Leadership Lessons from Nehemiah- Part 2

This is the second part of a two-part series on Leadership Principles from Nehemiah. To read part 1, click here https://triumphantinchrist.wordpress.com/2015/10/10/leadership-lessons-from-nehemiah-part-1/ or go to the “October 2015 archives.”

Leadership Principle #5- Expect to have critics

Whether it is in our personal lives, our jobs, inside the church, we will run into people who seem to criticize our every move, try to make us second guess our work and to discourage us. Though Nehemiah had obtained favor with the king to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls, he encountered opposition from two men, Sanballat and Tobiah, who opposed Nehemiah at every turn.

“When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, [rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls] they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.” (Nehemiah 2:10, NIV). Brackets mine.

“But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. ‘What is this you are doing?’ they asked. ‘Are you rebelling against the king?’” (Nehemiah 2:19, NIV).

“When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, ‘What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall” Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble- burned as they are?’ Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, ‘What are they building- even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!’” (Nehemiah 4:1-3, NIV).

Leadership Principle #6- Don’t argue with critics- stay focused on the Lord and the work

Nehemiah and those rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem faced constant opposition from Sanballat and Tobiah, yet Nehemiah did not waste time getting into useless debates and arguments with his critics, instead he spoke the Word of God over the situation, focused on the work at hand and prayed for those who were ridiculed him.

“I answered them by saying, ‘The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.” (Nehemiah 2:20, NIV).

“’Hear us, 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 or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.’ So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.” (Nehemiah 4:4-6, NIV).

Leadership Principle #7- Deal with problems decisively

Besides the opposition he faced in rebuilding the walls, Nehemiah also had to deal with rumors of armies trying to invade and plots to kill him. In these cases, Nehemiah acted quickly to arm the people working on the wall and discerned when people wanted to harm him. Nehemiah also acted decisively when he found out when Israelites were charging interest to their fellow Jews- which was forbidden in the Law. Because of the interest charged, people had to mortgage their homes, fields, and vineyards just to buy the necessities and to pay the required taxes, which placed hardships on people and their families.

“When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, ‘You are charging your own people interest!’ So I called together a large meeting to deal with them and said: ‘As far as possible, we have brought back our fellow Jews who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your own people, only for them to be sold back to us!’ They kept quiet because they had nothing to say. So I continued, ‘What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?’” (Nehemiah 4:6-9, NIV).

Nehemiah held demanded that they stop charging interest and made the nobles and priests swear an oath to God. The nobles declared they would give back the money, which they did. Leaders must make difficult decisions daily and must take action when a problem arises because it can create larger problems down the road.

Leadership Principle #8- Don’t demand of your position, be a servant

Nehemiah was appointed governor of Judah and was entitled to an allotment of food. However, Nehemiah new that his allotment of food would cause a hardship on the people to provide, so Nehemiah refused his allotment of food as governor (Nehemiah 5:18). Here, Nehemiah demonstrates the principle of servant leadership in that one should never demand from their position of leadership. Just as Jesus stated that He came to serve and not to be served. As Christians and as leaders, we must live out our leadership responsibilities as servants of Christ.

The Bible tells us that Nehemiah and his people completed rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem in fifty-two days. Nehemiah did not allow opposition and obstacles to stand in his way of completing the task the Lord called him to complete. We must remember that God will be with us and guide us during the rebuilding times of our lives as He did with Nehemiah.

Leadership Lessons from Nehemiah- Part 1

The term “rebuilding” is often associated with professional sports, when a formerly great team has to go through losing seasons with younger players due to star players retiring or moving on to different teams. In ancient times, cities were rebuilt upon the foundations of previous civilizations. In modern times, one building is demolished to make way for a new, usually bigger building. However, rebuilding is not exclusive to the worlds of professional sports or architecture. All of us at one point or another may find ourselves in a state of rebuilding- whether it be from the death of a loved one, a divorce, a financial bankruptcy, illness, addiction, job loss, or anything else that may come our way. Surviving those times will require faith and strength along with God’s grace. In addition to faith, strength, and grace, there are biblical leadership skills we can apply to our situations.

The Old Testament Book of Nehemiah is a prime example of leadership in action during a time of rebuilding. The city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC, which included the destruction of the first Temple and the city walls being destroyed. Eventually, the Medo-Persian Empire supplanted the Babylonians as the dominant world power and the Persian king Cyrus issued a decree for the exiled Jews to return to Israel. Nehemiah served as the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes and received devastating news about Jerusalem.

“In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. They said to me, ‘Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” (Nehemiah 1:1-3, NIV).

Leadership Principle #1- A problem is a perfect time for prayer

“When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” (Nehemiah 1:4, NIV).

 Nehemiah goes on to intercede for the nation of Israel, asking God to forgive them of their sins. Throughout Nehemiah, Nehemiah’s first response to a crisis is prayer. When we are faced with a crisis, we must not cower in fear, but we should come boldly to God’s throne of grace. It is through prayer and fasting, that God will give us the direction we need in a situation.

Leadership Principle #2- God will give us the resources we need

Nehemiah was still very distraught over the state of Jerusalem when he went before the king. The king sensed Nehemiah’s distress and asked him what was wrong. (Keep in mind that anyone who was sad in front of the king could be executed).

 “I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, ‘May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?’” The king said to me, ‘What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and answered the king, ‘If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so I can rebuild it.’” (Nehemiah 2:2b-5, NIV).

I believe the Lord placed Nehemiah in such a position of trust and prominence to the king for the sole purpose of rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls. Nehemiah chapter two goes on to state that the king granted Nehemiah’s request and gave him letters to grant him safe passage, all of the timber he needed, and also sent a military escort to accompany him.

 It is important to remember that we cannot overlook the way in which God provides for our needs. For example, say someone wants to go to college and they do not have the personal means to do so. Someone may get discouraged if they do not receive a miracle check in the mail, but they overlook financial aid, scholarships, grants, and other ways to raise money. If the Lord has placed a task on your heart, He will provide you with everything you need to complete it.

Leadership Principle #3- Give God the glory

If we are not careful, pride can sneak in our hearts and we will believe that our abilities accomplished the task. Just as Nehemiah gave the glory to God, so must we give Him the all of the glory.

“And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my request.” (Nehemiah 2:8b, NIV).

  “When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.” (Nehemiah 6:16, NIV).

Leadership Principle #4- Be an encourager

When the Lord calls us to complete a task, He does not call us to go at it alone, but will send people around us. Just as Jesus had his disciples and Paul mentored Timothy, so too did the Lord call people around Nehemiah to help him rebuild Jerusalem’s walls. Though leadership of any kind can be a difficult task, the best leaders will try their best to encourage those around them. As a leader encouragement involves others “buying into” the vision God has laid out before you.

 “Then I said to them, ‘You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.’ I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, ‘Let us start rebuilding.’ So they began the good work.” (Nehemiah 2:17-18, NIV).

  “After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials, and the rest of the people, ‘Don’t be afraid of them. Remember, the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.’” (Nehemiah 4:14, NIV).

            The remaining principles will be shared in the next post.