“And they said to me, ‘The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.’ As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said, ‘O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants…’” – Nehemiah 1
Vision without action is a pipedream. When God gives vision he also brings instructions for action that coincide with it. Those may be ‘Wait for it’ (to Habakkuk) or ‘Arise and walk about the land’ (to Abraham). In every case, God’s people look upon the situation as it is and then look on God’s promise as it stands and takes appropriate action.
Nehemiah was a long way from Jerusalem but was concerned about the situation there. The prophets had spoken of a great return from exile and the restoration of the city. That’s what Daniel had prayed for and in certain ways the promise was being fulfilled. But when Nehemiah asked about the situation in Jerusalem what he heard broke his heart and drive him to his knees. Rather than glory, there was desolation and ruin and danger on every side. Nehemiah had a vision – that’s what everyone had, and it was on target, rooted in the promise of God spoken by the prophets; but the vision for rebuilding Jerusalem was not being fulfilled. In fact, the opposite was taking place.
How do you react when you read of churches emptying out? What’s your response when you hear people say that the next generation is leaving the faith in droves and that the future for the Church in the world is bleak? Maybe fear. Maybe a fatalistic shrug. Or maybe your heart breaks.
Nehemiah’s heart shattered. Nehemiah’s faith, however, did not. He fell on his knees in prayer. As you read through Nehemiah and see the leadership he brought to one of the greatest recovery/restoration projects in history, you’ll note his constant praying. Nehemiah breathes prayer; prayer is the very atmosphere of his life and work. When the people said, ‘We will rise and build’, Nehemiah was seeing an answer to prayer.
We approach Rise and Build without hype but with authentic hope. We approach Rise and Build with shattered hearts longing for a harvest and genuine faith that God will pour out his Spirit and lay claim to a rising generation that had forgotten him. Vision moves us FIRST to pray; to confess our sins; to humble ourselves; to admit that unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Why? Because authentic vision from God is NEVER something WE can accomplish, but rather something God alone can do through his humble, envisioned, passionate, praying people. Let us pray.
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