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Sunday English Service - 08 OCT 17


Please turn with me to Genesis chapter 3 verse 14 and 15: So the LORD God said to the serpent:Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle,and more than every beast of the field.On your belly you shall go. And you shall eat dust all the days of your life.And I will put enmitybetween you and the woman, between your seed and her seed. He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise His heel.

- As you know we have been teaching on work, and in the first part we talked about "Why we must work" - biblical reasons as to why we must work. We began the second portion few weeks ago and we started talking about: "Why work is difficult?" Which is a question that is in the minds of just about every person in this world: "Why is work so difficult?" We have been answering this question: The first reason I said is that sin makes work a toil. Work is God given, toil is what man has brought about in work - as a result of his sin. Toil is part of the curse. The earth became cursed because of man's sin. It began to bring forth thorns and thistles, and that is why God said you should eat bread out of the sweat of your brow; that is the way it is going to be, He said. So sin makes work a toil. God intended work for pleasure, for a sense of satisfaction - to give you fulfillment and joy, so that you make derive a great deal of fulfillment and joy through work - that is the purpose of work. But sin has made that work that was supposed to bring joy, a terrible thing... a suffering literally, and that is why work is difficult today.

Secondly, we saw death makes work meaningless. Death has changed the entire equation of life I would say. Sin brought death, and death has changed everything. Because death is a factor of life today, a lot of people have lost motivation because they say, "What is the use" - like the Ecclesiastes preacher, who said: "Vanity, vanity, vanity" - literally one translation has it as "Meaningless, meaningless, meaningless". Says it is pointless. What is the use of working? What is the use of accumulating? What is the use of building a nice house? What is the use of trying so hard? After all, you are going to die one day; and after you die it is all gone. Somebody else, who didn't do anything is going to enjoy it, and the man who worked for everything, you are not going to enjoy much of it. So what is the point in working? "It is pointless", he says. But I showed you how Christians are not people who have no meaning. The preacher is not saying there is no meaning in life when he said it is vanity. He meant, "I am not able to see any point, any meaning in life" He was not able to see the meaning but Christianity is the revelation of the meaning of life. What is the meaning of life? The years that I live on this earth, I live for God, and I work for God and I do what God has called me to do, and appointed me and commissioned me to do, and gifted me to do. I do it as unto God. I know I am going to die; but when I die my works do follow me - that's what the bible teaches. My works will go with me and I will receive the rewards for my work all throughout all eternity. And therefore, work has meaning to us. And this is a very consistent teaching throughout bible.

And the third reason third reason is that enemies make work difficult. And this is what we have been dwelling on for the last two, three weeks. This is the third week we are going to get into it. Enemies make work difficult. Now in part one we looked at the story of Joseph to illustrate this truth. And I read to you Chapter 3 verse 14 and 15 in Genesis, which tells us about curse that came upon the serpent because the devil used the serpent in the garden. There was no people in those days to use: only Adam and Eve were there. If the people were there, the devil would have readily used them. Now he had to use a serpent; now there are plenty of people, therefore the devil doesn't use serpents anymore. A lot of people themselves serve as devil's agents. So he has got a lot of help nowadays. So the Lord put a curse upon the serpent; on its belly it shall go and eat dust all the days of its life and so on. But then the 15th verse is a very significant verse - loaded with meaning. 15th verse says that I will put enmity between your seed and her seed, between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed - he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel. There's alot of things there in that verse. That's the first promise of the coming Messiah - that one day he is going to be born as a seed of the woman and crush the head of Satan and that Satan is going to be able to bruise his heel, as a result of what happened on the cross of Calvary and so on. All those things are embedded there in that verse.

But there is also something else there - that humanity is going to become to two different streams: One is called "the seed of the serpent", the devil - a generation of people that are used by the devil, governed by the devil, and then there is a generation of "godly seed" - people doing the will of God. And they always will be in enmity with one another. This enmity factor is a real problem life so that God's people - whatever they are trying to do there is another power that is trying to frustrate God's purposes; trying to spoil, trying to get in the way and hinder God's purposes. And this is a factor that makes work difficult. All those who are serving God doing the will of God and are very experienced in working for God and living for God - whatever professions you are. As you live your life dedicatedto God and work in this world, you found lots of problems, lots of difficulties come your way especially targeting you, trying to hinder you, trying to stop you, trying to frustrate you; and that is the work of the enemy - the devil. You are on God's side, working to fulfill God's purposes and the devil is opposing that because he hates God's purposes and God's plans. Now we used Joseph as an example to illustrate this truth: how in Joseph's life, this enemy brought enemies to work against Joseph. But yet even the in midst of that kind of a world and that kind of circumstance, Joseph rose to the highest positions in life, was used mightily by God to accomplish God's purposes. We saw that.

The second example is the example of Daniel: who also lived in a foreign land under difficult circumstances - lived as a slave, just like Joseph in a foreign land as a slave. In a disadvantageous position, but yet God blessed the work of his hands. And prospered him and gave him success and victory and great favour in that foreign land, under difficult circumstances. And he rose to the highest levels of power in that Babylonian Kingdom and so on.

