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Blood, Sweat and Tears

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
May 27, 2024 12:00 am

Blood, Sweat and Tears

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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May 27, 2024 12:00 am

Are you facing challenges that seem insurmountable? In this episode, we draw parallels between Winston Churchill's unyielding spirit during World War II and Nehemiah's leadership in rebuilding Jerusalem's walls.

Nehemiah's story starts with silent prayers and ends in open battle. With the king's support and a clear vision, Nehemiah tackles the monumental task of rebuilding amidst opposition. Just as Churchill promised victory through "blood, toil, tears, and sweat," Nehemiah asks the same of his people.

Join us as we dive into Nehemiah 2:9-20 to see how true opportunity often comes with opposition. How does Nehemiah's approach to leadership and perseverance provide a blueprint for overcoming our own challenges today? Listen now and be inspired to rise and build, no matter the obstacles in your path.


Ladies and gentlemen, it was true here and it is true today. Anytime you decide to build something for the glory of God, whether it is a godly character, a pure mind, an honest character, whenever you desire to honor and glorify God, everything that opposes God will oppose you. Jesus Christ said, if you will be my disciple, then pick up your cross and follow me. Christianity is not always about blessings. It sometimes is about blood and sweat and tears. There's no denying the fact that following God often involves hard work. It involves what Stephen just referred to as blood, sweat, and tears. When it comes to serving God faithfully, your actions speak louder than your words. Your actions also affirm your words. So, being a Christian is more than just putting a Jesus bumper sticker on your car. It's carrying a cross, no matter what the cost.

God wants us to faithfully stick to whatever he's called us to do, even if it's hard. Today on Wisdom for the Heart, Stephen has a message for you called blood, sweat, and tears. On May 10, 1940, a man was elected Prime Minister of England. He is called today the last lion by his biographers. His name was Winston Churchill. It would not be long before Churchill would be responsible to keep his country together when the fury of the Third Reich and the wrath of Adolf Hitler focused on this little island nation.

But England, under Churchill's leadership, would not break, even during the darkest hours of World War II, when Hitler's bombers pummeled English cities with one bomb after another. I read again this past week how Churchill could be heard on the radio broadcasting his stubborn refusal to surrender, rallying the British people to fight on. In one particular series of speeches, Churchill said these words to the people, we shall not fail.

We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France. We shall fight in the seas and oceans. We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.

I have nothing to offer you but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. But if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last another thousand years, men will say this was their finest hour. And so it was. In that same vein, Nehemiah and the people of Israel are approaching their finest hour. Thus far, the battle has been invisible. It has been waged in the prayer closet as Nehemiah has agonized and prayed and fasted for more than four months, and now he has seen the miracle of the king's heart turned to their favor. But now as the battle becomes as real as the bombs of Germany, it will no longer be waged in the prayer closet. It will become a battle out in the open where it can be seen and heard and felt. Nehemiah's message will be different, but it will say similar things that Churchill said, though 2100 years later.

He will refuse to surrender to the enemy, and he will boldly promise the people victory. But along the way, he promises them, in effect, nothing more than blood, sweat, and tears. Let's go back to verse 9 of chapter 2 and rejoin the drama that is only now beginning to intensify. 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 that somebody had come to seek the welfare of the sons of Israel. So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days, and I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. I did not tell anyone what my God was putting into my mind to do for Jerusalem, and there was no animal with me except the animal upon which I was writing.

Now this is not exactly what you would expect to read. Nehemiah has the permission of the king. He has the financing he needs for this building project, but for three days, the text tells us, he hasn't told anybody in Jerusalem why he has even come. I would have expected Nehemiah to set up a trailer on the site, unload his gear, unpack his tools, hire the bricklayers, send out the surveyors to draw the lines, roll in the heavy equipment. Let's build some walls around here, shall we? But for three days, nothing.

What's the holdup, Nehemiah? Man, we're losing time. Let's go. You're here.

We have everything we need. Let's move, right? You ever felt impatient over a building project? How long will it take?

Will it ever be done? Can you imagine being an Israelite, somebody who has waited in effect nearly 100 years? I'd have given up.

I had trouble waiting one year. The truth is, ladies and gentlemen, they had given up. They had grown so accustomed with the piles of rubble about them.

They had grown so accustomed to the fact that though some had tried, they had failed to rebuild these walls. I don't think they could conceive of anybody coming along and trying to build their walls again. But finally, the man with the plan and permission comes to the scene.

