At some point, we all start over. Sometimes it is because we have to. At other times, it is because we want to. We awaken to the realization that making a difference is better than making a living. Even if we have to begin again, it is better than continuing the repetitive, mundane existence that defines our lives.
The journey from making a living to making a difference is hard. But worth it. Years ago, a man named Nehemiah made the journey. The stops he encountered along the way are very similar to the stops you will also encounter...if you're ready to make a difference.
Stops Along the Journey:
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
Most of us are already aware of needs. But at some point, our hearts intersect our minds…our feelings catch up with our knowledge…and we discover passion. Rarely will you make a difference without passion. Have you ever tried to succeed at a task you cared nothing about?
Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king. Nehemiah 1:11
Prayers that make a difference are usually costly. Nehemiah was the cupbearer. He was making a great living! Just asking God to do this kind of thing, was risky. But without the prayer, nothing would change. When you pray, are you really willing to get a “Yes”?
The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Nehemiah 2:4
Once we take that first step, God often responds with confirmation. This doesn’t mean we will be spoon fed, but there will be an opportunity. The door may swing open, but we still have to walk through it.
…and I 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 that I can rebuild it.” Nehemiah 2:5
Nehemiah was not a builder. He worked for the king! Faith is moving without having all the answers. It is seeing what no one else sees. Sometimes doing something you’ve never seen.
Nehemiah gathered many of the people of Israel. He said, “Look around you. This is a disgrace. God’s gracious hand is on us. Let’s rebuild this wall.”
When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites. Nehemiah 2:10
…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? Nehemiah 3:2
They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat. Nehemiah 3:8-9
Your resolve will be tested. Making a difference seems exciting and rewarding. But if we are unwilling to make sacrifices, it exposes our selfishness. Not everyone will applaud your faith.
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
The people were done! It was too hard. Nehemiah was on his own. He did his best to persuade the people to hang on. But in his heart he knew it. The project was finished.
We often take risks with a nervousness...but also an inner belief that our risk will be rewarded. No one expects to fall…much less fail. But in terms of the plan that we had, well, it rarely comes to pass. So in some ways...we experience failure.
Nehemiah had a choice to make. Nehemiah could say he at least tried. He went further than most would have gone. It just wasn’t working out.
Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.” But they were scheming to harm me; so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” Nehemiah 6:2-3
What he was doing was too big and he had gone too far to stop then.
After the 5th attempt to distract Nehemiah, he sent back another reply.
I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.” Nehemiah 6:8-9
The only thing left to do was kill Nehemiah. Word came to him that assassins were on their way. His friends pleaded with him to go inside the temple and hide!
But I said, “Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” Nehemiah 6:10-11
He decided to keep building the wall. And in doing so, he inspired the others to continue.
So many times, we give up without realizing we are only one step away form the final stop:
Then THE DIFFERENCE
So the wall was completed…Nehemiah 6:15
“What defines us is not how we fall, but how well we rise after falling.” – Inky Johnson