Now today we are going to look at Nehemiah. How many of you heard the story of Nehemiah and read the story of Nehemiah. It is a very interesting story like I said in the last couple of weeks that when you come to church here you will touch every part of the bible. You will notice some parts of the bible are very clean - we never get there. So, we will touch the clean parts also. Nehemiah is a wonderful story. In case you have not read it...sometime, you may have read it, and you may not have made much of it. You know, you may not have understood the story very well. It may have been confusing to you. So I am going to give you a little background about Nehemiah, because Nehemiah's is a wonderful story. Thirteen chapters, out of that we are going to look at only 6 chapters - matters in the first 6 chapters. But you can read the entire book; it is very useful. We are going to look at the first six chapters because we are going to concentrate on Nehemiah as a worker; as a man working in this work in a secular job but he is literally a servant of God. He is a social and political reformer of society. And as such he is not a preacher, you see. He is a social political reformer of society, working for the government. Then he is sent as a governor to Jerusalem and so on. And he works as a social and political reformer and how God is with him in that difficult job; many lessons are there to be drawn from his life and the story, as to how one must safe adversity, circumstances and difficult people and work in the midst of it with God's favour on your side and still expect victory, and still expect to overcome all the obstacles and win in your job.

Nehemiah is a Jewish man who was born to the people that went as captives to Babylon. Remember in 605 B.C, starting from 605 B.C, there was three times that Jerusalem was overtaken by the Babylonians, and captives were taken to Babylon, three times. Threebatches of captives were taken. And Nehemiah's ancestors were people that went like that and he was probably born in Babylon, raised up there. After 70 years of Babylonian captivity they were set free by a Persian king, who overtook Babylon and brought Babylon under his control. It became part of the Persian kingdom. And he released all the captives after 70 years. So after 70 years people started coming back. In three groups they came back: One they came back with the man named Zerubbabel. If you read the story of Ezra/Nehemiah, you will read that they came under Zerubbabel first and then some came under Ezra and the third group came under Nehemiah.

Now 70 years later they were released - the first group went. So they went and settled down. The returnees - the people that returned from Babylonian captivity began to work on rebuilding the temple and cleaning the place up and so on, because Jerusalem was destroyed literally by the captivity. And so they started working on it. When that generation passed away, there was a backslidden state amongst people. Once again people forgot God. Ezra came and brought a great spiritual revival, great preaching and emphasizing on the Word of God, and so on. But after that generation people became backslidden, and there was a lot of social reform that was needed; a lot of injustice, a lot of unrighteousness in this community. They were oppressing themselves - their own people. They were slaves in a foreign land. You know the foreigners are the Gentiles -who subjugated them, and ruled over them. That was one thing. But these people started subjugating one another. They started making each other slaves because of the debts owed by some poor people and so on. They were brought under their control and made to serve as slaves. Then there was a lot of oppression in the society - unrighteousness and injustice was going on; they needed a strong social reformer to come and set things right.

See 70 years later they started going back. Now 91 years later the walls of Jerusalem were still in ruins. Now walls were very important in those days. In a city, the wall is important because the wall, just looking at it provides you safety. You know when you get inside the walls you are safe, because that is your country, your city - there is protection there. Enemy cannot just barge in any time that he likes. So walls were important. Wherever a city loses its walls, and walls are destroyed - immediately it will be rebuilt because it is very important. It gives sense of security to people. But even though the people have started returning now, and it has been 90 years since the first batch returned, in 90 years they have not done anything about the walls. The walls were still in ruin and the Gentiles that lived in Jerusalem at that time, because the Babylonians took the Jews as captives, a lot of them were gone, others came and occupied the place; they were laughing at these people that returned. They said: "Look at what God has done for you. Look at your walls; 90 years have gone by you have not even repaired your walls. You have not even rebuilt them. Look at the place and how it is, and how unsafe it is and so on" - they were laughing at them.

And so, there was a strong man needed to bring order in that place; and social reforms in that place, and rebuild the wall. And that is where Nehemiah comes in. Nehemiah was born to the people that went as captives in Babylon. And he was raised there, and continues to live there; and just like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, he has risen to high status in the government, in the Persian kingdom, which was now ruling over Babylon. He was serving under the king as the cup-bearer. Cup-bearer is like a P.A to the king. He is ever before the presence of the king. Now that's a privileged position because the kings in those days - even his own wife has to seek permission to come and appear before him, to have an audience with him. And this man had the privilege of everyday standing before the king, being near the king and serving the king. He is in a very advantageous position there. God has raised him up in that position and he is living there.

