Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.
So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.
But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.
Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.”
Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.”
Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.”
Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to our own work.
- Nehemiah 4:4-15
“Although the wall took only fifty-two days to complete, the people became discouraged at the halfway point: just twenty-six days into the project! Nehemiah had to renew their vision. From this story we get the ‘Nehemiah Principle’: Vision and purpose must be restated every twenty-six days to keep the church moving in the right direction. In other words, make sure you communicate your purpose at least monthly. It is amazing how quickly human beings – and churches – lose their sense of purpose.”
- Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church
As I recently read The Purpose Driven Church again, I became overwhelmed by the thought of how the church can succeed enough that their ‘purpose’ is no longer valid.
Let’s say that your church establishes a mission statement, or purpose, to reach the unchurched. But once your church is filled with people who are unchurched, they are no longer unchurched. Now, what do you do with them?
I like the ‘Nehemiah Principle’ that Warren coins here, but we need to go beyond that. Maybe not every 26 days, but at some point, you need to see if that ‘purpose’ is truly your purpose as a church. As people grow in the faith, the ‘purpose’ needs to be a step ahead of that.
But is this not the way each of us as Christians should live? To grow, we do not need to eat the carrot. To grow in faith, we need to be the beast of burden who has the carrot dangle from a cord on a stick in front of him / her. Having a full stomach, filled with carrot, is not living by faith. Grabbing the carrot to hold and cherish it is not living by faith. It is only when we realize that this journey of faith is not ended, and something is awaiting us that we truly live by faith.
Our journey of faith is not over until we cross the finish line. But we must still look upon the ‘carrot.’
To grow in faith, we need to recognize the obstacles in our path. As such, our purpose of the moment may change, yet our goal is always to become more like Jesus.
Remember what happened to Peter when he walked toward Jesus on the water (Matthew 14:30), he saw the wind and started to sink. Peter would have never started to sink, if he had kept his eyes on Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.