Several weeks ago, I preached a sermon titled, ‘A Time for Prayer and Godly Action’ based on Nehemiah chapters 1 – 9. The purpose of the message was to encourage Christians to think and act positively in this time of national instability leading up to the elections. Simply put, our personal attitude in 2019 can either be ‘doom and gloom’ or bright Godly optimism in what we say and do.
The account of how Nehemiah rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem contains several parallels between Israel then and South Africa now. For instance, the tactics of those who opposed national renewal are echoed today in South Africa, and some of the ways to counter these destructive tactics still apply.
Some of the points made in the sermon are:
- All responses to problems, crisis and the like, must start with a proper awareness of the problem: If we are not aware of the problem at hand then how can we pray, speak and act? However, after awareness must come informed knowledge of the actual conditions
- Nehemiah took the matter to God in prayer. He (a) Mourned – emotional engagement, (b) Fasted – physical response, and (c) Spoke – engaged with God. He also acknowledged to God his own role in the nation’s sorry condition and confessed that they had all offended God. Note particularly how his prayer concluded; Nehemiah 1:11 “O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king’. He asked God to work in the mind and heart of the king, Nehemiah’s primary contact of influence.
We all have Circles of influence of some sort.
- We expect instant responses, but Nehemiah only had the opportunity of speaking to the king three months later – a time of preparation of both the king and Nehemiah and then a Kairos moment when the time was right.
- After speaking to the king, Nehemiah acted; he asked for a letter of authority and resources, but then he ACTED – took his letters, gathered resources and left for Jerusalem
- Some of the principles and dynamics WE need to note and which apply to us today are:
- Become aware, become informed, and give careful thought to our situation.
- Pray before and during the whole process in the assurance that God is favoring us.
- Pray and then act in word and deed – not one or the other, but both. Praying is not a substitute for action and action is not a replacement for dependent prayer.
- We pray and seek God’s wisdom, guidance, and intervention and then we act on His specific response and not just on standard principles or recommendations e.g. in the case of the South African May elections: inform yourself, pray for guidance, vote according to His response and not because of those who say that all Christians must vote for a particular party.
- When Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem, he first surveyed the situation and then he spoke to the people. Note how he spoke – positively and constructively. Not “Come let us flee” but “come let us build’. Witnessed to God’s favor.
- Immediately the opposition sprang into action but Nehemiah continued to pray, strategise, and work towards the reformation of Jerusalem.
Now, this is how the story of the wall ends: They competed for the wall Nehemiah 6:16 ‘When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realised that this work had been done with the help of our God.’ But wait, there is more! The exiles started returning And more! The nation publically returned to The Word of God.
Are we not in such a time right now?… A time for Prayer and godly action! A time to oppose the enemies of our nation without violence. A time to turn as a nation to the Word God… The Bible and JESUS!
We can adopt one of two attitudes: dark and gloomy or bright with hope, optimism, and trust in God … It’s our choice.
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