If I had been him, I would have bounded into town and announced immediately, I'm ready to go. We've got the plans. We have permission.

We have all the provision we need. Let's build some walls. But for three days, this man doesn't even tell any of them why he's even come. It's not what I would have expected. Now, I don't believe for a moment that this means that he wasn't doing anything. Three days of waiting.

Waiting isn't doing nothing. I would believe that he was praying. I think he probably spent these three days talking to the locals, perhaps meeting the city officials. I think he was taking spiritual inventory on the condition of the people as much as he was and looking at the walls. Then, when you think that you may have figured out why he is waiting or what he is doing without any explanation to us as readers, he gets up late one night and he takes a few of his armed escort with him and he goes and takes a closer look around under the cover of a moonlit night, verse 13. So I went out at night by the valley gate in the direction of the dragon's well and onto the refuse gate, inspecting the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were consumed by fire. Then I passed on to the fountain gate and the king's pool, but there was no place for my mount to pass. So I went up at night by the ravine and inspected the wall.

Then I entered the valley gate again and returned. The officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done, nor had I as yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, or the rest who did the work. You could call this Nehemiah's famous midnight ride, but isn't it true for those of you who are involved in ministry, who are involved in serving our Lord, who are perhaps involved in leadership, isn't it true that those who are involved are often awake when others are asleep?

I can assure you, men and women, when you sign on to serve, the moment you accept the burden of rebuilding your broken world, you will have sleepless nights at times. Here the city is allowed to sleep while this burdened man inspects the damage. Verse 13 tells us that he inspected the walls. That's a Hebrew verb that could be rendered to carefully observe. It's a verb that appears in Hebrew medical professional journals. It's a word that talks about probing a wound to determine not only the damage of the wound, but the action needed for healing to take place.

He is carefully probing about the ruins. Now, between verse 16 and verse 17, some time elapses. We're not sure how long.

Perhaps just enough time to announce a meeting. So he gathers these nobles and these officials and the Jewish people and he now announces finally his intentions. Verse 17, then I said to them, you see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire.

Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach. I told them how the hand of my God had been favorable to me and also about the king's words which he had spoken to me. Then they said, let us arise and build so they put their hands to the good work. Now, that's another surprising thing to me. If you're like me, you're perhaps a little surprised that after such a short speech, the text would tell us that the people responded in unison, let us arise and build. Frankly, I have looked at this several times. Verses 17 and 18 don't seem to be much of a motivational speech from Nehemiah to get anybody to risk their lives doing something terribly difficult.

They haven't tried for generations. But there are volumes in his words. So I've come up with a few points, four of them, four different key ingredients that made his speech so motivating. We'll call the first key ingredient an honest attitude. Look back at verse 17.

Then I said to them, you see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire. Isn't his honesty refreshing? He doesn't sugarcoat the problem. He doesn't start his motivational speech by saying, hey, I've seen those walls. It's not all that bad. It's not that big of a problem.

We can do it. But Nehemiah was, I think, a genuine true realist. He doesn't overlook the problem, but he sees the potential. And he immediately earned their respect by verbalizing and understanding a cognizance of their painful situation that they had been enduring. Notice his severe words again. This is a bad situation, desolate, burned by fire.

Oh, I have seen it, and it's bad. They're listening now. He doesn't stop there. He goes on secondly to humbly identify with him.

Get ready to circle three key words that were highly motivating. Verse 17, then I said to them, you see the bad situation we are in. Come, let us, there it is, rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach. He did not say, man, are you guys in a terrible situation? What I think you need to do is rebuild the walls so that you can remove this reproach that you're enduring.

No, it is we, us, we. You want to discourage somebody whose life is surrounded by ruins. You would never say to them, oh, are you ever in a mess? Here's what you need to do. No, if you want to encourage them, you would say, well, aren't we in a mess here? Here's what I think we need to do. That's what he did here.

He humbly identified with their condition. The third key ingredient is Nehemiah's honorable invitation. Now, before we look carefully back at verse 17, I want you to notice that he will not say, let's build a wall so that we can have a nice wall. Let's build a wall around our city so that we can sleep at night without fear of invaders.

Let's build a wall so that we can have a wall like all the other cities that have walls. Those would be fine, but those would not be honorable. There are two forms of motivation in life. One commentator insightfully pointed out extrinsic and intrinsic. He uses one of these.

But let me illustrate before we get to it. Extrinsic motivation would be that which I might attempt on one of my sons. When I say, son, why don't you go out there and cut the grass? That really fires him up when I say that. He's so motivated. He doesn't move. Why?

