We have entered a new millennium. Time is flying at lightening speed. We know the second coming of Jesus is at hand. Some have predicted that Jesus will come during this year. Some say He will not come so soon because the Gospel has not even reached our neighborhood, let alone all nations. More and more new congregations are established. But how strong are the existing churches? Do believers come through one open door and leave through another? What are our responsibilities as Shepherdesses of the remnant church? What should we do to build and strengthen our churches? The more I thought about it, the more Nehemiah's life came to mind.
Nehemiah was the cupbearer of King Artaxerxes, Even though he lived a comfortable life in the palace, he was mindful of the remnant of the captivity. On enquiry, he found that they were in great affliction and reproach; the wall of Jerusalem was broken down and the gates were burnt with fire. What he did to rebuild the wall teaches us valuable lessons on how to rebuild the churches that are broken down both spiritually and physically. The manlier in which he accomplished the task gives us guidance on how to bring a struggling church together.
Concern for Others
Nehemiah enquired about the welfare of his people. When he heard of the pathetic conditions in which they were living, he wept, mourned, fasted and prayed to God. In prayer, he confessed his sins and the sins of his forefathers and claimed God's promises of restoration if the people returned to God.
What is the condition of your church today? Are the fundamental doctrines, the very foundation of the church broken down or upheld and followed? The walls of a city are built for protection. Similarly, the doctrines are to protect the church from falling into Satan's traps. We condemn and criticize the condition of today's church but live comfortably unmindful of the moral decline in some areas. As Shepherdesses and responsible women in God's vineyard, don't you think it is time for us to weep over the condition of the church, confessing our sins and claiming God's promises of restoration? Because Nehemiah presented the problem before the Lord, he found favor in the sight of man-king Artaxerxes. Similarly, when we present our concerns for the church before God, He will work out a solution for us.
Call to Build
On reaching Jerusalem, Nehemiah went alone to inspect the condition of the walls so he could act accordingly. He did not depend on a third person's information. He wanted to study the situation himself. He called the people only when he was sure of what needed to be done. He explained the condition they were in and said, "Let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach." He assured the people of God's leading.
How do we react when our church becomes the object of reproach or mockery? Do we add more fuel to the fire or does the fire of the Holy Spirit kindle our hearts to do something? The people responded to Nehemiah positively and strengthened their hands for the good work only because he took the initiative to rebuild. Similarly, if you take the initiative and formulate good plans to build your church, the people will support you.
The Secret of Success
The enemies mocked at their endeavor. They tried their best to stop the work. Surprisingly, in spite of all the hindrances, the work was completed in 52 days. The reasons are as follows. Firstly, Nehemiah set an example. He believed he was doing a great work for the Lord. He turned to God at all times for guidance, strength and courage to withstand the enemies and to complete the work. Nothing could persuade him to stop the work. Secondly, the people were united. They jointly supported their leader. Thirdly, they had the mind to work. Fourthly, each one was confined to one's task.
When the work was complete, the enemies felt God's presence so much they perceived the work was of God.
When you, as a woman, take up a leadership role in the church, you hear mockery, unkind and rude remarks. Your work often seems insignificant. There are more people to discourage than to encourage. But do not be discouraged. If you are discouraged, who will stand by the believers? Be mindful of your responsibilities. Depend on God fully. Have a mind to work. He will fight your enemies for you. Victory will be yours. Remember that you are doing a great work. Do not let anything hinder your progress.
Meeting the Needs
After the wall was completed, Nehemiah made arrangements to meet the various needs—physical, spiritual and social—of the people. The believers of your church have these needs too. Stoop to the level of the common people, identifying yourself as one among them and do everything possible to meet their needs.
This requires complete dedication on your part. If you want your church to be built in the Lord, you have to surrender yourself totally to serve the church and the community. Live an exemplary life so that those who come in contact with you will see Christ.
Nehemiah had a challenge before him—the challenge to build the wall of Jerusalem. His plea was "God, strengthen my hands." You, too, have a challenge to meet, a challenge to build God's church. Your plea also should be "God, strengthen my hands." If your hands are weak, who will strengthen the believer's hands? They also will become weak. In spite of the difficulties you have to face, the hurdles you have to cross and the obstacles you have to overcome, if you only fix your eyes on the goal set before you, you will win the battle. People will know that you are empowered with the Holy Spirit. And the task will be accomplished sooner and much easier than you expect.
As we enter this next year, let us rise up and build our churches.