Life Buildings Number 1 Priority
By Phil Winfield
Bible Text: Sunday, October 28, 2007
Preached on: Nehemiah 6:1-14
Grace Church of Des Moines, IA
4200 E. 25th Street
Des Moines, IA 50317
Online Sermons: http://gracehome.sermonaudio.com
…so long. I just want to make sure everybody just keeps remembering what we are trying to do at Grace Church. And if you are here and you are our guest today, please, just, you know…you know, you could just sit there and put your brain in idle for a minute because, I mean, we are crazy over here and we just sort of do this from time to time to, you know, push the reset button, make sure we know what is going on here.
So what are we about at Grace Church? Here is what we are about. I just want to…I will get your participation in just a second, but just hold on. What are we about? Well, what we really want to do is we want to bring people into God’s family. That’s really what we would love to do. We would like to share Christ with people in the workplace, in the neighborhood and we want to bring people into God’s family because being a part of God’s family is wonderful.
Is that right? Yes or no. I mean, it really is. Being a child of God is wonderful. It is wonderful because it determines our eternal destination. We are going to go to heaven to be with him forever because he let us be born in his family.
And then, something else we want to do—we don’t want to be spiritual babies all of our lives—and so not only do we wan to bring people into God’s family, but we want to build people up. We want to help them grow. And so we encourage one another. We do al those one anothers of Scriptures. We try to love each other, encourage each other, admonish each other and help each other. And the biggest thing we do is bother each other.
And you say, “Well, what do you mean bother?”
Well, we bother you until you get involved in some sort of Bible study or small group. We just bother each other. Why? Because it is in those small groups and Bible studies and Bible classes at any time that they go on here and there are some going on right now at the Church. In those Bible classes you are able to get to know people, do life together. You are able to be built up. And so we bring people into God’s family and we build people up in God’s family.
And then we have a signal for this that makes no sense except that it is repetitive. And that is, we try to prepare people for service in God’s family.
You say, “You mean when people come over here you actually want them to do something?”
Yes. We want you to come and just give your best to the body of Christ. Find out how God has wired you up, what he has given you, what you enjoy and just plug in and serve God here at Grace Church. And so we are trying to prepare you to serve.
And then the last thing we want to do is we want to send you out into the world. Folks, this is not a religious club. Can I say that? That is not what we are trying to do here. This is not about, you know, getting together with a bunch of folks we like and patting each other on the back. And if you are looking for a perfect church, if you are looking for a place where everybody is all that they ought to be, please keep looking because this is not the church. You know, we are just not perfect. But here is what we are. We have a perfect Savior and we are trying to learn to become more like him. Can you say, “Amen” to that? That is who we are trying to emulate is Jesus.
So what do we do? Well, help me now. We try to bring people in to God’s family and we try to build people up in God’s family. And we try to prepare people for service in God’s family so that we can send people out from God’s family so that we can bring people into God’s family, build people up in God’s family, prepare people for service in God’s family and send people out and do it over and over and over again. And we do that for the audience of one. And who is it that we do all of what we do for? The Lord Jesus Christ. Can we give the Lord a hand this morning? Praise the Lord. Just praise the Lord.
Would you be seated? God bless you.
Well, I am going to just get right into this this morning. There is so much going on. The one month for the master offering is just around the corner. We are going to give you a flyer this afternoon on the way out trying to encourage you to come to this prayer time, not really a banner waving, shouting, hooting, hollering time, but a prayer time, a solemn prayer time at the Maple Street Missionary Baptist Church. I urge you, I just implore you to participate. I will say more about that at the end of the hour.
Here is what we have been doing. We have been studying in the book of Nehemiah. And in your worship folder, if you will open that, you have a Scripture sheet that you need that you can fill out as we go this morning and try to help you just remember and apply some of the information that is there. Likewise there is this yellow sheet of paper that everyone needs to take out and if you are our regular attender at Grace Church and what you want to do is just let us know about prayer needs or praises or whatever. Fill that out on this card. Just write it in there and let us know what they are and we will pray and praise with you and try to be a blessing to you. And then also on the other side, if you are our guest today, we welcome you. We have a little packet with two CDs in it. We want you to pick up going through those doors going out into the main atrium. There is an information area and you can pick up a CD with a full Bible on it, with some Bible study helps and also a message from the church with some music. And we sure would like you to have one of those. Get that out. Hold it out. Fill it out and then when we pass…we ask for them at the end of the hour. You will be able to turn those in.
Well, here is what we have been doing is studying Nehemiah. And as we have done…as we have studied this book we have been talking about how to build a successful life and how to rebuild a broken down life. That is what the subject matter has been. And so we found out in the book of Nehemiah that we could break it down kind of like building blocks, building a wall, rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem is what Nehemiah was doing. And we can build the walls of our life, not walls to keep people out so much as building the structure of our lives so that we can serve the Lord and so that we can have God’s blessing.
The first thing that Nehemiah had to do when he heard about the disastrous situation of Jerusalem, he had to face reality. Well, we do, too. We have got to face things as they are. We have got to look at our life and quit hiding our head in the sand. We have to say yep, there are problem situations, hurts, hang-ups, habits. Stuff is going on that really, really keep me in bad shape and I need to deal with them in my life. Face reality.
