One of the most important lessons I learned about rebuilding is that sacrifice is not only required but a crucial component for success.
Welcome to #MindfulMondays and the conclusion of my mini series on what to expect when you try to rebuild something in your life. Maybe you a trying to repair a career, a relationship, or your confidence or trust. Whether you are starting over in a new place, venturing out of your comfort zone, or trying to pick of the pieces of your past, rebuilding is something that requires prayer, passion, and perseverance. Success is what we long for when we begin a new and daunting endeavor, but today we learn that sacrifice must come first.
God taught me invaluable lessons as I began my own rebuilding project right here AT THE CROSSROADS. And He used the story of Nehemiah rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem to highlight many important truths.
Nehemiah was a godly Jew who lived during the 5th century B.C. in Susa, the capital of the Persian empire. He was the cupbearer to the Persian king, Artaxerxes I. Basically this meant he was the king’s righthand man because in the ancient world this was a very important and prestigious position. Nehemiah’s responsibilities included making sure that the king’s drink was not poisoned. After all, one of the easiest ways for an assassin to remove a monarch was through poisoning his drink! Though Nehemiah was considered one of the king’s most trusted and loyal advisors, he was concerned about the problems and struggles of his own people who were living back in the homeland.
Nehemiah’s concern centered on the city of Jerusalem whose walls were in ruins. The walls had been destroyed by the Babylonians almost a century and a half before, when Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and took the Jews into captivity. The Jewish people who had returned to Jerusalem from Babylon following the seventy year exile had completed the rebuilding of their Temple, but the walls of the Holy City remained as piles of rubble.
I tried to categorized what I learned about what to expect when rebuilding into 4 key areas. We began with how to prayerfully prepare and garner support (you can read that post HERE), and last week we talked about overcoming opposition and obstacles (read that post HERE). Today we reach our conclusion: SUCCESS! The caveat is that this kind of success does not come without sacrifice.
- PRAYER AND PREPARATION
- SCHEDULE AND SUPPORT
- OPPOSITION AND OBSTACLES
- SACRIFICE AND SUCCESS
Nehemiah had prayed to God for guidance and carefully prepared. He had a schedule for the work and assembled a team of experts to help. Then when opposition and obstacles came, he rallied the workers to push through and fight with the Lord’s strength and protection.
We pick up the story after Nehemiah’s pep talk in Nehemiah 4:15-23 (NLT):
15 “When our enemies heard that we knew of their plans and that God had frustrated them, we all returned to our work on the wall. 16 But from then on, only half my men worked while the other half stood guard with spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. The leaders stationed themselves behind the people of Judah 17 who were building the wall. The laborers carried on their work with one hand supporting their load and one hand holding a weapon. 18 All the builders had a sword belted to their side. The trumpeter stayed with me to sound the alarm.
19 Then I explained to the nobles and officials and all the people, “The work is very spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. 20 When you hear the blast of the trumpet, rush to wherever it is sounding. Then our God will fight for us!”
21 We worked early and late, from sunrise to sunset. And half the men were always on guard. 22 I also told everyone living outside the walls to stay in Jerusalem. That way they and their servants could help with guard duty at night and work during the day. 23 During this time, none of us—not I, nor my relatives, nor my servants, nor the guards who were with me—ever took off our clothes. We carried our weapons with us at all times, even when we went for water.”
Again, I love that Nehemiah is a man of action! Yes, he prays and he encourages, but he also DOES something. And that something requires everyone involved to sacrifice.
The workers now had to work with only one hand! Did you catch that? They had to hold a weapon in the other hand to be ready to fight if attacked. Think about doing any remodeling project in your home with one hand tied behind your back.
They also lost half of their labor force. Half worked on the wall while the other half stood guard.
They worked all day. They had to guard the wall through the night. They never even took off their clothes.
Talk about sacrifice…
What might we have to sacrifice when God calls us to rebuild something in our lives? Our sacrifices might look a little different, but they are there just the same:
We might have to give up our time, our money, or our resources.
We might have to physically lose sleep or push our bodies to the maximum.
We might forgo some of our daily comforts or conveniences.
We might experience feelings of isolation, doubt, or despair.
We might even have to let go of certain relationships or people who are holding us back.
These are all sacrifices that may be required on the road to successfully rebuilding.
“A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, and must empty ourselves. Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in his love than in your weakness.” ~Mother Teresa
After all his prayers, planning, and perseverance, Nehemiah finally saw the completion of wall.
“So on October 2 the wall was finished—just fifty-two days after we had begun. When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God.” ~Nehemiah 6:15-16 (NLT)
Nehemiah, with God’s help, was able to accomplish the near impossible rebuilding project that God had placed on his heart. He was able to do what others thought was impossible. God used Nehemiah to fulfill His promise of restoration for the Israelites.
Now that the wall around the city was restored, Jewish families could begin moving back into Jerusalem, rebuilding their homes and rebuilding their lives. The rebuilding of the wall was an achievement in and of itself, but it was just the beginning of the success story for the Jewish people. It was a very small piece of God’s ultimate plan.
When God calls us to rebuild an area of our lives, we need to remember that the actual project is only a piece of what He is trying to accomplish in and through us. God’s ultimate purpose and plan for each and every one of us is to redeem and restore us to a right relationship with himself. And to do this, He gave the ultimate sacrifice of his only Son, Jesus.
The the themes of rebuilding, restoration, and redemption are found throughout the entire Bible. The proverbial walls came down first in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned…and they have been broken and crumbling ever since. But God is the consummate builder and has been working His plan to rebuild and restore all things through Jesus.
We can not be discouraged if it takes longer than fifty-two days to complete our projects. We should not lose hope when we reach success in rebuilding one area of our life only to realize we have five more projects that need our attention. Rather, we need to be encouraged by the story of Nehemiah and by what God can do once our project is finished. We need to accept rebuilding as a part of life and, with God’s help, continue with prayer, purpose, and perseverance.
“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” ~Galations 6:9 (NLT)
On the road to success, there will be sacrifice, but God also promises great blessing and joy. Whatever you are rebuilding right now, dear friend, I would like to pray for you and encourage you throughout the process. Please know that you can always contact me…
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Let’s begin this #MindfulMonday ready and equipped to rebuild!