The Great Work God Has Called Us To, and the Good Hand of God to Help Us Do It - Radical

The Great Work God Has Called Us To, and the Good Hand of God to Help Us Do It

The church has been tasked with reaching the next generation with the gospel and with reaching the nations with the gospel. Both of these aspects of the church’s mission have eternal implications, and both can feel overwhelming. In this message from Nehemiah 2 by David Platt, we’ll see that the great work God has called us to is possible, but only with the good hand of our God working in and through us. As we seek his face and rely on his power, we are strengthened and sustained in the great work of making disciples of all nations.

If you have a Bible—or somebody around you does that you can look on with—let me invite you to open with me to Nehemiah 2. Feel free to use the table of contents if you need to. It’s good to be together around God’s Word. If you’re visiting with us, my name is David Platt, one of the pastors here. We are really glad that you are here.

I am thrilled about this journey we’re taking through the book of Nehemiah in the Bible, and specifically what I get to show you today in Nehemiah 2. I’ve titled this sermon “The Great Work God Has Called Us To and the Good Hand of God to Help Us Do It.” Yes, that’s an almost 20-word title, Now I don’t presume you actually care about sermon titles. Honestly, I don’t either. But the reason I’m telling you this one is because I want to connect the dots today with where Mike started us in this series. A couple of weeks ago, Mike led us to ask what could God do—in our church, in our lives, in our day—to reach a new generation with the gospel and to gather Christians together, not because we all look like each other, think like each other, nor that we have the same preferences or positions on everything. What would it look like to gather around Jesus, then together to reach this city for Jesus, one of the most significant and influential cities in the world, and from here to impact people among the nations for Jesus through our lives? Mike said, “That’s what we’re going for.” 

Let me unpack this sermon title for a second here. I believe this is a great work that God is calling us to. And by ‘great’ I mean both awesome great and hard great, meaning we need the good hand of God to help us do it. So let’s think about reaching the next generation with the gospel of Jesus. 

As a side note for those of you who are visiting with us, this word ‘gospel’ means good news. It’s the greatest news in the world that God has made each of us for eternal life in a relationship with him. The problem is each of us have sinned against God. We’ve turned aside from God and his ways to ourselves and our own ways, so our sin has separated us from God. The reason we see all the sin, evil and suffering in this world is because we’re separated from God. If we die in this state of separation from God, we’ll spend eternity separated from God in judgment due our sin. But the good news is that God loves us so much that he has not left us alone here. God has come to us in the person of Jesus, who lived a life with no sin. Even though he had no sin for which to die, he chose to die on a cross to pay the price for sinners. Then he rose from the dead three days later so that anyone, anywhere—no matter who you are or what you have done—if you will put your trust in Jesus to save you from your sin as the Lord of your life and turn from your sin, God will forgive you of all your sin and restore you to relationship with him forever. 

If you have never put your trust in Jesus, we invite, we urge you to do that today. Believe and receive this good news in your life. Then when you do, and for all who have, as a church our mission together is that we exist to spread this gospel right around us, amidst what Mike has described as increasing secularization, diversity and polarization in our culture, as well as to the next generation that is increasingly distanced from the church. If you look at the stats from every angle, the church is hemorrhaging young people. 

I read an article this week titled, “The next generation is leaving the church earlier than you think.” Even those who are in the church,  70% will disengage from the church when they graduate from high school. Surely we’re not content with that: 70% of our kids turning away from Jesus in college? Seven out of ten? 

I so love what Mike shared about students seeing MBC as their church. Not their parents’ church or their grandparents’ church, but their church, a place they want their friends to come and see what God is doing, a place where they find the fire of their fate fueled, not just a couple times a year in a camp setting, but every single Sunday when we gather together. That’s great work. That’s awesome, hard work. And not just reaching the next generation, reaching the nations, starting right here in our city. 

I’ve been travelling a bit the last couple weeks, which has meant a variety of Uber rides to and from the airport. In just the last two weeks, I’ve been able to share the gospel, inviting people to our church, with two people from Pakistan, two from Afghanistan, one from Turkey and one from South Sudan. These are people God has brought to my house during just the last two weeks from the nations. We have so many opportunities to reach the world for Jesus from right here in this city, and then far from here. 

