“The Encouragement Of A Servant, Part 2” Nehemiah 4 10/28/01
SI: 2 Sundays studying Nehemiah 4, focusing on subject of encouragement
As Christians one of the most important things we ourselves need
and the most important thing we can give our fellow believers is encouragement.
The flip side of that is that one of the biggest problems Christians face
in pursuing God’s will is discouragement.
Few things will more effectively stop you from bearing spiritual fruit
Not just important to us as individuals, also as a church body
Need to be even more aware of it as we grow.
Larger, easier for discouraged Christians to slip through cracks
ineffective and unproductive in Christian life
Last week: Where do you get encouragement?
From Jesus Christ alone—prays for you, speaks to you, identifies with you
those discouraged—source of all encouragement not self, achievements, others
(though they may be the vessel)
Jesus Christ encourages you.
Today: How do you give encouragement? A command to all believers.
“encourage one another daily as long as it is called today.”
“let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the day approaching”
Must be a grace that characterizes the conversations of Christians
INTRO: Seminary homiletics “How can we encourage Andrew?”
Remember once a friend got that very comment, something we joked about
but another friend, more sensitive than I said, something is going on,
we need to talk to him—took him to lunch
Man nearing the end of seminary, more than half way, unusual talents, God’s call
wanting to quit, issues concerning his family so discouraging
encouraged him to stay the course, which he did
Nehemiah 4:6 says, “So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height,
for the people worked with all their heart.”
Very significant verse—all the opposition and hardship had not stopped them
or discouraged them, their hearts were strong, carried alone by conviction
that God was in this thing, following His will
Then, there is a shift in the mood—people get discouraged, we can’t finish this.
What caused their discouragement?
Lost their strength—physically exhausted, that feeds discouragement
Lost their vision—no longer see what God was doing, all they can see is rubble
Lost their security—status quo, not great but not threatening, step of faith
Lost their support—Jews told 10 times over, going to fail, so worried
Suddenly—the whole project is in danger of falling apart.
They needed encouragement.
Exactly what Nehemiah gives the people at just the right time.
He stands against this rising tide of discouragement and is not swept away
He does the very opposite, he encourages the people.
Keeps them from becoming paralyzed, after some adjustments, move forward.
As a servant of Jesus Christ, as one encouraged by Jesus Christ,
you are called to encourage your brothers and sisters in the faith.
You are to be, like Nehemiah, a vessel out of which Christ pours the encouragement
that He has poured into you through His Spirit.
Not going to give you steps for doing this—every case different.
Point out three aspects of encouragement that will show you its power
Encouragement is spiritual, true, and liberating
Encouragement is a grace of the Holy Spirit.
Holy Spirit uses encouragement to touch the hearts of redeemed people,
and strengthen them to do God’s will.
What I want you to see is that biblical encouragement is a deep and profound
thing that truly strengthens a Christian in his or her innermost being.
So he/she able to accomplish things for God that are otherwise impossible.
Don’t confuse spiritual encouragement with common, worldly encouragement.
Think of the way people use the term encouragement.
might refer to a coach’s pep talk at half time, or to a Hallmark card,
or even to a management technique to make people feel good so perform better
Nothing wrong with any of these things.
Just saying that spiritual encouragement is deeper and more profound.
I worked at the Wal-Mart in Muscle Shoals for two summers during college.
In the mornings, had to do the Wal-Mart cheer.
got everybody laughing and in a good mood
touched our emotions,
maybe for some went as deep as touching their will (I will work hard today)
but no deeper, no life change, no real strength in innermost being
Encouragement, biblical encouragement that we see Nehemiah practicing
is a grace of the Holy Spirit that touches the hearts of redeemed people
and strengthens them to do God’s will.
Want to show you this—to do so, going to look away from Nehemiah
to NT book of Acts. If one NT book mirrors Nehemiah, it is Acts
a great building project, building NT church, small and persecuted,
tremendous growth, and a similar ending—story is not over
Simply want to read you a few verses to show how important encouragement was.
