The Nehemiah Project (Sermon Notes)
(by Pastor Jerry Ingalls)
September 18, 2016
Take some time together as Worship Neighborhoods————–
Today’s sermon is called “Rise Up!” because each of us are confronted with a kairos moment in our lives. kairos is a Greek word that means, “Opportune moment in time; a supreme time of importance”. Unlike the sister word for time, chronos, which simply is the passing of time (chronology), this is a seizing of the moment word.
There are moments in time where the church must act, must rise up, for such a time as this. In Nehemiah 2, we see this moment comes to Nehemiah, at great personal danger.
Listen to Nehemiah 2:1-8, “In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, ‘Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.’ Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, ‘Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?’ Then the king said to me, ‘What are you requesting?’ So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, ‘If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.’ And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), ‘How long will you be gone, and when will you return?’ So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time. And I said to the king, ‘If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me 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 fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.’ And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.”
There are 3 lessons we need to learn from Nehemiah 2 in order to be a people who can rise up in our kairos moments:
1) God will providentially place you in a position of influence for His Glory!
God does not raise you up for your reputation, legacy, personal or organizational gain, but for a kairos moment to bring glory to His Name and build His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven.
You need to realize that Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king of Persia, Artaxerxes. The cupbearer would not only test the drink to ensure there was no poison (the most common form of assassination of kings in the ancient times), but he was also a trusted advisor, in the presence of the king most of the time. As we know of the Persian kings, they were very powerful men, who could kill or give life upon a word. Any breach of Persian etiquette or displeasing action in the king’s presence was a significant breach and could lead to death. Nehemiah was prosperous compared to the condition of the Jewish people, he lived absolute luxury, but his life was disposable to the king. But was Nehemiah in this position for his own comfort and well-being? Was there a greater purpose a faithful Jewish person next to a pagan king?
Biblical illustration: Does this sound familiar? Forty years earlier, in a Persian throne room, a Jewish woman named Esther, was elevated as the Queen of Persia, for a kairos moment to save all her people. To not act was certain death for all her people, to act was near certain death for herself! Her uncle, Mordecia, said to her about the moment, “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).
Olympian illustration: With the Olympics in our recent rearview mirror, I share this story of an Olympian from the 1976 Olympics. John Naber won four gold medals at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Quebec – setting four world records in the process. His message is simply this – a gold medalist doesn’t have to be the best in the world before or after the race he or she is in. He just has to be the best at that one moment. She has to seize the opportunity that is right in front of her. Many Olympic favorites have failed to medal, despite having the best qualifying times, because they didn’t do it when it counts.
Are you being placed in a situation for your kairos moment? Are you ready and willing to make a decision that will require all of your faith? Do you believe God has prepared you for a time such as this?
2) God responds to the humility of His people.
God responded to Nehemiah’s humility; to his prayers and fasting, his weeping and mourning. God is moved by the honesty of our hearts.
This is a biblical principle! The promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14 (“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”) is a parallel promise to Nehemiah 1:9 (“If you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.”)
Learn the context of the Nehemiah kairos moment:
Nehemiah 1:3-4 says that upon learning that the people in Jerusalem were in great trouble, living in shame, and unprotected by the lack of defense around Jerusalem, Nehemiah, “wept and mourned for days, and [he] continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”
Nehemiah 2:1 serves as a time marker of that time period, “In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes…” This is exactly 4 months after Nehemiah received the report about the condition of Jerusalem from one of his brothers (Nehemiah 1:1-2). Throughout this season of praying and fasting, Nehemiah humbled himself with honest prayer, asking God to “give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man” (Nehemiah 1:11).
Nehemiah was earnestly seeking a kairos moment! So, when the king asks, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick?” (Nehemiah 2:2) this is the kairos moment. This is the moment where Nehemiah would either obey God and live or disobey God and die. In this case, it would most likely be a literal death if he gave in to his fear instead of his faith!
Listen to this song, “No Longer Slaves” and let the Spirit lead your kairos moments: Click HERE to watch on Youtube.
Fear at its root is really pride in disguise. Because fear has to do with worry about how a situation will impact me and the bottom line for my life. Pride is when we allow our own self-interest determine how we will think and act in a situation. Pride in our life destroys our ability to be used by God in a Kairos moment. If Nehemiah walked in fear rather than faith, I speculate an alternate account:
– King after getting his drink: “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick?”
– Nehemiah in fear: “I am sorry my king, it is nothing, please forgive me if I have displeased you”
– King, impatience of his servant bringing unnecessary drama to the court: “Since it is nothing, you should not have brought your personal life into the throne room” [king gestures for his removal]
– Nehemiah begging for his life now: “Please have mercy on me my king” [as he is dragged away]
If Nehemiah had feared more for his own life and personal comfort than he cared about the state of God’s people in God’s city, then he would have missed the kairos moment and paid for it dearly; not only him, but possibly another generation of God’s people would have paid for his disobedience.
Church, I must ask you: how many more generations must miss out on the blessings of God because of our pride and disobedience to rise up and act in faith? We have been brought to this place for such a time as this, and that purpose is not about us, it’s about God’s will being done through us!
Today, God is still in the business of responding to the humble and fervent prayers of His people and gives us opportunities to act, to build, and to act for His Glory! It starts with our hearts being broken for the things that break God’s heart (leading to humility and honest acknowledgment, confession, and repentance). It doesn’t end there, that word repentance is the bridge to rising up for God. Repentance is an action word that calls us to obedience.
Our brother, Nick Estelle is going to share a testimony with us to help us hear God’s heart in our desire to make a difference for His Kingdom in this world.
(Nick Estelle’s testimony (blog on FBC webpage))
3) God provides for what God plans!
Faithful praying impacts reality more than you can ever know. This is trusting in God’s sovereignty in your life. If he places you in the moment and you humbly call to him, God will direct your next steps. Radical obedience always comes at great personal cost, but God’s provision is rich beyond our imagination. It’s a ripple effect!
Listen to Nehemiah 2:8, “And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.” Nehemiah received everything he asked for from the hand of the king. Instead of the king removing Nehemiah from his place of influence, he blessed Nehemiah with authority, resources, power, and credentials. We see in Nehemiah 2:9-20 how God provides Nehemiah with wisdom, leadership, provision, and protection—everything Nehemiah needs to do what God planned!
We are called to rise up together as Nehemiah calls the people of Jerusalem in Nehemiah 2:17-18, “‘You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.’ And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, ‘Let us rise up and build.’ So they strengthened their hands for the good work.”
There is a whole community out there that needs us, as the hope bearers of Jesus Christ, to rise up and build Jesus’ Church bringing the Kingdom in their midst! Is there much opposition to the work of the Church? Absolutely, but when has anything worth doing ever been easy.
We each must see ourselves as a part of the whole and join with the Spirit’s leadership: You are God’s person in this Kairos moment, will you humble yourself and trust God for His provision?
Will you rise up to build the Church to the glory of Jesus Christ?
To read more about the Nehemiah Project, click HERE.
On September 25th Pastor Jerry Ingalls will be preaching on Nehemiah 3: Start Where You Sit!