Let’s revisit this map that I hope is familiar to us. The red zones represent approximately 3.2 billion people who right now do not have a Christian or a church near them who can share the gospel with them. Every week we send each other out with the reminder that Jesus has told us to go and make disciples of all of them, starting right where we live here. We have opportunities to share the gospel with the nations here and the nations far from here. That’s awesome, hard work that God has called us to. 

Now here’s the problem. Follow this. The problem is if you are not careful, you can hear about this great work to reach the next generation, to reach people in our city and around the world; you can hear about this work and be so overwhelmed by it that you don’t do anything about it. Let’s think about how possible it is, if not probable, for so many people to think, “I’ve got so much going on in my life, what can I really do about the next generation and this city, let alone 3.2 billion people among the nations?” You can subtly, almost unknowingly, buy into the lie from the pit of hell that says, “Since I can’t do everything, I can’t do anything.” 

This is what I love about the book of Nehemiah. It’s a story about one guy who looked into the face of massive need—the broken walls around Jerusalem—and the great work it was going to take to rebuild them, then he said, “I’m not going to ignore this work.  I’m not going to excuse myself from this work. I’m going to do something about it.” As we’ve seen, Nehemiah was not a preacher. He wasn’t a prophet. He wasn’t a pastor. He wasn’t a paid church staff member. Nehemiah was just a guy in the marketplace who decided, “I have a part to play in the great work God wants to do in my day.” 

That is my prayer for every single Christian within the sound of my voice right now, for every single member of this church—from the teenager to the retiree to the consultant to the stay-at-home parent—that you would realize you, right where you are sitting now have a part to play in this great work God has called us to, altogether. Sure, none of us can do this work alone, but God hasn’t called us to do this work alone. He’s called us to do this great work together and has promised his good hand to anyone who does it. I want to challenge you, by the power of the Spirit of God in you, to play your part. 

I know that some of you are carrying heavy burdens in your heart and life right now, bringing them into this gathering. You’re walking through a variety of things. I’m with you. But here’s the deal: by God’s grace, we’re carrying those burdens with the gospel in our lives, with the hope of Jesus in our hearts. We’re talking about a generation and a city full of people who don’t have this hope amidst what they’re walking through. We’re talking about three billion people who’ve never even heard of this hope. So by God’s grace, let’s press into this gospel hope with all our hurts, spreading this gospel hope in a world full of people with hurts who can only be healed by Jesus. Let me show you this in Nehemiah 1. 

In chapter one, he heard about the need for the walls to be rebuilt around Jerusalem, but he was hundreds of miles away in the Persian palace, working as the king’s cupbearer. So he started praying and fasting. Then watch what happened. Let’s read the whole chapter,  then think about our lives and the work God has called us to in light of it. Nehemiah 2, beginning in verse one: 

1 In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.” And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.

Then I came to the governors of the province Beyond the River and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen. 10 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel.

11 So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days. 12 Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. There was no animal with me but the one on which I rode. 13 I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal that was under me to pass. 15 Then I went up in the night by the valley and inspected the wall, and I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. 16 And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, and I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest who were to do the work.

17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” 18 And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work. 19 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” 20 Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.”

Okay, I want to show you seven steps that Nehemiah took to accomplish this great work God was calling him to. We’re just going to fly through them. 

Pray and Fast

The first two we’ll cover together. Number one, pray. Number two, fast. That’s what Nehemiah 1 is all about. We’re not going to review Mike’s lesson from last week on “The most productive people are the most prayerful people.” What a great line. The most productive people are the most prayerful people. 

Here’s the deal. Nehemiah 1:1 started in the month of Chislev. That’s when Nehemiah heard about the need in Jerusalem and was broken over it. So he started to pray and fast. Then Nehemiah 2:1, what we just read, takes place in the month of Nisan. From Chislev to Nisan was four months. So for four months, Nehemiah prayed and fasted. That doesn’t mean he didn’t eat or drink at all during the whole four months. It means he was continually praying and fasting for four months before he did anything. 

