RISE UP AND BUILD – Leadership Lessons From The Book of NEHEMIAH

RISE UP AND BUILD – Leadership Lessons From The Book of NEHEMIAH

Anyone can steer a ship but it takes a leader to chart its course.

– John C. Maxwell.

‘Nehemiah’ is easily one of the most overlooked books in the bible – many Christians have never read a chapter of the book. The life of Nehemiah teaches us how God looks for people everywhere, who would be filled with His passion, be burdened by the things that break His heart and catalyse the needed change He wants in society.

Follow the drama.

ACT ONE, SCENE ONE – THE SETTING (Chapter 1)

Nehemiah was cupbearer to the King Artaxerxes Longimanaus ( 464-423 BC). One day, he is visited by his brother, Hanani, who was then based in Jerusalem. Hanani was part of the initial set of exiles led by Zerubabbel back to Jerusalem.

Nehemiah enquires about the state of the Jews and the city.

NEHEMIAH CARED ENOUGH.

“The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent towards them: that’s the essence of inhumanity.” George Bernard Shaw put those words into the mouth of the Rev. Anthony Anderson in the second act of his play ‘The Devil’s Disciple’.

hands people friends communication
Does anyone really care?

Does anyone really care?

Most people prefer not to know what is really going on because information might bring obligation. “What you don’t know can’t hurt you,” right? Wrong! Ignorance could be as expensive as death. The slogan for the 1987 AIDS publicity campaign was “Don’t die of ignorance”; and that slogan can be applied to many areas of life besides health.

Nehemiah asked about Jerusalem and the Jews living there because he had a caring heart. When we truly care about people, we want the facts, no matter how painful they may be. Closing our eyes and ears to the truth could be the first step toward tragedy for ourselves as well as for others. Nehemiah cared.

He cared enough to ask.

He cared enough to weep.

He cared enough to pray and fast.

He cared enough to volunteer.

True transformational and transgenerational leadership begins when we genuinely care about people and situations and seek to be used as an agent of change. How much do you care?

ACT ONE, SCENE TWO – BEFORE THE KING ARTAXERSES (Chapter 2:1-10)

MOUNTAINS BEGIN TO MOVE.

When we care enough to ask and pray, God fills us with a vision and faith that moves mountains.

After praying and waiting, Nehemiah went about his normal duties— serving the king. The King noticed the change in his mood and asked a critical question… What do you want?

What an opportunity for Nehemiah! All the power and wealth of the kingdom were wrapped up in that question! He sent a quick prayer to God (which he does 12 times in the book), but note that these short prayers are based on a four—month period of praying and waiting.

Not only had he prayed about the situation; he had planned for it. When the King asked what he wanted, he rolled out his execution plan to getting to Jerusalem, requested for the equipment he needed and rolled out the plan, even his date of return.

NOT ONLY DO LEADERS CARE AND PRAY, THEY PLAN AND TAKE OPPORTUNITIES THAT THE PRAYERS YIELD.

side view photo of praying man
When we care enough to ask and pray, God fills us with a vision and faith that moves mountains.

ACT TWO, SCENE ONE – ACTION PLAN (Nehemiah 2:11-20)

Nehemiah on arriving in Jerusalem toured the city walls and drew a plan for its reconstruction. He did this before he met with the leaders of the town. With zeal and passion, he communicated his vision to the leaders and got them ready to work. For once, Nehemiah had caused the leaders to see what they had not seen in over 50 years of their dwelling in Jerusalem.

LEADERS PRAY TO BE BURDENED WITH A VISION, PLAN AND COMMUNICATE THE PASSION TO OTHERS.

Communication of vision is equally as important as bearing it.

Good leadership involves communicating the vision effectively to other stakeholders, to win their hearts first before winning their hands. It takes both the hands of leadership and the hands of partnership to accomplish the work of the Lord. Leaders can’t do the job by themselves, and workers can’t accomplish much without leadership. Vincent de Paul said, “If in order to succeed in an enterprise, I were obliged to choose between fifty deer commanded by a lion, and fifty lions commanded by a deer, I should consider myself more certain of success with the first group than with the second.”

women discussing at the meeting
Good leadership involves communicating the vision effectively to other stakeholders, to win their hearts first before winning their hands.

