“Going to seminary is a waste of time (and money).“
Every time my mom called this is what she said, in so many words.
“This doesn’t make sense, what will you do with that degree?”
“You’re smart, why don’t you be a real estate agent, they make a lot of money”
“You already have a degree, it’s not time to go to school but to go to work.”
You might have had similar conversations with well-meaning people, with those who aren’t so “well-meaning”, or even with yourself. What are you doing? Where are you going? What’s the point? I’m here to encourage you to be led by God.
Be led by God
1. Look for God to lead you.
- In the book of Nehemiah, Nehemiah wasn’t looking to go out and ‘make a big difference’ the news of the status of his people over there in Jerusalem broke him. You may have asked someone, how are you doing? And they actually TELL YOU EVERYTHING. You hear them and your heart is affected and you are moved to act.
- Nehemiah prayed to the Lord Nehemiah 1:4-11 to help him to act. God gave Nehemiah great favor with his boss, King Artaxerxes (scholars believes the reference to King Artaxerxes’s 20th year of reign places these events in 445 BCE) , who gave him time off from work (he was the King’s cupbearer), materials, personnel “officers of the Army and calvary” (Neh 2:9) and a letter for safe passage to get to the city of Jerusalem located in Judah. (Neh 2:6-8) At first I thought of the cupbearer as a low position but actually due to fear of poisoning and because of their proximity to the King, this person is considered a high-ranking royal official that has the complete trust, confidence and loyalty towards the King.
2. Your work speaks for itself and shows your character.
- The king knew from his face that something was wrong. This wasn’t Nehemiah’s normal demeanor. The king asked Nehemiah what was troubling him and this was his opportunity to act. Nehemiah 2:2 I overheard my teenager telling his dad that ‘mom knew something was wrong with me. She came in right after I died from a stupid move on my (video) game and she asked me what was wrong. She even guessed, did you die?” It was interesting to me that my son thought me noticing and knowing what was the matter with him when I saw him impressed him enough to want to tell his dad. I know my son and I knew something wasn’t right. So I asked him about it.
- Nehemiah did the behind the scenes work, before anyone there in Jerusalem knew what he was even there to do. In Neh 2:11-16, 3 days after his arrival in Jerusalem, Nehemiah took time to inspect all the walls at night. No one knew where he was going or what he was doing, not even those who he was there to help, his people, the Jews. Nehemiah 2:11-16 I suppose in a way he was ‘counting the cost’ but he already knew what he was there to do and was formulating a practical plan of how he would carry it out. In your life situation, you’ve probably had to censor what you say and do with others because you anticipate how they will react and it’s affect on you. You know you have an end goal or a purpose in mind that they might not share or appreciate.
3. Press forward despite criticism.
- In Nehemiah’s case, not everyone appreciated his presence and concern for the people of Israel (Neh 2:10) He had haters, from the Province Beyond the River- Sanballat the Horonite (called the governor of Samaria, a region bordering on Judah to the north) and Tobiah the Ammonite official (probably Jewish – because of his name- associated with the region east of Judah) they harassed Nehemiah throughout his work. In Neh 2:17-20 accused him of “rebelling against the king.” In Neh 4:1-3 and 6:1-14 They sent messengers to work things out aka distract him, threatened to spread letters with lies of his intentions, tried to hide him to spare his life from supposed death threats and in all of these situations, Nehemiah responded firmly to each situation remembering God and continuing forward with the work. He refused to be derailed by their shenanigans and threats but he steadily persevered with the work he was there to do. For me, I do mull over in my mind the negative feedback I received from the work I was doing. For example, when directing Vacation Bible School in Korea 2 years ago, not everyone was happy with the choices I made as the director that year. It looked different than previous years and those changes made a few key leaders uncomfortable. However, since I was placed in that role as Director, perhaps like Nehemiah who was given the heart to go and favor by the King through God, I likewise prayed to God for guidance, sought counsel from a few I felt I could trust, and kept the work going because I was positioned there for a purpose.
- In Neh 4:7-9 Nehemiah heard the people express concern and start to panic so he provided clear guidance and encouragement by stationing the people in front of their homes, reminding them that they fight for their families, and organizing them in such a way that at all times they were either guarding or building while also ready to literally fight. The text says in Neh 5:3, “So neither I nor my brother nor my servants nor the men of the guard who followed me ever took off our clothes; each kept his weapon in his right hand.” It wasn’t easy, but he kept going.
Matthew Henry’s commentary about Nehemiah includes the introduction that although Nehemiah “never wore a crown, commanded an army, conquered any country, or was famed for philosophy or oratory, yet ….being pious praying men (Nehemiah and Ezra), and very serviceable in their day to the church of God and the interests of religion, were really greater men and more honourable, not only than any of the Roman consuls or dictators, but than Xenophon, or Demosthenes, or Plato himself, who lived at the same time, the bright ornaments of Greece.”
Like Nehemiah, as we live our life and do our work, we are each faced with the question of how will we respond to the people and situations placed before us. How will we navigate the feedback and advice freely given to us? Who leads us? What sways us? Who/what holds our attention? Will we continue forward or will we stop?
In Isaiah 50, verse 7 in NRSV, the scripture says, “The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame…”
Amongst all the voices and in any situation you are in, I propose that you be led by God.
Continue to look for God to lead you.
Let your work show your character to those around you.
Keep pressing forward despite criticism.
And as Martin Luther is quoted to have said, “Pray as if everything depends on God, then work as if everything depends on you.”
This summer, I’m taking two accelerated courses and my first one is Christian Scriptures 1. For one of the projects, I chose to submit 3 ten minute sermons on one of the 10 Old Testament books we are covering in class. I chose this assignment so that I could practice delivering Biblical messages to others in a way that every day people can understand. Let me know how I did by sharing your feedback here, via YouTube, or of course you can contact me via social media or email through the buttons on this site.
Blessings to you and yours,