According to sociologist Robert K. Merton, a role model is an individual whose behaviors, traits, disciplines, and examples can be measured up or emulated by others. A role model is someone we can look up to and admire. They are all around us. Role models inspire us, motivate us, challenge us to overcome adversity, and embrace appropriate behaviors and disciplines that we should be aspiring to attain.
Nehemiah was a Jew living in Persia who served as cupbearer for King Artaxerxes. But he was more than a man who tasted the king’s food and drinks. He wasn’t a butler either. He held a position of great privilege as he was cultured and knowledgeable about the king’s court. Earning the king’s respect and of his constituents, Nehemiah was sought for advice and counsel. He was also handsomely compensated for what he did and offered. It was fair to say that he lived a comfortable life.
Nehemiah was also a caring person. He was a God-fearing and God-following person who though he had never been to his ancestral city of Jerusalem, cared about his heritage, history, and traditions. He cared about those who lived there and those who were on their way back to reclaiming the city and their traditions.
In the Bible, the book of Nehemiah is a memoir. It was written directly by him in the first person. He is telling us his story. At the start, he received word from one of his brothers that things were getting out of hand in his homeland. Hanani, one of his brothers, along with other men, reported to him, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire (Nehemiah 1:3).”
In the following verses, we will see that he wept, sat down, and cried for days upon hearing the news. This is how much Nehemiah cared. He refused to eat any food as well. He prayed to God for his people and ancestral land. God’s response to his prayer was as if it was taken out of a Mission Impossible movie. Nehemiah’s mission was to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. Arrangements have been made to bless the mission, and he even had the paperwork for the journey. As he was a man favored by the king, he had access to the king’s forest to supply the materials for this rebuilding project.
Committed and determined
God’s message and response to Nehemiah’s prayers were for him to set out for Jerusalem. With this command, he was to leave behind his comfort, relationship, and even his service to the king. Upon receiving God’s instructions, he was committed. Nehemiah was all in. He had great determination to take on the rebuilding project in Jerusalem.
In the second chapter, upon arriving in the city, he previewed the site, assembled the crews, and even mapped out the schedule and timeframes. He also secured the necessities to rebuild the wall. This was no ordinary building project. He assembled a wide variety of people to be involved in the project.
“The city officials did not know I had been out there or what I was doing, for I had not yet said anything to anyone about my plans. I had not yet spoken to the Jewish leaders—the priests, the nobles, the officials, or anyone else in the administration. But now I said to them, “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!” Then I told them about how the gracious hand of God had been on me, and about my conversation with the king.
They replied at once, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!” So they began the good work.”
As with every significant undertaking, there was opposition as well. Other leaders and officials saw the rebuilding as a threat to them. They did not want the walls to be rebuilt. The endeavor threatened them.
Why should he stop to meet with the opposition? It was a trap. Nehemiah did not go.
But the opposition was relentless. They did not stop with a simple “no.” They came back with a simple message. They tried and threatened to broadcast false reports about Nehemiah and his project.
They were just trying to intimidate and discourage and stop the work. Nehemiah continued to work with even greater determination. He maintained utmost committed determination. But most of all, before all the efforts in planning and carrying out the work, Nehemiah prayed.
He and his men kept working with great determination despite adversity, distraction, and discouragement. The wall was completed in 52 days. This wasn’t any ordinary project or a simple task that Nehemiah managed. The walls were quite tall, 39 ft. high, and extremely thick at 68 ft. It was no easy project.
Rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall was a remarkable accomplishment that people stood and took notice. Shouldn’t we stand up and take notice as well? Nehemiah wrote:
“When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God.”
Nehemiah and his people knew that the wall wouldn’t be rebuilt without God’s blessing. In this historic undertaking, God was involved all the way. But it required Nehemiah to be fully invested in the project.
God is in the business of working through people to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks. Fifty-two days is not impossible with God’s help. For us here in the present, this is the year to revive our commitment to Jesus. In our desire to revive our commitment, we must follow through the nudgings, instructions, and invitations to follow Him. Then, like Nehemiah, we must commit to following Him with great urgency and determination.
Nehemiah never got discouraged. Like him, we can move forward by putting one foot in front of the other. The enemy plots to intimidate us, deceive us, or plant seeds of doubt in us so that we stop. We must start to follow Jesus with great commitment so that we don’t keep marching forward and wane in our commitment.
Moving with traction
We see the enemy’s hard work in the story of Nehemiah. There was strong and intense intimidation. We are bombarded with distractions every single day. Keep us off focus and tasks at hand. We can’t call something a distraction unless we know what it is distracting us from.
We are bombarded with distractions every single day. Keep us off focus and tasks at hand. We can’t call something a distraction unless we know what it is distracting us from. The opposite of distraction is not focus or attention but rather traction.
Traction are the actions that move us toward what we really want. It requires great determination and discipline to follow through in getting and receiving what we really want.
Nehemiah was a role model. He never gave up. He was locked in. He was all in to rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and never refused to stop. Even under tremendous pressure, he never refused to stop. His eyes were on the prize. And in the end, the opposition realized that the work had been done with God’s help.
Nehemiah’s story was centered on commitment. Let us revive our commitment to following Jesus with great determination.
Three lessons to remember
- Stop and pray.
“When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.” –Nehemiah 1:4
Sometimes we’re wired to just go and take action. But in Nehemiah’s story we see that the lesson is to stop first and pray. He didn’t first strategize and assemble. He prayed to God.
Praying was central to his being. And in the entire book of Nehemiah, there are twelve instances of praying. His dependence on God provided the success in accomplishing God’s vision. So what are you being asked to do today that you should drop to your knees to pray before taking action?
- With God, the impossible becomes possible.
Nehemiah faced insurmountable odds. He left a cushy position. He accepted a very risky task. He was attacked, persecuted, threatened. The crews he assembled were threatened but he was determined to plow ahead.
What kind of leader, and follower of Jesus does God want you to be?
Is He nudging you to do something?
Are you attentive to what the spirit is telling you?
Do you have a burden for something that requires your involvement?
Commitment is not being a spectator in the stands. It requires rolling up the sleeves and getting after it. God is in the business of working through people to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks.
Martin Luther said, “Faith is a living, daring, confidence in God’s grace. It is so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it a thousand times. “
- Talk and walk.
Determining the commitment in following Jesus requires the talk and the walk. Spend more time listening to Jesus—seek His counsel and advice. Then, take the talk and do something with it.
Jesus reminds us in Matthew 28:20: “Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
If we believe this to be true, let’s talk and walk with our Lord more.
Paul reminds us through his letter to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:1-2:
“Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.”
God has a big task for you. You don’t have time to be distracted or to be discouraged. The truth is that God is bigger than your task.
The impossible is possible for God. He can make the mountains move and roll away the stone. There is power in Jesus’ Name. Let us ask Him to revive in us the burning desire to follow Him, to hear His call for us so that we may respond with great determination and commitment.