The scripture – and my blog – got away from the subject, but the book of Nehemiah brings us back to it.
The returned exiles have rebuilt the temple the Lord in Jerusalem and Ezra has reinstated its practices. Now, Nehemiah asks King Artaxerxes if he can return with men to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall around the city.
The first three chapters of Nehemiah include several lessons on dealing with discouragement – or needing courage.
Nehemiah approached Artaxerxes to ask him to let some exiles return to repair the walls. Nehemiah said, “I was very much afraid” to address the king (Nehemiah 2: 22). Nehemiah described the ruins in Jerusalem:
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 [Jerusalem], that I may rebuild it.”… And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me. Vs. 4-6
Encouragement lesson 1: How did Nehemiah gain the courage to ask the King for a favor? He prayed!
Strengthened by the king’s backing – evidence of God’s favor (vs. 18-19) – Nehemiah and the officials set off to repair the walls. They immediately encounter discouragement. Sanballat et al “jeered at us and despised us” (vs. 19).
How does Nehemiah address this potential discouragement?
Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build… vs. 20
Nehemiah relies on God to do the work because he knows God will keep his promise. Earlier Nehemiah prayed:
Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them…, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ Nehemiah 1: 8-9
God has already answered Nehemiah’s prayer for favor with the king – so he trusts that God will continue to keep his promise that if the people return to God (which they have), He will gather them back to Jerusalem.
Encouragement lesson 2: Claim God’s promises and trust Him to accomplish what He says He will do.
Finally, the people get to work. And what do they do to encourage one another? They work side by side.
Nehemiah recounts who works on what portion of the wall. As he lists who is working on each section, he introduces the next group with, “And next to him/them.” That phrase is repeated nine times (Nehemiah 3: 2-12) (So I assume there were 10 sections). The last group or workers included Shallum and his daughters! (vs. 12)
Encouragement lesson 3: Work together, not alone!
So what should I do in the face of discouragement? Pray. Trust God to fulfill His promises. Work with others.
Dear Lord: Thanks for the extent to which you have lifted me out of my discouragement over the past week. And help me to keep applying these lessons. Amen.