His brother who was in Jerusalem brought news to him. This news comes 90 years after the first captives went back to Jerusalem. Ninety years have gone by, his brother comes back from Jerusalem and Nehemiah enquires with eagerness about the city of his forefathers because they were all buried there. That is the native place - Jerusalem. Even though he is living under the Persian kingdom he is always thinking about Jerusalem. He asks him, "How is everything there?" And the reply he got disturbed him very much. He was told that the city is in ruins. There is a lot of problems there - a lot of social problems there, a lot of difficulties there. And as he describes the city, especially the walls broken down and how the Gentiles are laughing at these God's people and so on, Nehemiah was moved in his heart and he began to weep and fast, and pray. Now the news comes to me in 446 B.C - November/December at that time. And he is serving the king; four months he is praying and fasting, and crying literally - asking for forgiveness before God for his people, that his people have forgotten God. That is why they are in this condition - the city of God is in that condition. He is repenting for the sake of the people and he is calling upon God, reminding God saying: "Lord, you said if my people ever turned back to me, and seek me, I will bless them again and bring them back from everywhere. Do that, O Lord." That was his prayer. In the first chapter, you read about it. His prayer and fasting - for four months period, he fasts and prays. Then four months later, in the month of March, for 445 B.C he goes before the king; as usual he is serving the king. He poured the wine before the king and gave it to him and the king looked at him. Immediately the king knew that this man was a sad man. Now you better not be sad in the presence of the king in those days. The kings were in those days crack-pots. They could do anything; they can just cut your head off for being sad. Why are you not smiling? I will cut your head off - that is the kind of people they were. And the king looks at him and says, "What happened? You look sad. You are not sick, are you? I know you are not sick. So it must be something in your mind, in your emotion - something is happening. Tell me what is happening?" So he told the story to the king about what was happening. Because he had prayed for 4 months and fasted for 4 months, now he was bold to tell the king what was in his mind. He said, "I heard about the story in Jerusalem. How sad the place looked and how its walls had broken down, and no one has attended to it in 90 years. Even though they had returned 90 years ago, they have done nothing of it." So he tells the king that he would like to go back and work on it.

Now in this 4 months period as he prayed and fasted, one thing happened to Nehemiah. The call of his life became very clear to him. We are talking about work. So this aspect is very important for every person. What you are called for - now we separate work as secular work and religious work, and all that. In the bible there is no separation - like this man is a political social reformer; he was working for the king, he was working for the government. He doesn't say it is secular work and God doesn't get involved in it. No! God is very much involved in it. This man after he heard it, he had such a burden for Jerusalem and started praying. Have you ever had any burden for anything? Have you started praying about it? Have you had a desire created in you to do something about a problem somewhere? To attend to a need somewhere? To do something and contribute something solidly to a need or a problem existing somewhere? Have you had that divine surge in your heart where God really prompted you and called you to pray and be burdened about something? That is a very good indication of what you are called to do in life. Nehemiah all of a sudden feels this thing and he is crying and praying, and fasting - pleading before God, and in the 4 months period he has now become very clear about the call of his life. One thing that happens he is clear about the call of his life.

And another thing is he makes preparations to go back. He is still serving the king; but he has not asked the king to let him go, but in his mind, he is very clear - through the prayer and fasting he has reached the conclusion that God wants him back there in Jerusalem to do something about that problem, to contribute something very valid to that situation. And now when the king asks, he opens his mouth, and the way the bible puts it is amazing. In chapter 2, it says: Then the king said to me, What do you request? The king after he told him that Jerusalem is in this condition that is why I am sad. The king said, What do you request? What do you want? So I prayed to the God of heaven. While talking to the king, he is praying inside/inwardly. While talking to the king, he is in a prayer mode literally. He is making his petition to God saying, "God help me. Help me tosay the right words here. Help me to speak up." And then he says to the king - in verse 5: He said, If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' tombs, that I may rebuild it.

- Now, it sounds very ordinary that he just stands before the king and says let me go back. I want some leave to go and attend to this. You cannot talk to the king like that in those days. You cannot just be going and applying for leave like that. Like I said, they can cut your head off for anything. To have the boldness to say, "King I want to go for an extended period of time, and spend my time there. I feel like this is the mission of my life. I got to do it. God has called me to do it. It's a strange, foreign king who does not understand this God, and know this God; does not really worship this God. To say this is something extraordinary. But this prayer and fasting has brought into him such boldness and confidence. He was able to look at the king and say to him, "Look, I want to go back. And if you will permit me, I will go back and I would like to attend to this thing if I have favour in your sight, if I could do that", he says.

So, he became very clear about his call. We must become very clear about our call in life. That is one thing that is very important. I remember as a 20-year-old boy, I went to study in Bible College. I was literally scared: I had not gone out of my home. My father one time decided to put me in a hostel in Tuticorin, because I was running around playing music here. He thought I won't study very well. If I be here, I will be doing only music. So he took me and put me in a hostel there in Tuticorin, and I studied there one day. I left my trunk and everything, and run away here. A telegram came - by the time I arrived the telegram also arrived saying "Absconded". So at 20 years of age, one guy was visiting here from America. He was eating with my father in a restaurant; I was also eating with them. Those days I used to just drive the car for my father - I liked driving. That was the age when I started driving. And I was just sitting and eating and were busy talking about everything - that guy all of a-sudden turned to me and said: "Would you like to go to a bible college in America?" I didn't know what to day. I was busy eating my chapatti and chops. So I just shook my head. I didn't know what this guy is asking - what he meant. I didn't know he was going to make arrangements. So he went back - in two months I received a letter from the President of the college saying, "So and so recommended you. Will you please fill up this application? We are going to take you." So that is how I went. And when I went my father told me, "Don't run back. Stay there." Do something useful. So I went over there, and believe me - in those days, the laws were so strict. I had to carrying only 8 dollars. Only 8 dollars were allowed. You cannot carry any more even if you had some money. So I had 8 dollars in my pocket, I wouldn't even drink a cup of coffee. Every day in my house they gave me coffee in the morning and evening. This was habit - I couldn't live without coffee in the morning.

