Hand Me Another Brick - Part 5
Hand Me Another Brick 5
How To Handle A Promotion
Nehemiah has experienced his share of adversity, but there’s a test even worse than adversity: advancement. "Few people can live in the lap of luxury and maintain their spiritual, emotional, and moral equilibrium (Proverbs 30:9; Luke 12:15-19). Sudden elevation often disturbs balance, which leads to pride and a sense of self-sufficiency—and then, a fall…The right kind of leaders, when promoted, know how to handle the honor" (Swindoll p. 100). Listen to the following Psalm, "I said to the boastful, ‘Do not boast’, and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up the horn; Do not lift up your horn on high, Do not speak with insolent pride’. For not from the east, nor from the west, nor from the desert comes exaltation; But God is the Judge; He puts down one, and exalts another" (75:4-7). The writer is saying, "Don’t toot your own horn! Remember, your promotion didn’t just evolve. Behind your recent exaltation was the providential hand of God. You are a recipient of His goodness and grace. Is that ever easy to forget! And your non-Christian friends won’t see it like that, believe me. To them, a promotion comes by being in the right place at the right time, by knowing the right person, by shaking the right hands, by favoring the right boss, by scratching the right back" (Swindoll p. 100) (1 Kings 16:2).
- The Art Of Acceptance Nehemiah 5:14: Nehemiah simply accepted his appointment as governor. "Many Christians seem afraid to accept responsibilities that are beyond themselves. For example, how many Christians can you name who stand firm as uncompromising believers in places of political power…frequently we Christians adopt the idea that to be spiritual one, must hide in the shadows, but you have to be carnal to live in the limelight" (Swindoll p. 101).
- Expect To Make An Impact: "Oh that Thou wouldst bless me indeed, and enlarge my border, and that Thy hand might be with me…And God granted him what he requested" (1 Chronicles 4:10). Jabez didn’t pray, "Lord, give me some tiny spot where I can spend the rest of my days in obscurity". No, he wanted "enlarged borders". "When the righteous increase, the people rejoice" (Proverbs 29:2). The word translated "increase", means "to be made great", a synonym would be, "promoted". In the Bible we read about many godly people who were in very powerful positions, i.e., Joseph, Daniel, Esther, and Nehemiah.
Areas Of Concern
Nehemiah accepted his appointment and was faced with four major concerns that confront anyone who accepts a promotion.
- Promotions Bring Privileges (Nehemiah 5:14): As governor, he had a food allowance for official entertaining. However, he didn’t take liberty with his expense account. The reason for this was that such would have placed a heavy burden upon God’s people(5:18). Often promotions also bring increased privacy, and the private life of a promoted leader is under constant attack by the devil. Along this line there is also another temptation: The temptation to build one’s own empire. It’s significant that Nehemiah never started "Nehemiah’s Enterprises, Incorporated". Nehemiah viewed this appointment as governor as a trusted position, he refused to exploit the privileges entrusted to him.
- Promotions Threaten Policies (Nehemiah 5:15): The policies of the former governors had been to: Exploit their positions and the people they served, taking illegal bribes, excessive taxation, and tolerated corrupt servants, and underlings. When Nehemiah was appointed he could have heard things like, "You know Nehemiah, they’ve been doing it this way all the time", "Well, they get a little extra money from increased taxes here and there. And if you have some buddies who need a job, nobody will squawk. It’s part of the system". When one is promoted to a position of leadership one must have the courage to root out corruption. In addition, Nehemiah got out of the office and was present at the job site, he didn’t take advantage of a chance to make a killing, and every one in this administration earned their keep (5:16). Nehemiah also lived with constant pressure, it came with the job. "What mattered most to him was where the pressure rested—on him or on the Lord. If he allowed it to come between him and God, he knew he’d succumb. But if it pressed him nearer to God’s heart, it would be a catalyst" (Swindoll p. 106) (Nehemiah 5:17-19). We also see the true heart of a real leader, "according to all that I have done for this people" (5:19).
- Promotions Involve Projects: "Nehemiah did not take the governorship so he could flit from one of his own enterprises to another. He stayed at the task of building the wall…He never lost sight of the goal" (Swindoll p. 106). In contrast, Solomon who made the equivalent of $20 million annually, had a tremendous number of projects and irons in the fire (Ecclesiastes 2:1-10), and yet for a while completely lost sight of the real goal (12:13-14).
- Promotions Affect People (Nehemiah 5:18-19): "Frequently, a strong leader will run roughshod over everybody else to achieve his objective. Nehemiah had a compassionate heart. He stayed sensitive to the needs of his people…It means that Nehemiah, seeing that the people were overburdened and overtaxed, backed off and said, ‘Let’s go at a reasonable pace. Let’s keep in step with one another, tackling one problem at a time….One leader put it like this: The man who is impatient with weakness will be defective in his leadership. The evidence of our strength lies not in streaking ahead but in a willingness to adapt our stride to the slower pace of our weaker brethren, while not forfeiting our lead. If we run too far ahead, we lose our power to influence" (Swindoll p. 108).
