So on October 2 the wall was finished, just fifty-two days after we had begun. (Nehemiah 6:15)
Relate: It was two weeks before Easter 2015. I was standing at the front of a movie theater looking up into a blindingly bright spotlight and about two hundred people behind it. This was to be my last sermon in America before heading off to Turkey. A few days later I would be getting on a plane heading for Istanbul. In the wee hours of Palm Sunday, after plenty of delays, a missed transfer, and an overnight stay at the airport in Moscow, I would be touching down. That means that Easter Sunday, the biggest Sunday of the year, was the first chance I had to understand just how much my world had changed.
As a side note, that message titled Rebuilding the Walls is available online but I am not going to help you find it since there is a bit more of me (about 25-30 lbs more) than I care to show.
I had no idea then how much work Turkey would be. I had no idea how much blood sweat and tears were to be invested. I had no idea how many kids and people I would fall in love with. I had no idea what getting a body (especially the innards) adjusted to a new environment would do to me. (We will not talk here about that ruined pair of pants) I had no idea what would be running through my mind as I was being questioned not too kindly by one policeman as another was deleting all the pictures from my phone. (BTW, some of the pictures from that same time and place they didn’t get their hands on will make it into the worship video below.) Most of all, I had no idea how God would prove Himself faithful and true and real in my life and the lives of those I communicate with time and time again.
When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem to begin rebuilding the walls, he had no idea just exactly what he was stepping into. Before leaving he had no idea if the king would even allow him to go. Once he arrived and saw the immensity of the task as well as how the people around had adapted to the status quo, he had no idea how he was to inspire them to become a team of wall builders. He had no idea how jealous the local petty bureaucrats would be and how much opposition they would throw up at what they saw as a challenge to their petty influence. He had no idea that the local rich capitalists (the one percenters) would work directly against him using their economic power to reenslave the people he had worked so hard and sacrificed so much to buy free.
React: In between the songs of an old Kirk Franklin album a random guy tries to give the artist some advice. He says, “If at first you don’t succeed, give up and try something else.” I have heard many variations of similar bad advice wrapped up in spiritual sounding metaphors like: “Just keep knocking on doors until you find the one God has opened.” People have said things like, “If you keep facing all these complications, it is probably God trying to tell you that you aren’t moving in the right direction.” Most commonly I have heard, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Most of the others I would just fob off as bad advice. That last one is a lie straight from the pit of hell. David couldn’t “handle” Goliath. Moses couldn’t “handle” Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea. Joshua couldn’t “handle” the walls of Jericho. It is precisely when we are in a situation beyond what we can handle that He best is able to prove that He is God.
If obstacles and complications keep coming up in your life, it is probably proof that you are moving in the right direction. Satan won’t oppose those who are no threat. God won’t provide miracles that are not needed. If your heart is in the right place but your feet are moving in the wrong direction God is more than able to reveal to you His will in other ways than throwing up obstacles in your path. So go right on up to that door God has called you to. Knock. If it doesn’t open, keep on knocking. If there is still no answer, kick it down. If you walk through that broken door only to find another in your way, repeat the process. Than again… and again. Keep on kicking until that house is yours. The timid and the lazy will have no part in rebuilding walls and restoring ruins.
You have not called us to an easy life. You haven’t called us to a comfortable or simple life. Thank you for that. Easy, comfortable, and simple are far too boring a way to live. You have called us to life more abundant. That means the challenges are going to seem insurmountable, the opposition more immense, and the valleys deeper. But it also means the victories will be that much sweeter and the mountaintops… beyond anything an easy life could have imagined. Give me a higher calling, Lord. Then give me the fortitude to walk it all the way to victory.