You know after going there, I forgot coffee. Because you had to put 10cents and buy coffee there - in the dormitory. So I didn't want to do that because I would be 10cents less. I had only 8 dollars. I had to wash my clothes; and ended up without any money. And I didn't know God this close and I didn't know the calling of my life. And I never related to God that closely in those days. Never really trusted God for anything. So I became very worried about what I was going to do; and I realized that some students were praying in the chapel - in the big chapel at night time in the dark. I thought nobody was there but there were some guys praying there - sitting in the dark. So I started making it a habit going there, sitting in the dark and praying; and I used to God and tell my problems; and say, "God you have to meet my needs." And God did some amazing wonderful things in my life. And my call of my life began to become clearer. Because I didn't want to a pastor or preacher or anything. My favourite verse was James 3:1 - Knowing that you will receive greater condemnation, many of you should not become preachers, it says. You read that. I knew that verse very thoroughly. I was a preacher's kids, and everybody used to ask me, "You are the next preacher?" I said, "Read James 3:1" - that is my verse. You will receive greater punishment - don't become preachers. I believed I can become anything other than a preacher. And particularly pastor was a punishment job. You know, you want to send someone to a place where there is not even water; that is where you send - you become a pastor. I had a very low opinion of these things.

And what happened was, after the 1st year I went to place, and God had arranged a man who had such influence there. And I had to meet him like - I won't say by chance; by divine ordination I met him, just like that. I didn't even know who he was. He had me preach for 10minutes; and that was the first time I ever preached in my life. Just imagine - first time I ever preached in my life, he saw me there and he booked me in 40 places to preach. Everybody listens to this guy. And I became a preacher - after 1 year of education, one whole summer I preached in 40 places, and after that I kept on preaching, and it wouldn't stop. And that guy was chosen by God to just arrange things for me. So, the call - I understand something about the "Call". The "Call" is not something like a voice from heaven came and said, "Sam, you are going to preach." No! I never had a voice. But as I prayed and I believed God and gave my life to God and trusted in God, God opened the doors and took me places, and made things possible - I couldn't believe. After I finished studying, I didn't know what to do. So, some people had invited me to preach, and I went there to preach, and that opened more doors to go and preach in some churches. And I was just preaching around - not knowing what to donext.

I was in one church - which only 20 to 25 people; they wanted me to be there pastor. I thought this is useless. Just 20, 25 people and you want me to be a pastor. What am I going to do here? I didn't want, but something inside me said "stay here". And I stayed there, and in one year we had 200 people. And I thought, "My God, I should settle down here. This is good." I thought pastoring was such a bad thing - but I began to enjoy. I said, "This is what I must do. I must settle down here." And I had never even come back to India at that time. I had been there nearly 10 years, and never came back. And I said, "I will settle here. This is the right thing to do." And right at that time, God is showing me that God has tailor-made me for India. Not ready-made. You know ready-made is where you make 10 lakhs shirts of the same size - in the medium, large and small. And each of them you make 10 lakhs and 10 lakhs people are that size. They will wear it, but tailor made is specifically cut and made to your size. So God had cut and made me exactly to size for India, for Chennai. These are the streets that I grew up and I went around, and that is exactly where I am preaching today. It is unbelievable to me. I never thought I would be doing it one day. And that is God's call. And when the "Call" became clear in my heart there, so many people tried to persuade me. One fellow said, "What are you going to do? Everybody is trying to come here; you want to go there. What are you going to do? Your brain, something has happened" he said - one of my relatives. Why are you going back? And I said to me him, "I am going back because I see India as a land of opportunity to preach the gospel. That is where I am going. That is where I was born. I am going - I am going to preach the gospel there. And I came here and I started preaching, in a little hut here. And it kind of disturbed me in the beginning, but that is the "Call". When God calls you, things become clear more and more, and more, and more.

So, I am sure Nehemiah had such an experience. He has been having it for probably for a long time. He's probably been praying and four months of intensive fasting and praying and frequently talking to God about it has really impressed upon his heart that this is his mission in life; not being a king heirPA,not being the king's assistance, though that is a very high position and all benefits can be enjoyed. But the job of going to Jerusalem, rebuilding the walls and reforming the society is the call of God in his life. So he realizes the call and the next thing that happened was: he was already planning to go and depart, and he is now talking to the king. There was clarity in his mind, about exactly what he must do and what he needs. Look at it in Chapter 2 verse 5, he is asking the king permission to go. In verse 6 he says, "Then the king said to me, (The queen also sitting behind him) - How long will your journey be? And when will you return?" So it pleased the king to send me and I set him a time. - See, he already had calculated how long the journey is going to take, how long does he need to stay there to rebuild the walls and reform the society and all of that. He has calculated all that; he was able to answer the king very definitely. It was not like the king was asking him, how long he was going to take - "Well I don't know. I don't know when I wanna leave... I am just telling you? It may happen tomorrow or may next year"No! No! No! He was very clear. He has got clarity in his mind. He knows exactly what he is going to do, how long the journey is going to take, how long the project is going to take, and so on.

