by Simon Presland
“In God we trust.” This familiar quote is imprinted on our coins and monetary bills, a constant reminder that God is truly Jehovah Jireh, our provider. Yet there is an ongoing movement to remove these words from our currency. Indeed, the movement aims to remove all references to God from public forums.
Christians have a right and a duty to stand up to the onslaught on our nation’s trust in God. Yet no matter what backlash we may face, there is a place where trust in God can never be eradicated—our hearts.
As persecution against our Christian faith grows, we can strengthen our resolve by reading about those in Scripture who faced tribulation, yet never wavered in their trust. Nehemiah is one who exemplifies the type of trust God desires us to have. Around 445 B.C., he led over 42,000 Jews back to their homeland (Nehemiah 7:66) and rebuilt the shattered walls around Jerusalem in an astounding 52 days (6:15). Nehemiah, a cupbearer to Artaxerxes, king of Assyria, a leader of his nation and servant of the Most High, prayed to God and trusted him for favor, protection, and success.
Trust in Prayer
Throughout the book named after him, Nehemiah shows that trust starts with prayer. The book contains 14 specific passages that point to his willingness to pray. (Examples include 1:4; 2:4; 4:4; 5:19; 6:9, 14; 13:14, 22, 29, and 31.)
A daunting task lay before Nehemiah, one only God could help him accomplish. We see this clearly in his prayer recorded in chapter 1.
• Nehemiah declared God’s sovereignty as Creator and ruler of all things.
• He then acknowleged God’s awesome power and greatness.
• Next, Nehemiah appealed to God as the one who keeps his covenant and his promise to love and watch over his people.
• Nehemiah then reminded God of his promise to gather his people from exile and bring them back safely to their homeland.
• Finally, Nehemiah reminded God that the Jews are God’s people, and that he is their redeemer, their might, and their strength.
Nehemiah’s prayer is built on his knowledge of God, the things he knows about God’s character, and the things he believes about his God. These provide a good foundation for our prayers; the more we know and believe about our heavenly Father, the deeper our level of trust in him will be.
The Scriptures tell us who God is, what kind of God he is, and what he has done for others. Our personal experiences tell us what he has done for us. Prayer draws us into a deeper relationship with God, knowing that God hears us as we pray according to his will (1 John 5:14, 15).
Trust for Favor
In order for Nehemiah to succeed in rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem, he would need the aid of the king and time to complete the task (Nehemiah 2:6-9). Nehemiah knew many dangers and obstacles awaited him in the country and territories he was about to pass through. Yet in his own words, “And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests” (2:8).
However, even before he spoke with the king, Nehemiah needed God’s favor on a personal level. As cupbearer to the king, it was unthinkable to display anything but a cheery countenance at all times. Yet Nehemiah’s burden for his country overwhelmed his senses.
Truly, if God decided to grant Nehemiah favor, it would start here. “So the king asked me, ‘Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.’ I was very much afraid” (2:2). To Nehemiah’s surprise, the king asked him what he wanted after hearing his concerns. It’s amazing that a foreign king would have shown such concern for a foreigner and a wayward country.
There are times when we need God’s favor—when we need him to influence a supervisor at work, a coworker’s heart, or perhaps our minister or ministry leader. In those times we must examine our hearts for our true motives. Are we more concerned about ourselves, or do we have a greater vision for others? Jesus told us to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness—his ways of being and doing—”and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). Like Nehemiah, when our hearts are focused on God’s interests, his favor will be focused on us.
Trust for Protection
The enemy will oppose any task we undertake for God’s glory. Jesus told us that Satan has come to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). He wants to steal our dreams, destroy our lives, and kill our trust in God.
Nehemiah faced strong opposition as well. Chief among his adversaries were Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite. When these men “heard this, it distressed them exceedingly that a man had come to seek the welfare of the children of Israel” (Nehemiah 2:10, King James Version).
In chapter after chapter we read of these two men scorning and ridiculing (2:19); throwing fits of rage (4:1); plotting to fight and cause confusion and failure (4:8); and writing slanderous letters (6:5, 6). Nehemiah, however, was not deterred or dissuaded. He trusted God for protection and stayed focused on his task at hand. As a result his enemies’ plans were exposed and God frustrated their purposes (5:15).
When we face obstacles, obstinate people, and adverse circumstances, it is easy to lose focus on God’s protection. I should never have started this. He intimidates me. I don’t have the resources or the ability to see this through. When these common refrains run through our minds we should remember the old saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
The apostle Paul asks, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31, NIV). Like Nehemiah, we must focus on God’s protection when the storms of life come against us. We must maintain a singleness of heart and purpose, and choose to trust in God’s protection as we determine to complete what he has called us to do.
Trust for Success
Paul observed that some plant and some water, but God gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6). No matter what task we want to accomplish, it is God who ultimately grants success. Yet we cannot predict when, where, or how successful we will be, nor can we determine what success will look like.
Nehemiah came to Jerusalem with the goal of rebuilding the city’s walls. He was surrounded by his own fears; he faced conspiracy, famine, poverty, discouragement, and more; but he was resolute in trusting God for success: “Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant” (Nehemiah 1:11); “The God of Heaven will give us success” (2:20); “Our God will fight for us” (4:20); “walk in the fear of our God”(5:9); “I prayed, ‘Now strengthen my hands’” (6:9). Ultimately, the walls of Jerusalem were completely rebuilt. Afterward the people gathered to hear the reading and explanation of God’s laws, making a covenant to worship and honor God only.
The repopulation of the city continued and Nehemiah instituted many reforms. As for Sanballat and Tobiah, they are never heard from after chapter six. Truly, God granted Nehemiah abundant success!
Will God always grant us success in all we do? It depends on our definition of success. If we grow in Christlike character during adversity; if we develop the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23) when interacting with tough-to-please people; if we learn to face trials and tribulations with joy and allow patient endurance to bring us to a place of wanting only God himself—as James chapter 1 teaches us—then he will grant us success. But if we define success through outward trappings—a job promotion, a new car, a bigger house, or gaining a new position at church—then we open ourselves to potential disappointment. Success according to worldly standards does not necessarily equate to success according to God’s standards.
Like Nehemiah, whatever task we take on, we must first trust God in prayer as we examine our hearts and acknowledge his sovereignty. Then we must look to God for protection and favor, trusting that he will grant us success according to what he has determined.
We can all be God’s modern-day Nehemiahs if we want to. All it takes is a little trust.
Simon Presland is a freelance writer in Clinton Township, Michigan.
Nonprofit Leadership in a For-Profit World
Nehemiah faced a daunting task in rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls. Yet with trust in God and a plan, he pursued his goal.
In a similar way, nonprofit organizations face a daunting task in a world that often has opposing values. If you are part of a nonprofit, how can you trust in God and make a difference that goes beyond the bottom line?
In Nonprofit Leadership in a For-Profit World, 15 leaders of significant faith-based nonprofits share insights, counsel, concerns, and aspirations for Christian leaders. Each leader discloses personal experiences, compelling stories, wisdom, and powerful insights from God’s Word.
Hear from leaders of World Vision, Campus Crusade for Christ, The Salvation Army, Prison Fellowship International, MOPS, Care Net, several Christian colleges, and more.
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