Take Heed Lest Ye Fall
Concerning the methods used by the devil to tempt us, Paul says that we are not ignorant (2 Corinthians 2:11). Notice that Nehemiah’s enemies attack just as he is about to finish this project. Not very long before they were ready to cut the ribbon and have a jubilant celebration, the enemy attacked (Nehemiah 6:1-2). Satan often attacks right before or right after some sort of success or accomplishment. David fell right after he had gained control over all his enemies (2 Samuel 11), Jonah fell into self-pity after the entire population of one of the greatest cities of the time repented before God. Jesus was tempted by the devil immediately after He was baptized (Matthew 4:1).
- "’Come, let us meet together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono (Oh noh)’. But they were planning to harm me" (Nehemiah 6:2). "The word together suggests the idea of a compatible visit. The plain of Ono was located about twenty miles north of Jerusalem, and it was a beautiful, verdant valley. Sanballat and Geshem were saying, ‘You need to get away for a while. You’ve been laying bricks too long, Nehemiah. We’ve had our spats, a few little disagreements, but let’s get together. Come on up to Ono’" (Swindoll p. 114).I love Nehemiah’s response, "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down" (Nehemiah 6:3). Points To Note: 1. A leader must be able to sense when something is wrong and such only comes with experience, maturity and the ability to discern good and evil(Hebrews 5:14). 2. Christians also must be able to say "no" to things which would pull them away from "great works". "To put it another way, there’s a great different between being an available man or woman of God and being a puppet of people" (Swindoll p. 114). 3. We can’t do everything, and Christians shouldn’t be embarrassed about saying "no" to things that would pull them away from greater priorities (Acts 6:1-2).
- The Rumor Mill: "It is reported among the nations, and Gashmu (Geshem) says, that you and the Jews are planning to rebel" (Nehemiah 6:6). Nehemiah has rebuffed their invitations to meet in the plain of Ono, so his enemies try to intimidate him with rumors, gossip and lies. "You wouldn’t come when we sent our invitation, and so we’re letting the truth be known. We plan to expose you. We want everybody to know two things. First, when you came to Jerusalem, you had an evil motive. It was not just to rebuild the wall. You came for the express purpose of collecting a group of people around you so you could lead a revolution"(Swindoll p. 115). Note how Nehemiah deals with gossip and rumor, "Such things as you are saying have not been done, but you are inventing them in your own mind" (6:8). Points To Note: 1. The way to deal with gossip is simply to say, "It’s not true", and then to let your life back up those words. Trying to track down every rumor to it’s original source is sometimes a vain endeavor. 2. Wisdom should force all of us to ask the following questions: "Is it necessary to say this" "Is this confidential information?" "Do I have a right to pass this on?" "God hates those who sow discord among brethren" (Proverbs 6:16-19) "Is this true, can the original source be quoted?" "Will this benefit the person who hears me?" Or, "can he do anything about it? Or is this just going to be another pouring of useless hearsay into someone’s ears?" "When you give unverified information to people who are critical and negative, knowing they can’t do anything about the situation anyway, that’s an unwise move. When you go to an individual who can do something about relevant information and in a spirit of love share it, that is constructive criticism" (Swindoll p. 117). (Ephesians 4:29). I believe that Ephesians 4:15 is an excellent gauge concerning what is and what isn’t gossip. "Speaking the truth in love": If what we are saying isn’t the truth and our motives are less than impure for saying it, then it qualifies as gossip.
- The Super-Pious Approach: "Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you" (Nehemiah 6:10). The next tactic tried as the "Let’s pray about this together". How phony can you get? Points To Note: 1. The word "intimidation" means, "any attempt to get one’s way by means of a threat". 2. Nehemiah didn’t give into fear, rather he trusted in God’s protection. In addition, nobody else was hiding in the temple, and yet many of the people faced the same general threats that he faced. 3. From the verses that follow we learn that Shemaiah had be hired by Tobiah and Sanballat. Shemaiah must have been a man Nehemiah trusted, for it would have been illogical to meet secretly with someone he did not trust. When Nehemiah arrived, Shemaiah (shih MAY uh) suggested they meet in the temple behind closed doors. He pretended to be protecting Nehemiah from would-be nighttime assassins. But Nehemiah discerned two flaws in this so-called prophecy. First, God would hardly risk Nehemiah to run when the project on the walls was nearing completion. Second, no true prophet would ask someone to violate God’s Law. Only priests were allowed in the sanctuary (Numbers 3:10; 18:7). Nehemiah knew that the end didn’t justify the means, and even saving his own life wasn’t a good enough reason to violate a command of God. When people try to lure you into a compromise, when they say, "It’s not that big of a deal, God will understand, lighten up", simply remind them that you don’t play games with your eternal destiny!
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church Of Christ/644-9017