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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10:45am service, 2006-08-20

Text: Nehemiah 4:6-23

Our messages for this quarter are based on the theme, 'Arise and Build.' This theme actually comes from the book of Nehemiah (2:20), which describes how God led the people Israel in the task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. It happened at a time when the captivity of the Jews had already come to an end. They were allowed to return to Israel to rebuild their nation. Many Jews did return and they began to inhabit the villages in Israel. However, because of constant opposition from their enemies who lived around them, the progress of rebuilding the city of Jerusalem was greatly hindered, and the outer walls of the city in particular were still in ruins. 

But in the year 445 BC, ninety-four after the Jews were allowed to return, God raised up a man called Nehemiah to do this work. Nehemiah was a high ranking Jewish official who lived in the Royal Persian court. But he was sad when he heard news that the walls of Jerusalem were still in ruins. The Lord put a burden in his heart to pray for this need. After about 4 months his prayers were answered when the Persian King allowed him to go to Jerusalem. In last week's message Elder Lim spoke from Nehemiah Chapter 2 which tells us what Nehemiah did when he reached Jerusalem. After surveying the walls at night, he gathered all the leaders of the Jews together to share with them his burden for building the walls. What he said to them challenged them so well that without any hesitation they all said with one voice, 'Let us rise up and build.' (2:18)

Dearly beloved, that is the kind of spirit we ought to have when we do the Lord's work today - We must have a strong resolve to commit ourselves fully to the work. Today, the work is not just that of building churches or facilities as in the Beulah project. Our work is to also that of building up the lives of people spiritually. This work includes evangelism, discipleship and missions. Every precious soul that is saved from sin by trusting in Jesus Christ needs to be moulded and shaped through the process of spiritual growth to take their place as 'lively stones' in God's building. Dearly beloved, there is really so much that needs to be done in God's kingdom, and thus far we have only scratched the surface. And we should not allow any let up or delay in this work because precious souls are perishing out there even as we sit here listening to this sermon.

God wants us, His people today, to rise up and build His kingdom. In the same way that the Lord stirred up the hearts of the Jews through Nehemiah to work together to build the walls of Jerusalem, I pray that God will speak to us all through His Word to put our hands and hearts to His work diligently.

Here in Life B-P Church the work of building God's kingdom goes on through our Sunday School, through our Children's and Youth ministries, through the various fellowships and NBCs. It goes on through our Student Care ministry in 4 primary schools in Yishun and Bukit View, and through the weekly Kids Club ministry and Kota Tinggi Sunday School. It goes on through the various language services we have every Lord's Day - in Chinese, Filipino, Thai and Indonesian. It goes on through our quarterly Gospel Sundays, through the Sunday afternoon witnessing sessions in Bishan housing estate, and the Saturday night Street Evangelism at Orchard Road. The work of building God's kingdom also takes us overseas to the mission fields. It is accomplished by sending and supporting missionaries to serve in countries like Kenya, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand. 

I could go on and on describing more of the work of building God's kingdom. But I think that these that I have just mentioned will be sufficient to impress upon you the pressing need for this work to be accomplished. There is so much that needs to be done, but few who are committed to doing it. Dearly beloved let us not slacken in this important work. We must all arise and build the Kingdom of God while we are still able to do so, and while the door of opportunity is still wide open. For the night of God's judgment is fast approaching, and when it comes, no work can be done.

Now, if we are to rise up and build successfully, we must first understand that this requires commitment, dedicated service, self-denial and the willingness to make some necessary sacrifices. And we can learn much about these from the example of Nehemiah. Let us turn our Bibles to Nehemiah 4 again to learn five useful principles we need in order to build successfully. In this chapter we see that after God's people were mobilized to rebuild the city walls of Jerusalem, they began to face a number of different problems. But they eventually overcame the problems and completed the wall in just 52 days (6:15)! What was the secret of their success? 

There are 5 things they did which greatly helped them, and these are things we must now learn in order to do the Lord's work well. The first is:

1. Be Fully Committed to the Work (v.6)

V.6 'So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.' The most important phrase in this verse is the last one: The people had a mind to work. This means that they were fully committed to doing the work. They had the desire and firm determination to press on with it. They were prepared to make all the necessary sacrifices for it. In the rest of the chapter, we see how much the builders sacrificed - According to v.16, they even sacrificed their resting time. 'And it came to pass from that time forth, that the half of my servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the habergeons'
They worked in shifts, and when it was not their turn to work, instead of going somewhere to lie down and rest, they took up arms and kept alert for signs of enemy intrusion. According to v.22, they also sacrificed their comfort. They were so committed to guarding the work from being sabotaged at night that they stayed overnight at the worksite instead of going home to sleep on their nice comfortable beds. According to v.23 they did not even have the luxury of changing their working clothes, except to wash them. 