Then we need to pray. And we are in position to pray all the time.
Somebody says, “Well, where is the right place to pray?”
Anywhere, everywhere, all the time is the right place to pray. God has put us at the right place. It is always the right time. After we begin that we have to go forth by faith because it is a fearful thing to deal with the issues of your life. You deal with the issues of your life, the problems of your life, the people of your life. Sometimes it can get pretty dicey, pretty scary. So what are we supposed to do? We are supposed to go forth in faith. Faith conquers fear. Faith is not the absence of fear. Faith is moving forward in spite of the fears.
So we have got faith and then the fourth thing is investigation and communication. We have got to look at the nitty gritty details of how do we get in this situation. What led me to this place? Look at it. Face it. Be honest. And then communicate to our heavenly Father and to our families and those nearest to us. Communicate with them about what we are trying to do.
Number five, team work. You alone can face you problem, but no one alone can fix their problems. You need people. You need other people to come along side to encourage, to help and to give you some just reason to go on.
The next one, number six, we looked at it, was the word “tenacity.” And that is all about getting your life going and getting things on the right track again. You build that wall up, but, boy, when it comes to about…you get just about half way to the goal, half way to finishing the project and, man, attacks come and difficulties get great and it is easy to get discouraged at the half way point. And so what we do is we just recommit to what we are doing and we keep going with tenacity. Many marathoners run 26 miles, but they don’t run the 0.2. We just keep going. You have got to just keep going and trusting that the Lord is going to see you through.
Number seven, last week the building block was integrity and integrity is that solid…no…there is nothing false, solid, honest, complete and whole attitude that a person is supposed to have. Integrity is the opposite of duplicity. No one can get excited about helping somebody that is trying to give a face and show to other people that they are trying to do right while in the shadows they continue to allow themselves to do all sorts of wrong. And so that is what we are supposed to do. Do it with integrity.
Now you can see the one that has been added and that is the top one up on the right hand side and it is the word focus. And to be honest with you I have been looking forward to this sermon and to this passage of Scripture as much as any the entire time that we have been looking. The key building block today is focus. The name of what I want to talk about is “Life Buildings Number One Priority.” And there are just…we just want to make sure we get the priorities in our life right.
Now, the greatest enemy of the best of God’s best for you in your life is usually not the opposite of God’s best. It is usually not a devilish attack. It is usually not a frontal attack by Satan to sin, usually when we are trying to do our best, God or the devil comes along and supplies us with something good.
And so the biggest enemy, the greatest enemy of the best is usually just a glorious opportunity to do something else that may seem to be good. These folks had been…they had put up with all kinds of things. They had put up with derision, mocking, ridicule from the outside, disinformation about their purposes. They had put up with discouragement from without. They had put up with danger from attack. They had put up with internal division. They had conquered all of these things and now then, the come to this whole situation of distractions, being distracted from doing God’s work and doing God’s will and rebuilding your life.
And so what I want to talk to you today about is how to keep going, how to keep going and how to keep doing the great work that God has given you.
Now, I want you to take your Bibles and open them up to Nehemiah chapter six and all God’s people said, “Amen, amen,” which means “so be it.” In Nehemiah six, verse one, stand to your feet, let me read you a few verses of the Word of God.
Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.”
When he heard the word “Ono,” he should have said, “Oh, no.”
But they thought to do me harm. So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” But they sent me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner.
And then I want you to drop down to verse number 10.
Afterward I came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was a secret informer; and he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you; indeed, at night they will come to kill you.” And I said, “Should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!” Then I perceived that God had not sent him at all, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me. My God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat, according to these their works, and the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who would have made me afraid.
Look at verse 15. “So the wall was finished on the twenty–fifth day of Elul, in fifty–two days. What a wonderful, unbelievable story. What they could not do in 130 plus years they were able to come in under the power of the Holy Spirit and do in 52 days.
Now I want to say to you what God might be able to do in your life in 52 days if we were to bow ourselves and humble ourselves before him and seek his face and seek his will and yield to his plans and proddings in our life would be absolutely amazing. And I want to announce to everybody that his here this morning that your life is not a happenstance. It is not an incident. It is not a coincidence. You are not here because somebody else isn’t here. I am here to tell you that God loves you and he has a plan for your life. There is a reason for your existence and because of that you need to hook on to it. You need to find out what it is that God has for you.
And I am here to tell you that there may be illegitimate parents in the world, but there is no such thing as an illegitimate child. Every person, every single individual is somebody that God loves and knows about and Jesus died for. And I am here to tell you this morning that if you listen to what I am saying about what God wants you to do in your life, it will help you immensely. I am going to give you one phrase this morning. If you can carry this phrase with you then all of our Nehemiah series will have been worth it. And it is this one phrase. “I am doing a great work. I cannot come down. I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.” Say that with me. “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.”
Father, add your blessing to the preaching and teaching of your Word. We ask it in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.
Would you be seated?
So how do you keep going when you are doing a great work? Make sure you underline that verse in your Bible. Put a star by it, an asterisk or something. Make sure that you have that as a verse that you want to remember. And I am doing a great work. I cannot come down.