You know what’s interesting. Right before this book of the Bible, Ezra did the exact same thing. Before he led God’s people back to Jerusalem, he declared a fast to pray for protection. Then right after this in the next book of the Bible, Esther does the same thing before she goes in to the king to try to save God’s people. She calls everybody to pray and fast for three days. So here are three stories back to back to back in the Bible of people who attempted to do great work;  they all started with praying and fasting. They were not about to try this great, awesome, hard work without first falling on their faces, setting aside food and praying for God’s help. Which leads to a third step Nehemiah takes.

Plan

Nehemiah plans. At some point during his fasting and praying, he realized, “I can do something about this problem.” So if you’ve ever prayed for something and God says, “I’m going to answer that prayer through you,” yet you wonder, “Wait. I was just praying.” God says, “No, you are the answer to that prayer.” 

So Nehemiah started planning. He knew he had an audience with the Persian king, but he also knew he could not just outright say, “Ah, King, I’d like you to give me a really, really, really long vacation to go restore a city that, by the way, you at one point decreed should not even have a temple in the middle of. How does that sound?” So Nehemiah had to devise a plan first to get the king to initiate a conversation with him. He was cupbearer, not conversation maker with the king. Nehemiah knew it was forbidden for the cupbearer to be sad in the king’s presence, meaning it would be risking his job and potentially his life to do so. But Nehemiah didn’t know another way. That was Plan A; there was no Plan B. 

Then think about later in the chapter when we see Nehemiah planning again. Once he arrived in Jerusalem, he rested for a couple days, then he took a journey around the walls to scope out the situation and come up with a plan. Now, I want to be careful here. We’re just observing what Nehemiah did. This is not the Bible saying, “Never talk to anybody about your plans.” The Bible actually encourages seeking wise counsel. The point is to see the intentionality in Nehemiah’s praying and fasting and planning. He was wisely thinking through, “What part is God calling me to play and how can I accomplish it?” Now, obviously Nehemiah didn’t stop there. That would be a plan without action. At some point Nehemiah needed to take a step, or better put, a leap of faith, which leads to the fourth step Nehemiah took.

Risk

I love the way Nehemiah told this story. He pointed out that he had never been sad in the king’s presence, until one day he decided to take the risk. He came in downcast, so the king asked, “Why is your face sad?” his is the moment when Nehemiah could have lost his job or his life. Nehemiah said, “I was very much afraid.” Then he went for it. 

He told the king about the walls in Jerusalem. Well, he started by buttering the king up: “Let the king live forever.” That’s always a good way to start. Then he gave this line that he must have rehearsed a hundred times, just to make sure to get it right. The king said in verse four, “What are you asking for?” And this is where the risk went to a whole new level because Nehemiah was about to ask the king permission to leave his job in the palace and rebuild the city among people foreign to the king. I love the way Nehemiah told the story. At the end of verse four he said, “So I prayed to the God of heaven.” 

Anyone who has ever taken a step or a leap of faith knows what this moment feels like. Like, “God help me—here goes.” 

Spiritual Nehemiah asked permission to leave, then waited for the response. Just imagine that long pause as Nehemiah looked at the king with the queen sitting beside him. Finally the king asked, “How long will you be gone and when will you return?” In essence, he was saying, “Yes, you can go.”

Now, Nehemiah was feeling really bold. He was like, “Hey, since you and your wife seem like you’re in a pretty good mood today, can you send me with some letters that will help me get safe passage, and support for the walls, maybe even for a house we’re trying to rebuild?” The king replied, “You’ve got it.” And more. The king ended up sending army officials with him for his protection that he didn’t even ask for in that way. 

So Nehemiah prayed, fasted, planned, took the risk and did it. Then God moved in ways beyond what he could have imagined. Which leads to the fifth step we see Nehemiah take. We’ll just call this one ‘work.’ Those first four steps may have been hard and risky, but they introduce a lot more steps to come.