Let us learn this important lesson of doing the Lord's work successfully - We need commitment. We must have 'a mind to work' like those who built the wall of Jerusalem. Very often there are many members who are interested in the worship services and meetings and would come regularly. But it is often difficult to find members who are committed to do God's work, members who are willing to serve rather than to be served, who are willing to make some sacrifices for the work. Sometimes an appeal is made for members to serve in various church ministries - but few are willing to come forward and commit themselves to it because most of us are already too busy and preoccupied with our other pursuits in life. 

Dearly beloved, there is so much potential within our congregation to accomplish much more for the Lord than what is being done presently. The question is: Are we committed enough to this ministry? Commitment is the main ingredient needed to build up a strong and effective church. You must first of all be committed to Christ, as your Lord and Master. You should also be committed to obeying His Word that commands us to spread the gospel, to build up new Christians, and to minister to one another's needs. And you must be committed to the Church that God has put you in. to fulfilling the aims and objectives that God has given. You must be committed to participate in worship.

You should always be in God's House every week for the worship services and fellowship meetings, and not be absent if you can help it. You must be willing to bear some degree of inconvenience for Christ's sake. You must also be willing to work with others. This brings us to the second thing we need in order to do the Lord's work well:

2. Work Together as a Team (v.1)

This principle can be seen in the wall-building project of the Jews under Nehemiah. Look at v.1 and notice that it says: 'We builded the wall' (also in v.6, 9, 21). Nehemiah had realized that the task of building the wall could not be done all by himself. In chapter two we are told that he persuaded the other leaders to work together with him. He filled them with the vision until they all shared it and committed themselves to it, saying, 'Let us rise up and build' (2:18). From that point onward you will notice that Nehemiah did not regard it as his own project any more, but as the collective project of God' servants (see 2:20 'The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build.'). Even the unique method of building that was employed in chapter 3 illustrates teamwork - the wall was divided into 42 sections, and all sections of the wall were being built at the same time, each section assigned to a family or group to work on.

Let us learn an important lesson from this: As we build God's Kingdom, we need to work together. The tendency is for us to sit back and to let a few people run everything. But very soon the few who are working alone will feel tired, and when they find that the other members are not committed to the work, they will want to pass on the responsibility to someone else. Dearly beloved, it is far better to gain greater participation in the work. Let us build a good team spirit in Life Church where everyone has a part or role to play in building the kingdom of God. If you do not know where to begin, get to know others first to become part of the church network. Through such networking you and other members will soon become aware of areas where you can serve. 

During our church camp two months ago, all of us who were there had the opportunity to build bonds with one another through the WARM programme. All the campers were issued 30 cards to write their names, and to exchange with others. But the exchange of cards required an exchange of information as well, as there was space in each card for campers to write 2 things they learnt about the person whose name in on the card. The programme worked very well, as many of us now know more fellow Lifers than we knew before. Through this many are being integrated into the church network to find their niche or area of service. Now, we are thinking of how we can introduce this WARM programme on a wider scale, so that more Lifers can benefit from it. 

I believe that this will help all of us to feel that we are part of the team, and build up the team spirit in Life Church that is so essential for us to build God's kingdom together. Let us all endeavour now to serve Christ together, pray together and even to suffer setbacks together. Dearly beloved, there will be heartaches and difficulties in the Lord's work. These things must be expected. But there is strength to overcome them when these challenges are faced with a team spirit. Yes - there may be differences of opinion, but for the sake of doing the work, we must be prepared to lay them aside and move forward.

Coming back to our passage in Nehemiah, we see that the Jews who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem were faced with serious challenges from their enemies. This existed even from the very beginning of the work, when Nehemiah surveyed the broken walls (Nehemiah 2:10-12). He had to do this survey by night to avoid being seen by enemies. Soon after that hostility began when the enemies expressed their scorn on the whole project. In Chapter 4, we notice that their hatred grew worse as the project was underway. They hurled insults at the Jews (4:2,3) and they even conspired to attack them and sabotage the work. But these attacks never took place. Why? Because the Jews took all the necessary precautions to prevent them. From this we learn another useful lesson in building up the Lord's work:

3. Take Precautions to Prevent Problems Where Possible (v.2-4)

We all know the saying that prevention is better than cure. It is always good to have measures that will help to prevent problems from happening, rather than to deal with the problems when they come. Let us see what measures the Jews took. According to v.13, they armed themselves with weapons for defence. And they carried their weapons while they were building (v.18). They even devised an alarm system using people with trumpets positioned at strategic parts of the wall, in order to rally the Jews to the point where they are attacked. 

