I love reading the book of Nehemiah. I find this man to be quite inspirational, someone who has a practical solution for the common problems even of today. This 6 part series, appearing on Saturdays beginning in January, will be taking a look at the practical solutions that Nehemiah has for us today.

Today's lesson from Nehemiah?

An important lesson on risk taking...

When it comes to risk taking, I am a bit double-minded.

There are things I do, for example, that my husband is sure are full of risks. Unfortunately I don't see them as risky at all. Take mountain climbing, for example. My husband used to call me the "Mountain Goat" because of the fact that when I was out climbing -- rocks, mountains, whatever -- I never looked down! I just kept my mind on the climb! Oh, I knew there were slight risks in the sport, but I figure I just won't cross those lines!

Then there are other things that I see as way too risky to even try. I wouldn’t do anything, for example, to cross my boss. That would risk me losing my job! And I will walk on eggs around people known to have explosive tempers. I will even sacrifice what I know to be right in order to avoid being the spark that causes the blow. Why take the risk of causing an eruption?

And then, of course, there is God's work. Sometimes what God asks me to do isn't "risky" at all. It falls well within my comfort zone! Emailing people, for example. And praying for them. But when God asks me to open my mouth and speak openly of Him? Well, then I risk losing friendships, being labeled "the religious one", being rejected! Definitely not worth the risk!

Nehemiah to the rescue.

Nehemiah was definitely a risk-taker. He wasn't afraid to do whatever needed to be done, and as a result, history remembers him as the one who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem!

Just what kind of risks did he take to do so?

To understand this, we must first learn a little about Nehemiah. He was employed by the king of Persia, and he had what today would be known as "High Security Clearance!" Nehemiah was the king's cupbearer. This meant that his job was to taste the wine served to the king before the king drank it, to ensure that the wine hadn't been poisoned (See Neh 2:1)!

Our story begins just days after Nehemiah receives word from a traveler, perhaps his own brother, from Jerusalem: "Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah..." (Neh 1:2 NKJV). The news was not good: "The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire." (Neh 1:2-3, NKJV)

This news immediately sent Nehemiah into a period of mourning, and he hadn't quite gotten over his sadness when it was time to go back to work.  Unfortunately for him, it wasn't allowed to go into the king's presence with sadness (See Esther 4:2)! Nehemiah had to make a decision: Either he put his own sadness behind him and paint on the happy face he is supposed to wear in the king's presence, or he takes the risk of being fired by coming in looking sad! 

Nehemiah took the risk: "Now I had never been sad in his presence before." (Neh 2:1, NKJV)

And God came through. The king took one look at Nehemiah and said, "Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing but sorrow of heart." (Neh 2:2, NKJV)

Now Nehemiah took an even bigger risk. We know he knew it was a risk, because he became "dreadfully afraid" (Neh. 2:2b).  But he did it! He told the king what was on his heart!

The end result? Nehemiah was sent back to Jerusalem to repair the walls! He was given leave of absence from his post, he was given letters to the governors in the region, and he was given materials for the work (See Neh 2:7,8)!

But Nehemiah wasn't finished taking risks...

The Bible records that there was much opposition to the rebuilding of the walls, to the point that it is recorded: "So it was, from that time on, that half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows, and wore armor... Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon. Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built." (Neh 4:16-18, NKJV). But Nehemiah was willing to take that risk, as long as it meant the wall was being rebuilt.

And even more, Nehemiah took the risk of death: "Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, 'Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.' But they thought to do me harm." (Neh 6:2, NKJV).

Why was Nehemiah willing to take so many risks?

Because it was God's work, and he knew that God would protect him!

Let's learn from Nehemiah, friends! Let's all become risk-takers! Not the kind that climb dangerous mountains, but the kind that rise up at the risk of personal loss to do the Lord's Work!

Thank you, Nehemiah, for the important reminder that if it's God's work it's worth the risk!

But Nehemiah's challenges were far from over. What does he do when he runs into the age-old problem...One that continues to plague us even today: Disobedience to God? Join us next Saturday to discover Nehemiah's practical response: The Nehemiah Solutions, Part 2: The Need for Purity!

In His love,

Lyn Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries.

(To access the rest of this mini-series, please click here.)