Have you ever known a person with excellent business skills who also happens to work with a humble dependence on God? Wait . . . is that even possible in the marketplace? Yes, these people really exist. Some run businesses, others serve in leadership roles within their companies, and some simply execute their particular job with exceptional proficiency and humility.
In the business world, the prophet Nehemiah would have been a real “player”. He had position and wherewithal as the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, the ruler of Persia. The cupbearer was a high rank in the royal court because he was thoroughly trustworthy, courageous, industrious and modest. After all, he must guard against poison in the king’s cup by swallowing some of it before serving it! His confidential relations with the king often gave him a position of influence. Nehemiah’s position also supplied him with significant authority and financial means (Nehemiah 5:8, 10,14,17). If I was performing a skills assessment on Nehemiah, here are some notations I would make:
First, Nehemiah was opportunistic. The Bible states that after becoming aware of the broken down condition of Jerusalem’s walls his heart was broken. His compassion led to four months of deep sadness; however, he didn’t just sit around and cry about the destruction of his homeland. The moment came when the king became concerned about why his servant was sad, and Nehemiah seized the moment. He was ready to apply his ingenuity and take the initiative. He told the king that he wanted to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls.
Second, Nehemiah was strategic. Some people read Nehemiah Chapter 1 (regarding his prayer and fasting), and automatically assume that God gave Nehemiah an instantaneous and supernatural construction plan. Working under God doesn’t allow passivity or laziness. Obviously, Nehemiah had spent months mulling over all the issues and process necessary to pull off this project (2:6).
Third, Nehemiah was savvy. He had knowledge, experience and confidence about accessing resources and pushing the right buttons. He knew how to obtain all the endorsements and approvals and how to secure the materials and funding required (Nehemiah 2:7-9). This included adequate military support to protect against sabotage!
Finally, Nehemiah was a servant leader. He recognized that there was no way he could succeed on his own, so he trusted God and mobilized people by casting a vision big enough for them to buy into and sacrifice for. The circumference of Jerusalem in his day was 33 stadia, which equals 4.5 miles. That would make the area within the walls of Jerusalem about 960 acres, 1.5 sq mi. Many archeologists believe that the walls of Jerusalem were about the same in Jesus’ day as Nehemiah’s day. “So I said to them, ‘You see the trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins and its gates have been burned down. Come, let’s rebuild Jerusalem’s wall . . . they said, “Let’s start rebuilding,’ and they were encouraged to do this good work.” (Nehemiah 2:17-19) I want to work on that kind of team!
These impressive qualities give us only a partial understanding what made Nehemiah tick. We see a devoted man who understood who God is and depended on His direction, blessing and strength. Nehemiah understood that all of the world’s resources and talent don’t ensure success. Listen to the humility of his prayer before meeting with the king: “ . . . Please, Lord, let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servants who delight to revere Your name. Give Your servant success today, and have compassion on him in the presence of this man.” (Nehemiah 1:11). He spent a long season in prayer before moving forward (Nehemiah 1:4-11), then demonstrated a moment by moment reliance on God. Nehemiah is an example of the complete package for a Christian worker. How does your work ethic and spiritual ethos compare today?
Serving Him with you in the marketplace,
God, I am seeking the right balance between excellent work and humble dependence on You. If I don’t acknowledge You in my endeavors, there is minimal pleasure or satisfaction to be found. When I bring all of my ambitions and activities into our companionship, you never fail to send me creative ideas and hope. So here I stand today, presenting you every business skill in me and opportunity in front of me—knowing full well, that they all originated with You. As Nehemiah prayed, “Give Your servant success, today.”
“But now we have a choice: whether to implode and disintegrate emotionally and spiritually as a people and a nation — or, whether we choose to become stronger through all of this struggle — to rebuild on a solid foundation. And I believe we are in the process of starting to rebuild on that foundation. That foundation is our trust in God.”
Billy Graham, “God Cares for Us”
National Day of Prayer and Mourning, Friday, September 14, 2001