God Is the Source of True and Lasting Success
Nehemiah 12: 27-43; 1 Chron. 29: 1-20
Focus: Neh 12: 31b, 43. I also assigned two large choirs to give thanks. And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy.
1 Chron 29: 14b. Everything comes from you….
That Nehemiah and the people of Judah had a great and joyous celebration was not surprising. They met in a special service of worship to give thanks and praise to God because they had finished the work they set out to do. It is quite normal for God’s people to worship in this way even today, and it is both important and helpful to see the nature and quality of that worship.
More important for us, however, is to see the real reason for their praise. Why did they have such a celebration of thanksgiving? Was it simply that they recognized that God had helped them to complete the task, or was there more to it than that?
The evidence suggests that there was a great deal more to it than the obvious. They recognized that God was the source of their success and so they met to focus on Him as the ultimate doer of the work. They offered great sacrifices, rejoicing, acknowledging that everything came from God. That is the source and secret of Nehemiah’s success and the people’s celebration.
1. From the very beginning, Nehemiah acknowledged God as Source of all success. Only by God’s empowering and by the operation of God’s principles could any good be achieved. So in chapter 1, having found out the nature of the need and the work that needed to be done, Nehemiah threw himself in total dependence upon God, His power and provisions. He recognized that he himself could do nothing; he could accomplish nothing without the Lord’s empowering. So as he prepared to make his petition to the king, he prayed,
Oh Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.
Nehemiah understood that the heart of the king was in the hand of God and He could turn it in any direction. Pr. 21: 1. He proceeded in that confidence and the king gave him everything he needed. He was so well supplied that in Jerusalem instead of receiving his rightful provisions from the people, he gave to the people.
2. Because he knew God to be the Source of success, Nehemiah’s main instrument was prayer. [a] At the very beginning, he turned to God, knowing that the answer to Judah’s tragedy was in God. Chapter 1. As he prepared to petition the king, he asked God to give him success [b] As he thought about his response to the king’s question, he said, I prayed to the God of heaven—2: 4. Before turning to answer the king he utters a brief, spontaneous request to God, essentially asking God to supply the answer [c] He responds to opposition by turning over his opponents to God instead of attempting retaliation. As the hymn advises, Take it to the Lord in prayer. So he prays:
Hear us, O 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…
4: 4, 5. Similarly in 6: 14 he prays, Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who have been trying to intimidate me. Also in 13: 29 he prays for other rebellious opponents: Remember them, O my God, because they defiled the priestly office and the covenant of the priesthood and of the Levites.
In response to continuing attacks aimed at discouraging the workers, he prayed for strength because God was the only source of strength [6: 9]. He repeatedly prays, Remember me, O my God, for what I have done [5: 19; 13: 14, 22, 29, 31]. We interpret these apparently self-focused petitions as acknowledgement of the final authority of God, from whom comes all success.
So with us. The road to success on the job, in school, at home…is the combination of fervent prayer and hard work.
Through Nehemiah, God is saying to us at least two very significant things.
1. Commit whatever you do to the Lord and do not be afraid of anyone. Pr 16: 3 says, Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. Do not assume that your success is really dependent on the pleasure and will of other people; e.g., your boss or employer. They are not in control of your destiny, so you need not be afraid of them. Respectful, yes; afraid, no! Pr 29: 25 warns us: Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. Pr 19: 23 teaches: The fear of the Lord leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.
If Nehemiah had feared Sanballat and his company, he would have failed. Instead, he kept his faith in God. In whatever we do we must focus on God as owner and controller, not on man. If, for example, in a job you acted as though you were fearful of your boss or co-worker, or fearful of being fired, it would become more likely that you would be fired or otherwise fail. Serious leaders do not want to be surrounded by inconfident people but by workers who are secure and focused.
That is a major factor in the victory of Gideon over the Midianites. Gideon mustered an army of 32, 000 men. But the Lord told him,
You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hand….Announce now to the people, “Everyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead”
Judg 7: 1-3. Fearfulness destroys morale. But you need not fear when God is your Leader.
Notice what is almost a refrain in the O. T. God repeatedly tells the leaders of Israel, I will give your enemy into your hand; I have given this nation into your hand; I will drive them out and give you their territory. Sometimes He even says, You will not need to fight. March into battle, and watch the Lord fight for you. I will cause them to hear a rumour, or, I will attack them with hailstones. He even does it with a touch of humour sometimes, as we read in Acts 5: 17-26, the account of the persecution, arrest and imprisonment of the apostles. During the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail, brought out the apostles and told them, Go, stand in the temple courts and tell the people the full message of this new life. So they did, at daybreak. When the court reconvened the next day they sent the guards to bring them out. Think of the humour of the report of the officers. We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside. Catch the look on their faces, the faces of the authorities! Acts 12 similarly records Peter’s miraculous escape from prison, and is even more humorous, except it has a grim ending for the guards. Etc. God is the source, the sovereign source, of our success.
We face in our society various serious challenges: sodomy, family dysfunction, hatred of God and Christianity, and so on. We should never fear. All we need to do is obey God, place our hope and expectations in Him and leave the rest to Him. Never should Christians panic. It is God who is doing the work. We are simply His instruments. And He is at work in us to will and to do His good pleasure.
2. There is in God’s kingdom
a. no place for fear of boss, supervisor, or employer. Eph 6: 9 makes it clear that you and your boss have the same Master, who is in heaven, and with Him there is no favouritism.
b. no place for competition. As 1 Co 3: 6, 7 says, Paul planted, Apollos watered, but it was God who produced the growth and the harvest. Only God really matters, because He is the Source.
c. no place for jealousy. Each Believer, like a separate organ in the Body, has a different cooperative function. See 1 Co 12. But even if there is jealousy, look at the situation from God’s point of view, as the apostle does. Paul says in Ph 1: 15ff, some may preach the gospel out of selfish ambition, envy or rivalry to hurt him, while others preach Christ out of love. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached—v. 18. Therefore, there is no place for tension or fear of failure.
The secret of success for the Christian is obedience. Obedience means knowing God’s purpose for your life and for individual tasks and accomplishing His purposes in love. This is quite independent of power or position. For the Lord can save by many or by few. He can save by a child or by a powerful man. Simply trust Him and obey Him. Trust and obey for there is no other way to be successful!
December 23, 2011 @ 10:07 PM
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