The Bible says the eyes of the Lord go to and fro throughout the entire earth to show himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are loyal to him. God is just looking for people to use.
And so Nehemiah presents himself willingly. Here at Connect with Skip Heitzig, we get to hear incredible stories about how God is encouraging people around the world. And these stories are only possible because of you. When you support Connect with Skip, you help connect listeners all over the world to the good news of Jesus.
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800-922-1888. Thank you. Don't you know that prayers don't have to be long to be effective? It says the fervent, effective prayer of a righteous man avails much. He's speaking about Elijah. Elijah didn't have a really long prayer when he saw great results.
I think it was just quick. Elijah was walking on the Sea of Galilee. Remember the story? He saw that he could believe in Jesus and he could walk on the water and he did temporarily until the thought must have overcome him.
Hey, men can't walk on water. And he started going down. And he cried out in that moment. Do you think it was a long prayer? You think, oh, the almighty God of the universe.
He'd be dead. I think it was like, help. Amen. I think it was one of these kind of prayers. So I pray to the God of heaven. But now, if you don't mind, go back again to chapter one for just a moment.
Because this is how it begins. He asked about Jerusalem. They tell him how it's broken down, burned with fire. Look at verse four of chapter one. So it was when I heard these words, I sat down and wept, mourned for many days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said, now here's his prayer.
I pray, Lord God of heaven, oh great and awesome God. So this is a longer prayer than the quick prayer in chapter two later on. I pray, Lord God of heaven, great and awesome God, you who keep your covenant and mercy with those who love you and observe your commandment, please let your ear be attentive and your eyes open that you may hear the prayer of your servant, which I pray before you now, day and night. For the children of Israel, your servants, and confess the sin of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against you, both my Father's house and I have sinned.
We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, the ordinances, which you commanded your servant, Moses. Here's what I want you to know about the book of Nehemiah really quickly. It's filled with prayer. The book opens with prayer. We just read it. The book closes with a prayer and twelve times throughout the book, Nehemiah prays.
It's part of his life. And in chapter one, the prayer that we just read, there are some things I want you to make a note of about this prayer. First of all, when he prays in chapter one, he prays with perspective. Notice that he says, I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God. You know the most important thing about prayer is the address?
Is that you recognize who it is you are talking to. Because sometimes we rush into the presence of God and our problems are so large and we're overwhelmed and it's like our problems are so big and our God is so small. It's important that you gain the perspective by realizing who it is you're addressing your prayer to. You're the God of heaven.
You've got the best seat in the house. You see everything going on on the earth. Nothing escapes your view. And you are a great and awesome God.
That is, you have all and ultimate power to do anything. And when you start praying with perspective, your problem becomes smaller as your God becomes bigger. Otherwise, your God is very small and your problem is so big and so often you hear it in our prayers. Oh God, this is a really big thing I'm going to ask.
Big? You're talking to God. There's nothing too hard for him. So he prays with perspective. Also notice in this prayer that it includes a promise. That is, it's in reference to a promise God has made. Verse 5, I pray, Lord God of heaven, great and awesome God, you who keep your covenant and mercy with those who love you and observe your commandments.
You know what he's referring to? You know, covenants, ordeals, arrangements. A covenant is something God and man make together. A covenant. So throughout the Old Testament, God made covenants. And the covenant he is referring to is the land covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that the children of Israel would occupy a piece of real estate today we know as the state of Israel. That of all the people on the face of the earth, that would be their land in perpetuity as an everlasting covenant.
So that's important. He is coming to God in prayer, reminding God of a promise that he made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The covenant. And I think that when we talk to God, our prayers should include the promises of God. In fact, I think it's good even in prayer to quote promises that God has made in the scripture.
Not because God needs to be reminded of what he said, but you need to be reminded of what he said. So it's like, Lord, it's in the contract. It's in the covenant. This is what you promised.
So it's with perspective. It includes a promise. Something else about this prayer in chapter 1.
Do you notice that it ends with a confession and he personalizes it? Notice in verse 6, he says, We have sinned against you, both my Father's house and I have sinned. Verse 7, We have acted very corruptly against you. Now, help me understand that because Nehemiah wasn't part of the original group of people that sinned against God. I mean, they had been back in the land a hundred years, about 170 years before, 150 years, let's say, was when that sinful generation was judged by God and taken into Babylonian captivity. Nehemiah wasn't even born yet.
Nehemiah grew up in Persia. He wasn't part of that nation that was judged by God. Yet here he says, We have sinned. I and my Father's house have sinned.
Nehemiah identifies himself with those people that he had never met before. You know, we are so quick to point fingers at people, especially in this divided age in which we live. It's their fault. They're the problem.
And you know, when you point your finger at somebody, there's always three pointing back at you. And Nehemiah believed that he should identify himself. He saw himself as part of the problem so that he might become part of the solution. You know, it's easy to say, You know, our country is in such a mess today because those sinners out there and those people, can I just say, I added to that sin. There was a time when I didn't walk with Christ. Before my conversion, I added to the filth and corruption that this country is guilty of.