Well, how do you keep doing the great work that God has called you to do? And, by that, I mean that every one of you has an assignment. Every one of you has a task. If you are a mother God is intending for you to live the life of a mother. And if you are father he doesn’t want you to be slack and negligent in your fatherhood. If you are a husband, if you are a wife, if you are a leader, if you are a boss, whatever it is that God has given you to do, whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all of your might. The Bible intends for us to be focused on the priorities of life and life buildings number one priority is that you stay focused on what it is that God has for you and me to do.
And so how do I keep going doing the great work? How do I stay on task? If I am rebuilding my life, if I am building my life, if I am mothering my children, if I am fathering my children, if I am rearing them, if I am loving my husband, loving my wife, how do I keep doing it? How can I remain? Focus and do not let distractions get you off of what is they priority in your life.
The first thing you need to do, write it down on your Scripture sheet, make sure that your cause is great. And I have loved reading through the book of Nehemiah time and again and I hope you have. Any cursory reading and you are going to hear Nehemiah say that God is an awesome and great God. And I am here to tell you that our God is great and he is awesome.
I get a little tired of the Islamic people yelling that Allah is great and yelling it for days on end and doing it incessantly. And some of us, we haven’t got enough passion to ever say anything about the greatness of our God and the true God, the one God, the one who made heaven and earth and everything in it. And I want you to know that God is great and the causes of God and the purposes of God in our life are tremendous. Make sure that what you are doing in your life is a great cause. Make sure you are giving yourself to a great cause that is worthy of the effort.
Wouldn’t it be a terrible thing to give a tremendous part of your life to something that had no lasting value? Wouldn’t it have been terrible if you would have invested in Enron two weeks before the revelations came out? Wouldn’t it be terrible if you had been steam fitter and pipe fitter on the Titanic a month before it went down? In other words, only God can put us on the right track working on the right thing so that we are not doing things that have no eternal value.
Psalm 127 says this. It says, “Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it.” There is a lot of buildings getting built. There’s a lot of things going on. There is a lot of projects, aspirations and dreams out there that people give their life to that aren’t going to amount to anything at the end of time. And so I have got some questions for you. Is the thing that occupies your time and your effort, the thing that has your attention and your dedication, is it something that God wants to be done? Ask yourself that question. Is the thing that I am just giving all of myself to…?
Now, be careful. Working a job and taking care of the bills and taking care of your family is something that God wants done. I mean, we can go on and on with those types of every day things that we do that are very, very important, but many times there is a desire out there, there is a goal out there, there is something that we are working on that is not the wall that God wants built.
Listen to 1 Corinthians 3:11. The Bible says:
For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, [and that] is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds [and we are all building] on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it.
What day? Judgment day.
because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
And so the point is that everything we are doing in life, we are building stuff. And the Bible says that it falls in six categories. There is going to be gold, silver and precious stone and there is going to be wood, hay and stubble. And they are not going to be water tested. They are not going to be air tested. They are going to be fire tested. The Bible says he is going to put everything that we do through the test of the fir and find out what comes back on the other side.
You say, “Pastor, is that literal?”
I don’t have any idea if there is going to be a big furnace and he is going to put all our works in there, but so that we can understand the severity of the testing and that there is no way that we are going to be able to pull the wool over God’s eyes and make him think that we really were serving him with all of our heart when the truth was that what we were doing was indulging ourselves with all of our heart and all of our lusts, we can’t pull the wool over his eye. He is going to judge everything. He is going to put it through, as it were, a test of fire.
And so the question comes: Are you working on your assignment?
You say, “Well, what is my assignment?”
Well, it is pretty obvious. If you are married and you have children that is your assignment .Your assignment is loving and rearing those children.
You say, “What about.…well, is there…?”
Well, if you are married and you have a wife, she is your assignment. And if you have a husband he is your assignment. And if you have a task that is your assignment. And if you have been given the good graces of God to have a job or a business and you are working on it then you shouldn’t sluff off and be undisciplined in it. It is your assignment. Are we doing those things that are priorities in our life?
Let me say a word to my teenage friends that are here this morning, those that are in school. And you might think, well, I really have lost it. You know, I have lost my hair. Maybe his mind came out with his hair or something like that or whatever. I want to say to you this morning that if you have an assignment, then you should work on it with all of your heart. Make sure that the priorities of your life are the priorities of your life and don’t get distracted. Are you in high school? I know this is going to just blow your mind. Are you in high school right now and you are going to school? The objective of going to high school over there is to make good grades so that you might be able to go into college and be able to get a head start when you get there.
Good grades are a good idea. How many of you parents know that to be a fact? It is a fact. Say, “Amen.” Amen. It is a fact. You need to do the best that you can do.
You say, “Well, what do you mean?”
I mean, if x box is causing your grades to fall then put away x box until the weekend and study. And if game boy or whatever, you name it. If hanging out on the corner and shooting spit wads at the street lights is what is keeping you from being able to do what you are supposed to do, put it aside and understand that you have a priority in life. And if you are a student, your priority is very simple. Serve God. Isn’t it simple? I mean, serve God by doing the best you can in school.
You say, “You mean I am serving God by doing my best in school?”
