"WHEN YOU FACE DIFFICULTY!"
Written and preached by David P. Nolte
Nehemiah had become aware of the distress and reproach of his Jewish
brothers back in Jerusalem. He was in Susa, the Persian capital serving
king Artaxerxes as cup bearer. When he wane into the presence of the king,
Artaxerxes noted his downcast appearance and asked "Why is your face sad
though you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart." At that
question, Nehemiah said, "Then I was very much afraid." He had reason to
be afraid. Persian subjects were expected to appear happy and content in
the presence of the king. If they registered sadness or depression they
were subject to severe penalty, even unto death for bringing unhappiness
into the king's presence. Besides, Nehemiah, a mere servant, was going
to ask if he could leave Susa and the king's service to go to Jerusalem
-- unheard of! On top of that, some time prior to that Artaxerxes himself
had issued a decree forbidding the continued rebuilding of Jerusalem (Ezra
4:7-23) and now Nehemiah wants to go and resume it! No wonder he
was afraid! Have you ever been afraid? Have you ever faced a challenge
or problem or complication so enormous and significant you shuddered at
the thought of it? Little 5 year old Mary was. She was being treated for
a brain tumor, she had suffered a stroke that left half of her body paralyzed,
she had recently lost her father and her mother. Now she was compelled
to have an MRI. She went into the MRI machine without the slightest protest
and the exam began. At that time, each imaging sequence required the patient
to remain perfectly still for about five minutes. This would have been
difficult for anyone -- and certainly for a five-year-old who had suffered
so much. Being still was vital, though, as any movement of her face, including
talking, would result in image distortion. For the exam, and for life itself,
the little girl needed an extraordinary patience and endurance. When we
are faced with formidable odds, when we are afraid, when we face difficulty,
what can we learn from Nehemiah and from Mary? Let me suggest a few things
from the text. When you are faced with difficulty:
Mary, though only 5 years old, and faced with difficulties many of us will
never face, had an adult-size faith in Jesus Christ and was able to trust
Him without fretting. She prayed that He'd take care of her. Nehemiah,
also, had a great faith and was able to turn things over to God when they
were too big for him. When you are faced with difficulty do the same thing:
BE PATIENT AND STEADFAST: V1:
Notice in 1:1 that the news came to him in Chislev: that's our December;
then he went to the king in Nisan: that's not a Datsun, that's part of
our April. That means that about four months had passed and nothing had
happened! Jerusalem was still in languor; the walls still down; the people
still in reproach.
Nehemiah is concerned but exercises patience and steadfastness.
Nehemiah was urgent, but did not leap into a panic or hysteria.
Nehemiah would not act impetuously, or go off half-cocked and careless.
Nehemiah wanted to formulate a plan, to fast and pray, to approach the
king wisely, and then to act.
We could learn a good lesson here: Though the Proverb says, "Also it is
not good for a person to be without knowledge, And he who makes haste with
his feet errs," Proverbs 19:2, often when we are faced with
an unpleasant situation we act too quickly. We are often rash and foolhardy.
We make haste with our feet and we err.
We get hurt and we immediately think of revenge; we act hotly and hastily
in the emotion of anger.
We have a need and buy thoughtlessly and impulsively, incurring a lot of
needless debt and financial pressure.
Things don't go well in the home, and we are tempted to jump rashly
Something happens we don't like and we rush into a confrontation.
The job is a pain so we act impetuously and quit.
Some tragedy comes along and we lose all sense of control and balance,
flying off to all sorts of extremes.
We ought to have patience and steadfastness and we will if we follow the
advice of the Psalmist: Psalms 37:7, 38 "Rest in the Lord
and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in
his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from
anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret, it leads only to evildoing."
Mary was dependent on Jesus as she went into the MRI. She was persuaded
of His care. She was confident that He love dher. So Nehemiah was
sure of God's benefits in his life when he needed them. When you are faced
with difficulty have the same assurance:
BE PRAYERFUL AND DEPENDENT: V4:
As Nehemiah was afraid, and as the kings' questioning continued, he prayed.
His prayer was immediate. As soon as he sensed the need, prayer ascended
like an arrow shot from a bow.
His prayer was spontaneous. This is evidence that he was a man given to
prayer as a primary resource and first recourse.
His prayer had to be brief. He didn't have much time to remain silent in
the face of the king's questions. He dared not say, "Hold on a minute,
Buster; I'm praying!" Maybe his prayer was similar to "Help me Lord.
Give me wisdom and make me successful today."
His prayer had to be urgent. He had much at stake: his own welfare and
that of Jerusalem hung in the balance.