Work

Nehemiah had to get everything ready to go and travel to Jerusalem with all kinds of challenges on the way there, only to get there and start the hard work of bringing together leaders and workers who would spend day after day and night after night rebuilding these walls. That was a lot of work, none of it was easy and most of it was mundane. Long gone were the days when Nehemiah was living it up in the Persian palace. Now he was in Jerusalem, trying to pull together discouraged people and motivate them to do the hard work of rebuilding a massive wall. 

That work was then complicated by opposition. We’re going to talk about this more when we get to Nehemiah 4, 5 and 6. But Nehemiah 2 introduces us to three people—Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem. We’re going to see these guys multiple times working against Nehemiah and against God’s people in this work. Which leads to step number six in Nehemiah 2.

Persevere

From the moment Nehemiah approached Jerusalem, people were actively working to oppose him. By verse 19, Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem were jeering at Nehemiah and others, despising them, making accusations against them of rebellion against the king. Never mind that there were no foundations for these accusations. After all, Nehemiah had letters of support from the king. What do people do when they can’t find anything against you? They resort to slander and name-calling, or anything else they can do to turn others against you and the work you’re trying to do. Yet Nehemiah persevered. 

Did you notice the phrase that’s repeated a couple times here? In verse 18, Nehemiah says, “Let us rise up and build,” which led to them starting to work around these walls. Then Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem tried to bring him down. Nehemiah said the exact same thing in verse 20: “The God of heaven will make us prosper. We his servants will arise and build.” 

Trust the good hand of God

We’re going to do this great work God has called us to do, knowing there will be opposition in this world from all sides, inside and outside. So don’t be surprised when it comes. Just rise up and build. Pray, fast, plan, risk, work, persevere, and in it all, trust God. I love the way Nehemiah, at every point, shows us he’s trusting in God and not himself. We’ve already seen how he prayed to God right before he spoke to the king, then once the king granted what he asked, Nehemiah said in verse eight, “The king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.” It was not “because I was an awesome cupbearer,” nor “because I gave a really good speech.” No, it was “because the good hand of my God was upon me.” 

Then in verse 12, he makes sure to note how God is the one who put it in his heart to do this for Jerusalem. Then again in verse 18, where he’s rallying people together, he’s not pointing to his leadership abilities. Instead, he points to God: “I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good.” In verse 20, when that opposition comes, Nehemiah says, “The God of heaven will make us prosper.” Do you see it? All throughout this chapter, at every point Nehemiah is trusting God’s good hand for this great work. 

So now, let’s think about this work God has called us to do in our lives. As God’s people in our day, in this generation, in this city, in light of the state of the world around us, brothers and sisters, we must pray and fast. We must start here. Remember it’s the whole title of this series. We’re not asking what we can do—with all our creativity, ingenuity, wealth and resources—to reach the next generation in our city and the nation with the gospel. We’re asking, what can God do among us, in ways that cannot be explained by us to reach the next generation, people in our city, people among the nations, with the gospel? That’s a very different question to ask—not what can we do, but what can God do? 

So, church, let’s follow the leads of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. Like what we saw in the book of Acts a few weeks ago, let’s fall on our faces, set aside food, and pray for God to move in power in our lives, our families, our church, our city and among the nations, believing that when we pray and fast, God will answer and move. 

Brothers and sisters, this Friday night we have a prayer gathering for hours dedicated to this purpose. We’re praying together. So I want to encourage you, if possible, to fast on Friday, then let’s come together Friday night, fasting and praying for this great work that God has called us to.

We would be fools—in our lives, our families, the church and in this world—to do anything apart from praying and fasting like this. So let’s start here, but let’s not stop here. Then let’s plan. So, what’s it going to take to reach the next generation of people in our city, people in the nations, with the gospel? None of that’s going to happen accidentally. That’s only going to happen intentionally. 

I think about Leo and Lisa in our church family. I’ve shared about them before. They sat down and started strategizing about how they are going to reach their neighborhood with the gospel? They prayed, they planned, then they took risks. They started seeing neighbors come to Christ and be baptized here. None of that happened accidentally. They weren’t just sitting around and people started coming to their home, saying, “We’d like to follow Jesus and be baptized.” Maybe God will answer prayers that way, but it’s usually going to happen when people start planning to lead people to Jesus.