How the Holy Spirit used it to enable God’s people to do great things.
Just listen, I won’t comment on each one
9:31 “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers.
11:23 “When (Barnabas) arrived (at Antioch) and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.”
14:22 “Paul and Barnabas . . . returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.”
15:32 “Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers.”
18:27 “When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him.”
20:2 “(Paul) traveled through that area (Macedonia) speaking many works of encouragement to the people.”
By the grace of encouragement, the church was built.
In addition, Romans 12:8 Paul lists “encouragement” as on of the gifts of the Spirit.
lists along with prophecy, teaching, leadership, mercy
Means that Christ has selected particular people in each church who are
abundantly gifted with encouragement, so important, gift of the Spirit
But every gift of the Spirit is also a duty.
Number of times in NT church member and pastors commanded to encourage.
1 Thess. 5 “encourage the timid” Timothy, Titus told to encourage.
Move back to Nehemiah. More than a pep talk, good leadership principles.
Encouragement a grace of the Holy Spirit that strengthens people to do God’s will
Long-term, spiritual consequences—do rebuild the wall.
Able to re-establish the community of faith in God of fathers,
out of this community the Messiah, Jesus Christ eventually came.
The encouragement you give is not a small thing. Not a rah-rah pep talk.
It is spiritual. It is a grace of the Holy Spirit.
It reaches the hearts of your discouraged brothers and sisters in the faith,
really and truly does strengthen them to do God’s will.
Sometimes see the results—friend, now using talents in a unique field
but often, results hidden and will be revealed in heaven.
MP#2 Encouragement is true.
Encouragement rests upon the character of God the Father Himself,
His past faithfulness and future promises.
It does not at all rest upon the character or abilities or record of the person
you are trying to encourage.
Once again, note how different this is from the worldly sense of encouragement.
Worldly encouragement says, “You can do it. Go get ‘em tiger.”
nothing wrong with that sort of thing as far as it goes, helpful in some situations,
has a much more firm foundation than the character of the people,
rests on God Himself.
When Nehemiah senses this change of mood, work in danger of being abandoned.
Immediately stops the work, calls the people to arm themselves,
Get the right picture here. Chapter three, all sorts of people building the wall.
Merchants, goldsmiths, perfume makers, city officials, priests, farmers
these are not stone masons, and certainly not soldiers, just average citizens
When arm selves with swords, spears, bows—a rag-tag group.
they have dug out the old 12 gauge shotguns and .22 rifles
Then he stations them at weak points, along with family members.
wives and husbands, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters are armed.
Then, gathers the rest of the people and gives this encouraging speech.
Don’t be afraid of them.
Remember the Lord who is great and awesome.
No Jew there could have missed the significance of Nehemiah’s words
and the significance of the setting.
Nehemiah is essentially repeating the words of Joshua when people
assembled to cross the Jordan
at that time too the people facing a well-armed foe, the Canaanites
After arming themselves, Joshua said—do not be afraid, Lord is great,
fight, and He will give us the victory.
Not only Joshua—many times in Israel’s history same words were spoken.
and God had always kept His word and brought victory.
God was true to His word—Nehemiah saying—true in past, true today
Reason why Nehemiah’s encouragement so powerful,
because it is based on the truth of God’s character, past faithfulness, promises
therefore able to speak with complete authority
Doesn’t say—y’all be tough, things not as bad as they seem, look on the sunny side,
He points people to the truth—that their God is great and awesome,
that therefore they had no reason to fear, that as they fight,
Lord would fight for them.
As you encourage your brothers and sisters in the faith,
if your encouragement is true—points to the character of God,
past faithfulness and future promises—you can speak with authority
You can be gentle but insistent that the discouragement and paralysis and gloom
is not right, you can urge and exhort them to be encouraged.
Remember some time ago I was discouraged by something that had happened.