And then verse 7: he is asking for passports needed. In those days there were no passports, but you had to cross many countries to get to Jerusalem. But most of those countries were ruled by Persia. So all those governors will listen to this big king - the Persian kingdom king, if he gave a letter - that would serve as a passport. So he was asking for letters - in verse 7, Furthermore I said to the king, If it pleases the king, let letters be given to me for the governors of the region beyond the River - (it means the River Euphrates, which is beyond the border of the immediate place) that they must permit me to pass through till I come to Judah. - This is very important because they may not even allow him to travel through there. So he asked for a letter from the king - allow him to pass through, and give him all kinds of aid that he may need. And then in verse 8: (listen to this, this is very interesting) and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he must give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel which pertains to the temple, for the city wall, and for the house that I will occupy. And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me.

Now when you make a request like this and when you are before the king, you must put everything out. You must not do it in instalments, because the king may change his mind. Now he has got a wonderful opportunity to talk to the king - the king seems interested in this project. So he says, "I need your permission to go". And then he says, "It's going to take this long", and then verse 7 he says, "I need letters to pass through the various regions." And then in verse 8, he comes to the point and says, "I need some money, I need some wood. I need all kinds of materials so that I can do some building work there. And there is a guy who is in charge in the forest here, you better give a letter to him so that I can cut down as many trees as possible and take with me all the wood that I need."So he makes all the requests. So he asks the king to commission him to go so that he will be a king-commissioned person. No one can stop him if he is commissioned by the king of Persia. He asked for protection. And a few later verses will tell you that when he went he was escorted by the security guards from Persia all the way to the River Euphrates, and when he crossed the River, others to go - other governors where he showed the letters and they gave him protection and they allowed him to pass through. They made sure that he got through safely and so on because he is a king's assistant and he is travelling under king's authority.So he was commissioned, he was protected and he was supplied with everything that he needs to accomplish that job. Now that is significant. So, he has got a call and now he's got favour on his side, where God is favouring him so that the king is supplying him with everything, and he says it so. In chapter 2 in verse 8, he says,The king gave all these things to him. The king granted them to me, he says, according to the good hand of my God upon me. The king saw that God's hand was upon him and the king's heart was moved by God to help this man and to favour this man. So he receives all the help that he would get from the king.

So there is the call, there is clarity about how he must carry-out his job - all what he needs. And then there is divine favour. Some people only talk about what the devil is got, as weapon against us. But look at what he has got - he has the call, he has got clarity of mind, and purpose; and he has got every help and aid that God has made possible by His favour. Now, that is the kind of thing that God helps us with as we do our work on this earth. Now listen to this: The next thing you see is the enormous wisdom with which he operates. God has filled his heart with wisdom. In Chapter 2 in verse 12, we read that he arrives there in Jerusalem, and then it says: Then I arose in the night, and a few men with me; and I told no one what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem nor was there any animal with me, except the one on which I rode. And I went out by night through the Valley Gate to the Serpent Well and the Refuse Gate, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were burned with fire. Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King's Pool, but there was no room for the animal under me to pass. So I went up in the night by the valley, and viewed the wall; then I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done; I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, or the others who did the work.

Now he does everything secretly because when you go on a mission for God, sometimes you can't tell everything out. You should not go there and put up a poster first. Nehemiah's arriving, let's show up with garlands and welcome him. He is going to build the walls of Jerusalem and bring up great revival and bring great changes and so on. The next day he would have been facing opposition and they would have tried to kill him and kick him out and all of that. He goes quietly and at night he tours and he inspects that place and checks out everything and sees what the problem is. Nobody knows why he is here and what he is doing and so on. He has done everything. And only the right time he reveals his plans. And now look at verse 17: Then I said to them, You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach. - The Gentiles are laughing at him. He says, Look, come let's' build the wall of Jerusalem. You see the distress that we are in - how Jerusalem is a waste; lies in waste and its gates are burned with fire. Let's get this right. Now just imagine what a great challenge it is to go and convince the people to join and put their hands together to work and to get a thing going where they rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and so on. He knows how to talk. God has given him wisdom. He is not going and saying, "For 90 years what have you been doing. You have not even laid a finger on the walls that are laying in ruin. You have not done anything. You have not been praying. You have not had a burden. Look, I have had a burden, I have come all the way from there to do this". No, no, no, he didn't accuse them of anything. He just went there are said, "Come, there is a great distress here. Everybody is laughing at us; let's rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem. Let's make things good and provide safety and security", and so on.

Then verse 18: And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me. - Tells them probably the whole story of how God burdened him with this vision and how God gave him favour in the king's eyes, how the king financed and gave them materials and so on and the permission to come here. He says, "The hand of God has been upon me, and also the kings' words that he has spoken to me". So they said, "Let us rise up and build." Then they set their hands to this good work. He said, "Let's build", and they were ready to join with him and build. Now, this is an amazing story of how a man operates with God's wisdom; goes into a society that is basically hopeless, that is very difficult to change. You know the people of Israel have always been a troublesome people. You know, they are not very easy to work with. They are not people that will simply obey you as soon as you tell them anything. They are a difficult bunch and Nehemiah goes and talks to them, and gets them all to cooperate and join together and do the walls of Jerusalem all over again.