We plan out so many things in our lives. We plan our schedule for the week, meal plans for the week, whatever kind of plans. Why are we not planning how to spread the gospel to people around us, for the next generation, in our city, among the nations? Surely we should be planning, asking God, “How are you calling me to reach people with the gospel?” Let’s start strategizing. How is God calling you, right where you’re sitting, to reach the next generation with the gospel? What part is God calling you to play?

Is it serving the next-generation ministry in our church? Is it reaching out to next gen ministry leaders, asking, “How can I serve? What can I do? Who could I mentor? How can we host teenagers in our home for evangelistic Bible studies?” Just picture all kinds of families doing that across this area. How can you coach a kid’s sports league to reach the next generation with the gospel? What else creative can you do? What part is God calling you to play in reaching the next generation with the gospel and turning those statistics around? We’ve all got a part to play. Then what part is God calling you to play in reaching people in this city with the gospel? Just think about where you live, where you work, where you play. 

Students, think about your school, your campus. What can you do to reach other students around you with the good news of God’s love through Jesus? Start planning. Be intentional. I remember getting out my yearbook and praying over every person I saw for opportunities to share the gospel with this person, that person. I remember carrying my Bible around with me. I don’t know what your plan will be, but students, rise up. You are Nehemiah on that campus. Adults, think about your workplace. Just like God had put Nehemiah in his job, God has put you in your job. It’s no accident that you have that job right now. So who can you share the gospel with through it? 

I was meeting a couple weeks ago in Silicon Valley with a group of investors and a group of employees who are in a well-known tech corporation there, In both of these groups, believers were intentionally working to share the gospel through their vocations. See your workplace as a mission field that opens doors for people to come to know Jesus who would never darken the doors of a church building, but who sit in that office next to you, or across that screen from you, or work on that job site with you. None of that is by accident. All of that is by appointment.

Then connect the dots. For many people, God may open doors for you to do the same thing through your work in other places, as you travel domestically or internationally. Do you see how God has arranged for your company to pay for you to spread the gospel across our country and around the world? Now, they don’t know that’s what they are paying you for, but that’s kind of the point. Because this is who are. Before your vocation, you’re a follower of Jesus. 

God loves that person on that plane so much he puts you next to them, to be able to share gospel hope with them. God loves that person in that board meeting room so much that he puts you next to them to be able to share with them. Why waste 40, 50, 60 hours a week? This is an opportunity to glorify God in really good work and to spread the gospel through that work.

Then think about your opportunities that God has arranged for some of you to be able to get jobs in the red areas on the map. I just got an email last week from one of our members who just took a job in the Middle East, in the heart of the red. He and his family just moved there for the spread of the gospel through a job opportunity that came up, so he took it. Last week I had a conversation with a military veteran who had moved his family of eight—six kids—to a red zone where he’s using his retirement income from Uncle Sam to fuel the spread of the gospel among unreached people. 

So how might God lead you to go to the red areas? Or  to steward the resources you have here to get the gospel to the red areas, as you reach your neighbors right here? There’s no shortage of people who need the gospel here and you have unique parts to play. So how is God calling you to plan, to play your part to reach people with the gospel, knowing that it will involve risk, knowing that spreading the gospel could cost some of you your job, your reputation or some relationships? It will cost you time and money to spread the gospel in our city and among the nations.

This is where I wonder if we really want to see revival in the next generation, in our city, among the nations. Because if that happens, it will mess up our schedules. How much do we really want to see people come to know Jesus? Enough to rearrange our pretty casual, comfortable, coast-through-this-world Christian lives? We are made by God for bold, sacrificial, risk-taking faith. This is what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Let us arise and build. 

Let’s take the risk and do the work, knowing it won’t be easy. There is nothing God calls us to with the gospel that will be easy in this world. We know this. The work of singleness for the gospel, marriage for the gospel, parenting for the gospel, foster and adopting, caring for the poor, working for justice, walking in holiness, making disciples in your school, at your workplace—all of these things are challenging. There will be opposition at every turn because there is an adversary who does not want any of that work to happen. So don’t be surprised when opposition comes, when it gets harder, not easier in your life, as a result of pressing into this work. 

