Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White
Sunday 26th September 2021
It’s great to be back – again…
Some of us got caught up in the Lismore lockdown last week – but we’re all good now!
I didn’t think one visit to Lismore for a skin check would land me in stay at home rules for a week.
You know – my thinking over the last year and a half has been – if we can just get through this chaotic time with the church still in tact – I will be very very grateful. It will be a miracle!
I’ve honestly thought – If we can maintain what we have and relaunch with a fresh sense of faith and vision for the future, once we’ve come through – then we will be doing great!
I think most of you have probably felt the same.
But I had a bit of a shift in my mindset this week. As often happens, I sensed the Holy Spirit nudging me. I didn’t hear an audible voice – but I just got this clear and sharp thought or impression – to have a look again at Nehemiah! That this is a time for building!
Building? How on earth do we build something when we’re in and out of lockdowns – people are struggling to stay on top of things – and navigating territory that we’ve never been in before?
We are literally taking things one day at a time.
But the more I looked into Nehemiah’s story – and the way people responded in the midst of all the challenges they faced – I thought – maybe the Holy Spirit is right… Who would have thought?
You actually couldn’t find a better example of when God’s people were displaced – where all that was familiar to them was gone – their city was destroyed – their temple was destroyed – the walls were in ruins…. Most of them were living in a foreign land under foreign rule.
I know we’re far from that kind of devastation – but sometimes I feel like we’re living in a foreign land under foreign rule too – but that’s another story.
God had a plan in getting Israel out of captivity.. He had certain people positioned in strategic places – people like Nehemiah who had such heart for the people of God – and God placed upon that heart an intense desire to restore the broken down walls of Jerusalem and to see the people restored to their homeland and a place of security.
And I know we all know the story – but I really want to look at this again in the light of what is going on for us as the church, particularly in the midst of a pandemic.
Because it was far from smooth sailing for Nehemiah and the people.
The favour and the provision that Nehemiah obtained from the foreign king that he served was incredible. He was given everything he needed to rebuild the walls.
We’ve had incredible favour as a church and as a people too. God has been extremely good to us.
New King James Version
“So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.”
So things were going amazingly. All the different people with their gifts and abilities worked together as one. It really is the picture of how the church is meant to be – building together – everyone using their gifts to serve and to build people’s lives.
And I have found that when we have consistent, steady seasons of life here at Seacoast, there is a momentum that builds. When you get faith filled, Spirit filed people together in one place with one vision – and things are healthy – then growth, increase and building comes.
It’s hard to define Momentum. It peaks and wanes. Sometimes you cant’ even work out why it goes in either direction. But when things are stable – our focus on what we are really here for seems to become unified – then the church builds.
It’s like the parable of the farmer who plants seed. Waters it. Nourishes it. He goes to sleep at night and the next morning he sees the plants begin to grow. But he doesn’t himself know how it happens. I love that about creation but I love it also about life generally.
So things are going really well for Nehemiah too. There’s momentum in the building.
But do you think the enemies of Israel were thrilled about it?
They mocked God’s people – they threatened to attack them – they intimidated them…
And the momentum waned in the building of the walls.
New King James Version
“Then Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall.”
And this is a little bit like things have been for us.
We’re all still here. We are all one in our vision to see the church become all that God has destined it to be – and to see souls saved and the Kingdom of God expand and increase.
But an enemy has distracted us. Covid-19 has forced its way into our lives. It has intimidated some – brought fear and anxiety upon others. Not just from a health perspective – but affecting many areas of our lives.
At the very least it has arrested the momentum that we had been experiencing.
Why would God allow that to happen?
Why would God allow any of the bad things in our lives to happen?
Isn’t that the 64 million dollar question?
We just want to get on with living – with doing what we’re good at – what we are committed to do – and yet sickness, financial stress, relationship issues, mental health issues…. These things seem to hinder us from getting on with the building.
Nehemiah’s story continues…
New King James Version
“Therefore I positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. 14 And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”
What great wisdom from Nehemiah.
He knew how to position the people. He had strategies to stand against the opposition. And he said – do not be afraid. Remember the Lord, great and awesome! And remember – you are not just fighting for yourself, you’re fighting for those that you love.
We need to be fighting for one another in prayer – spiritual warfare – as we see the struggles and trials that those around us are facing.
New King James Version
“And it happened, when our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work. 16 So it was, from that time on, that half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows, and wore armor; and the leaders were behind all the house of Judah. 17 Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon.”
So eventually they got back to the work – but it was a much slower and more arduous task than before. Only half of them worked while the others stood guard. And those who actually worked had a tool of construction in one hand and a weapon in the other.
Now this was God’s work! You would think – naturally speaking – that it would have been so much more efficient and effective work in building if they just didn’t have to deal with all the distractions.
They were wasting so much time…. Well, it seemed on a natural level to be a waste of time. But was it really?
Here’s the whole point of me reminding you of that story again – because it’s not that long ago that I brought Nehemiah to you.
God wasn’t just building a wall! That’s the whole point!
The wall was important – it became a breakthrough time for Israel.
But even more important than the building of the wall, was the rebuilding of the people.
They had experienced oppression, defeat… they would have been discouraged, broken, lacking in hope, and lacking in faith. That is what exile would have done to them.
So God is now not only reestablishing their land – their walls of security – their homes… He was rebuilding within them faith in Him – faith in the future – faith to believe that their children would have a future and a hope.
They found that as they worked together – stood together – shared the load and the responsibilities – trusting in God again – and seeing the enemy cower and be overcome…. This was establishing in their heart and spirit a renewed strength and confidence in God’s protection.