Well, it needs it. He's not motivated. Son, go out there and cut the grass because wild animals are beginning to move in to our yard. He's still not moving. Son, I tell you what, if you go out there and cut the grass, I'll give you some money.

Zoom, he's out there cutting away. Motivated. However, he is motivated by something outside of himself. Extrinsic motivation.

It works. When we're young, hopefully we grow up to where we do what we do because it is right. That's intrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation is when you do what is right because it is right. And you don't get anything in return except perhaps the knowledge and satisfaction that you did the right thing. And a key beyond that is simply doing what you're doing in the doing of those right things so that you will bring glory and honor to God whom you say you represent. Will your boss ever pay you for honesty? Will your classmates ever praise you for purity?

As far as I can tell, they still have yet to give out an Oscar for character. But you do what you do and you live the way that you live because you do not want to be a reproach or bring reproach upon your character which ultimately brings reproach upon the character of your God. You are intrinsically motivated to honor God.

And that's the motivation that he uses here. He says in verse 17, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem that we may no longer be a reproach. That word reproach means to speak down upon the character of someone. Listen, we're living surrounded by the enemies of God and they can look down on our character. Oh, you represent the living God.

Sure you do. Now let's build so that we can honor and glorify God and bring honor to his character rather than reproach. There's one more element to his speech.

It includes a hope-filled personal testimony. Look again at verse 18. And I told them how the hand of my God had been favorable to me. Doesn't tell us what he told them. He just tells us he told them something along these lines. And also about the king's words which he had spoken to me.

Can you imagine how these people hung on every word? For all we know, Nehemiah told them every detail about the burden that he had when his brother Hannah and I came along and told them the walls are burned and destroyed, the gates burned, the walls crumbled. Perhaps he told them how God had prepared him through prayer for four months. Maybe he told them, I'm sure, he must have about his sadness before the king and how immediately his life was in danger.

Maybe he informed them of Esther's influence over the king, the king's personal response. But he is basically saying, God has been good to me and it now involves all of Jerusalem. God is here with us. Nehemiah declares, God has prepared the way. His good hand, his favorable hand is upon me and now upon all of us. He has not forgotten you, oh Jerusalem.

That's Nehemiah's personal testimony. There are a few things more encouraging. For those of you who do work and serve, you serve the body, you serve other people, whether it's teaching a class, helping in a nursery, whether it is discipling teenagers or being involved in the ministry of prayer.

Perhaps you're here and you serve as a vocational missionary in some stateside organization or maybe you're here as one is visiting from Africa serving the Lord faithfully. Whatever your service may be that you attempt to do for somebody else, you have discovered by now one of the most discouraging things about ministry is that you are never finished. You never finish. You can't shelve what you do and say, there I finished that. And what comes with that is the potential discouragement that nothing is happening. Those teens aren't maturing. Those women you lead aren't seemingly growing.

That class isn't catching it. And perhaps God gives you the benefit along the way of something very encouraging and that is a personal testimony. How encouraging it must have been to the people of Jerusalem to hear a man say, listen I know you've lived for years surrounded by the ruins and you don't think perhaps that God has noticed.

Perhaps you've thought God isn't doing anything but I want you to know that God's hand has been favorable upon me and now he will move favorably toward all of us. No wonder they all shouted in unison. Verse 18, let us arise and build so they put their hands to the good work.

No wonder. After all of that we would have said the same. Let us arise and build. Now this would be a wonderful place for the book of Nehemiah to end, actually, but it doesn't. There's this little word that appears in verse 19 that changes the sunshine and the clouds of gray, the little word but.

Oh everything is moving along. The people shout, let's arise and build. But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard it, they mocked us and despised us and said, what is this thing you are doing?

Are you rebelling against the king? Sanballat was the governor of Samaria. Tobiah ruled the kingdom of Ammon.

Geshem and his sons ruled the surrounding Arab nations. These are powerful enemies of God and enemies of God's people. Ladies and gentlemen, it was true here and it is true today. Anytime you decide to build something for the glory of God, whether it's a godly home, whether it is a godly character, a pure mind, an honest character, whenever you desire to honor and glorify God, everything that opposes God will oppose you. And that has waylaid a lot of believers who are in ruins themselves.

They thought when they signed on that this was going to make everything comfortable. Ladies and gentlemen, the distinctive mark that hangs about the neck of a disciple is not a garland, but a cross. Jesus Christ said, if you will be my disciple, then pick up your cross and follow me. Christianity is not always about blessings and about sweetness and about triumph. It sometimes is about blood and sweat and tears.