Absolutely. I wan to say to everybody in this room, it is a sin to do less then your best. It is wrong to do less than your best at anything.
Now, listen to me this morning. We are supposed to look at our assignments as God given. And we are supposed to do them. And what is it that stops us from doing the best we can do? What is it that keeps us from being able to stay on task and what makes us lose our focus? Distractions. And those distractions come.
Are you getting ready for the test that God is getting ready to give? God is going to test us. You know, boiler makers used to, years ago when buildings were heated by giant boiler systems—and some of them still are—a boiler maker had to make a boiler, a great big steam canister, he would have to make that boiler with all of his mechanical parts, but the way that that thing would be tested was is that he would take that boiler and he had to stand there beside that boiler, he had to run it to the max, let it stay at its maximum pressure, let it build up the steam and pressure inside because that was going to…what was going to pump the heat all through the buildings and all those kind of things. And so he would have to stand there by that boiler for a certain period of time under extreme pressure and he had to stand there by it. In other words, he couldn’t send somebody else to do his test for him. He couldn’t do that. He had to go and stand by the boiler, go through the system, let the pressure be on. And then if that thing…if he would stand there and it would pass that test, then it was ready to be put into service. He had to stand the pressure test. Boiler makers were that way.
Do you know that God expects us…he is going to put us to the test one day? The things of our life that we have been working on, the works, the things that we thought were so important, he is going to put them all out there and he is going to put them to the test and we are going to have to stand by them.
There are going to be many Christians, I believe, who are going to be very embarrassed about what they gave their life to, what they gave their heart to. Oh, we need to look at our priorities and understand it.
You know, this passage of Scripture is teaching us this if it is teaching us anything. Make sure that what we are doing is a great work. Make sure it is worthy of your time. Is the work that you are doing, the thing that you dedicated to, is it worthy of the effort? Is there anything eternal about it? Does it involve your family? Does it enhance your Christian testimony? Is there any service to other people? All of these godly things that God wants for us. Is there a way that God can be glorified in it? How many people spend their lives trying to find a way to get the spot light on them? That is not the objective of life, folks. The objective is not to leave our name imprinted on some building somewhere or not to leave a legacy of money so they can name a building after us. What we are supposed to be doing is trying to throw all of the light on the Lord Jesus Christ and magnify him with our lives. Can I have an amen?
That is what we are supposed to do. We are supposed to put the light and the emphasis on him. Is there a way God can be glorified? And is the wall you are building with your life, your time, your talent, your treasure, is it a wall that God wants built?
The second thing. In order to keep going in the building process, make sure your communication is very clear.
Nehemiah clearly communicated the reason for his concern and the plans he had to restore the walls. Now, he had first got all disturbed when he was still in Persia. He makes the trip and he shows up and he looks at the details of the situation, how dire the situation is and what does he do? He says, “Wow.” He said, “This is really bad.”
And what he did was is he told about the great God that had directed him and all of the provisions and how he intended to rebuild that wall and to reestablish the name of God and the glory of God in that place. He communicated clearly to everyone. It was a very clear goal.
I have a question for you. Do your family members know what is important to you?
You say, “Well, of course they do. I talk about it all the time. I mean, they ought to know .I mean, I do this, that and the other.”
Well, really? Do they really know what is important to you? Can they tell what is important to you by the passion you have for it? Are you passionate about your family? Are you passionate about your children? Are you passionate about their future? Are you passionate? Do you have any time…I mean, do you get stirred up in your soul about the well being and the future of your family? Do you have any passion about that or is your passion all wrapped up in getting those extra hours at work or an extra ticket to a ball game? What is your passion about?
Are you consistent?
You say, “What is that about?”
Well, you know, we can try to communicate with our words what we think is so very important. But if our life is so up and down, I mean, we just…you know, even series is like this. We will have a series. And we’ll sing Pam. I tell you what. I have got to get with this whole thing of life building. And so we make a…you know, we write down some things and we get started and, boy, something else comes along and there is some other great idea and, you know, and so we get side tracked. We are up one day. We are down the next. Yeah, we are in church for this month but we are out for the next two months. And we are in church for these six weeks, but we are out of church…we are on and off. We are up and down. We are in and out. We are hot and cold. Our family doesn’t know what we are passionate about.
Consistency. Does your family…are you communicating…man, oh, man, oh father, oh leader? Mother are you communicating? Child, teenager, young person, the people who know you? Are you communicating what is important to you by the consistency of your life?
Oh, it is so very important. How about your commitment? Have you made commitment that has cost you anything toward what you believe is important in life and can it be told by how you spend your money?
You say, “What?”
Sadly, you will find out what Christians really value not by what they say, but by how they spend their money. My checkbook today reveals a whole lot about me as far as what my values are. It is not wrong to take care of your family and to pay your bills. That is an honorable and godly thing to do and don’t even interpret that I mean that the only thing you do with your checkbook is write checks to Grace Church. That is not what it is about. But you look at the things that occupy a great portion of your salary, of your income, you are going to find out what is very, very important to you. It is important. Can your family, do your friends, do the people around you know by the way that you live your life? Do your friends and close relatives know what is primary? Do they know what you really are trying to accomplish?