Now these measures must have taken a lot of extra effort to implement. And some of the people may perhaps have wondered if all that inconvenience was necessary at all. Sometimes this is the reason why those who are in the Lord�s work fail to take precautions: They do not feel that it is worth making the extra effort.

But when you are building up a church you need to have some safety measures to prevent problems later on. For instance in the matter of finances it is always good to have proper checks and balances. In the matter of doctrine it is good to have a statement of faith or constitution that is understood and fully subscribed by all who are in positions of responsibility. If such measures are not in place, the church may become an easy target for people who have an agenda to make personal gains, or to influence some members to depart from the church and its doctrinal position. 

One thing that we need to keep doing as a church is to maintain good contact with our members and keep them informed about things that are happening like sickness, bereavements, or retrenchments. For this purpose we publish this Thanksgiving and Prayer bulletin every week and update it. We also have an email prayer network that keeps members informed during the week about things that are happening, areas of needs, and other useful information. We have found this to be a quick and efficient way to rally people to help in things like Vacation Bible School, Church programmes, and to appeal for help and urgent prayer quickly. It has enabled us to pray more intelligently for people in our church who are going through a crisis. This brings us to the next lesson we will learn about doing the Lord's work:

4. Turn to God for Help when Facing any Problem (v.4,9) 

Prayer is absolutely necessary for success in building God's kingdom. Our passage in Nehemiah provides a very good demonstration of this principle: Look at v.9 'we made our prayer unto our God.' (The words 'we' and 'our' shows that this prayer was made corporately) The result of this is in v.15 'God had brought all their counsel to nought' It is God's work! And as we do the Lord's work we need to depend very much upon Him for everything - for direction, for motivation, for power to serve, and for facing problems.

This is why we have our weekly church prayer meeting every Tuesday night. Lately attendance at prayer meeting has declined to about 60-70. I would like to urge every Lifer to make an effort to come for corporate prayer, where we pray for members who are in need as well as for the work of God's kingdom in Life Church. The church can only move forward on its knees. This have prove time and time again to be the secret of success in building God's kingdom.

Throughout church history, great things have happened when God's people prayed fervently. In the 18th Century, the Moravian Christians were not a strong church - in fact they became refugees because of severe persecution and they fled from Bohemia to a place called Herrnhut in Germany and settled there. But they firmly believed that God works through prayer and so they designated one man and one woman to pray for each hour of the day by rotation. This prayer movement was used by God to build them into a great missionary movement. Between 1728 and 1778 (50 years), they sent out 165 missionaries to 26 different countries in N & S America and Africa. 

Besides the Moravians, there are many other great movements - not only missionary movements, but revival movements � that began with just a small group of believers who committed themselves to spend time together regularly in prayer. Like Nehemiah, they believed that prayer is essential to build God's kingdom successfully. Let us learn this lesson from Nehemiah and make our prayer unto our God, as v.9 says. Who knows how God will work in our midst when we commit ourselves to corporate prayer.

We have already seen 4 lessons from Nehemiah on building God's kingdom successfully. There is one more lesson we can learn from Nehemiah:

5. Help and Encourage One Another (v.14,19,20)

In doing the work of God's kingdom, it is always important to regularly encourage and motivate one another, especially when the church is facing problems. In v.14, we see Nehemiah doing this quite well 'And I looked and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers and to the rest of the people, Be not afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your houses.' And then in v.20, after giving the instructions to the Jews, he ended with the words, 'Our God shall fight for us.' What inspiring words there are - full of conviction and encouragement.

Nehemiah was an excellent encourager. Some people have the gift of doing this, and they should use it well. Notice the basis of his encouragement - Nehemiah directed the people to the Lord ('Our God shall fight for us.'). And that is the best way for us to motivate people to keep going on. Point them to the Lord. Let us realize that even a little word of encouragement you give can be a great help to God's work.

Missionaries on the field have often testified how they were much encouraged in moments of great difficulty to persevere in their labours from Christ, either through a letter filled with encouraging words, or through a member from their church who came to visit them while on a business trip overseas.

I trust that these five lessons that we have learnt this morning will help all of us to dedicate ourselves to be builders for the Lord. Dearly beloved, let us do all that we can to build God's kingdom while the window of opportunity is still open. May the Lord do a good and mighty work in our midst.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25