My Life Group lesson for this past Sunday ...
Sunday morning we had a really good discussion on Nehemiah 7:1-8 and how we can do our part to further the work of the kingdom of God.
We also figured out that I am not and probably not will be a football coach, based on the plays I was trying to diagram on the board!
*** Working together on the winning team.
--- Happy Super Bowl Sunday! To be part of a sports team there are a variety of players of various sizes and shapes with differing skills. A baseball team wouldn’t be very successful if all its players were pitchers, and a football team needs more than just quarterbacks. A winning team is made up of many players, each one doing their part.
--- QUESTION - In what ways can one person weaken a team? What are the characteristics of a strong team?
--- After the wall around Jerusalem had been rebuilt, Nehemiah led in the assembly of individuals to protect the city. He organized people to watch the gates and appointed singers and Levites to serve in different places. Nehemiah also chose trusted individuals who were faithful to God to lead the city.
--- Nehemiah selected individuals and gave them responsibilities. They could have chosen not to follow Nehemiah’s direction, but they did their parts.
--- Some tasks require the effort, coordination, and strength of many people working together. Ask any winning team, any successful corporation, or any effective church. A team working together can win championships. Coworkers focused on the same goals can outperform any one person. Likewise, a church in which all members serve by using their God-given gifts can begin to see Christ’s command to make disciples of all nations fulfilled.
--- Nehemiah challenged individuals in his day to do their part in God’s kingdom work. Everyone was needed. Everyone had a part.
--- "For those who have ever questioned whether a single, or even multiple, failures have disqualified them from God’s use—or whether one bad decision will hinder them from their destiny, I have a word for you: It’s not too late for God’s unlikely path to success. Trust Him, you just may be closer than you think." —Tony Evans
UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT
--- Ezra came back to bring the Israelites to a spirit of worship. Nehemiah came to rebuild the infrastructure.
--- An important theme of Ezra and Nehemiah is that the people of God as a whole and not just the great leaders are vital for accomplishing God’s redemptive purpose. All of God’s people worked together to rebuild the wall: clergy and laity, craftsmen and tradesmen, by town and by family, each contributing to the completion of the whole.
--- For instance, they had to get their hands dirty. One of the best examples of humility was Malchijah [mal KIGH juh], another of the district rulers. He worked to repair the Dung Gate. A key part of Nehemiah’s strategy was for people to build the wall nearest to their house. Yet who would build a house near the city’s Dung Gate? Remember that ancient cities did not have indoor plumbing such as we have today. The people of Jerusalem disposed of their waste and garbage outside the Dung Gate. Yet Malchijah humbled himself and assumed responsibility for rebuilding this gate. Take note of Nehemiah’s description concerning how completely the job was accomplished (see Neh. 3:14).
--- In today’s study, we see that enemies were still outside the newly rebuilt walls. Guys like Sanballat were not going to stop anytime soon, so Nehemiah and the other leaders knew they needed to do more to protect Jerusalem, from building gates to repopulating the city.
A ROLE TO PLAY (Neh. 7:1-3)
1 When the wall had been rebuilt and I had the doors installed, the gatekeepers, singers, and Levites were appointed. 2 Then I put my brother Hanani in charge of Jerusalem, along with Hananiah, commander of the fortress, because he was a faithful man who feared God more than most. 3 I said to them, “Do not open the gates of Jerusalem until the sun is hot, and let the doors be shut and securely fastened while the guards are on duty. Station the citizens of Jerusalem as guards, some at their posts and some at their homes.”
*** A place for everyone, everyone in their place.
--- Different jobs were required once the city walls had been rebuilt: Gatekeepers, singers, Levites (religious leaders). What was important in assigning these roles?
The gates were the only access to the city. These are fortified gate-doors that could allow large groups of people and animals and wagons to enter and exit. Gatekeepers had to be trustworthy.
--- Nehemiah had to put people in charge whom he could trust. So he put his brother in charge of the city (think George W. Bush putting Jeb Bush in charge), and Hananiah as head of the military. Hananiah was well-known for his reverence of the Lord and proved his loyalty and abilities during the building process. Think back to Exodus, when 12 spies were sent into the Promised Land, and when they came back, only Joshua and Caleb were gung-ho with God, while 10 went wobbly and convinced the Jews that the task was impossible. Hananiah was battle ready.
--- In His parable of the talents, Jesus explained that the path of greater responsibility is through being faithful with our current responsibility (Matt. 25:23). These two men were faithful and reverent BEFORE they were given greater responsibilities.
*** Use your spiritual gifts.
--- In 1 Corinthians 12:1-31, Paul describes the various spiritual gifts and emphasizes the vital importance of both unity and diversity in the church.
--- 1 Cor. 12: 4-7 - 4 Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are different activities, but the same God activates each gift in each person. 7 A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial:
--- 1 Cor. 12:26 - So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
--- In the church, God calls every believer to do a job. The health of the church depends on us fulfilling our roles faithfully.
