I am not a spatial person. Please don’t ask me how far it is from the house to the curb. I have no clue. No one has ever asked me to help them build a church… a house…or even a backyard shed. The best I can do is to stand still and steady the ladder. Building is not my gift.
When Nehemiah called for the people of God in Babylonian exile to return to Israel and rebuild Jerusalem, he wouldn’t have been excited to see me join the ranks. However, he was a brave man, and when God called him to ask the king of Persia for permission to return to his heartland and reconstruct the crushed city, he trusted God would provide. I would have been excited to join in the project, but I’m sure Nehemiah was counting on God to provide those who were skilled in addition to those who were enthusiastic.
When Nehemiah and the Jewish refugees returned to Jerusalem, he quickly evaluated the situation and sought to rally his forces. “He sought to gain the confidence and sympathy of the people, knowing that a union of hearts as well as of hands was essential in the great work before him.” (PK 637). Nehemiah was passionate about the work God had so miraculously provided for him, and his energy was contagious. “Each man became a Nehemiah in his turn and helped to make stronger the heart and hand of his neighbor.” (PK 638)
But some of the residents of the land were furious about the return of the exiles. When their negativity and discouragement did not stop the efforts of the builders, the enemies of the Jews began threatening their lives. The builders worked with one hand while holding a weapon in the other, buoyed up by Nehemiah’s firm promise that “The Lord will fight for us!” (Nehemiah 4:20). “And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built.” (Nehemiah 4:18). The troubles didn’t stop there. Satan found a variety of means to divert them from their course. Yet the work went forward. The city was rebuilt and repopulated.
And the power of God was magnified to all who were watching. His children in every land.
Building a community of believers has much in common with Nehemiah’s experience. The work is hard. The laborers are diverse—some more skilled than others. And the enemy is intent on doing everything he can to initiate differences, discouragement, and stopping the work. As we come together in community each week, we must remember that we are not just there to build but to stand against the enemy. The sword of God’s word must be in our hands…and hearts. How can we expect everything to move smoothly when the outcome we seek is the salvation of God’s children…precisely what Satan is trying to prevent? To focus on building without being prepared for a battle with the enemy is simply naïve.
As we come together in community each week, we must remember that we are not just there to build but to stand against the enemy.
Some of us are not spatial. We all have different gifts, skills, and insights. But God has called us to a union of hearts and hands for the essential work of building a safe place for all the children of God.
And all of those among us can enthusiastically steady the ladder.