February 26, 2017
Pastor Bob Odom
Engaging in God’s Purpose
Nehemiah 2:1-5 – In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.”
Here is the question for us today. When you face difficulties in your life how do you react or respond? This is a critical question because how we respond or react to the trials and problems we face make a big difference. The fact is we all tend to respond in different ways at different times. Sometimes the events and circumstances we face will determine our response. Sometimes the people we are with will determine how we respond. Sometimes we continue to respond in certain ways based on our past experiences and how we have been conditioned or raised to respond.
We will return to this in a moment but before we do that lets peer into this passage so that we can begin to understand what God will teach us and accomplish through us. In Nehemiah 2, we find that Nehemiah had been a patient man and had waited almost four months before finally presenting his case to the king. We also find that in the meantime that Nehemiah had been faithful to carry out the tasks of being the cupbearer. He did not give up on the tasks he had to accomplish. Although the news he had received was dreadful and painful, he did not allow the news to cause him to curl up in a ball and shut out life. He continued live and press forward.
Finally and in the right moment, when the time was right, and it seemed that God had orchestrated everything in Nehemiah’s life it was time to present himself to the king. Life was more than he could bear and it was time to make a move. He could no longer hide his pain or his disappointment. In the moment that the king recognized there was a problem with Nehemiah, the king responded to Nehemiah’s pain. In that moment Nehemiah had a decision to make in terms of how he would respond. When we were in the hospital this week Michelle read me a portion of a book she was reading. I thought what she read fit so perfectly with this message. The author of the book noted three ways we tend to respond to the events of our lives. We can endure the trial, we can escape the trial, or we can engage the trial.
Let us look at these for a moment. First of all, we can try to endure our trials but in doing so the tendency is that our trials can begin to master us, thus they begin to control us. The result is that we become hard and bitter. The problem with simply enduring the trial is that the trial or the problem we face tends to take charge and begins to rule our life. Left to its own devices the trial can become bigger than life. The result is that our complete attention can be focused on the trial and nothing else. While this is a natural outcome, we must be faithful to move beyond this.
The second way to to deal with the trials in our life is to attempt to escape the trials. The problem with using the escape mechanism is that when we try to escape the problem we often miss what God is doing and what He wants to achieve in our life. We run from the pain and in so doing we miss God’s blessing but we also postpone the difficulty until a later time in our life.
There is a third way and it is the best way to deal with difficulty. How do we do this? We enlist the difficulty or we engage it. When we enlist or engage our trails they begin to work on our behalf and thus they do not master us. We can overcome them and begin to see the benefits of the trial we face. This is critical as every trial we face serves a purpose in the economy of God. It pushes us closer to God, it can reveal sin in us, and it provides a deeper look into our heart.
Two passages come to mind as we consider these thoughts. The first of these is Deuteronomy 8:2-3. And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Notice here that God had orchestrated this plan in order that their hearts would be revealed and the truth of who they are was seen. Notice too that in this passage that the people experiencing the difficulty were not even aware of what God was doing in them. Without going through these difficulties, they would have never achieved the lessons required for them to learn: obedience to God, dependence on God for the provision of God, and the power of the grace of God.
The second passage is Romans 8:28. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Notice this passage does not say everything will be good but rather that everything will work together for a good outcome even if that is in the eternal perspective. Life is not good but God always is. He never fails. That is the exact point being made in this passage. Too many believe that because we are Christians no bad thing will ever happen to us but that is far from the truth. As we embrace the truth and the reality of our life in God, He can use these issues to form and shape us into what He desires.
My experience this past week with being in the hospital is in fact a perfect example of this. During the day on Sunday I began to experience a severe stomach pain. Through the day the pain began to become greater and more intense. At first I tried to endure the pain and do all of the home remedies that I knew without any relief. I could have chosen to endure the pain but the outcome in my life might have been different. It was beginning to control me. I could also have tried to escape and deny the existence of the pain but it would have mastered me and the results may have had a different ending. Instead I choose to engage the pain and drive myself to the hospital where we now know there was much more going on in my body.
Nehemiah decided to engage and face his problems. He took a chance with the king who could have had him banished and worse yet killed him. Nehemiah chose to engage the problem and meet with the king directly. Remember last we week that Nehemiah had prayed and fasted. He had received as much information as he could about what was going on with his homeland. At that moment he could have tried to just endure and continue to pray and fast but not do anything. That would have been spiritually accepted but while the spiritual and religious steps we take are important there is a time where we need to engage the problem and seek godly results.
We also find that Nehemiah could have tried to to escape the problem and pretend that was just the way things were going to be and therefore there was no hope for change. He could have run from the trial and would have been justified in doing so. He could have passed the buck and suggested it was someone else’s responsibility rather than his responsibility. So which would you prefer? Your trials mastering you, missing out on what God has to teach you, or accepting the trial and then being positioned for growth and strength. I not sure about you but I prefer the later.
Nehemiah had no idea of what would transpire in the days to come but because he accepted his trial and did not try to run from it, God used him and positioned him to accomplish His will. Nehemiah could have been “spiritual” and stayed in his room to pray and fast but he engaged. After he prayed and fasted he realized that he needed to do his part and that is just what he did and that is what we must do. We need to engage and get in the game so that we achieve God’s highest will for our lives.
So what did Nehemiah do? First of all, he did not try to hide his problem. He was honest about his situation. He did not overvalue the problem but he certainly did not underestimate the problem either. Notice that Nehemiah was willing to share his concerns directly with the king. This is critical because he took his need to the one earthly person that could do something about the problem. He did not talk with a lot people. He did not mumble and grumble. He did not use negative self talk to get himself discouraged. Sometimes we can engage with everyone but the one person that can help us resolve the issues of life. As a result of the relationship Nehemiah had with the king, he engaged the king and thus the king realized there was a problem. Even then Nehemiah had a decision to make. How much would he share? How honest would he be?
This leads us to the second thing that Nehemiah did. Nehemiah dealt with his fear. Fear is a natural outcome when we face trials and difficulties in our life. Fear is a God given emotion that can be taken to the extreme and cause us to shut down, run, or hide. Fear can paralyze us. But fear can also cause us to get a head of God and we can sometimes even circumvent what God is doing in us as a result. Nehemiah however faced his fears. Let me ask you two questions as we close this morning. First, what are you afraid of? And secondly, what could you accomplish if you did not have that fear any more? God never intended for fear to control us or cause us to be bound by the unknown. Nehemiah was gripped with fear but he did not allow fear to control him. He pressed through his fear and spoke truth to the king and as we know by history and the word that Nehemiah cam through in a big way and had compassion.
As we close would you take a moment focus your attention on the video we will play in second. So much of our failure comes in the form of fear. But that was never God’s intention. But we know who stands with us. He is God and He is always by our side. He overcomes our fear and the closer we get to him the more fear will subside. This video is Whom Shall I Fear by Chris Tomlin.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom