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The Real McCoy

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
May 24, 2024 12:00 am

The Real McCoy

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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May 24, 2024 12:00 am

In this episode, Stephen Davey explores the authenticity of Nehemiah's faith, comparing him to a Real McCoy - genuine and unwavering in his devotion to God.

Through Nehemiah's story, we witness his fears, vulnerabilities, and unwavering dependence on God's strength. We also see his unwavering faith and determination to rebuild Jerusalem despite overwhelming obstacles.

Discover two key principles from Nehemiah's life that will inspire and challenge you to become a "Real McCoy" believer yourself:

  1. God's delays are not God's denials.

  2. True believers refuse to take credit for God's work.

For more life-changing Bible teachings from Stephen Davey, visit


This is one of those short SOS emergency prayers. Nehemiah, what do you want? Oh, Lord, God in heaven. We're not told what he said. It was short.

I think it was one ancient Hebrew word pronounced, help. You have been in those situations. It is with a child. It is with a boss who summons, it might be any number of things and you're called in and immediately, no matter how much you have planned, no matter what you have done in the past, and you have time just to say, I know you're up there. Oh, Lord God of heaven.

And that's about it. Have you noticed how often we want the best of the best? We search for the genuine article or as the saying goes, the real McCoy.

We're not usually interested in some cheap knockoff. Well, the same needs to be true in our spiritual lives. In the book of Nehemiah, we meet a man who embodies what it means to be a genuine follower of God. Now, he wasn't always perfect, but he was real flaws and all today on wisdom for the heart.

Steven dives into Nehemiah two. You're about to discover what authentic faith looks like in action. This lesson is called the real McCoy. Late one night around 1842 slaves in Kentucky slipped out of their shack and into the dark night. This husband and wife stole away from their plantation and were soon the newest passengers on the Underground Railroad. And they didn't stop. They went from safe house to safe house until they finally reached the promised Northland of freedom. They continued on until they made it to Canada.

And there they lived out the rest of their lives. In 1843, they had a son and they named him Elijah. Because of the safety of that culture, Elijah was able to get a good education and he did well.

He was a bright student. And his father in the meantime was prospering in business, prospering so well that when Elijah was old enough they were able to send him to Edinburgh, Scotland, where he studied mechanical engineering and earned his degree. When he finished, he moved back south to Detroit and tried to find work. He was unable to find work in his field and instead landed a job working as a fireman on the Michigan Central Railroad. In those days, he observed the trains would have to be stopped every day at great cost to be lubricated. They could not have lubrication applied while in process of operating and he knew that that was costing the Michigan Central Railroad time and money and so he went about inventing. He secured a U.S. government patent for his newly designed lubricator cup, which allowed these steam engines to be lubricated while in operation, thus saving his employers much time and money. But he wasn't finished. He didn't stop there.

He kept refining his invention and adapting it to other machinery until he had procured 42 patents and his lubrication systems were used literally around the world. There were others, of course, who tried to copy his work but his inventions were so superior that people would settle for nothing less than the original. You see, Elijah's last name was McCoy and a phrase was coined in honor of this man's work, spoken by people who in this day would settle for nothing less than the real McCoy.

That expression is now part of our American vocabulary and it is uttered to this day by people who do not want an invitation, a knockoff, a substitute. They either are observing or identifying or they want nothing less than the real McCoy. Having studied the life of Nehemiah together now for many weeks, I have come to the conclusion that Nehemiah was a real McCoy, a genuine authentic follower of God. Like perhaps a woman or a man, you have observed in your own spiritual journey and you have watched them and then you have commented to a friend of yours about them, that man or that woman is real. There didn't seem to be another way to express what you were trying to say.

You were in effect saying they are the real genuine item. The biblical book that bears the name of Nehemiah is as real as he is. It doesn't spin the story to make him look good. In fact, it doesn't even show you his best side at all times. You are allowed to see not only the strengths of Nehemiah but his weaknesses as well. You're able to watch him when he is filled with faith and courage and then you are allowed to watch him when he is filled with fear and uncertainty.

And in fact, our study today, we will see both sides of that in this man. Would you take your Bibles and turn to your copy of Nehemiah's personal diary? And I want you to go to the second chapter and verse one. And while you're turning, you may remember that for four months, Nehemiah has been fasting and praying and mourning and beseeching God that God would move on behalf of the people of Israel. He has in fact been praying for four months that God would use him to lead the people back to rebuild their city and rebuild their lives in the holy city of Jerusalem. But for four months, God has not answered. The heavens, as it were, are made of brass.

There has been no movement. Chapter two will suddenly change everything. The chapter opens with what we'll call a sudden crisis. Look at verse one. And it came about in the month Nisan in the 20th year of King Artaxerxes that wine was before him and I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. So the king said to me, why is your face sad though you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart.

