I recently lead a teaching time for a monthly call that Lead Like Jesus hosts for our leadership development facilitators. I spoke with them about Nehemiah. Years before, I had read a book by Warren Wiersbe – one of my favorite theologians – on Nehemiah and learned much about leadership.
Here’s some background on Nehemiah. The Children of Israel were divided into two Kingdoms when Solomon’s son, Rehoboam was king in 930 BC. The two kingdoms were Israel (consisting of 10 tribes) and Judah (consisting of Judah and Benjamin).
Jerusalem fell in 586 BC and Israel was exiled to Assyria where they learned to worship other gods, followed pagan practices and sinned against the Lord. Israel was stubborn and would not listen. Zerubbabel returned to Jerusalem in 538 BC to rebuild the Temple, Nehemiah returned in 445 BC to rebuild the walls.
Nehemiah is viewed as one of the great leaders and managers of the Old Testament. He led a group of Jews living in Judah to rebuild the walls and gates of Jerusalem in only 52 days! The length of the walls is 4,018 meters (2.4966 mi), their average height is 12 meters (39.37 feet) and the average thickness is 2.5 meters (8.2 feet). The walls contain 34 watchtowers and seven main gates open for traffic, with two minor gates reopened by archaeologists.
Here are twelve brief leadership principles from the book of Nehemiah.
1. He knew he was called of God
The worker who doesn’t have a divine calling to the work is like a house without a foundation or a ship without an anchor, unprepared for the storms of life.
Nehemiah started with a burden for Jerusalem, but the burden was not the call. He wept over the sad condition of the city (Neh. 1:4), but his tears were not the call. It was as he prayed to God and sought divine help that he received a call to leave his relatively easy job and go to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls.
2. He depended on prayer
The Book of Nehemiah starts and ends with prayer. And in between, Nehemiah often sends up quick prayers to heaven and asks for God’s help.
“Pray for great things,” said evangelist R.A. Torrey, “expect great things, work for great things, but above all, pray.” Nehemiah certainly followed that advice.
3. He had vision and saw the greatness of the work
Leadership involves vision, revision, and supervision; but the greatest of these is vision. Leaders must see what others don’t see and then challenge others to follow.
No matter what God has called you to do, it’s a great work because it’s part of the building of His church ; and that’s the greatest work in the world.
4. He submitted to authority
The call of God is not an invitation to become independent and ignore authority. Nehemiah respected the king and submitted his plans to him for his approval before he went to Jerusalem.
Even more, Nehemiah submitted to the authority of the Word of God. He invited Ezra to teach the Law to the people so that they too would obey the will of God. It is a basic rule of life that those who exercise authority must themselves be under authority. Nehemiah was a man who was dependable because he was accountable.
5. He was organized in his work
Instead of rushing impetuously into the task, Nehemiah secretly surveyed the situation and became acquainted with the facts.
He was simply a man willing to wait for God’s direction and then act as soon as the way was clear. He had a job for everyone to do and a place for everyone to work.
6. He could discern the tactics of the enemy
Every Christian ministry needs an “intelligence department” that keeps its eye on the enemy and recognizes when he is at work. Nehemiah was not fooled by the enemy’s offers or frightened by their threats.
Leaders must spot the enemy before anybody else does and be ready to meet him quickly and efficiently.
7. He worked hard
That seems like a trite statement, but it isn’t; for one of the secrets of Nehemiah’s success was his willingness to sacrifice and work hard.
There is no place in the Lord’s service for lazy people who give advice while they watch other people work.
8. He lived an exemplary life
Whether it was working on the wall or feeding hundreds of guests, Nehemiah’s life was blameless.
There is no substitute for integrity and the good conscience that goes with it. You can face any enemy, listen to any accusation, or confront any misunderstanding if you have integrity and a good conscience.
9. He sought to glorify God alone
Nehemiah was burdened because the city of Jerusalem no longer glorified God. It was a reproach. He determined to remove the reproach and give the Jews in Jerusalem cause to glorify God.
There is nothing good that God will not do for the worker who humbly serves and lets Him have the glory.
10. He had courage
There is no place for timidity in leadership. Once you know what God wants you to do, you must have the courage to step out and do it. You must be willing to take some risks and occasionally make some mistakes. You must be able to take criticism, be misunderstood, and even be slandered, without giving up.
Someone has said that success is never final and failure is never fatal: It’s courage that counts.
11. He enlisted others to work
True leaders don’t try to do everything themselves. They not only enlist others, but they also create the kind of climate that enables others to become leaders as well. Real leaders aren’t afraid to surround themselves with people who can do some things better than they can.
Leaders develop other leaders, because they know how to discern spiritual gifts and the potential in a life.
12. He was determined
Be determined! That’s one of the key messages of the Book of Nehemiah.
Nehemiah was determined because the work he was doing was a great work and he was serving a great God.
The church today needs leaders, men and women and young people, who will determine under God to accomplish the will of God, come what may. The church needs leaders who will say with Nehemiah, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down!”(Nehemiah 6:3)
I want to be able to say at the end of my ministry and my life, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given me to do” (John 17:4, NKJV).
So, the next time you feel like quitting, remember Nehemiah and stay on the job until the work is finished to the glory of God. Be determined!
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