We’re in such a precarious time right now. Many states are “going green”, meaning the restrictions on our pandemic quarantines have started to ease, there is obvious political strife, racial inequality, murder hornets….are you kidding me? “Murder Hornets!?” We couldn’t think of a less terrifying name for them?? And through all of this we’re constantly trying to hold it together long enough to get to the next day. Just one more day. Let’s just finish the week. We want nothing more than to push through this, why? You could say because most of the experiences I mentioned above are unpleasant, but to take it one step further, we have hope that there will be a better time, a more comfortable time- a time with less worry, fear, heartache, and hostility. And it’s that hope that allows us to soldier on, eyes forward with optimism. This morning I’m writing about hope, because there are some things we need to accomplish today if we want to harvest our hope tomorrow. Let me start with a statement right here.
Hope in and of itself changes nothing.
Actions do. Now, hope can absolutely be the catalyst, but actions are what is going to get us there. Hope can not be just a passive wish, but rather an active pursuit. We need to put hope into action. Let’s back it up with a little scripture. Looking at Peter 1: 13-14, it says “Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then.” Then go back to the beginning of verse 13, it says “So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-discipline.” What is discipline? Discipline is choosing what you want most over what you want now. Right now I want to go out with my friends, but what I want most is a relationship with my wife and daughter. I’m going to choose what I want most over what I want now. So during this time of unrest, when we are clinging to hope more than ever, I keep being reminded of the story of Nehemiah in the Old Testament- and I want to share three ways we can all put hope into action right now.
- To put hope in action we need to define the problem
Nehemiah was a Jewish man in the service of the Persian King Artaxerxes. He was the cupbearer which meant not only did he bring the king wine but more importantly he tasted it first to make sure it wasn’t poison and would kill him. It was a very important role in the court of the king. He was anxious to hear about the Jewish people that were returning to the province of Judah because the Jews have been in exile for decades. When he had some friends show up he defined the problem in chapter one verse three. This is what it says. They said to me things are not going well for those who return to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and say this with me in disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down and the gates have been destroyed by fire. You see the walls of Jerusalem had been broken down for nearly 150 years. No one was rebuilding them. Nehemiah couldn’t just hope things would get better he had to define the problem. Listen, you can not defeat what you do not define. Call it out to make it clear. This is the problem. We must rebuild the wall. From this point forward, things are going to be different. This has gone on long enough.
- You have to diligently seek God.
Nehemiah did this in Chapter 1:4. He said “when I heard this I sat down and wept. In fact for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of Heaven.” The moment he defined the problem, he diligently took to the one who could help him. When you have a vision for change you’re going to need the God of Heaven to help you. When Nehemiah starts to pray and fast after hearing the news that the walls of Jerusalem were down, we then saw how he spoke to the king to get permission to go rebuild the wall and how God gave him favor to do all of it. He wasn’t a mason or a builder, just think of the doubt that flooded his mind! That’s why it is imperative that we diligently seek God because God does not always call the equipped- but He will always equip those He calls. Amen. But the only way to know if we’re called is to diligently seek Him. Nehemiah diligently sought God and took ownership of the problem so that he could also own the solution with God’s help. When we realize that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength that is when our life begins to change. How do we put hope in action? Number one you define the problem. Number two you diligently seek God.
- You have to do the work
Every day we wake up in the same place, day after day, flipping through my news feed, reading the paper, day after day, hurt, heartache, and injustice. What we need to realize is all that God wants to do in any area of our lives will be limited by the work that we are unwilling to do. We’ve identified the issues and sometimes have even come up with solutions on how to solve those things. But you know what the difference is between good intentions and actually changing? It’s doing the work with God’s help. You witness injustice, or see a video on your news feed of an innocent man slain, and you yell out to God “please help me!” Because in our weakness we are made strong. Today is going to be different. I’m putting hope in action and I’m empowered by God to change the trajectory of my life. Nehemiah did this when he got to Jerusalem. You see he personally inspected the wall to see the extent of the damage. Then he gathered all the leaders together, the nobles, the priests, the officials, and this is what he said to them. Nehemiah 2:17-18 “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins. Its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace. Then I told them about how the gracious hand of God had been on me. They replied at once, “Yes let’s rebuild the wall” so they began the good work. You are going to have to do the work, but the good news is you don’t have to do it alone. God is with you and His power is there to help you.
But don’t think that your great work goes without opposition. Nehemiah experienced this when there were two guys named Sanballat and Tobiah. They constantly ridiculed him. But Nehemiah rebuked, “I am doing great work. I can not come down”. When you face resistance, and you will, you need to shake it off because you will hear Satan whispering to you, trying to discourage you. So you need to shake it off. I’m doing good work. Today is a different day. I can not come down.
You don’t just have hope, you have hope in action inspired by God by diligently seeking Him and looking for his guidance and his help. As you do the work, become resolute in your determination. In Nehemiah’s case the results stunned and shocked everyone watching. The wall that had been in ruins for nearly 150 years, the wall that everyone said would never be rebuilt was rebuilt and completed in only 52 days. God did exceedingly and abundantly beyond all that they could imagine or expect. He can do the same for you when you define the problem, when you diligently seek him, and when you do the work.
Today, as of this moment, isn’t the same as every other day. There’s something different about us today. We shook it off. We’re doing good work and with God as my witness, I will NOT come down.