Persevere—why? Because you are trusting the goodness of your God. Because your eyes are fixed on him and the great work he’s called you to do in this world. Because your eyes, are fixed on Jesus, on the one who saw a world full of sin, who fell his face and prayed, “Not my will, but yours be done.” He rose to his feet and walked to the cross where he risked it all. He did the work. He persevered and paid the price for sinners with his life, for you and me. 

Then he trusted the good hand of his Father to raise his body from the grave, so that you and I could live lives that matter and that count for what matters most in eternity. So brothers and sisters in whom the Spirit of God dwells, the same God whom Nehemiah was praying to is your God. It’s the God who’s put you in your job. He put Nehemiah there; he put you here. He put you in the circumstances you’re walking through right now. The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is living inside of you. This same Spirit is not inside you to sit you on the sidelines of the great work God is doing in the world. His Spirit is inside of you to play a part. 

So I want to encourage you, by the Spirit of God in you, based on the Word of God to us: arise and build, play your part. As each one of you do that and I do that, then together let’s see what the good hand of our God will do in and through us for his glory in this world. 

I want to pause at this point and give you a couple minutes to begin to prayerfully answer this question: what specific steps is God calling you to take to reach the next generation and the nations with the gospel, starting right here in our city where you live, work and play? I want you to sit with this question and I’m going to do the same. I did this at 9:00, and wow, we could have stayed for a long time. The Lord was really bringing things to my own mind and heart. 

I hope this will lead to more praying, fasting and planning in the days ahead, not just on your own, but with your church group and other brothers and sisters in Christ, saying, “Okay, what risk is God calling us to take? What work is God calling us to do? Are we going to persevere and trust God through it?” So spend a couple moments now with God, just prayerfully considering this question, then I will lead us in prayer. 


As you’re hearing from God, maybe you’re writing things down, don’t let me interrupt you at all. Just keep going. At the same time, I do want to lead the rest of us in prayer, just to bow our heads and close our eyes, and to ask first and foremost, are you in relationship with God through Jesus? Have you put your trust in Jesus as the Savior and Lord of your life? Have you believed and received this gospel? 

If the answer to that question is not a resounding yes in your heart, then I want to invite you, right now, to pray, to say yes to Godby saying, “God, I know I’ve sinned against you. I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sin and that he rose from the dead to give me life. So today I repent. I turn from my sin and myself; I trust in you. Save me from my sin to be Lord of my life. I believe, I receive this good news.” If you pray that to God, that is a prayer God delights to answer, forgiving you of your sin and restoring you to relationship with him, right now, in this holy moment.

When you do, and for all who have, we pray, O God, we need this gospel every day, this good news every day, this hope every day amidst all kinds of things we’re walking through in our lives and in our families. I think about one sister we prayed for in between gatherings today who’s walking through stage four cancer. I saw your gospel hope all over her. We pray for her together as a church family, that you would uphold her with your righteous right hand. Overwhelm her with your hope, your joy, your strength, your peace on a daily basis.

God, we pray this for every one of us who’s walking through hard things, that we would press into the gospel hope we have in you. Help us spread this gospel hope to others who don’t have it. God, we pray, we want to see the next generation reached with the good news of your grace and love. We pray for a mighty moving of your Spirit among students, among us and through us. God, please, may it be so. 

We pray for coworkers, neighbors, friends and family members all across our city to come to know you. God, we pray for spiritual awakening in our city. We pray for boldness in each of our homes, workplaces and neighborhoods, wherever we go, not just in our city, but as you lead us into other places. We want to play whatever part you want us to play in seeing the gospel spread to people who’ve never heard it.

So help us, God. Help us hear from you. Help us to plan and strategize wisely, as we fast and pray. God, we pray for boldness to take risks, to step out of casual, comfortable, coasting-through-this-world Christianity. Help us live for that which is going to matter forever, no matter what it costs here. We pray that you would do in and through us, by your good hand, immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine, for your glory, for others’ good and for our joy. God, we ask this, knowing you desire this for us, in Jesus’ name. 

