Yesterday and today, my husband and I devoted time to preparing our raised garden bed for planting. Because we were away for an extended time period last summer, we didn’t plant a vegetable garden and by the time we returned we had a bed of weeds! By then I was too tired and distracted by other things to do much with the weeds and eventually the frost and snow killed them off.
As we dug and tilled, separating the weeds and roots from the soil, we were pleasantly surprised to find the earth was still in really good condition. A proliferation of small black ants and a satisfactory number of earthworms probably helped to keep the soil from compacting.
I also put my pruning tools to good use as I trimmed dead twigs from my Japanese maples. Anything unhealthy was simply preventing the new growth from thriving so it had to go. One rose bush had only a few leaves coming on the stems just above the ground, so snip went the branches that bore no evidence of life. Sometimes pruning has to be fairly drastic for the overall good of the plant. The process is sometimes painful and I’m sure the plant itself doesn’t understand but we see the far-reaching implications and are committed to do what will allow the plant to move forward.
Nehemiah knew the same principles applied to the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. While he and his fellow Jews had been away from their homes in captivity for many years, enemies had come in and ruined their beloved city. Mounds of rubble lay where the walls of protection had once stood proud and tall. They now faced the monumental and seemingly impossible task of rebuilding.
If you missed my post last week, I find it encouraging to note that every time Nehemiah or the people were afraid, discouraged, intimidated, weary, and even threatened that he purposefully directed their thoughts back to the fact that the hand of God had been upon them from the very beginning. This bolstered their confidence and gave them the ability to keep moving forward in spite of insurmountable odds.
Likewise, when faced with difficult circumstances and conflicting emotions, we can often become stuck in our tracks. We want to move forward but fear and the uncertainty of the future often paralyzes us. The reactions of others can be intimidating. Our perception of the truth can become fuzzy. Misunderstandings cause distrust. Our desire to know more than we should becomes frustrating.
What can we learn from Nehemiah’s leadership about moving forward? How did he mobilize his compatriots to lean in and take ownership of the project? Why was he able to engage them in a task when all they saw was rubble and opposition?
I recently heard a pastor say, “We can’t ask God to order our steps if we’re not willing to move our feet.”[i]
In this morning’s service our pastor said, “Yesterday is gone. We cannot bring it back, so today is the best day of your week…when you can’t find God in your situation, don’t worry about it and don’t let it get you down. He is working it out even when He can’t be found.”[ii]
I believe the same principles Nehemiah put feet to will also guide us in moving from the past into an uncertain future:
- PRAY, PRAY, PRAY even if you need to spend months doing so!
- Evaluate where you have been
- Investigate what you need to go ahead
- Implement a well-thought out plan
- Remind each other of God’s faithfulness
- Claim God’s promises for the future
- Mobilize people to use their skills and giftedness
- Deal with opposition wisely and promptly
- Be on guard against the enemy
- Build and maintain a unified front
- Keep your eyes focused on the goal
- Respect and fear the Lord
- Beware of deceitfulness
- Dedicate yourselves to finishing the task
The apostle Paul said, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”[iii]
“Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”[iv]
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith…”[v]
Our enemy is Satan and He will continually attempt to prevent us from moving forward. He does not want God to be glorified. He hates to see us unify and accomplish God’s plan.
As our pastor shared today, will we see the events of our lives as “stumbling blocks” or as “stepping stones” in moving forward?
Until next time,