So I'm just as guilty. When you pray, you get clarity. You're allowing God to move and God to speak. And so in this prayer, he gets clarity.
He kind of sizes up the whole situation, sees himself as part of both the problem and the solution. So we have information, reaction, intercession, three concrete steps in battling apathy. There's a couple more.
The fourth one is action. There comes a point where once you hear about what's going on and once you feel deeply about that and once you pray to God, there comes a point where you have to now engage. You have to take a step. So back to our chapter, chapter 2, verse 5. The king just said, What can I do for you? And I said to the king, here it is, If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my father's tombs, that I may rebuild it. And the king said to me, the queen also sitting beside him, How long will your journey be when we return? So it pleased the king to send me and I set a time. Furthermore, I said to the king, If it pleases the king, let letters be given to me for the governor of the region beyond the Jordan that they must permit me to pass through until I come to Judah.
You know, it's hundreds of miles that he is traveling. And a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king's forest, that he must give me timber to make beams for the gate of the citadel which pertains to the temple, for the city wall and for the house that I will occupy. And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me. Now, do you notice the flow so far in the story? First of all, Nehemiah sat down and wept. Then he knelt down and prayed. Now he stands up to work. See, that's the final step. It's like, boy, I'm hearing all this information. Man, I'm so deeply distressed by it and I prayed about it. Great.
What's the next concrete action step to take? So, Nehemiah says, Here I am, Lord, send me, basically. Here I am, king, send me. You know, that's what Isaiah the prophet said. When God said, Whom shall I send? Isaiah said, Here I am, send me. A lot of times he said, Here I am, send them. I mean, why should Nehemiah leave? He's got a cushy job.
He's got a comfortable environment. Let others go. He had influence. He could dispatch people to go, but he said, Send me.
I will rebuild it. He does something. It's the Romans 12 principle.
You know how Romans is written. He gives lots of doctrinal information and then in chapter 12 is the application chapter. He says, I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. That's what Nehemiah is doing.
He's presenting himself, makes himself available to fix the problem. God is always looking for volunteers, willing volunteers. If you ever think thoughts like this, Man, okay, I got to serve because this church always tells me you need to serve somewhere. So, okay, I'll do something.
Please don't. We only want willing volunteers. We want happy volunteers. We want those who say, I want to do something because the Lord has put that in my heart and I'll do it with joy. The Bible says the eyes of the Lord go to and fro throughout the entire earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are loyal to Him. God is just looking for people to use.
And so Nehemiah presents himself willingly. I was at a grocery store a while back and I was in line having a conversation with somebody who recognized me. Hi, Skip, I go to church and had a little conversation. There was a woman in line who was watching this exchange and she turned to me and she goes, Are you a minister? And I think she looked at me kind of odd because I think I had shorts and a t-shirt. I didn't have like a little white collar, so she had to ask. She goes, Are you a minister? I said, Yes, I am. And then she looked at me and she goes, Why? I mean, it was like she was incredulous that I would want to do that. And I said, Well, I have to assure you, ma'am, that I do it willingly.
Nobody's twisting my arm. It's something I feel joyfully compelled to do by God. When Saul of Tarsus had his encounter with Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road, when he was knocked off midday with a bright sun shining on him and a light from heaven and he's on his back, he asked two questions. The first question every human being must have answered. The first question was, Who are You, Lord?
The second question is something every Christian should ask. The second question he asks is, What do you want me to do? You know, so many Christian believers lived their whole lives without ever getting around to saying, God, what do You want me to do? They spent a lot of time telling God what they want God to do for them, but little time saying, Lord, what do You want me to do? What have You called me to do? And I assure you, the most fulfilling life you can ever live is to go on an adventure with God where God uses your life, where you look around at the need, you're moved by what you see, you pray about what you see and learn, and then you take a step and watch God use you.
Nothing more adventurous and fulfilling than that. So information, reaction, intercession, and now action, he engages. He's ready to go on a trip. He goes from cup bearer to contractor. He's going to put on his hard hat and go to work in Jerusalem. There's a final element I want to add, and that is collaboration. I can't pass this one up. It takes us to verse 9.
It's the last verse we look at and then we close. Then I went to the governors in the region beyond the river and gave them the king's letters. Now watch this. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me. So he's traveling with a military accompaniment. So this is collaboration. Allow the help of others.
I mean, think about it. Nehemiah gets funding from the government, supplies from King Artaxerxes, needed documentation, and a military backup. Once he gets to Jerusalem, he's going to enlist the help of others in the city that is broken down and gates burned with fire. By the time we get to chapter 3 of Nehemiah, which we won't do in this series, but if you read ahead, you'll discover 38 individuals are named as helpers of Nehemiah. Over 40 different groups with different occupations all get together and build the city in cooperation with each other.
So that's the collaboration that I'm talking about. The giant of apathy is best overcome with a like-minded group. Never alone.