Then I was very much afraid. For four months, Nehemiah has been keeping it all in. Obviously, the implication is here that the king is not known of his agony.

No one including the king has been able to observe the mourning and the lamenting and the beseeching that he has been involved in for the past four months. But on this occasion, it's as if Nehemiah can't keep it in any longer. He inadvertently lets how he feels slip. And the king asks him, why this sadness of heart? Nehemiah, why are you sad? Now you would think that this would be an invitation from Artaxerxes for Nehemiah to pull up a chair or maybe sit down on the couch and say, well, Art, old buddy, it's so nice of you to ask how I'm feeling.

Let me spill it out. Why would Nehemiah say, I was very much afraid? Well, remember, Nehemiah's job was to protect the king from any assassination attempts, primarily those who would try to slip poison into his goblet of wine or into his casserole. Any change in Nehemiah's behavior or demeanor or countenance would arouse suspicion in the life of an already paranoid king whose own father was assassinated. Furthermore, you can actually translate that Hebrew word sadness in an entirely different manner.

You could render the king's words in verse two this way. Why is your face troubled with evil? In other words, the king says, look, I don't know what's going on, but something's wrong here. I can see it in your face. Why are you troubled?

Is it in fact evil? Nehemiah said, I was very much afraid. Verse three, and I said to the king, let the king live forever.

That's another way of saying there's nothing in your drink. I promise. Live forever. Now that we have that out of the way, why should my face not be troubled when the city, the place of my father's tombs lies desolate and its gates have been consumed by fire? Now, for four months, Nehemiah has been asking God to grant him favor in the eyes of the king so that he might return to Jerusalem.

This is the same king who, by the way, in Ezra chapter four ordered the work stopped. God would have to do something really unusual to change this man's heart, so Nehemiah has been praying and fasting and beseeching God, Lord, give me an audience with the king, then suddenly, wham, out of nowhere, unexpectedly, Nehemiah, having shown his feelings for just a moment, the king picks up on it and demands an explanation. And Nehemiah, in my mind, is answering sort of like, well, I'm sad because my father's city lies desolate and its gates are burned with fire.

And I wonder if at that moment Nehemiah thought, oh, what did I say? That's not the way I wanted it to come out. This isn't, in fact, the moment I had prayed for, and that didn't come out right. I can't help but stop here and observe that isn't it true?

No matter how long you plan, you can never plan enough for the unexpected. I doubt Nehemiah would have picked this day. I doubt he would have picked this particular way to bring up the subject. He's now on the defensive. The king is now suspicious. He feels threatened.

This is not the way he planned it to happen. And now he is afraid. Ladies and gentlemen, the real McCoy of authentic Christianity is not the person who is self-assured, not the person who is always together, who's never afraid. The real McCoy may be, in fact, the person who at times is caught off guard. Those unexpected moments come into your life, and I'm sure they have, and you're unsure of yourself, but you are like him, reaching for some solid representation of God, totally dependent upon him for strength.

He is now afraid. What follows, secondly, from the king is what I believe to be a surprising request. The king said to me, what do you want?

That is, what would you request? And now I'm sure Nehemiah's head is spinning. He hasn't asked the king for anything. He hasn't even said it right so that the king would know he wanted anything. But somehow the king, something is moving in the heart of the king to discern what he has not heard, that Nehemiah has a request, that Nehemiah has something to say, that Nehemiah wants to ask him for a favor. Now who do you think is moving the heart of the king? The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord, Proverbs 21 one, and the Lord moves the heart of that king in any direction like channels of water that he chooses to. And so Nehemiah hears the king say, what do you want? I love the next phrase, verse four. So I prayed to the God of heaven.

I love that. Let's stop right there for a minute. Nehemiah, what do you want? Oh, I prayed to the God of heaven. This is one of those short SOS emergency prayers. Nehemiah, what do you want? Oh, oh, Lord God in heaven. We're not told what he said. It was short.

I think it was one ancient Hebrew word pronounced, help. You have been in those situations. It's unexpected. It's at the end of a phone call. It is with a doctor's report.

It is with a child. It is with a boss who summons. It might be any number of things, and you're called in, and immediately, no matter how much you have planned, no matter what you have done in the past, bam! And you have time just to say, I know you're up there. Oh, Lord God of heaven.

And that's about it. I was on the phone a couple of days ago with a gentleman from our past. I called him on the phone.

His name appeared on the prayer list. He's a policeman. He was on the third level of the parking deck at Crabtree Valley Mall in his patrol car when the news came over his radio that larceny was taking place, and he was right there by the back door. And after the description, immediately after a man came running out that back door toward the patrol car, Billy, my buddy, jumped out and hollered halt.

