So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.
Nehemiah 4.6 (NKJV)
In Position to Act
Nehemiah is a captive stripped of his rights and identity whose sole possession is his past. He’s the butler to King Artaxerxes of Persia, whom he serves gladly and dutifully. Word reaches him that Jerusalem has fallen to ruin. Its wall lay in rubble with its gates burned to ash. This grieves Nehemiah, yet he’s reluctant to disclose his sorrow to the king. He also, however, recognizes he’s firmly in position to act on behalf of his people. When the king inquires about his downcast mood, Nehemiah explains why he’s so sad. Artaxerxes honors Nehemiah’s faithfulness by dispatching him and a group of helpers to repair Jerusalem’s wall. On arrival, he recruits local Jews to assist in reconstruction. The foreigners presently occupying Jerusalem jeer them. Still, they continue to work, day after day in the face of open ridicule. “We got the wall rebuilt to half its height,” Nehemiah says, “because they people had a mind to work.” There is much to accomplish, and it grows more apparent their opponents are poised to do all in their power to defeat them. But they keep working.
Needed to Lead
We’re all aware of situations in our lives where we’re needed to lead. People and places we love have been torn down and they’re waiting for someone to take the initiative to help rebuild them. Others are aware of them too, but they haven’t the vision or wherewithal to mobilize. Our witness as people of compassion and tolerance gains us favor. And our commitment to justice and respect inspires others to identify with us. Like Nehemiah, we’re in a position to act. Yet also like him, many of us are reluctant to reveal how deeply the sorrows of others affect us. We resist mentioning it to others for fear we’ll be characterized as “bleeding hearts” or create trouble by having to defend our feelings. We do ourselves—and those we’re concerned about—a major disservice by this, however. Quite often added assistance we need to change things is ours for the asking. But until we ask, how can we know?
Worth Fighting For
Anything worth doing is worth fighting for. When we start out to invest our talents and lead others to fix damaged situations, we’re sure to provoke jeers. And as we succeed, it’s likely some will plot against us to defeat our efforts. But we have a mind to work. Nehemiah’s adversaries go so far as to conspire to murder those who work on the wall. Still, he remains confident God ordained this task. He tells his people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your homes.” (Nehemiah 4.14) While half of the workforce keeps watch against attack, the other half continues building the wall. “When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it,” he writes, “we all returned to the wall, each to his own work.” (v15)
It’s quite often the case that people who oppose our efforts to help others are cowards and bullies—small-minded individuals looking for a fight. It’s not our job to give them what they want. We stay focused on real, urgent needs we’ve been called to meet. We live in a world of rubble. Destroyed lives, dreams, opportunities, and efforts surround us. Something must be done to rebuild them. We have it in us to lead and when we move out in faith, trusting God to ensure our success, He provides others who, like us, have a mind to work. It’s not enough to feel sorry for those in distress. There’s work to do and we’re just the people to get it done.
When we take the initiative to help others rebuild their destroyed lives and circumstances, we can lead those around us with a mind to work.
(Tomorrow: Not Our Kind)