This just reminds me of my son John when he was about 7 or 8. We had gone
to California and were visiting a petting zoo. There were pygmy goats there
and John had an ice cream cone full of food for them. They climbed all
over him. There was a heap of pygmy goats and a little arm sticking up
out of the midst of them and a piping little voice calling, "Dad! Dad!"
Short, quick, urgent -- and promptly answered!
Nehemiah was prayerful and dependent and God answered his prayer: the heart
of Artaxerxes was favorable to his request.
We need the prayerful dependence on God Nehemiah manifested and spoken
of by Moses in Exodus 33:13-15 "'Now therefore, I pray Thee,
if I have found favor in Thy sight, let me know Thy ways, that I may know
Thee, so that I may find favor in Thy sight. Consider too, that this nation
is Thy people.' And He said, 'My presence shall go with you, and I will
give you rest.' Then he said to Him, 'If Thy presence does not go with
us, do not lead us up from here.'" I.e., "With you we can go, without you
we cannot for we depend on you!"
Mary went into the MRI in quietness and trust. About two minutes into the
first sequence, the technicians noted on the video monitor that Mary's
mouth was moving. They heard a muted voice over the intercom. They halted
the exam and gently reminded Mary not to talk. She was smiling and promised
not to talk. They reset the machine and started over. Once again they saw
her facial movement and heard her voice faintly. What she was saying wasn't
clear. Everyone was becoming a little impatient, with a busy schedule that
had been put on hold to perform an emergency MRI on Mary. They went back
in and slid Mary out of the machine. Once again, she looked at them with
her crooked smile and wasn't upset in the least. The technologist, perhaps
a bit grumpy, said, "Mary, you were talking again, and that causes blurry
pictures." Mary's smile remained as she replied, "I wasn't talking. I was
singing. You said no talking." They looked at each other, feeling a little
silly. "What were you singing?" someone asked." "Jesus Loves Me,"' came
the barely perceptible reply. "I always sing 'Jesus Loves Me' when I'm
happy." Everyone in the room was speechless. Happy? How could this little
girl be happy? The technologist and the doctor had to leave the room for
a moment to regain their composure as tears began to fall. The doctor said,
"Many times since that day, when feeling stressed, unhappy or dissatisfied
with some part of my life, I have thought of Mary and felt both humbled
and inspired. Her example made me see that happiness is a marvelous gift
-- free to anyone willing to accept it." So is forgiveness of sin, newness
of life, and eternal hope a free gift through Jesus Christ to all who obey
Him as Lord and trust Him as Savior. I hope you have learned by now that
facing life alone is both futile and unnecessary. You can face whatever
comes and overcome it with Him. You can face the certainty of death with
the assurance of life. But it takes patience, it takes prayer and it takes
persuasion. When we face life with those components of faith, we can endure
what we need to, we can do what we have to, and we can go wherever He leads
us. He is ready to lead you today to abundant, purposeful, overcoming and
eternal life, if you are ready to follow.
BE PERSUADED AND CONFIDENT: V8:
What was Nehemiah's confident persuasion?
He was sure that the good hand of God was upon him. The words mean the
prosperous and benevolent power and strength of God.
He was God-confident, not just self-confident or luck-confident or idol-confident.
He recognized that neither he nor Artaxerxes, neither fate nor fortune,
neither an idol nor any false god, was the sole determiner of the events
to follow. God got the credit!
He knew that God was acting favorably toward his prayer and the need of
Nehemiah was persuaded and confident that God's hand was on him.
God's hand gave him protection from wrath that might have fallen on him
from the king.
God's hand gave him prudence in his approach to the monarch.
God's hand gave him providence of what he'd need to succeed in his venture.
Two characteristics of the overcomer are firm persuasion and unshaken confidence:
The tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had it "for they cried out to God
in the battle, and He was entreated for them, because they trusted in Him."
1 Chronicles 5:20.
David experienced it: "Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not
fear; Though war arise against me, In spite of this I shall be confident."
So did Paul: "For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not
ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is
able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day."
What do you trust? A crystal? A horoscope? The Ouija board? A psychic reader?
A good-luck charm? Or do you trust the God of heaven? Do you trust His
word? Do you rely on His counsel as it is recorded in the Bible? Do you
have Nehemiah's confidence when you are in difficulty that the Good hand
of God is on you? Remember the words of Isaiah 30:15 "For
thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said, 'In repentance and
rest you shall be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.'"
Adapted from a story by James Brown, MD In "A 5th Portion
of Chicken Soup for the Soul!" Canfield and Hansen, Health Communications,
Inc., Deerfield Beach, Florida
Return To Sermons On Nehemiah
Return To Archive
Return To Home Page