Thursday, August 20, 2020

Finding Strength in Joy


“Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10

After the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt and all guards in place, the people came together as one and asked Ezra the Priest to read the laws of Moses.  He read from morning till midday, and the people listened not only with their ears but their hearts.  Then they turned their faces to the ground, prayed and worshipped God.

 As they worshipped, the people began to weep.  Humility broke out like the common cold on those that heard the words God gave to Moses.  The priest then tells them not to mourn or weep, and he speaks the verse above, telling them something I’ve often heard myself:  the joy of the Lord is your strength.

So what is the joy of the Lord?  How are we to possess that joy that becomes strength? 

What makes our God happy, what brings Him joy, that is the joy of our Lord.  For it to become our strength, we have to live in God’s will, doing what makes Him happy.  If you’ve ever been there, knowing that what you are doing is pleasing to God, you know that joy that is your strength.  It fuels a fire in your soul that will energize the work you do and give you pure joy and peace in doing it. 

I found this years ago teaching a group of preteens.  Nothing got me revved up like knowing that I was going to teach them something God wanted them to understand!  I would leave work in a hurry, run and collect a bunch of teens, and head to church.  By the time I got home it would be just in time to tuck the kids into bed and fall into bed myself!  And looking back, that was one of the most satisfying times of my life.  Why?  Because the Joy of my Lord kindled a fire in me from the love I have for Him.

We have all felt at one time or another the great joy of loving and being loved.  Think back to your first love, your first crush.  Remember how that felt?  It kindled a fire in you that put a smile on your face, and perhaps made you feel giddy and a little silly!   Friends, find that love for God in doing His will, doing ‘the Joy of the Lord’, and feel that kindled love inside for Him!  There is no joy like knowing you are pleasing God.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

A Mind to Work


“So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.” – Nehemiah 4:6

Motivating people is one of the hardest leadership tasks to master.  Each person has a different motivation for the work they are to do.  But Nehemiah did it!  He motivated the hundreds who rebuilt the wall to complete their work – and quickly!

There are a few things to be learned as a leader from Nehemiah.  First, the word “mind” in the above verse doesn’t just mean their brain got fired up.  The word is Strong’s H3840 ‘leb’ and means far more than setting their mind to it.  They set their heart, their soul, their resolutions, their appetites for the work, and their courage all to the completion of this task. 

How did Nehemiah build this desire within their hearts?  In Nehemiah 2:17-18 he speaks to the people about the wall being broken down, but then he tells them ‘of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also the King’s words that he had spoken to me.’ 

This verse tells of two things.  First, he explained to them that God was with him.  Friends, when God is with you, you will not fail.  God had sent him to rebuild the wall.  It was God’s desire. 

Secondly, he told them what the King said.  The King was orchestrating all the supplies they would need to complete the job and had given Nehemiah his approval to build it. 

I’ve been a project manager for a couple of years and one thing I know for certain – if upper level management isn’t pushing the project – it delays.  Friends, Nehemiah had GOD on his side – and the King.  God influenced the King to provide the tangible goods.  Approval flowed down from the top level management just like that!

The second thing I’ve learned is that the tools to complete the job, whether it’s skills or tangible, must be present.  The King was supplying the tangible things, and the men chosen had the skills. 

Lastly, motivation in their hearts had to take place.  When you believe in a project, it will come to completion. The men working on the wall did believe in it.  Nehemiah knew that these men believed in their God, and he told them of God’s great favor on him and desire to have him rebuild the wall. 

When the men sat out to rebuild the wall, they also had specific areas of it to rebuild.  Each built a section, one after another, until the whole wall was complete.  As they built, they could look to their left and their right and see others working to complete the same task.  This created teamwork, motivation, and perhaps even competition!  All hands were into the work – and the work got completed quickly, and with quality.  The wall was sturdy, but not just a wall.  There were towers and steps and gates with beams. And the entire job was completed in 52 days!

In the body of Christ there are often tangible things that need to be done: the church needs painting, the mission trip needs funding, the youth need an outing, and so on.  I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but church folks can sometimes be the hardest to motivate.  Friends remember Nehemiah.  He shows us how to get things done.  And it all begins with building a team with ‘a mind to work’.