Page 290 was a day with no new photos — at least not yet — although the photo I chose for today’s page was taken last night on my way to bed after I had written yesterday’s page. 🙂 I found it fascinating that the moon, which has no light of its own, shines with such brilliance even on a cloudy night by actively reflecting the light of the sun. I wonder how well you and I do in actively reflecting the light of the Son, particularly on the cloudy days of our life. As I got up and around for church this morning, I realized that this week’s prayer guide had not gone out. I don’t know if there was a glitch in the system I use or if I forgot to schedule it, but I spent the Sunday School hour correcting whatever oversight there was so the prayer guide would go out to the mailing list — a little late, but hopefully all in good time for those who use it. The message during the church service today was another one in the series from the book of Nehemiah. The focus today was on finishing strong as we finally reached the point where Nehemiah writes that the work on the walls of Jerusalem was complete.
I love the story of Nehemiah and I use his example in some of the prayer teaching I do. Sometimes as you get into the story that is written down for us, it is easy to forget that this part of the story began with Nehemiah being the cupbearer to the king. It doesn’t begin with a prophet, a priest, a political leader, a military leader, or any other role that we may expect to find as the central figure in the rebuilding of the city walls of Jerusalem. His upbringing, his training, his experiences in life were not what anyone would have looked for in recruiting and hiring for such an important task — well, anyone but God! God called him to such a great work because he was a willing servant who didn’t just pray to fill time or to check it off his schedule, he prayed because it was an integral part of his life relationship with the living God.
The message this morning addressed two aspects of finishing strong that we find exemplified in the life of Nehemiah. The first is to live a life of perseverance. While the “gracious hand of his God” upon him made it appear easier than it actually was, the reality is that Nehemiah began, and finished, a great task even in the midst of opposition. While it might sound a bit simplistic, one of the necessary keys to finishing strong is to finish! When we’re involved in the work God has called us to, you can be sure that the enemy will try every tactic possible to get us to just quit. God says that the crown of life is given to those who finish the race — those who are faithful to the end. Nehemiah faced opposition from those who were enemies and from those who should have been friends. Often the opposition was relentless and would come with many twists and turns trying to get him to give up on the task God had called him to. Too often we like to think that doing the work of God ought to silence any opposition because who would oppose God. Yet pride takes up residence in the hearts of many and in doing so creates an opposition to the things of God.
The second part of finishing strong is what makes the perseverance possible — we must be persistent in prayer. From the opening moments of the book of Nehemiah where we find him receiving the news about how bad things are in Jerusalem, we find a persistent prayer life in Nehemiah. What remains unwritten, but visible by Nehemiah’s comfort in going to God in prayer, is the persistent prayer life that he had even prior to the events that we read about. Persistence in prayer doesn’t just happen and when bad news comes our way, the depth of our prayer life will typically reflect the depth that it had prior to the bad news. Granted, bad news may create a greater urgency in our prayer life and often leads to a growth in the persistence of it, but persistence takes practice and practice takes time, and time takes commitment. Ever step of the way, and often in the middle of each step, we find Nehemiah going to God in prayer. His persistent prayer life resulted not only in a finished wall, but in all of the surrounding peoples acknowledging that the work was done by the gracious hand of Nehemiah’s God.
I pray that you and I would seek to reflect God’s light no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in. I pray that we would understand the importance of remaining faithful to God. I pray that our desire to be found faithful would lead us to a life of perseverance. I pray that we would grow in a lifestyle of prayer so that persistent prayer would simply be our way of life.