Now chapter 4 is probably the most important chapter because that is where the whole opposition plays out. See this man has come on a divine call and appointment. God has sent this man, God has called this man. They are people of God. This is God's city, city of God - Jerusalem. God has to restore it; He has promised them that if they turn to him, He will restore the city back and He will bring everybody back to that place and so on. So God has to do something. It is God's mission that has become Nehemiah's mission now. He is working for the king now. He is on a mission of his life.

You know many times they ask us for a "Mission statement". Have you heard that - mission statement?" What would happen if I gave you all a piece of paper and say, "Give me your mission statement". I think some of us will be sitting here for a long time wondering what the mission statement is. The mission statement is about why you are here, what you want to achieve, what is the purpose of your life, what you are exactly going to do. Many times, we don't even think about it in that way. We just go on doing what we do. But here is a man clearly on a mission. He has come on a mission. He is going to accomplish it for God. He knows the call of his life. He is very clear in his mind on how he is going to do it. He has got all the wisdom from God; and look at the opposition now. This is where we need to really note something. Chapter 4 verse 1 - So it happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews. Who is Sanballat? It seems like he is the Governor of Samaria. Now, Nehemiah has come as the Governor of Jerusalemand the Governor of Samaria is very angry because somebody is now going to take care of these people, bring reform among this people and built this city and so something good. He is very jealous. See, the world is full of this kind of thing - jealousy, envy. If someone is going to develop and become great - everybody hates it, you know. That is the way it is. So he was indignant and mocked the Jews. And he said he spoke before the brethren and the army of Samarians said,What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish-stones that are burned? - See during the captivity, the walls were knocked down, demolished, burned and so on. Are they going to set it right overnight? - He says.

Now Tobiah - in the next verse: Now Tobiah (he is an assistant, the Ammonite,he is a guy who is an ally) the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall. - Now that is something deliberately aimed at discouraging people. Just imagine as people go to work there and rebuilding the wall, one guy is standing there are saying: "Let them build. Let's see what they build. Even if a fox runs on the wall, the wall, the wall is going to break down." And look at the next verse: Nehemiah begins to pray. I like this man - in the first chapter he is praying, whole chapter he is praying. His prayer is recorded in the first chapter. I didn't read it to you for lack of time. And here he again prays. He is a prayerful man; he goes to God with his problems. He talks to God about the difficulties that he faces. Here is a guy who engages God fully in his work. God is in his work, he is working for God. He goes to God about every problem. You know, a lot of people don't even talk to God about their work, because they think God and work don't even get along or God doesn't even care about our work in this world. And he goes to God and he says, "Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity. Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked You to anger before the builders.

He prays. And look at this: So we built the wall and the entire wall was joined together up to half its side, for the people had a mind to work. When the guy said, "Even if a fox runs over the wall, the wall will be broken down" - he deliberately intended it to knock all the confidence out of people and get rid of any kind of motivation that is there and discourage the people from working. But Nehemiah prays, instead of discouragement, they all had a mind to work. It doesn't matter what the guy said. Now because Nehemiah has prayed and trusted in God and put his faith in God, he finds that people are motivated to work; even after such insulting words were spoken, people were highly motivated, so that half the wall is already built now. Quickly they are building. Verse 7: Now it happened, when Sanballat and Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. - Now they are conspiring to attack. Nevertheless, we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night. - What does Nehemiah do? Again, he prays! Something wonderful here for every single one of us to learn. Take your burdens to God. Take your concerns to God, take the problems, the difficulties that you face to God. By praying only, he receives the boldness to speak to the king. By praying only he receives clarity as to what to do with his life, and how he must be the builder of this wall. By praying he received the boldness, by praying is received divine favour, by praying he arrived there, by praying he has progressed this far. Every step has not been easy. Every step has been difficult - difficult every step of the way. Only the first step was easy when he went to the king, God had already moved the king's heart and gave him favour, but after that it has been difficult.

The second leg of the journey was difficult because these guys show up and they wanted to be the devil's agents, trying to stop them. And verse 9 says: Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night. - Againthey pray and set a watch. Verse 10: Then Judah said, The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall. - Now inside there is problem. People seem to say, "It is very difficult we can't do it." And our adversaries said, They will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease. - What they are trying to do is, they are trying to come in there - sneak in there without their knowledge and kill them. So it wasn't the Jews who dwelt near them, came. That they told us 10 times from whatever place you turn, they will be upon us. Some people have informed them and they received 10 warnings from various directions that this is what is being planned - they were planning to attack.

Therefore I positioned men (now listen to this) I positioned behind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, and the leaders, and to the rest of the people, Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses. - Look at the man's determination. He is not going to back-off. See in the world it is not easy sometimes. And that is why prayer is important because prayer results in determination. Faith, prayer makes you a person who does not give up easily. So he goes and he hears about a war - possible war. They are going to attack and he goes and sets the people according to their families with swords, spears and bows. He is weaponising families: father, mother, children - all having bows and spears, and swords; waiting. Families are going to fight now. He says, "You fight for your wife, for your children, for your property - you fight. These fellows are coming to kill us." Such determination. You know this is enthusiasm that the will get on everybody.

