The year was 444 BC. The time had come for the restoration of Jerusalem’s wall. It lay in a heap of ruins around the city. The temple had been finished, but it was vulnerable because of its broken walls. God put it in the heart of one man named Nehemiah to take on the insurmountable task of rebuilding the wall. His burden simply would not go away. He soon realized he needed God’s help to accomplish the task. Why? Because God had asked him to do hard things.
Today, God is still looking for men and women who are willing to do hard things. The hard things that consist of an assortment of kingdom assignments that are yet unfinished. It’s typically a work that is fraught with many challenges, and at some point, can be costly. I believe a clarion call is going out today, asking for leaders to do hard things. Maybe you’ve sensed it, yet don’t know where to start? Nehemiah’s assignment speaks volumes to us. Let’s dive in and learn.
So, what can we learn from Nehemiah’s story? What traits did he have that we need? Can we expect the same challenges as we attempt to do hard things? That’s what this article is all about.
Key Elements for Nehemiah
It is easy to overlook a couple of key elements that set Nehemiah apart as “the man for the job.” First and foremost, it’s important to understand that concern was Nehemiah’s greatest motivator. As ironic as it sounds, it was concern that urged him to do the hard things that would be required. It compelled him to do something about the need at hand. As a matter of fact, it was his deep concern that introduced him to his calling. The same pattern works in us. When we are truly concerned about something, it calls us to respond. What are you deeply concerned about? Could it be a calling in the making? And what might be your next step?
The second key element that accompanied Nehemiah’s burden was somewhat of “a tough pill to swallow.” It was the certainty of conflict. It was a hard thing. Does anybody really like conflict? No! Most run from it. Many have an aversion to it and avoid it like the plague, but not Nehemiah. He intuitively embraced the conflict. In his own words: “So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.” (Nehemiah 4:6 NIV) We must have the same mindset. We will never do the hard things if we run from conflict.
And that’s not all! When you willingly accept the conflict of the assignment, you can expect trouble. What? Yes, don’t be surprised when conflict turns into real trouble. Don’t dread it, or avoid it, rather plan for it knowing God will be with you. If you are not being attacked by the enemy (while on assignment), maybe you haven’t given him any reason to do so. For Nehemiah, his trouble came from their neighbors in Samaria. Threats, lies, along with incessant agitation were continually heaped upon them. Nehemiah’s response? “But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.” (Nehemiah 4:9 NIV)
Don’t be surprised if trouble shows up when you’re doing the hard things.
Dealing with Exhaustion
Next, we find Nehemiah and his workers in a precarious place. They came face to face with the hard reality of exhaustion. Let me ask, “Can we really deal with hard things and not expect to feel exhausted?” I don’t think so! Hard things are draining. The question is, “What will you do when it shows up on your doorstep?”
Remember that they were almost halfway through the rebuilding process when the exhaustion hit. Nehemiah put it this way, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.” (Nehemiah 4:10 NIV) Physically they were stretched as far as they could go. Not to mention theheavy emotional load that accompanies conflict and frustration.
When exhaustion hits, the typical response is to look for someone to blame. As a leader, typically the buck stops with you. This doesn’t mean you have necessarily caused the conflict. It means you must simply learn how to lead in seasons of exhaustion. It’s tricky to say the least. Have you learned what to do when you are exhausted? How have you dealt with it in the past? It requires being in touch with God. You must lean on good counsel and communicate well with those you lead.
We must learn to deal with exhaustion. It’s part of our call to do the hard things.
Fighting the Mental Battle
Like it or not, doing the hard things God asks you to do will often mess with your mind. Remember, it’s the primary battlefield where Satan wants to meet you. Do you know why? Because when you are physically exhausted, you are vulnerable to mental fatigue, and especially error. He knows this, so he plots and plans his attack. He is a deceiver “par excellence.”
All Satan wants and needs is a “beach head” in your mind. A small area where he can dig in. From there, he proceeds to work. This was the tactic of the U.S. Marine Corps as they attacked Iwo Jima during the WWII conflict. All they needed was a beach head. A small area of control. From there, they could methodically take the whole island in time. And they did!
Fight your mental battles with God’s help. Look strategically at the weak points in your life. That is where you are most vulnerable. That’s what Nehemiah did: “Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears, and bows.” (Nehemiah 4:13 NIV) Surprising as it seems, sometimes our mental fatigue can cause us to overthink our situation. When that happens, it is time to get out of our heads and listen carefully to our hearts.
Fighting the mental battle can be tough, but it is part of what we are talking about… doing hard things.
Becoming Part of the Miracle
Without a doubt, Nehemiah’s greatest challenge while doing hard things was keeping his faith alive, or “expecting a miracle.” Yet, he was absolutely convinced it would happen. Instinctively, he didn’t wait idly for his miracle to happen, but stayed active for the cause. With God’s help, he became the miracle. Nehemiah found the strength to bring his assignment to completion. It was finished in record time, 52 days… and against all odds.
You and I often play a great role in the miracle we’re seeking God for. Is there anything you have left undone? Or overlooked? Are you doing your best to not get distracted? It has been said that “Your enemy doesn’t need to defeat you; he only needs to distract you.” Nehemiah understood this when he told his enemies, “’I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?’ Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.” (Nehemiah 6:3-4 NIV)
What miracle do you need today? Have you started out for God only to run into conflict and trouble? Don’t give up! If it were easy, everyone would do it. Keep in mind what God starts, He finishes. The God that gave Nehemiah his strength still gives the same strength to His children today. Yes, the strength that motivated Nehemiah to do the hard things can do the same for you.
*This article is adapted from Dr. Jon Chasteen’s sermon series from The King’s University chapel services.