It's easy to analyze, scrutinize, and talk about the problems in the world, but we need people who will do something about them. The book of Nehemiah shows what happens when such a person steps forward. While in Persia, Nehemiah learned of a situation that greatly distressed him: The city walls of Jerusalem were broken down and the city was defenseless (Nehemiah 1:1–4).
Nehemiah knew that this couldn’t wait, so he obtained permission from the king and traveled to Jerusalem. His goal was no small task, the walls were 2 ½ miles long… and in huge piles of rubble. On top of that they encountered opposition, setbacks, and discouragement the entire time. It’s clear as we read through the text, that the taunts and threats were taking a toll on the workers—so much so, that many of them were talking about quitting.
Nehemiah’s response: He encouraged them to keep going. Verse 6 tells us they had built the wall to the halfway point, and now they were getting discouraged. “We’ve lost our strength,” they said. They lost their vision, “There’s so much rubble,” and they lost their confidence, “We cannot rebuild the wall.” “Halfway” is often the most difficult hurdle in the race to accomplish something. Often, people who reach the halfway point don’t look at how far they’ve come; they only see how far they have to go. Nehemiah didn’t beat them down, he built them up; which is what the best leaders always do.
He also asked them to remember. Sometimes we need to look around, sometimes we need to look ahead, but often we need to look back… back to God’s faithfulness. Nehemiah says, “Remember the Lord.” (v. 14). Remember when we were in captivity and God delivered us. He who was faithful then will be faithful now. “He will fight for us.” (v. 20). Remembering past victories can help us persevere.
“Our God will fight for us.” Like a seed, this truth must be planted deep in our hearts so that it can grow and be recalled upon as we press on. It was the rallying call of the Israelites, it's the driving force of this whole chapter, and we need it to take root in our hearts as well.
Quick quiz to gauge your current level of perseverance: What is your first thought when discouragement comes your way? What’s your response to setbacks or failures? Are you quick to quit when there’s opposition? Nehemiah didn’t have a meltdown or scream or rant and rave, but he did pray. Make that your first response too.