret for a long time is now shared.
Why did Nehemiah use his personal testimony in motivation? People follow people not programs.
In the next post we will look at handling opposition.
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