When the leader has that kind of enthusiasm and sincerity, and purpose, and clarity in mind, then it gets on everybody; this is what prayer does. Prayer brings that kind of determination. And it happened when our enemies heard that it was known to us - when the enemies found out that these people had found out already that they are going to attack; that God brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall and everyone to his work. Now, the attack was not possible because everybody came to know about it. So it was from that time on. Now listen to this: That half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, shields and bows, and wore armor; and the leaders were behind all the house of Judah.

See just because the war was cancelled he didn't go back to normal mode. He says, "These guys are against us, we are going to be always be watchful." How many of you know that Christian life itself is a spiritual warfare. You cannot go in ordinary mode ever. You can't say everything is fine, let's not be so careful and just enjoy; don't be careful. You got to be always careful, because the devil is always working, the devil is always busy, the devil is always planning. You don't know what he is going to do next. So you go to have your eyes open. You go to always be in a prepared mode or fully prepared to deal with anything that rises.

And then he says, verse 17: Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon. - See, half of them worked and half of them built. And even those who built, with one hand they worked, building the wall and the other hand they carried spears and weapons. Every one of the builders had his sword girded to his side as he built.And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me.

Now, amazing determination to get the job done. You know, in this world the devil is such a mean devil. The devil is against anything and everything that you do as a child of God, because whatever you are doing is a mission that God has given into your hands to do. He wants to spoil everything - stop everything and abort everything; but you must be determined to finish what you began. You must be determined to accomplish what God has called you to accomplish. Otherwise you cannot accomplish anything. This is not for people who will run away. Christian life is something where you work always with preparedness to deal with anything and win the victory, and until you will the victory, you never give up.

Then I said to the nobles, and the rulers, and the rest of the people, (verse 19) The work is great and extensive, and we are separated far from one another on the wall. Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us. - Constantly motivating himself and others. He says, "God will fight for us." That doesn't mean you don't take any spears and swords and all that. You keep the swords and spears, but God will fight for us - that means, God will engage with us. If there is a war, God will fight the battle, God will give us victory. We have to be prepared, we have to be alert. We have to do everything that we need to do. But God is the one that gives us victory - such confidence. Such great opposition - the people that are opposing are not ordinary people. Whole societies are opposing them: Ammonites and the Arabs, Arabians and the Samaritans. Society - four, five regions were coming against them, yet such determination.

He says, "So we labored in the work (verse 21) and half of the menheld the spears from daybreak until the stars appeared. At the same time I also said to the people, Let each man and his servant stay at night in Jerusalem, that they may be our guard by night and a working party by day. So neither I, my brethren, my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me took off our clothes, except that everyone took them off for washing. Can you believe this determination of this guy? He said, "We never even removed our clothes except for washing." Can you motivate people like that? He is engaging people to do the work. While they do the work they must also carry a spear; with one hand they must work, and with the other hand they must carry a weapon. Half of them worked, half of them were carrying weapons - ready to fight a war. Such dangers are there. And they have to complete the wall and he is not giving up. Many distractions are there, many things trying to come and stop them from doing it. The enemies are great enemies - five different societies are coming against him, regions are coming against him, but he doesn't care. He is ready to deal with it. He says that they never took off their clothes except for washing. Can you believe that? The only time they took off their clothes is to wash,otherwise, not even taking off their clothes.

I read entire chapter 4 really, because it is a very interesting chapter. When I read it, I feel so good, because I can identify with it. When you do God's work in this world, but I am not talking about religious work. I am talking about your life and whatever professions you have, whatever you are called to accomplish. Everything is God's call - that is what Martin Luther contributed to Christian society. He identified every profession as a call. That is the thing that Martin Luther brought about newly; before that only religious professions are a call. If you are a priest, a nun or some kind of pastor, or something, then you are "called". Otherwise that is not a call. Nothing sacred about it, nothing good about it essentially. It's worldly work. Every today that language is there. "He is in worldly work", they say. But the bible makes no such distinction. Martin Luther, 5 centuries ago - 500 years ago, got rid of that distinction. One of the major contributions to doctrine is the fact that he realized that everything is a calling from God. If you are a typist, it is a calling from God; if you are a clerk, it is a calling from God, if you are a teacher, it is a calling from God. Lawyer, it is a calling from God. If you are a business man, it's a calling from God. Whatever you are, it is a calling from God. You are contributing to the building up of that society that God desires. You are there for God.

And that is why this chapter is such an important chapter, and I read the whole chapter literally. It motives me very much. It tells me, never give up. Tells me no matter what problems you face, never give up. It tells me work is never going to be easy. Nobody is going to hand it in a platter to you. It tells me that when you grow and you do well, when you are successful, a lot of Sanaballats are going to be there, and many Chennai Tobiahs will be there. They are there in every city, and every town, every country - no exceptions. Somebody is going to work against you, somebody is going to do things against you. Don't be surprised when somebody does things against you; talks against you, does things against you. You should not be surprised. If you are surprised that means you have not read the bible. You should expect it. That is why you must always pray that you must always depend on God, you must always develop faith in God, learn to trust God more and more.