*** Enemy at the gates.
--- Special measures were taken for security, such as the gates staying closed at night, and the doors were shut and locked even when guards were on duty.
--- If the people weren't responsible, they were all at risk. There was also a neighborhood watch of sorts so citizens could serve while carrying on with their daily lives.
--- QUESTION - Think of the people who serve here at FBC, who helps us to feels secure and organized?
A PLACE TO BELONG (Neh. 7:4-8)
4 The city was large and spacious, but there were few people in it, and no houses had been built yet. 5 Then my God put it into my mind to assemble the nobles, the officials, and the people to be registered by genealogy. I found the genealogical record of those who came back first, and I found the following written in it: 6 These are the people of the province who went up among the captive exiles deported by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Each of them returned to Jerusalem and Judah, to his own town. 7 They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, and Baanah. The number of the Israelite men included: 8 Parosh’s descendants 2,172
*** Moving on up.
--- Many of the people being asked to move back in to the now-safe walls of Jerusalem hadn't lived in the city for decades. They'd moved out to the suburbs, so to speak, and raised kids where they felt safe, and stayed away from Jerusalem as a waste. (Remind you of anywhere? But think of neighborhoods once rundown and coming back.) They needed to have faith to move back and take ownership of a blighted city on the comeback.
--- QUESTION - When have you needed to step out of your comfort zone in order to do something God was calling you to do? What was the result? When have you NOT stepped out? What was the result?
*** Looking to God for direction.
--- Nehemiah sought the Lord’s guidance throughout the entire project, so of course he was open enough that when he needed help, “God put it into my mind.”
--- How nice would that be, to be so plugged into what God wants in your life that you can even recognize where God is leading you?
*** Identifying those needed.
--- Nehemiah was called to look to those of Jewish heritage who should move back. He was helping them to connect their past with the present and the future.
--- The rest of chapter 7 is a roll call of the people who were called. Nehemiah 7:8 identifies only the first entry, Parosh’s descendants, that numbered 2,172 returning family members. The total number of Jewish returnees was 42,360 persons (see Neh. 7:66).
*** Not everybody was a leader.
--- Ordinary folks had to take a leap of faith and follow as well. S. I. McMillen, in his book None of These Diseases, tells a story of a young woman who wanted to go to college, but her heart sank when she read the question on the application blank that asked, "Are you a leader?" Being both honest and conscientious, she wrote, "No," and returned the application, expecting the worst. To her surprise, she received this letter from the college: "Dear Applicant: A study of the application forms reveals that this year our college will have 1,452 new leaders. We are accepting you because we feel it is imperative that they have at least one follower."
*** That's why God created you!
--- Matthew West's song about a world that seems to be disgusting and horrible. He asks, "God why don't you do something?" God said, "I did, I created you." If not us then who? If not now then when? It's not enough to do nothing. It's time for us to do something.
--- Recognizing the value of every person’s contribution to God’s plan, none of us should shrink from fulfilling His call in our lives. We have the privilege of being part of God’s purpose. Just as God called, empowered, and blessed these people of Nehemiah’s day, even so He deigns to use us as His channels of ministry and witness to our world.
*** Chuck Swindoll talks about how geese work together and why they fly as they do:
“Winging their way to a warmer climate, they often cover thousands of miles before reaching their destination. Have you ever studied why they fly as they do? It is fascinating to read what has been discovered about their flight pattern as well as their in-flight habits. Four come to mind.
1. Those in front rotate their leadership. When one lead goose gets tired, it changes places with one in the wing of the V-formation and another flies point.
2. By flying as they do, the members of the flock create an upward air current for one another. Each flap of the wings literally creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. One author states that by flying in a V-formation, the whole flock gets 71 percent greater flying range than if each goose flew on its own.
3. When one goose gets sick or wounded, two fall out of formation with it and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with the struggler until it's able to fly again.
4. The geese in the rear of the formation are the ones who do the honking. I suppose it's their way of announcing that they're following and that all is well. For sure, the repeated honks encourage those in front to stay at it.
As I think about all this, one lesson stands out above all others: it is the natural instinct of geese to work together. Whether it's rotating, flapping, helping, or simply honking, the flock is in it together...which enables them to accomplish what they set out to do.”
*** Members of the Patriots and Seahawks did not give up but did their part to get the job of getting to the Super Bowl.
*** Think of the ways you can use your unique gifts. What steps can you take to start doing the role you believe God wants you to fulfill?
*** Think of the various tasks that are needed for our church to be a witness for Christ in our community (examples: childcare workers, musicians, administrative staff, Bible study teachers, pastors, outreach to seniors, building maintenance, etc.).
--- Think of how you can be used to advance the Gospel. Your part can include anything from working in church ministries to practicing spiritual disciplines such as praying, sharing your faith or studying the Bible.