The next thing is after that is you need to make sure that you are completely alert. Oh, how important this is.
Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem used every trick in the book to stop their work. I mean, they tried ridicule. They tried external…they tried putting him in danger. They laughed at them. They wrote letters. They said the king was against them. I mean, they did all kinds of things to discourage them and to try to get them to stop. They had to be alert.
I want to say to you as your pastor, and I want to say to you that are fathers and mothers and those of you that are building your families and your lives, I want you to know that you can never put down the trowel of building in order to pick up the sword to defend yourself. It is not like that. On this situation they had to have a trowel in one hand and they had to have a sword in the other because they didn’t know from one minute to the next whether they were going to lay another brick or whether they were going to slay and attack the enemy. They didn’t know.
You know, it is that way in your life. You never stop building. You never stop battling. You never stop trying to encourage…you know, I know some people…Jonathan was in the first service and we got a kick out of this one. I said, “I know some people that think if they have got their teenager up to 14 years old, man, I have got them up to 14 years old and they are just doing so good and everything is great and I am just going to…I am just going to relax. I am just going to back off a little bit and everything is just going to be ok.”
Just about the time you back off is just about the time Satan is going to step up his attack.
So you build and you battle. You are vigilant. You are watching. You are always watching. You build your life. You do the right things. You never let up. You keep your priorities where they are supposed to be, but you never let up on what you are doing.
Folks, take all of the vacations you want from your work place. Take no vacations from your spiritual life. Don’t ever let your guard down spiritually. Don’t ever say, “Well, I’m just going to take the next six weeks off from trying to pray and read my Bible or going to church. I am just going to take six…I just need a break.”
Well, it is in that break time that Satan is going to attack you like you have never seen in your entire life. It is building and battling.
I love this story. One day there were 132,000 Midianites that decided that they were going to overrun and attack the children of Israel. Ten thousand knee knocking, quivering Israelites showed up in order to try to defend the land of Israel against these 132,000 marauding Midianites that had been invading. And this little short fellow from the tribe of Benjamin that God called a might man of valor and warrior who was scared to death himself was called and sanctioned and sent out by God to lead a revolt against those people.
He first of all came to those 10,000 people and he said, “It is too many people. All of you that are scared and want to go home, go home.” It reduced greatly their force so it as 10,000 against 132,000, now it is way less than that.
God looked down and said, “It is still far too many people. These people aren’t dedicated to me. I need to reduce this some more.”
So what did he do? He said, “All right. Send everybody down to the river.” When they get down to the river he said, “I want you to have them get a drink of water and the way they get a drink of the water is the way that I am going to know who it is that is supposed to be the one that is going to be able to serve me.”
There were two groups. One group got down there and they got right down on their knees just like this. They were…evidently they had been working out and all that kind of stuff and they were hot and they were thirsty so they get down in there and just…
You say, “Pastor, that is not very dignified.”
I have never been accused of that, so don’t worry. So just…they are just drinking like that.
Then there was another group that bowed down. Here is what they did. They got down on one knee like that and they put their hand down in the water and they brought the water up to their mouth like this.
Which group do you think God chose? The second, the one doing this. Why? Because they were always alert.
Can I tell you that just about the time you think you have got your spiritual life licked and that you think you are beyond any difficulty, that is just the time the devil is going to attract you. The Bible says so clearly don’t…if any man thinks he stands, if any man thinks he has got it licked, he better take heed lest he what?
And so we have to always be alert. We have to watch out because we are going to be attacked. Don’t ever make the assumption that you are done. Don’t ever make the assumption that you have arrived and that the devil has gone on vacation. He is not going to come back and try to cause you trouble.
2 Corinthians 2:11 says that we are not ignorant of his devices. He is tricky.
Ephesians 4:14 says that even men that are serving him are cunning and crafty and they are plotting and they are deceitful.
Ephesians 6:11 says, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles [the cunning, the trickiness] of the devil.”
Satan even tried this with Jesus. He tried to get Jesus to take a short cut from the cradle to the crown. That is what he did. He said, “Jesus,” he said, “I know who you are.” He said, “You are powerful and you are strong and you are all knowing and all of that. Listen. You don’t need to bother with this whole, you know, going to the cross thing and all that dying and, man, it is going to hurt a lot. And you know that. You made them. And here just make yourself some bread out of these stones or while you are at it why don’t you go up to the top of this temple here and throw yourself down. And come on. Just bow down and worship me and I will let you be the king of the world. And we will just short cut this whole thing.”
He tried to side track Jesus on the way to the cross. I’m telling you. He will do everything he can to distract you from life’s priority, from focusing on what God has for you to do. Make sure you are constantly alert.
The next thing is make sure you are constantly praying. Verse nine is interesting. It says in verse nine, right at the end. He says, “But now, O God, strengthen my hands.”
Nehemiah has prayed all during this book. Everywhere you look in this story Nehemiah was praying. He prayed first. He prayed second. He prayed to his God before, during and after every…each and every step of the journey. He just kept on praying. And the key to prayer is to live it constantly. Never hang up the phone line to God.
I said this so many times now I can’t count it. But I want to say to you that the time to learn how to pray is not in a crisis. We don’t learn…we should not be waiting for a crisis to learn how to get to know our God. You don’t get to know God at a crisis. You better get to know him ahead of time.