The man saw him and turned directions and began running the other way with Billy in hot pursuit. Billy told me we were running toward the edge of the parking deck three levels up, and he said, right as we got to the edge, I was only inches behind him. That man jumped, and he said, I knew there was a grassy knoll about five feet below us, and I jumped too, only to discover after we both had jumped, the grassy knoll was over there. And we were 25 feet above ground. I said, Billy, what was going through your mind as you were going down? He said, it was a short prayer meeting. My life flashed before my eyes.

In fact, he was very grateful that he had only a few broken bones. Well, now none of us are chasing criminals across the third level of the parking deck at Crabtree Valley Mall, at least I don't think so. But you enter crises in your life, and your heart begins to beat, and it is unexpected, and you are unsure of yourself. In fact, you may be filled with fear.

This is exactly what was happening here. What you observe in his life is that kind of fear. He is not in control.

He doesn't have it all together. We are allowed to see him as the genuine, authentic follower of God, as a terrified, unsure man, gasping a very quick prayer to the God of heaven. By the way, I ought to add here that a short prayer is best preceded by a long obedience.

The key to effective praying before God is not length, but loyalty. And when you seek to follow him, you come to those emergency moments, you don't have to say much. He already knows everything anyhow, right? And he knows how he needs to respond on your behalf. Now I want you to notice Nehemiah's submissive appeal, verse 5. And I said to the king, if it please the king, and if your servant has found favor before you, send me to Judah, the city of my father's tombs, that I may rebuild it. Now this, by the way, is very gracious on Nehemiah's part, isn't it?

He didn't say, well, I'm glad you've asked, king. You know, I'm God's chosen man. God has a job for me. I want to leave of absence. I'll be gone 12 years, by the way. And when God's finished with me, I'll be back. Have a problem with that?

No. Nehemiah is willing to allow God to move through the heart of the king to willingly grant him permission to go. Now it would be easy to miss what I believe to be a subtle influence by a woman whose presence is mentioned. Nehemiah just sort of inserts this rather awkwardly. Verse 6, then the king said to me, the queen sitting beside him, how long will your journey be, and when will you return? So it pleased the king to send me, and I gave him a definite time. Why this rather awkward, obvious insertion of the fact that the queen was sitting beside the king? Because the queen does not sit beside the king, for starters. You remember how an earlier queen dared to enter the presence of her husband, the king, without an invitation. The implication, and I believe the insertion here is the implication that that woman was exerting influence over the king. I made my request to the king, and the queen was sitting by him. I don't know if she nudged him with her elbow or whispered something to him in the interim, but something was going on here, and he wanted us to know the queen was there. We don't know what he knew, of course, but there are some who have pointed out that if this was the Artaxerxes, we think it is chronologically, and I do agree with it, then this was not Artaxerxes' wife. The phrase queen was also used for the queen mother, and the queen mother in this case, or stepmother, was none other than Esther herself.

Now, it'd be real easy to take a trail off to the left here and just talk about that for a while, wouldn't it? But I will say that here's an aged woman. Her husband has been assassinated. Her stepson is now ruling. Maybe she has wondered why is she in this position after all. Oh yes, she saved her people years earlier, but now, now, she has come to the kingdom for such a time as this.

Well, having gathered his wits about him, he now launches into presenting a rather solid plan of action. Verse 7, and I said to the king, if it please the king, let letters be given me for the governors of the provinces beyond the river, that they may allow me to pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the forest, which is by the temple, for the wall of the city, and for the house to which I will go. Now, Nehemiah here is anticipated needing two things from the king.

Number one, permission in writing. Ezra 4 told us the king stopped the work with a decree, and he said in that decree, don't start the work again until I send another decree. So Nehemiah knows that nobody will believe him that he's come from the king unless he has written permission. Secondly, he needs supplies for building. Like our mission teams that have gone to El Salvador, it's useless to send them unless we send the money to buy the materials when they get there. There's nothing for them to build with.

Well, there's nothing for Nehemiah to build with. And so he just sort of starts on a roll, and he has this list. He has an open heart from the king.

Perhaps he knows that God is moving. He begins to ask. One commentator humorously said that this, he sounds like a girl going to her father asking for money to buy a new skirt. And when he says yes, she informs her father that if she gets that new skirt, she'll need something to wear with it.

And then before long we're dealing with toenail polish and earrings, and so a wise father says no to the very first thing, amen? But when Nehemiah walked into the king's presence this day, he was a cupbearer. And when he walked out, he was the newly appointed leader of a construction project that had permission from the king and also all of the supplies that he would need as he rebuilt the city of God for the people of God. Let me provide you two more thoughts that I have summarized in my thinking under the title Real McCoys. The Real McCoys of authentic genuine faith are further revealed by people who are willing to live by these two truths. Number one, they are people who realize that God's delays are not necessarily God's denials. If you go back to chapter 1, and I want you to turn back there and look at verse 11, there's a little word in that verse that I didn't want to say anything about because I wanted to say it now.