We need people. This is why Christian fellowship is so important. This is why we stress what it says in Hebrews that we should not forsake the assembly of ourselves together as is the manner of some, but we should be getting together all the more as you see the day approaching. Because when you're together like this, you see God at work in His people. You see the life of Christ in a very, very dynamic way, and it's what builds you up.
It's what builds others up around you. You cannot build community with the computer screen. I mean, it's good, and it was good for a brief period of time during that lockdown when nobody understood what was going on. Now we understand what's going on. Those days are gone. Those days are over. It's time to get back with each other. And listen, the easiest thing to do is not to do that.
I've had a lot of people say, You know what, I kind of like getting up in my PJs with a cup of coffee and tuning into a TV show, and it's like, life is good. I don't want to have to do anything. You can't sustain that. You can't have community with a computer. You can't hug your iPhone. You could, but you'd be weird if you did that. Isolation is fuel for apathy.
You need the collaboration of others, the help of others. Because when you're alone, you know what you're alone with? Your thoughts.
And that ain't good on any day. Your thoughts, which aren't always wholesome and healthy and biblical, need to be counteracted with truth, not just from a pulpit, not just from a computer screen, but from the lives of dynamic Christians around you to balance out any faults that you might be carrying. And I've heard from hundreds of you in the last few weeks who said, Gosh, you know, we've been isolated for a year, we've watched online, but we didn't know what this was, but we're back now, and I just got to tell you, to be able to gather together and to sing together and to hear other Christians around me, it's so transformative. Yeah. That's how we are designed. Now, perhaps some of you have been battling spiritual apathy, spiritual lethargy, that your heart, you've noticed your heart growing colder over time.
You know you're not alone. There is a church in the New Testament that struggled with this. It was the church of Ephesus. And the church of Ephesus was, well, of all the New Testament churches, it was like one of the best.
It had great leadership. It was pastored by Paul the apostle. Then it was pastored by Timothy. Then it was pastored by John the apostle. It was ministered to by Aquila and Priscilla. It was preached to by Apollos.
Even Jesus gave a special message to the church in Revelation 2 and commended them for their discernment, for their perseverance, for their enduring hardship, for their sound doctrine. But do you remember Jesus said, I've got something against you. You have left your first love. I have this against you. You have left your first love. Another way of putting that is you don't love me like you loved me at first.
Your love has grown cold. Interesting. Here's one of the great churches of the New Testament. They didn't have a moral scandal. Nobody's running off with a church secretary. Nobody's stealing money from the church coffers. There's not one deacon lording it over another deacon.
None of that. The scandal was inward. It was invisible like a cancer that takes the life of a patient. There was apathy that was settling into the marrow and the joints and the bloodstream of that church.
And Jesus said, That's what I have against you. It's an inward scandal where you don't love me like you did at first. Every woman has a fear when she marries a man that his love for her would grow cold and formal and not remain intimate.
And every man has a fear that that could happen to his wife. That can happen spiritually. And so Jesus speaks to a church where that has happened, and He goes, I have the solution for that. You've left your first love. Therefore, He said, remember.
That's the first step. Remember from where you have fallen. Think back to how good it used to be, how close you used to be to your Lord. Remember those days.
Do you miss those days? If so, then He said, take the second step. Remember from where you have fallen, repent. That is, turn around, change, confess your apathy to God, and then number three, renew.
For He said, do your first works again, a renewed commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a giant we all face. And if you are sensing, yes, I'm dealing with that right now. You're in the right place, on the right day.
All of that changes right now. That wraps up Skip Heitzig's message from the series Hunting Giants. Now, we want to share about a resource that will deepen your knowledge of God's word even more. Our lives are punctuated by defining moments, pivot points that shape who we are now and who we'll become, such as choice of marriage partner or where we choose to work as Skip Heitzig observes. There's predictable events that happens like in your life, but every now and then, life sort of hits you by surprise. It comes crashing down on you. You are going a direction. Your day is planned out, but you get a phone call from a doctor or a friend. The news is not good.
The prognosis is not good, and you didn't see it coming. God's word has the direction to get you through the planned and unplanned pivot points in your life. The pivot point package speaks to marriage, death, depression, recovery, fear of the future, and moving to a new location or job. Get these teachings that include written personal direction from Skip on each of these topics. You'll receive this package when you give $50 or more today to this Bible teaching ministry. We'll send you Pastor Skip's pivot points collection of six messages, plus an encouraging letter from Pastor Skip so you can strengthen your faith in defining moments. A faith that cannot be tested is a faith that cannot be trusted.
Get these critical pivot point messages today when you give online securely at connectwithskip.com slash offer, or call 800-922-1888. Tune in tomorrow as Skip Heitzig shares how you can face fear and live courageously in Christ. So when David arrives, he doesn't see a giant. He sees a big target. I can't miss that. That'll be easy. Because that's so big, even I can hit that.
Anybody can hit that. That's how he sees it. Fear is intimidating. Make a connection, make a connection at the foot of the cross and cast all burdens on His word. Make a connection, connection. Connect with Skip Heitzig is a presentation of Connection Communications, connecting you to God's never-changing truth in ever-changing times.
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