Here is what I am saying to you. What I am saying to you is that your daily walk with the Lord, a little bit of reading, a little bit of prayer and getting in God’s presence, seeking his will, seeking his direction, seeking his guidance, putting all of your plans before him and saying, “God, whatever plans are yours, you let them happen. Whatever plans are not good, you take them away.” You put that all… If you don’t do that then you are not ready to serve God.
And I want you to know if we just get in the habit of prayer and listen, this man Nehemiah knew something about living in the presence of God in prayer long before he was able to shoot up his quick arrows of prayer in a moment of crisis.
I am saying to you this morning, an arrow of prayer is only as effective as the fellowship you have.
I have a group of men that I have grown to just deeply love and respect. I love everyone here at Grace Church but I don’t know everyone to the same degree I know other people. But there is a group of men that I know really well. And you know what? If I am in trouble, those guys are going to come running. If they are in trouble, I am going to come running. Why? Well, I would help anybody. I would do anything I could. But the energy and the passion with which I run to those people that I know really well is different than the energy and the passion that I run to people that I just don’t know at all.
Do you know why? Because I am just a human. Well, God is not a human. He is God and he shows his love and compassion every day to every body. The fact that you are breathing and I am breathing is a mercy of God. So here is what I want you to know, the people who know God the best because they daily live in his presence, are the ones that are going to have power with God in prayer when the crisis comes. I want to encourage you, once again, get to know your God. Stay in constant contact with the Lord. Jesus said, “We ought to always pray and not to faint.” Luke 11:9 says we ought to ask, seek, knock and never quit doing it. So we spend time with God in prayer, we are more able to run to him in a crisis.
Now, I want our gentlemen to bring my illustration. You probably have been wondering what this scaffold set here is for this morning. Well, I have got some guys who are going to bring it down here. Everything is ok, folks. Don’t…we are practiced. I mean, we know what we are going to do here so let us just move a couple of things around.
What I want to say to you, the last point this morning is—and it is the most important—and that is make sure that you are completely focused on what it is that God wants you to do. What is the priority of your life? What is it? All right. You find out what that priority is and, of course, we know becoming more like Jesus is a priority. But you find out what that priority is and you just lock eyes on it. And don’t become distracted. Don’t become enamored with the world. Don’t fall in love with the stuff that is around you.
As I was envisioning this story I could just imagine what was going on there.
Now, fellows, when you get that thing in place, please lock the wheels. I do not want to go skating down this middle aisle here, ok? That will be great. Wonderful. This is…this is good.
I got to imagining this wall. They are going to build this wall in Jerusalem. And so if you think about that, I mean, can’t you just see a bunch of eucalyptus poles and stuff where there have made little wooden, you know, little wooden ladders and they have leaned those up and then they have made themselves some scaffolding all around. I mean, if you have seen the state capital from time to time, it seems like every time I look down there they have got scaffolding up around about half of that thing, putting something on it, working on it. That is what they do.
Well, on this wall there had to be some kind of way for them to get up to the top area and to do the work that they were going to do. So they had to be able to get up there.
Well, perhaps they used something like this. And this is what I am going to use this morning and to illustrate what is going on.
Here is the scenario. What happened is Sanballat and Tobiah, as he got closer and closer to getting this wall finished.…Yeah, there we go. See, I’m fine. Hi, Bon. My momma was here I would say, “Momma, look how tall I am.”
As Sanballat and Tobiah saw that everything but the gates were up, they knew. “Well, we can’t lick him by criticism. We can’t lick him, you know, we are not going to be able to stop them by laughing at them. We are not going to be able to stop them by putting them in danger. They are just cruising right along. Tell you what we will do. We will just get him to come down and have détente. We will get him to just come down and we will get him to come off that wall and we will sit down and we will chat. And we will…what we will do is we will just have a talk and we will get him distracted. Maybe we can give him a badge or something. All right. We will just honor him and say, “Hey, man. You have got us beat. You licked us. We are going to give you some recognition for what you have done.”
So they go up to Nehemiah and they tell him, “Nehemiah, come on down now. You have got us beat. You have got us whipped, you know. We can’t stop you. Come on down now and let’s just have a talk. Let’s talk about this.”
Nehemiah made a statement. He said to them, he said, “I am doing a great work. I cannot come down.”
And, ladies and gentlemen, I want you to understand, I started off by saying that there is no greater enemy of what is best for us than something that is just good or ok. One of the biggest jokes of our day and outright lies is that you can do everything and you can have everything. You can’t. You cant’ be super man, super dad, super husband, super golfer, hunter, fisher, financial guru and the best of everything and have everything. You can’t spend all the time you want doing everything you want and at the same time take care of home fires and take care of your wife and children.
If you are a mother you cannot be everywhere at one time. Now, women come closer to omnipresence than anyone I know, but you can’t. You can’t be super mom…you just can’t. You cannot do everything.