And are you ready for that? The enemies of Nehemiah opposed the work two ways. First, by public ridicule. The text says they mocked us. They laughed at us publicly.

They dried at us. They despised us. Second, by intimidation. What do you think you're doing?

Who do you think you are? Public ridicule was intended to produce embarrassment. Intimidation was intended to produce fear. Fear and embarrassment have worked well for thousands of years.

They work well today. Embarrassment and fear keep the mouths of many a believer closed, keep their feet paralyzed from ever moving forward. Perhaps it will work with Nehemiah. He responds in verse 20, so I answered them and said to them, the God of heaven will give us success. Therefore, we, his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion right or memorial in Jerusalem.

Nehemiah says six things in response. Number one, this is God's work. Number two, we are God's servants. Number three, this work will be accomplished by God's power. That's wonderful courage. He says, let me remind you of something while you're laughing. Go ahead and laugh, but this is God's work and we are God's servants and this work will be accomplished by the power of God. Now, that's courageous, but he doesn't stop there.

He says three more things to them. You have no portion here. Literally, you have no property here. Fifth, you have no right. That is, you have no claim of authority. Some believe that that Hebrew is an implication that you have no right to tax us or exact tribute from us once the city is finished.

Six, you have no memorial. That's a religious word that means you have no part in the worshiping community of believers inside of Jerusalem. We're going to build a wall and when we finish, you're not invited. He says that to the king of the Arab nations, to the ruler of Ammon, to the governor of Samaria, when we finish and we close those gates, you're not going to get a key. We're going to enjoy studying this man's courage. Let me give you three ways to avoid the pitfall of discouragement quickly. Number one, remember the truth that God's will is not always easy, but it is never impossible.

There's the balance. It's not always easy, but it's never impossible. Second of all, rest in the fact that God will never command you to do something without providing the strength to do it. His commanding means his enabling. In his book entitled Fuzzy Memories by Jack Handy, he writes, there used to be a bully when I was a kid who would demand my lunch money every day at school. Since I was smaller than he was, I would give it to him. Then I decided to fight back I started taking karate lessons, but then the karate instructor told me I owed him five dollars a lesson, so I just went back to paying the bully. He writes, too many people feel it is easier just to pay the bully than it is to learn how to defeat him.

I thought, wow, what great insight into our own passage. God never commands you to live for his glory without helping you overcome the obstacles you'll face. You say, oh, I cannot love that person. Yes, you can.

I cannot raise these children. Yes, you can. I can't witness my faith to others.

Yes, you can. It may not be easy, but it is not impossible. Paul said it well in Philippians chapter 4 verse 13. Say it with me. I can do something. Oh, I'm sorry. I said it wrong. Let's try that again.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Can you imagine what Nehemiah must have thought as he toured the city this night? There are huge stones lying around on the ground. There's a century's worth of rubble and rubbish and shrubbery that has come up that entwines these great massive stones. The rotten wood of former gates crumbles in his hands. Had you or I been Nehemiah, I think we would have taken the first camel back to Persia.

But he knew that God's good hand was upon him. Third, rejoice in the principle that opposition only means opportunity is close at hand. There is no opportunity without opposition. And so you welcome not only the opportunity, but the obstacle as well. What's the most difficult hour you're facing? What's the most difficult thing you're facing? What is the most difficult thing you've faced? By refusing to surrender, by pursuing that walk with Christ, by picking up your cross and moving forward, you will say eventually as you look back on that difficult hour that that was one of your finest hours.

Just don't surrender. Unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord for as much as you know that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. Your toil, your labor is not in vain. Your labor is not useless.

Labor that includes blood, sweat, and tears. And in spite of it all, you say with your eyes focused on the author and the finisher of your faith, you will not surrender to the enemy. You will say with them, let us arise and build.

When we face a difficult task, and we will, or when we face opposition to what God's called us to do, and we will, the example of Nehemiah is a good one for us to follow. You've been listening to Stephen Davey here on Wisdom for the Heart. Today's lesson is called Blood, Sweat, and Tears. If it would encourage you to have this series as a set of CDs, give us a call and we can help you. Our number is 866-48-BIBLE. And you can also go to our website, If you'd like to listen again free of charge, this and all of Stephen's messages are posted on our website. Join us next time here on Wisdom for the Heart. you
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-27 00:10:12 / 2024-05-27 00:20:03 / 10

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