Day 4 – A burden that builds
One thing I remember clearly about living in Haiti was the sound of construction. So much constructing! It was a wonderful thing. Daily we would walk in the village around our guesthouse and greet a myriad of neighbors and workmen laboring away on a home.
The sounds of construction are more than the sounds of hard work. They are the sounds of a life being built. A family being born. Of hope and of good health and the stewarding of God’s resources. Constructing means action and planning and progressing to something else, another season, another chapter of life.
When you look at building in the Old Testament, you will find many passages about building altars, homes, or a city. It is beautiful that all these primary structures still focus on connection and community among people. Through time, God has sustained his people as a people….together, connected, needing and blessing one another, through community.
Perhaps, one of the best examples of this is found in the Book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah had a dream. A God sized dream.
Well, actually, first, Nehemiah had a burden.
A God-sized burden.
Nehemiah 1:3-4 –
“And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”
Nehemiah’s heart broke for those experiencing shame. His heart broke for the people and the city and the weight of sin that brought the present situation. Nehemiah’s burden did not go unnoticed. God opened a door through King Artaxerxes. He received supplies and people and headed out on a mission. A mission to build.
Smooth, you say? Not so smooth. Building up, although prompted and blessed by God, is not without its challenges, Nehemiah found out.
Read Nehemiah 4:1-6 –
“Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!” Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders.
So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.”
A giant paragraph of bullies…but a prayer before God and a mind to do the work was a game changer the bullies never expected. Nehemiah and the people built anyway. They built with eyes fixed on a God, who is the very foundation of anything we even dream of building up.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 tells us that we fix our eyes on what is unseen, but is anything but temporary. We’ll look at the NIV for its clear word picture –
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
Nehemiah and the people built one another up by fixing their eyes, not around them, but above them. Nehemiah and his compadres went through a life changing move, jeers and mocking, a tender heart put to the test, and actual life danger.
But in the end, all that mattered was God’s faithfulness lived out, in hands ready to put hammer to nails and hearts to prayer.
Nehemiah 7:66, tells us that Nehemiah’s project built up over 40,000 people in the Lord. I’m not sure Nehemiah had that great a number in mind. He was just a guy with a burden.
A God-sized burden.
Because of God’s work lived out in Nehemiah and the people, the Feast of Booths was created and celebrated, the Law was read to these 40,000 people in a way that they understood it (read Nehemiah chapter 8, totally worth the time!), and eventually the temple was rebuilt, God’s presence with His people once again.
What is your God-sized burden? It need not be a city wall to be built. Maybe you desire for your precious child to follow Christ with their whole heart, or your husband to be filled with renewed joy in his work, or people to gather in your home for Bible study, or nursing home residents to be given a tiny gift of comfort.
Ephesians 4:15-16 tells us that building is the work we are given in the Body of Christ –
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
Go and build, dear one. This is God’s work in and through you. This is the church on earth at work, together. Driven by one God-sized gift…Love.
Nehemiah loved God and His people. He allowed His heart to be weighed down and stretched out, so that God’s ideas and God’s love could fill it up. Building a home, building a family, building up the church. May He bless your God-sized burden for Him today and always.
What burden have you carried or are you currently carrying for His work?
What challenges do you face in carrying out this work?
What do you pray when you come before God about this burden?