Hand Me Another Brick - Part 1
Hand Me Another Brick
One way that we can define what it means to be a leader is that leadership is all about being able to influence people, and this applies to good as well as evil leaders. When we are influencing people, we are leading them. In this sense of the world, everyone needs to learn the principles that will make one an effective leader. Fathers and husbands: Joshua 24:15, Ephesians 6:4; Elders: Hebrews 13:17; Evangelists: 1 Timothy 4:12; Ephesians 4:12; and even wives and mothers: Proverbs 31:1;Titus 2:3-4. In addition it should be clear that God has given us help in this area: 2 Peter 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:16-17. As 1 Peter deals with suffering, the book of Nehemiah contains many helpful details concerning effective leadership. Obviously, we just didn’t need a history lesson! Another definition of leadership or what makes a successful leader is the statement that a leader is "just an ordinary man—highly motivated", Hebrews chapter 11; James 5:17 "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours".
Because of his unfaithfulness, the kingdom Solomon had ruled would be divided (1 Kings 11:11), between the northern tribes (Israel), and the southern tribes (Judah). Israel was carried away into captivity (722 B.C.). Judah was judged in 586 B.C. Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem (and all Judah) and took the people captive (2 Chron. 36:15-23). Perhaps you have seen pictures or film footage of Tokyo or Berlin at the end of WWWII. After the Babylonian takeover, Jerusalem was in somewhat the same shape (Nehemiah 2:13-14). Seventy years later, God’s people were allowed to return to their land and Jerusalem. The first group left with Zerubbabel 536 B.C., (Ezra 2:1). About 80 years later, another group under the leadership of Ezra left Babylon ( Ezra 7:1), then 13 years later Nehemiah will lead another group. The book of Nehemiah opens in the winter time; it was the month of Chislev (KIZZ lehv) or December (Nehemiah 1:1). It was the 20th year of King Artaxerxes’ (ar tuh ZERK sees) reign (445-444 B.C.). Nehemiah lived in Susa, the capital of the Medio-Persian Empire, the Washington D.C., of the day. Nehemiah had received news from Hanani (hah NAH nigh) concerning the pitiful condition of the Jews in Palestine and the horrible conditions that existed in the city of Jerusalem. Almost 100 years after the first return, the walls still were down and much of the city was filled with rubble. Note, Nehemiah could not forget about Jerusalem—can we go for days without thinking about the kingdom? (Matthew 6:33; 2 Corinthians 11:28-29). Nehemiah had a comfortable job, he "had it made", but he couldn’t get his mind off of God’s people and the city where God has placed His name. As long as Israel was suffering—his comfortable situation and promotions were meaningless. Note, secular promotions and accomplishments don’t have to endanger your walk with God—but they can.
Marks Of A Competent Leader
A Leader Has A Clear Recognition Of The Needs:
"Nehemiah was not preoccupied; he did not live in a dream world, opposed to reality. He asked, ‘What’s the condition?’ They replied, ‘It’s a miserable situation’. He heard what they said" ( Hand Me Another Brick, Charles R. Swindoll, p. 32). Unfortunately, some Christians, especially men, adopt a "no problem" mentality. People who refuse to see problems, avoid them, or get very upset when a problem is handed to them. Preoccupied husbands and fathers often avoid problems, "I don’t want to hear it", "I have enough stress at work", "This is all I need after a hard day at the office". Leadership starts will be willing to see problems—honestly looking at the condition of our marriages, family, children, and local congregation. Note what God says about husbands and fathers who refuse to recognize a specific family need: 1 Samuel 3:11-13: "Are there times when you know something wrong is going on at your house, but you refuse to be involved in correcting it? We carelessly pull the shades on reason and say, ‘Well, somehow it’s going to work out’?" (Swindoll p. 34). Note, God didn’t condemn the other leaders in Israel, the local Israelite community in Shiloh or the nation for failing to correct Eli’s sons, he placed all the blame on Eli’s shoulders.
A Leader Is Personally Concerned With The Need:
"Let us learn this lesson from Nehemiah: You will never lighten the load unless first you have felt the pressure in your own soul". Nehemiah wept when he heard about the condition of Jerusalem (1:4). What makes you cry? Where are your priorities? (Matthew 6:33; Colossians 3:1-2). Do we have the attitude, "My life is comfortable, so who cares about the spiritual condition of another Christian or the local congregation." Note, Nehemiah didn’t say, "The walls are down, who fouled up? Who blew it?" Nehemiah also fasted. He took the time to pray and go without a meal so he could zero in on his walk with God and what God wanted him to do. The more responsibility we shoulder, the more time we need for contemplation before our Father.
A Serious Leader Goes First To God With The Problem:
But how often do we start blaming others when we are hit with a problem or discouraging news? (1:5) Do we burden others with complaints, or do we cast all our cares upon God? (Philippians 4:6; 1 Peter 5:7). Note, Nehemiah’s prayer wasn’t just a quick panic or dutiful prayer (1:6). Note also that Nehemiah couldn’t disconnect himself with or from the problem (1:6-7 "We").
A Leader Is Available To Meet The Need Himself:
Nehemiah1:11 "Make Thy servant successful today, and grant him compassion before this man (the king)". How much time do you have for God? How much time do you have for your marriage, your kids, and the lost? You cannot lead if you are unwilling to get involved.
The Benefits Of Prayer
We are reminded of God’s promises (1:8): "Remember the word": (Leviticus 26:33; Deuteronomy 30:2-3). God doesn’t lightly give out promises (1 Corinthians 10:13; Deut. 30:11). Praying makes me wait: Prayer forces me to leave the situation to God, it keeps me from overreacting. Nehemiah didn’t rush before the king and say, "I have to go to Jerusalem right now!" But how often do we overreact? For four months nothing will happen (2:1). How long can you wait for an answer? In prayer I realize my own limitations. Clears our vision:Why did this happen? (1:7-8). What is the solution? (1:8-9). Quiets my heart: I cannot worry and pray at the same time. Are you anxious, stressed out, worrying, or paralyzed? When was the last time you prayed? Activates my faith: "After praying I am more prone to trust God. And how petty and negative and critical I am when I don’t pray!" (Swindoll p. 39). Praying puts me into the proper frame of mind, mood and perspective. For the men (1 Timothy 2:8), try praying audibly by yourself—at work, in the car, while commuting, while running, walking, etc…
Realize Your Own Limitations/Be Honest (2:1-2): "I was very much afraid".
"I appreciate Nehemiah’s honesty. Many leaders no longer admit their human weakness. Not Nehemiah. He honestly said, ‘When the kind said that to me, I got scared’" (Swindoll p. 44). Don’t pretend, admit your weaknesses to God, admit your failures. "For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10). Note Paul didn’t say, "When I am unfaithful, I am stronger". Rather, when life was tough, when he was honest about his own limitations, vulnerability—he was closer to God. Admit your shortcomings up front—poor perso