ACT THREE, SCENE ONE – KEEP OFF! MEN AT WORK (CHAPTER 3)

Not only are good leaders planners, they are also excellent tacticians and team workers.

Nehemiah was a leader who planned his work and worked his plan, and the way he did it is an example for us to follow. He worked at getting every man to build the portion of the wall in front of his wall. The chapter mentions rulers and priests (vv. 1, 12-19), men and women (v. 12), professional artisans (vv. 8, 32), and even people from outside the city (vv. 2, 5, 7).  There was a place for everyone, and a job for everyone to do. Some did not work, some worked harder and more zealously than others did, but in the end, no talent was wasted.

Good leadership is as good as building a team and putting the right people at the right place. It involves, motivating them to work well and that was exactly what Nehemiah did.

ACT THREE, SCENE TWO – DEALING WITH OPPOSITION (CHAPTER 4)

“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.” G. K. Chesterton.  This was true in Nehemiah’s situation. His arrival in Jerusalem was a threat to Sanballat and his associates (2:10), who wanted to keep the Jews weak and dependent.

When things are going well, get ready for trouble, because the enemy doesn’t want to see the work of the Lord make progress. As long as the people in Jerusalem were content with their sad lot, the enemy left them alone; but when the Jews began to serve the Lord and bring glory to God’s name, the enemy became active.

Chapters 4 to 6 describe at least nine different tactics that the enemy used to try to stop the work on the walls. First, he attacked the Jewish people with ridicule (4:1-6) and plots of war (vv. 7-9). This resulted in difficulties within the Jewish ranks: discouragement (v. 10), fear (vv. 11-23), and selfishness (5).

When attacks on the people failed to stop the work, the enemy then started to attack their leader, Nehemiah. They tried compromise (6:1-4), slander (vv. 5-9), threats (vv. 10-14) and intrigue (vv. 17-19); but none of these devices worked.

Nehemiah was “steadfast and unmovable” and led his people to finish the work in fifty-two days!

Opposition is not only an evidence of God’s blessing, it is also an opportunity for us to grow. The difficulties that came to the work brought out the best in Nehemiah and his people. Satan wanted to use these problems as weapons to destroy the work, but God used them as tools to build His people.

One of the greatest tests of leadership is to know how to handle opposition. Notice how Nehemiah handled these.

He prayed, respected opposition, reinforced his weak points, reassured the people, refused to quit and then renewed the people’s strength continually.

The things people say may hurt us, but they can never harm us, unless we let them get into our system and poison us. If we spend time pondering over the enemy’s words, we will give Satan a foothold from which he can launch another attack closer to home. The best thing to do is to pray and commit the whole thing to the Lord; and then get back to your work! Anything that keeps you from doing what God has called you to do will only help the enemy.

The late Dr. Alan Redpath explained why the Jews succeeded in getting their work done and keeping the enemy at bay: The people had a mind to work (v. 6), a heart to pray (v. 9), an eye to watch (v. 9), and an ear to hear (v. 20); and this gave them the victory (Victorious Christian Service, Revell, 1958; pp. 76-79). And most importantly, they also had a godly leader with the faith to stand.

ACT FOUR, SCENE ONE – HISTORY MADE IN 52 DAYS! (CHAPTER 6)

In 52 days, Nehemiah achieved the victory and set the record to the glory of GOD.

The story began with “So I prayed” (Neh 2:4). Then we read, “So I came to Jerusalem” (v. 11). “So they strengthened their hands for this good work” is the next link in the chain (v. 18), followed by, “So built we the wall” (4:6) and, “So we labored” (v. 21).

It subsequently ends with, “So the wall was finished” (6:15)

What broken walls of society need to be rebuilt? Nehemiah challenges us to care enough to ASK, to care enough to PRAY, to be moved to volunteer, to plan  and taskfully execute the plan while dealing with all the challenges that will come our way, so that in the end, for His glory, the impossible can be done.

First, it is impossible, then it is difficult, but if we do not give up, it shall be done – Hudson Taylor.

Never give up. RISE UP AND LET’S REBUILD.

Excerpts from The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament © 2001-2004 by Warren W. Wiersbe and The Maxwell Leadership Bible.

Priscilla Kyei-Baffour
Priscilla Kyei-Baffour

Leave a Reply