And all God’s people said, “Amen.” 

Observation: What does the passage say?

1) Read Nehemiah 2 aloud as a group. Let group members share observations. Try not to move into interpretation of the passage or application of what you read quite yet. Simply share what you observe.

a. What do we learn about Nehemiah’s heart for the welfare of God’s people and God’s glory? Nehemiah 1:1–4; 2:1–3, 17 

b. How did Nehemiah react to the King’s questions? What feelings did he experience? What did he do? What specific requests did he make to the King? What was the King’s response? Nehemiah 2:2–8

c. What lessons can we learn from Nehemiah about prayer and planning?  Nehemiah 1:1–4, 2:4; Proverbs 16:3, 16:9; Luke 14:28–33 

–What lessons can we learn from Esther and Ezra’s approach to handling the great work that God called them to? Ezra 8:21–23, Esther 4:16

d. What actions did Nehemiah take when he arrived in Jerusalem? Nehemiah 2:11–15 How did the people respond? Nehemiah 2:17

e. How does Nehemiah’s actions reflect his dependence on God in this chapter? Nehemiah 2:8, 12, 18, 20

2) How would you summarize Nehemiah 2 in your own words?

Interpretation: What does the passage mean?

  1. How did Nehemiah model handling his personal grief and his professional duties? Nehemiah 2:1–2 
  2. How do you see the hand of God evident in the King’s generous response to Nehemiah’s request? 2:2, 4, 6 
    • What do you learn about God’s providential hand and His faithfulness? Nehemiah 2:6–9, Proverbs 21:9
  3. How did Nehemiah motivate the people to begin rebuilding the walls immediately? Nehemiah 2:17–18, Psalms 90:16
  4. Why was Nehemiah afraid? Nehemiah 2:3, Esther 4:11 How did he respond despite of his fears? What lessons can we learn from him?
  5. Why did Sanballat and Tobiah oppose the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem? Nehemiah 2:10, 2:19–20 How is their opposition similar to what the church face today? How did Nehemiah model resilience and courage in the face of adversity?
  6. Accomplishing the great work that God has called us to reach the next generation, and the nations with the gospel, starting right here in your city, will be met with great opposition. How can the truths of God’s word encourage us to persevere amidst oppositions?  Psalm 46:1–3; Isaiah 41:10; John 14:27, 16:33; Ephesians 6:10–20; 2 Timothy 1:7; Hebrews 13:5–6; 1 Peter 5:8–9

Application: How can we apply this passage to our lives?

  1. What specific step(s) is God calling you to take in reaching the next generation and the nations with the gospel, starting right here in your city? How can your Church Group pray for you? 
  2. What specific step(s) can you take this week, similar to Nehemiah, Ezra and Esther, to fast and pray for:
    • God to do what only God can do to reach the next generation, and the nations with the gospel, starting right here in your city? And seek God’s wisdom to discern what part is God calling you to play. 

Nehemiah 2 ESV

In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.” And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.

Nehemiah Inspects Jerusalem’s Walls

 9 Then I came to the governors of the province Beyond the River and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen. 10 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel.11 So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days. 12 Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. There was no animal with me but the one on which I rode. 13 I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal that was under me to pass. 15 Then I went up in the night by the valley and inspected the wall, and I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. 16 And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, and I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest who were to do the work.17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” 18 And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work. 19 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” 20 Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.”

Sermon Recap

Seven steps Nehemiah took to accomplish this great work God called him to:

  1. Pray
  2. Fast
  3. Plan
  4. Risk
  5. Work
  6. Persevere
  7. Trust the good hand of God
David Platt

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Radical.

David received his Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Don’t Hold Back, Radical, Follow MeCounter CultureSomething Needs to ChangeBefore You Vote, as well as the multiple volumes of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series.

Along with his wife and children, he lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

LESS THAN 1% OF ALL MONEY GIVEN TO MISSIONS GOES TOWARDS REACHING THE UNREACHED.

That means that the people with the most urgent spiritual and physical needs are receiving the least support. You can help change that!