Here is what I want to say to you, just like I said to the kids a few moments ago that your job description as a child is to do the best you can at being a good child, obeying your parents and doing your best at school. Don’t let the extra curricular…. How many students go away their first year of college, they get there and while the world opens up, the opportunities are limitless and oh, wow, how much fun can I have? And then all of the sudden reality sets in when those letters start coming in to their mail box saying, “Failure, failure, failure…and they get a reality check about why they went to school in the first place.
We have to understand that if we are going to do those things that God is going to recognize and God is going to reward and that is going to…those things that are good for us and our families, then what we have to do is get focused and stay on the wall.
I am doing a great work. I cannot come down.
That was the answer that he told him in that situation.
What are you really doing? Nehemiah wasn’t building a reputation. He wasn’t seeking for personal glory. He had one thing and one thing only in mind and that was finishing the wall and restoring worship to his God. It…what had not been able to be done in 130 years he was able to accomplish in 52 days. Are you listening to me?
Some of you folks are out there, “Well, I’d…boy, I’d get started on renovation in my life and getting a revival and I would do… I would do…you know, I would do this, pastor, but, you know, I have been going in this direction so long nothing could ever…I have been trying to fight alcohol…I have been an angry person for so long, I have been so unkind to my wife, I have been just an irresponsible mom, my house looks like a disaster area, it looks like 9/11 at my house. I mean, pastor, I just…”
Listen. I want to say something to you. If Jerusalem’s walls that they had stepped over and stepped around for 130 years, if it could be fixed in 52 days, I am here to tell you there is nothing in your life that God, with God’s help and with focus God cannot change.
“Amen, pastor Phil. That is good preaching.”
Are you listening this morning?
I am doing a great work. I cannot come down.
That is exactly what Nehemiah said.
What are you working on today? Are you rebuilding a life? If you are rebuilding a life, then get on that wall and watch out for distractions. Do not come down. Focus on what it is that God is doing. Ask yourself a question. Is this the wise thing to do? Is this opportunity, is this new activity, is this new thing…is this the wise thing for me to do in light of my past history, in light of my present circumstance, in light of my future aspirations and hopes and the growth that I want to see? Is this the wise thing to do?
Rebuilding a life, rebuilding a marriage.
You say, “Well, I have been working on it and things are a whole lot better. I think I can slack off.”
Nobody can slack off.
You know, I want to just say something. My wife is down here. She is sitting right here on the front in the green shirt, sweater, right down here on the front. My…our kids are all grown and you all know our children. They come to church here and serve the Lord. Who knows how long we will be able to have the wonderful privilege of living in the same city with them? Who knows what God may do with all of them, but they have grown up and they have married people and they love the Lord. And Bonnie and I, quite honestly, are at that, you know, empty nest thing in our life. I love my wife. But do you know what? As those kids…as the child rearing years come to an end, or at least that hands on day to day, you know, making sure the clothes are clean and all that stuff and making sure the dental bills are paid and you name it and braces and blah, blah, blah. I look across the table and I see my wife sitting over there and I say, “Boy, I’d really like to get to know you.” That is really what I am saying. You know, why don’t you tell me about yourself? It’s almost like that, isn’t it?
Those of you that have young children and you are in the child rearing years, oh, I want to say to you, make sure that the home fires are burning and that you are more in love with your mate than you have ever been because I want to tell you when you get to the end of the child rearing years there is nothing that Satan would like to do more than to level his guns on you and take away your testimony at that time in your life.
I am committed in my heart as your pastor, I am committed in my heart to the very depth of my being to romance and love my wife more than I ever have in my entire life. You know why? Because I am building a great work and I am not going to come down.
Do you understand that?
You say, “Pastor, do you work at the church non stop?”
Nope. I do not work at the church non stop.
You say, “Are you always doing something for the people of Grace Church?”
I am always doing something for the people of Grace Church. And one of those things I am doing for the people of Grace Church is trying to model a good marriage in loving my wife and my wife loves me.
Are you listening to me this morning?
I am doing a great work. I cannot come down.
My time is getting away. I could preach on this for a week. I could stand up here until two this afternoon just talking about this. I want to say to you this morning. Are you rearing some children? Are you a mother here this morning and you have heard it? You have made a decision. You have either said I am going to be a stay at home mom and I am going to rear my children or you said, “If I work outside the home I am going to drop them off at school and then I am going to be there when they get home from school and that is what I am going to do and this is the commitment I make.”
Maybe you have made that commitment and you have heard things like, “Well, she couldn’t really make it out in the real world anyway. She really can’t work.”
Let me tell you a little something this morning. And I don’t care what anybody says under any circumstance. If you get up on that wall of rearing your children and God has led you to do that, then you say to them in your own heart, “I am doing a great work. I cannot come down.”
Do you understand where I am going with this this morning?
Are you a man and you are trying to start a business and God helped you and you had a vision and an idea and you opened up a business and you are working on that business, but now then glorious opportunities are arising to expand here or there or go some other place. And you haven’t even got the first one off the floor yet.
Listen. Get it in your mind. You can’t do everything. You can’t be everywhere.
I am doing a great work. I cannot come down.
You are rebuilding your marriage. Are you rearing your children? Are you trying to make a statement in your workplace? Are you trying to be a good employee? Don’t be discouraged by those that would say, “Hey, don’t work hard. You are going to make us all look bad.” You are doing a great work. You cannot come down.
