So I answered them and said to them, "The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no portion, right or memorial in Jerusalem.
In two previous sermons, I have already covered the "Origins of a Great Ministry," from Nehemiah 1:1-2:8, and "What Happens When You Don't Give Up," from Nehemiah 6:1-16. You can find the links to those messages below.
In Chapter 6 of Nehemiah, we read about the success Nehemiah had in the face of many challenges. He and those who joined him in the work of rebuilding the wall had many enemies who made every effort to discourage, depress and end their work.
Now, in Chapter 8 we find out what transpires after the success. What is just as important as planning and execution of a ministry or service to God, is how we respond after God brings success.
And it is God who brings success! See what Nehemiah says in chapter 2.
Then I said to them, "You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach." I told them how the hand of my God had been favorable to me and also about the king's words which he had spoken to me.
The problem with too many Christians today, and too many churches, and too many ministries is they completely ignore or disregard who it is that ultimately brings the success.
At Calvary Baptist Church, where I am the Senior Pastor, we had an event on Sunday, September 17, 2017, to celebrate and to encourage everyone that is involved in the Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Ministry. In fact, the picture that can be found at the top of this blog post is from the event last night.
Many from around the surrounding communities of Emporia, Virginia came to our church and we had many presentations on the Shoebox ministry and why it is so vitally important. We were even honored to have an actual recipient of a shoebox come to our event and share her testimony of how this ministry helped lead her to Christ and how it ultimately changed her life.
This type of success in ministry is to be celebrated and enjoyed, but what was most encouraging to me is to see the fact that all those who were involved gave all the credit and all the glory for the success to the Lord God Almighty.
While this success of our local shoebox ministries is wonderful, and while it is, in fact, great to celebrate the overall success of the Operation Christmas Child Ministry worldwide, there is an even bigger question to be asked, and a larger point to be pondered.
What Should Successful Ministry Bring?
1. Successful Ministry Should Bring Deeper Unity Among God's People (8:1a)
And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate. (Nehemiah 8:1a NASB)
The people there after seeing and experiencing all the success that came from rebuilding the wall in just 52 days came together as "one man." This is a huge sign of unity and it mirrors the unity we have today in the New Testament church.
As Christians, those who have repented of their sin and placed their faith and truth in Jesus Christ, we have our unity and our identity in the Lord Jesus Christ. Any success we have individually or as a group not only comes from God but should so move us to find deeper unity in God together as a result.
One of the first things these believers did in Nehemiah's time was to gather together in unity and celebrate the success God had brought them. We also see that their celebration was not of man or man's accomplishments, but of God and His accomplishments through man, and all the glory went to God and not man.
When we gather together for worship, when we gather together for ministry, in any and everything that we do, we do it in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We do not do it in the name of Operation Christmas Child, we do not do it in the name of Calvary Baptist Church, we do not do it in the name of a Pastor, but we do it in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in His name alone!
Soli Deo Gloria - All Glory to God Alone!
2. Successful Ministry Should Bring A Greater Desire To Read And Study God's Word (8:1b-5)
And they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel. Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month.
Christians today don't appreciate God's Word like they should. This I think is primarily due to the fact that it is so readily available in so many translations and formats. The people here in Nehemiah's day not only stood for the entire reading and teaching of the Word but they did it for a period of roughly 6 hours!
Imagine a Sunday morning service lasting for 6 hours and you were on your feet for the duration! In today's overly lazy Americanized Christian culture we get mad if a one time a week, one-hour long service goes over just 5 minutes!
When Ezra took to the sacred desk and he read and taught from the Word of God there was such a deep desire from the people for it. This desire for the Word of God was created in them based on what they had experienced. Persecution and trials can be a great purifier for the church.
Since we have never been in a position to have to fight for God's Word or have never been in a position where we have not had it, we simply don't seem to have the same hunger and desire for it as these people did.
3. Successful Ministry Should Bring True Worship Of God. (8:6)
Then Ezra blessed the Lord the great God. And all the people answered, "Amen, Amen!" while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.
Ezra blessed the Lord (Yahweh) and all the people joined in unity in this worship. They humbled and bowed themselves low to the ground in a demonstration of respect and reverence for the Almighty God.
Our main goal in life should not be personal desire or pleasure but to glorify and praise God! Too many are so wrapped up in their own goals, wants, and desires that they could not be bothered to spend one second worshiping the One who gave them breath in the first place.
True worship is not of any idols or of anything created, but is of the Creator! Our worship also must be done in spirit and in truth.
But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23-24 NASB)
True worship can only be offered by someone who is truly born again (from above) by the power of God and through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit of God. The one who has had their spirit MADE ALIVE in Christ will naturally want to worship God.
This true worship is one that is internal in nature and not external. The true error of fundamentalism and all forms of legalism is they operate on a checklist type Christianity where all forms of worship and obedience are through external conformity.
However, this is not the correct form of worship and it is certainly not the kind that God desires. Salvation is an inward transformation and true worship is that which comes from the inner man or the heart. The only worship that is accepted by the Father is that which comes from a true heart of worship that praises and obeys God for who He is and what He has done for us!
A heart that truly loves God and wants to praise Him and obey Him and serve Him, is a heart that does it not for what it can get out of it but because of who God is and what He by His grace so richly has done on our behalf on the cross of Calvary and in our lives daily.