…Rebuilding the Walls
Peter opened God’s word with us on Sunday, preaching from the second and third chapters of Nehemiah. He brought a word that ran parallel with two encouragements that we’d recently received – one was from Saul, who had seen a crumbling wall on a recent walk and felt God speaking to him about the importance of maintaining our spiritual lives through the word, prayer and fellowship. The second word came from Lis, she encouraged us to ‘be prepared and wait expectantly’.
It was a timely call to assess our spiritual lives as individuals and as a church. In this post I want to remind us of the challenges Peter brought and then to lead us to think about the opportunities that we see as we rebuild.
Imagine how Nehemiah felt. He had finally made the journey he’d dreamed his life of making. He’d made it to Jerusalem! And it was every bit as bad as he’d been told. The city was lying in ruins. Once imposing walls were now just piles of rubble, charred boards and ash were all that remained of the impressive gates.
Nehemiah begins by making an honest appraisal of the situation. He does this by himself. He doesn’t want to hear the voices of doubt & defeat saying ‘…just give up, this is futile…‘ and he chooses not to listen to the voices of false hope telling him ‘…it’s not so bad, you can do this…‘. Nehemiah wants to assess the task honestly so that he doesn’t fall into despair or denial, but he is increasingly aware of his dependency on God.
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.
He addresses those that will be doing the work and they found that their spirits were lifted and their hands were strengthened as they devoted themselves to the task of rebuilding!
Nick Knowles and DIY:SOS have got nothing on Nehemiah!
Keep Your Walls Maintained…
The last year has been wearing. With each successive lockdown, the continued restrictions and constant upheaval; somedays it has made it difficult to find the motivation to get up, dressed and out the door.
[On Sunday we heard that even the most disciplined amongst us have found this hard!]
In times like these, seemingly mundane spiritual habits can be allowed to slide and bad practices can quickly take their place. Peter reminded us of this as he referred to Lis’ word and the fact that spiritually ‘crumbling walls’ will not only fail to keep bad or destructive influences out of our lives, but they will also make it more difficult for us to draw near to God; as they become obstacles rather than openings.
Peter helpfully drew our attention to the Apostle Paul’s command;
‘…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…’
We firmly believe that God does put us in the community of a local church for our good and the demonstration of the gospel. However, the corporate life of the church is not a substitute for personal devotion and growth. You have been called, personally, to follow Jesus.
So let’s ‘strengthen ourselves to the good work’!
Be Living Stones…
At 3C we are in the privileged position of having a church building. If you look on any local maps the building will be designated as a ‘church’. The maps are wrong!
[We might well all need maps to find our way back once lockdown is over!]
When the bible talks about a ‘church’ it is referring to the people we meet God with, not the building we meet in.
…you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:5
So, as I mentioned before, we have a responsibility for our own spiritual growth but, in an increasingly individualistic society that tells us our greatest good is ‘self-actualisation’, it’s possible that we may overlook our responsibility to the ‘spiritual house’ that we are part of.
The skill and craftsmanship of the stonemason are evident in the cotswold stone buildings all around us here in Cam & Dursley. Like a spiritual-mason, God is building us together at 3C. He takes us and places us in a community of other ‘living stones’ and we each occupy a space in the wall that couldn’t be filled by anyone else. God has placed you where you are so that you will benefit from some folks, and will be of benefit to others.
Peter encouraged us to seek ways to ‘be living stones’. Despite being separated physically, we can still find ways to connect spiritually – host a service, share a word from God, give a testimony, record a video, write down your thoughts, share a blessing, give encouragement and so much more.
Let’s redeem phone calls, Facebook, WhatsApp and Zoom. and put them to work for God’s Kingdom!
Work to rebuild…
Through the pandemic God may have revealed long neglected areas of your life, where you already knew the walls needed rebuilding. He may have uncovered hidden cracks, that surprised you, and they now need repairing. He may have shocked you with the rubble filled pathways and fire damaged gates in our community. Whatever God has brought to your attention, and however painful it has been to face – He graciously calls us to join Him in rebuilding our lives and the life of 3C.
This is the unfinished task of all believers, it is the good work to which all of us are called!
Questions for Connect Groups/Personal study:
1. Read Nehemiah 1 & 2.
– How would you describe Nehemiah’s emotional journey?
2. Which spiritual disciplines do you find it hardest to maintain in difficult times?
– Where have you struggled over the past year?
– Have you formed any bad habits?
– Are you aware of any ‘obstacles’ between you & God?
3. How is being part of a church community at odds with our individualistic society?
– When do you experience the struggle between these world views?
– Think of ways to experience ‘spiritual connection’ despite ‘social isolation’?
4. Get stuck in!
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
– There’s limitless work and limited time – get involved!
10th February 2021
13th January 2021
8th April 2020