Became gloomy over it, asked some very despairing questions—
Is my ministry over? Can God really use me? Am I just a fake?
Allison said, “Andrew, don’t you believe in sanctification?”
Though to self—I say I do. I’ve preached it. But I’m not believing now.
Because if I really believed that—
That God disciplines those He loves.
He who began a good work in me will carry on to completion.
All things work together for good to those who love God, called
I would have no reason to be discouraged.
As I though through, I was encouraged by the truth.
Emotions didn’t change that very minute. But I turned a corner.
Reason Allison able to encourage because spoke the truth.
She pointed to the character and promises of God Himself. Great sanctification.
If she had said, “What do you mean is your ministry over?”
“Baby, you’re the greatest, Go get ‘em tiger.”
probably still be in a funk
Encouragement, biblical encouragement is true. Rests on character of God.
Since it is true, you can speak with authority to encourage the discouraged.
MP#3 Encouragement is liberating.
Encouragement assures Christians that their lives are in Christ’s hands.
This is very practical because it frees them to step back from the thing that is
discouraging them, reassess it, make adjustments, and then to move forward.
Remember said earlier that encouragement is something that believers need,
and believers give to each other.
Why do Christians get discouraged? Because forget that lives are in Christ’s hands.
When forget, begin to think that in the matters of daily living, up to me.
It all depends on me. My effort. My persistence. If I step away will be ruined.
Sometimes God calls a Christian to bring rebuilding power of Gospel
to broken person, place, relationship—begin in complete reliance on Christ
every day, Lord, going to turn this thing over to You.
Then along the way, forget that this is in Christ’s hands, imagine in their own
soon burdened and discouraged because feel can’t step away
if they do it will all fall apart and be ruined.
Paul had to point that out to the Galatians, “After beginning with the Spirit, are you
not trying to attain your goal by human effort?”
Encouragement says, this matter is entirely in Christ’s hands.
His grace and power and presence no less operative now than the day you began.
do you need to step back? do you need to reassess and make changes? do it.
Look at Nehemiah. After the crisis passes with the enemies—resume the work.
This is to Nehemiah the most important work in the world, God’s work, calling
But resumes with some significant changes.
Only half the men are working, the others are standing guard.
The workmen are armed, this slows them down, only half as fast if that
Other changes, people with their families,
people staying in Jerusalem, going to homes outsides city, safety
would have required more meals, planning, further slowed work
Point is, Nehemiah is so confident that this work is in God’s hands
that God is going to accomplish this thing, able to step back,
say to these discouraged people, let’s make some changes
we are men with feet of clay, not supermen, need to slow things,
need to see families, need some visual assurances of safety
Yes, this is God’s will, very important, we have to work, not up to us.
Our lives, our work, our callings are in Christ’s hands.
Remember that as you encourage your brothers and sisters.
Maybe have a Christian friend discouraged over a person.
Lord has put this person in her life, conversations with person wearing her out,
getting nowhere, no significant changes, feeling worn down,
but feeling at the same time, can’t pull away, all will be ruined,
I’ll be giving up
Need to tell her, your life, your ministry to this person is in Christ’s hands.
success or failure not up to you, Christ has his hand on this person
May be time for you to reassess your ministry.
Can’t abandon this person, God has called you to minister to her
Time to focus on prayer and cut way back on these draining conversations.
Recognize your weaknesses, save your strength.
Do you see the freedom this brings? Calls for wisdom, careful assessment.
each case is different. Yet can bring with it refreshment and encouragement.
Remember with friends Charles and Julie Garland, Decatur Pres.
Talking about taking Mondays off to play golf, how important that was,
Julie—Charles, the devil doesn’t take time off.
Charles—The devil is not my role model.
Know of few ministers who take call has seriously as Charles
How many ministers have become discouraged,
ruined effectiveness, health, even family life
it’s all up to me, can’t take time off or the church will fold
because forget, this is in Christ’s hands