And I can see how God may be using these uncertain times – times of upheaval – of locking down – opening up – restrictions… He wants to build within us, as I preached about a couple of weeks ago – a resilience – a renewed faith for our future – as we lean into Him and trust in Him above everything else going on around us.
Resilience is all about the ability to bounce back. And Israel was definitely bouncing back from a very difficult and dark season in their history.
God didn’t just want walls built to contain a city… He was building a people of faith, with renewed passion and vision, to live within those walls.
Psalm 127:1-2. The Passion Translation
“If God’s grace doesn’t help the builders, they will labor in vain to build a house. If God’s mercy doesn’t protect the city, all the sentries will circle it in vain. It really is senseless to work so hard from early morning till late at night, toiling to make a living for fear of not having enough. God can provide for his devoted lovers even while they sleep!”
And God did provide – right from the moment this vision was planted in Nehemiah’s heart.
And it’s that spiritual reality that God was now placing within His people as they witnessed the power of unity – the holding back of the enemy – and finally the completion of their work.
What is He doing in you in this season? Is He causing you to run into His arms? To lift your faith and trust in Him – so that your faith is on a much higher plane than the limitations of a State or a Federal government – the effectiveness and safety of a vaccine – or the ability of health orders to protect you?
I’m not speaking against any of those things – I’m simply saying – in times of uncertainty and roller coaster rides – God is building within us something strong and steadfast – and renewing faith and trust in Him.
We will have a tremendous church at the end of all this. But that’s only because we value what He is doing in us on the journey to get there.
God is building His church and the gates of hell and of Covid will never prevail against it.
And His church isn’t the natural things like buildings. It’s you and I – and all those who are yet to join us.
I shared with you last time that I preached on Nehemiah about when the walls were finished and they had a time of celebration – and the Word of God was read out over the whole assembly – the people wept – they were overwhelmed by God’s Word and His presence.
Can you just imagine? They were hearing the Word together for the first time since their captivity.
But you see – that’s what God was wanting to build in them again… the sacredness of the Word – His faithfulness to them in the midst of their struggles and suffering. They were overcome with His glory. That was worth way more than any physical wall.
1 Peter 1:6-9. NKJV
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”
Right now is our time of rejoicing – with joy inexpressible! Yes, we are grieved by various trials. There is a grief in what we are seeing around us.
But honestly – doesn’t the Word of God say that we are of another realm? We are only passing thorough this planet as it is right now.
Our eyes are on the glory that we share with the Father and the Son, as it says in John 17.
Let’s glory in the revelation of Jesus Christ. That is our anchor in life.
Whatever you believe about what’s happening in the world – there’s something so much more important that we all believe in together – something that unites us in faith – and that is that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Saviour of the world.
The testing of your faith, as Peter says, is much more precious than the refining of gold.
It’s difficult to think that what we experience in life – not just Covid related experiences – but having to face all kinds of hard circumstances and seasons…. To think that these things are refining us to be even more precious than gold…. But that’s really what is happening.
It’s a great time for us to be meditating on Heb 11, and those that have victoriously gone before us – living by faith.
New King James Version
“By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”
We need to be framing everything by the word of God! The Word is what finally transformed the hearts of the Israelites. And we believe for the Word to continue to transform their hearts – and ours.
But it’s a good time time to build our faith through Hebrews 11 again.
New King James Version
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
Seek Him by doing whatever it takes to draw you closer – but definitely seek Him through His Word.
Are you growing from the Word? Let it wash over you like fresh, invigorating, saturating water?
What we are being tested by now is only the beginnings of what is ahead – and it’s the Word of God that will anchor us – as we are washed in the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 11 mentions many of the hero’s of the fatih.
Abel, with his sacrifice to God – proving his righteousness.
Enoch, the one who did not see death but was simply taken up – his testimony was that he pleased God.
Noah, with godly fear, prepared an ark to save his household – and became an heir of the righteousness of God according to faith.
Abraham went out with his whole family – by faith – not knowing were God was taking Him. But he was ultimately waiting for the city that had no foundations – the city whose builder was God.
Sarah, received strength to bear a child – even in her old age – because she judged God faithful to His promises and His Word.
It goes on and on…
Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, David, Samuel…
These have all gone before us – walking in faith and righteousness according to the Word of God!
What about us? Imagine each of our names being read out as men and women of faith and righteousness too – because we also came through seasons of life that challenged us.
Some of you have been through fires… some are going through very real struggles even now.
And praise God – I also know that your hearts are still full of praise and glory.
But let’s hold each other up. Let’s be the church as it’s meant to be.
It may be that some will obtain a good testimony through faith without seeing the promise we expect…. But so did these ones I’ve just mentioned. The reality is – God has something way more perfect for all of us.
And that’s what we need to keep our eyes upon.
Looking up – watching and waiting for that magnificent white horse.
On his back will be the One who is Faithful and True.
His eyes will be like a flame of fire.
He will be clothed with a robe dipped in Blood.
His name is called the Word of God.
There’ll be armies of heaven surrounding him – and He’ll have on His robe and His thigh a name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
I started out – actually, my main message this morning is about God building us as a church in ways that we might not at first understand. He’s building faith, steadfastness, stability, strength…. Aspects of our soul and spirit that will be an anchor for our future.
But I’m also saying, as I have in my last couple of messages – it’s about having that revelation of Jesus Christ before us every moment of every day.
He is Faithful and True.
Many of us question what is faithful and true about this world – but in Jesus Christ we have exactly what we need.
The refining of our souls is even more precious than that of gold.