It's a little word that says a lot, O Lord, I beseech thee, may thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant and the prayer of thy servants who delight to revere thy name and make thy servant successful. Here it is today. Lord, do something today. Lord, do something today.

And he prayed for four months. Lord, today is the day. Do something today. Lord, this is the day. Do something today.

Lord, today. And a hundred days later, he is still asking, Lord, would you do something today? It seemed that God was not doing anything. Oh, but God was in the process of doing something. He was doing something in Nehemiah before he would ever do something through Nehemiah. We tend to get all hung up about what God does through us, right?

The better work is what God does in us. He was not only preparing Jerusalem for Nehemiah, he was preparing Nehemiah for Jerusalem. And his delays were not denials. Number two, real McCoy believers refuse to accept the credit for the work of God that is finally accomplished. When God does move, they do not accept the credit. And Nehemiah leaves little room for doubt, by the way, that he fully understood what happened just moments earlier.

If you missed it, he records it in his diary, this rather telling statement found in the latter part of verse eight. And the king granted my requests to me because I was clever, because I had a plan, because I was God's choice to lead. No, the king granted my request to me because the good hand of my God was upon me. Nehemiah recognized that what had just happened, God had done it. It wasn't because Nehemiah was smart. It was because God was sovereign.

It wasn't because Nehemiah was great. It was because God was gracious. But Nehemiah here has just been released from the king's palace. He has royal permission with all the financial backing necessary to rebuild. And he's humble enough as it goes with those documents in his hand with a carte blanche endorsement of the king with the choice of God and the recognition that God's hand is upon him.

He recognized that success was granted because of God. Verse nine, then I came to the governors of the provinces beyond the river and gave them the king's letters. Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen. When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about it, it was very displeasing to them. By the way, he just sort of drops into our minds the names of these men who will be his arch enemies throughout the rest of this entire book.

They will dog at his heels. But for our point, what I want you to see is the self descriptive use of words that Nehemiah chooses to use. It was displeasing to them, go back, that someone had come. Not that the cup bearer of the king had come. Not that God's choice of a leader to rebuild had come. But that somebody had come. Somebody had come to seek the welfare of the sons of Israel. A genuine, authentic, down to earth, real believer never gets caught up with what he or she has done or can do. This is just somebody. In fact, you could translate that a man. That's how he refers to himself as he writes to himself in this diary. That a man had come.

That's it. You want to be a real McCoy? You want to avoid the popular profile of Christianity, the pseudo spiritual language. You want to avoid the knockoff imitations of piety and people who show you that you must have it together and you must be ready for everything. Well, take a look here at a man who was filled with fear, but who allowed himself to be the instrument in the hands of God for his purposes and for his glory. And then when God did move through him, he didn't forget who did it. Somebody has come to seek the welfare of the sons of Israel. A great phrase. Somebody.

You fit and I fit into that category because we're just somebodies. Yet upon closer inspection, we discover that he was a genuine, authentic man, sometimes filled with fear, sometimes moved by faith, yet overall impressed with the fact that a good God had his hand upon him and cared about him. Nehemiah was the real McCoy. What a powerful reminder that genuine faith isn't about perfection. Nehemiah's story shows us that even in fear and weakness, God can use us.

It's not about looking strong or being self-sufficient. It's about humble dependence on God's good hand. True faith is marked by admitting our need for him, seeking his glory and recognizing his power at work throughout our lives.

May we, like Nehemiah, seek to be the real McCoy, authentic followers of Christ. This is Wisdom for the Heart with Stephen Davey. Wisdom for the Heart is produced by Wisdom International.

In addition to being the president of our ministry, Stephen is also the pastor of the Shepherd's Church in Cary, North Carolina. If you'd like to listen to this message again, you'll find it on our website. Simply go to and a link to this message will be right there on the homepage. You can also go back and listen to any of the previous messages as well.

This message comes from Stephen's series through the entire book of Nehemiah. If you'd like to own this series in your library of Christian resources, we have it available as a CD set. Give us a call for information. Our number is 866-48-BIBLE or 866-482-4253. Stephen also has a book of this teaching series and that's available at a discounted rate. You can use the same number, 866-48-BIBLE.

You'd also find information on the website. It's a practical and pastoral look at Nehemiah's life and I know you'd enjoy reading it. My name is Scott Wiley and I thank you for listening today. Please join us again next time here on Wisdom for the Heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-24 00:55:24 / 2024-05-24 01:05:48 / 10

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