The life you want isn’t found in the latest fad—whether the latest diet or exercise plan, the coolest tech, or the newest Christian quick fix. The life you want is actually interwoven into God’s glory.
But, how do you become captured by God’s glory? Let’s look at some lessons in an unexpected place—the life of Nehemiah.
In 445 B.C., Nehemiah, a Jewish man, is the cupbearer of Artaxerxes, the Persian king. In 586 B.C., the Jewish people had been exiled by Nebuchadnezzar so Nehemiah was living outside of Jerusalem as part of the diaspora. He was a man whom others trusted and was known for his integrity. He lived at the palace, ate the king’s food, and drank his wine.
But when Nehemiah learns of the plight of his people in Jerusalem, he risks his comfort and even his life to help restore the walls of the city. He leaves his comfort, but when he does he finds the life he had been looking for.
How can we become captured by the glory of God? Here are five lessons from the life of Nehemiah.
1. Let God move you deeper into his story.
At the beginning of the book of Nehemiah, he asks about the Jews who were returning to Jerusalem. He wanted to know how God’s people were doing. Does the scope of your concern only wrap around you and your family? We exist for God and his kingdom, and that is where we flourish and grow. When we are captured by God’s glory, we want to move deeper into his story.
2. Let what breaks God’s heart break your heart.
When Nehemiah hears of the great trouble and disgrace of his people he sits down and weeps: “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire. When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven” (Neh. 1: 3–4, NIV).
In the Middle Eastern context, shame and disgrace were very bad things. The news from Jerusalem cut Nehemiah to the heart. Does you heart break for the fact that 94 percent of churches in America are not growing? Does your heart break for the issues facing our world? Do you let what breaks God’s heart break yours?
3. Recognize that God will keep his covenant.
Nehemiah trusted God to keep his promises: “The God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love” (Neh. 1:5). God’s covenant of love is the one he made to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 to bless all peoples through him. This looks forward to the birth of Christ and his reconciliation of all people to himself. We, too, can trust God to keep his promises, to create one new people in Jesus (See Ephesians 2:14-16).
4. Pray repentantly.
Nehemiah gets raw and desperate in his prayers. He confesses his sins and sins of the Israelites. His prayers are for the people not himself. I wonder God would do if we got serious about praying for other people, for God’s kingdom, and his reputation. When was the last time you wept over your own personal sin? When was the last time you prayed for other people other than when they were sick? Remember the goal of repentant prayer is for the name of God to be honored.
5. Pray expectantly.
In verses 10–11, Nehemiah prays with confidence because he has already experienced answered prayer: “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand.” He remembers that God has redeemed his people out of captivity in Egypt and is asking God to do it again.
I wonder if more of our prayers would be answered if they were more about honoring God. If you and I focus our lives on honoring him, don’t you think he will take care of what we need? Why do we spend so much time praying about what we need? It’s a fundamental lack of trust. Do you truly trust him with every area of your life? Do your prayers and your walk reflect this trust?
What great things do you want Jesus to do in your life? If God answered this prayer, would only your life or your family’s life improve? If the answer is yes, your dream is too small. I would rather be accused of expecting God to do too much than be satisfied with a mediocre life.
God gave Nehemiah a dream so big that it mobilized a broken people to be rebuilt. I believe God is on the verge of rebuilding some broken lives.
Marinate on that.
For more about the life of Nehemiah, you can watch my recent sermon series “Rebuild.”