I am doing a great work…
Say that with me. I am doing a great work. I cannot come down.
If you could learn that phrase and when opportunities arise or when temptations come if you could have that cemented in your heart. Oh, no. I know what the devil is trying to do here. He wants me side tracked. He wants me distracted. He doesn’t want me to stay the course and do what I know God wants me to do as a mother, a wife…as he wants me to do as a husband, a father, as he wants me to do as a worker, an employee, a boss, as he wants me to do as a Christian, a Church member, a Sunday school teacher, as he wants me to do here in this place or as a citizen. I am doing a great work. I cannot come down.
Oh, if you could get that in your hear this morning.
I am doing a great work.
Stay focused on what is important in life.
Hebrews chapter 12, verse one and two tells us that there is two things that can get us off track faster than anything else. One of them only Jesus can take care of. One of them is our responsibility. The Bible says in the New Testament that he likens this whole thing of wall building to running a race. He says that every one of us needs to lay aside the weights and the sin that does so easily distract and sidetrack us and run the race that God has for us with patience.
There are two things that will stop you at your wall building efforts in your life. Number one, what will stop you is weight and I don’t mean physical weight, although that is a good idea to get rid of that, too.
Listen to me this morning. Whatever you add to your life and whatever temptations come along that detract form or distract from what the primary issues of your life are at the time that you are at in your life, those are weights. And you can’t run a good race when you are weighted down. And so you need to watch out for whose responsibility is it to be very careful about the weights. Well, you pray for the wisdom of God and then you make good choices on the basis of what is wise for me in light of my past, in light of my future and what my future hopes are. What is the wise thing for me to do?
But the second thing is sin.
You say, “Well, what about that?”
Well, I am here to tell you that we are supposed to resist the devil and he will flee from us. But when it comes to dealing with sin and the penalty of sin there is only one person who can take that sin away. So what we do is we give our sin to Jesus and we commit ourself to the race. Do you understand that? We commit ourself to the wall. We give our sin to Jesus and we commit ourself to the wall.
Are you here this morning and you have never been born into the family of God? Are you here and you have never put all of your care on him? 1 Peter chapter five. Cast all your care on him because he cares for you. Have you never come to that Matthew 11:28 verse that says, “But now, O God, strengthen my hands.”? Have you never really lived out John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Have you never said, “Jesus, save me?” Are you trying by religion? Are you trying by some liturgy? Are you trying by good works to please God, to cancel out your sin? It will never happen. The only way that sin is taken away is by God showing his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
It happened to me when I was 12 years old. I understood so clearly that I was a sinner and that my good works meant nothing. My Sunday school attendance meant nothing. My Bible memorization meant absolutely nothing as far as canceling out my sin. And I heard a gospel message. It pricked my heart and pulled at me. And I went home and said, “Daddy, I want to be saved.” And Daddy knelt down at the couch and read to me John 3:16 and he said, “Do you believe that Jesus can take your sin away and that he died for you and that he rose again? Do you believe?” And I did. And I have never been sorry that I did.
You see, the two things that will get you side tracked in life, number one is your sin. And, number two, listen, are the weights that we add in our life.
I am speaking to two groups of people this morning. The first group is those that are believers in Jesus Christ and you are on the wall of life and you are building and you are battling and you are moving forward and you are doing the best you can and distractions come along. And you know exactly what I am talking about.
And you need to hear exactly what I have said this morning and you need to put it in practice in your life to be able to say, “I am doing a great work. I cannot come down.”
From time to time, not more than time to time, quite often, the phone rings and so and so says, “Well, pastor Phil, we would like you to come over and preach here or there or go to this church or go to that church and we would like you to do this, that or the other. And in my mind I am thinking, well, you know, I have been given a call of almighty God to be here for the people of Grace Church and to be available for them when they are sick and to marry their children and to just be a part of their life and God has called me to do this. And I cannot tell you how many times, right while they are asking me to do these kind of things…And it would be a fine and good thing to do. But while I am thinking about it, this verse of Scripture goes across my mind and I think I am doing a great work. I cannot come down. And I want you to know that I am here to pastor this church because I am doing a great work and I will not come down. This is what I am doing.
Do you understand what I am saying?
Are you a believer in Jesus Christ this morning? Then grab hold of whatever it is that God…for the reason for which God grabbed hold of you. Whatever he has called you to, whatever your assignment is and most of those assignments are normal assignments. Be a good mother. Be a good father. Be a good husband. Be a good wife. Grab hold of that thing. Put your focus on it and then determine in your heart: I am doing a great work. I will not come down.
For this nation, this city, this state needs a bunch of families that have committed to the great work of just simply being a loving, caring, godly lighthouse as a family.
Are you hear today and you don’t know Jesus? I invite you.
Would you bow your heads and close your eyes? I said I wasn’t coming down off the wall, but I am. I am doing a great work. I cannot come down.
Heads are bowed. Eyes are closed.
Transcription by Audioposting: ( HYPERLINK “http://www.audioposting.com/transcription.php” www.audioposting.com/transcription.php)
Nehemiah 6:1 (All Scripture references are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise indicated)
1 Corinthians 3:11-12
1 Corinthians 3:13-15
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