See, Nehemiah goes back and tells the story of how the king obliged him. How the king gave everything that he needed and the words that the king spoke - he told the people here. He said, "If God has helped me so much to begin this, will He not help me to complete it?" That is his point. Every time he runs into a big problem, a big challenge he says, "Look, God helped me to start it, God gave me such favour, God helped me to begin it." So if He has helped me to begin this thing, He will also help me to complete this thing. So enemies, they are always going to be there. Don't concentrate on them, don't concentrate on what weapons they've got - that they have got discouraging words, they have got doubts to give to you - they have got weapons. But look at the weapons you have got. You have got a call - that is a mighty weapon. You are a called man - called by God.

You know later on in the 6thchapter, one fellow comes and tells him, "Come let's run away or hide because they are going to kill us". He says, "How can a man like me run?" What an answer. He says, "How can a man like me run". What does he means? He says, "I won't run. I am not the running type. How can someone like me called in such a way by God, commissioned by a king, having divine favour upon my life, and the hand of God upon my life - why should I run and hide? I am not the type to run and hide, he says. People tried to do all kinds of things - his own people, worked against him. This Tobiah guy, he was married into some families in Judah - some rich families in Judah. He was married and his son was married to some woman from the big people in that noble in that society. So they had connections, and always were helping him. But Tobiah was his enemy; he is the guy that said even a fox running on the wall - the wall will be destroyed. His own people grieved him by speaking about him - talking against him, joining with their relative and so on. But he never cared. He said: "It doesn't matter who is against. I am going to do what God has called me to do. I have come here to do the work and I will complete it and do it," he said. He stood firm in what he believed. Amen

And if you notice: The more they came against him, the more he prayed; the more he prayed the more confidence he's got, the more determination he's got - the more stronger he became to the point that he was having families to carry weapons and be ready to fight the war. "Let come what may" - that was his philosophy. Let it come. Mother, father, grandfathers, grandmothers - everybody carrying weapon. Let's fight it out. I am not going to give up. The more he got into problem, more they opposed, the more he prayed. The more he prayed, the more boldness and confidence, determination received, and the more he was progressing. So the in 52 days, they were done. Finished doing their work.

Are you there? Thank God for the enemies - when you look back finally. I think one of these days, I will write my own story, and I will dedicate a whole chapter to the Sanballats of my life. We got to thank them, because the more they do, the more you get motivated. The more they tried to do things, the more you pray. The more you pray, the more bold you get, more determined you get, and the more careful you become. Because they are waiting for you to fail. They want you to fail. They want you to do be destroyed so that makes you even more careful, even more trusting in God, even more believing in God, even more depending on God for His strength and wisdom. It makes you more and more close to God and makes you progress in your work tremendously with great speed, and get that job done. How many of you are here?

Let me just finally read one verse and close. See, chapter 6 basically the story ends. Chapter 7 onwards he is now not just building the walls of Jerusalem, he is building the society. As a social reformer, he rebuilds the society. That is an interesting story - maybe some time we will talk about it later on, but not now. Now we are talking about work and the attitude towards work and the enemies of our work.

Chapter 5 verse 19: Listen to this - I want you to go home with this today. He says: Remember me, my God (you will read it 2,3 times here in the first 6 chapters itself). Remember me, my God, he says (he is always praying that saying, Lord, remember me), Remember me, my God for good, according to all that I have done for this people.

Now in chapter Chapter 5 there were social injustices. These people were enslaving one another - Lending money, people are mortgaging their houses and lands to their neighbours; and then when they can't pay back, they take the house, lands and everything, possess them and they take their children as slaves. They are enslaving one another. So he calls them and said, "Look at this". He says theBabylonians took us as captives - they are strangers, Gentiles and they kept us in chains. Now why are you making your own people slaves? - enslaving your own people and they couldn't talk back to him. They decided to give back the lands and houses they possessed from these people, and forgive the loans. All these things were already taught to them in the Old Testament. They were told to forgive the loans, they were told not to take interest from a brother, they were told to give back the lands that were mortgaged, and so on. The year of Jubilee was such a year. All these things were taught to them but conveniently they forget. Because who would like to do that? They would like to raise the interest rate but not to forget the interest, keep the property, not to give it back.

Now he comes - in Chapter 5 there is a wonderful story in the first 13 verses. He takes a promise from them that they will give it back. And he calls priests and tells them that they must promise to the priest that they would give it all back to these poor people that are suffering. And then in Chapter 5 verse 19 he says,Remember me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people. - He has built the wall, he has brought reform in society; he has done all these things. He tells God: "God I know that one day I will stand before you in judgement, at that time remember me for every good thing that I have done for these people. Reward me accordingly." He believes in eternal rewards, he believes that his work will not go to waste. He believes that whatever he does one day will bring him the praise of God and the rewards of God; and that those rewards will continue throughout all eternity. That God will remember what he has done and pay him back for what he has done - the good that he has done to his people. Now that is the best motivation for life and work.

When we work, we work with that motivation. Many people may not appreciate your work, they may not praise your work, they may not think that you are doing great, but that is fine. As long as God thinks it is great, as long as God thinks it is good, as long as God approves it. Has He commissioned you? Has He sent you? Has He met your need? Has He been with you? Has He given you favour? Has He enabled you? Do it. Don't care about what people say, because God will remember you for the work that you have done, and richly reward you all throughout your life. Amen

Shall we all stand together.

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