Thursday, January 30, 2014

Let Us Start Rebuilding

While struggling to come up with something new to start 2014, I was lead to read the book of Nehemiah.  This was actually the second time that I've read the story of this great leader who rallied the people of Israel in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem while they were held captive by the Persians under King Artaxerxes. It was only in my second reading that the traits of this royal cupbearer and man of God resounded with such impact that I tarried on reading a verse which will serve as my mantra this new year. 

The story opens and presents to us Nehemiah receiving news from his brother that the remnants of the exile returned to the provinces but the walls of Jerusalem remain in ruins and its gates burned.   Such news struck Nehemiah with grief for his people and for his nation whom God has established as His own.  The very thing that created his identity and convictions as an Israelite is now in ruble and ashes. Instead of being immobilized by this hapless situation, Nehemiah found solace in prayer and fasting.  The first response was to immediately take a lowly stance in the presence of God which clearly showed his heart and faith; two things that remained standing loftily in the midst of a dispersed nation and crumbled walls. Chapter 1 ends, "Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today..."

Nehemiah planned his next move and that is to find favor in the eyes of king Artaxerxes who was crucial in mechanizing each cog of Nehemiah's plan to turn. Nehemiah's countenance in the king's presence ignited a query from someone who can provide  the necessary resources for the rebuilding of the walls: "Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” Even in fear, Nehemiah knew his position in the presence of the king and presented the authenticity of his heart. Things fell perfectly in its place when the king replied “What is it you want?” God's hand orchestrated the spontaneity of the succeeding events.  Nehemiah was allowed to go back to Jerusalem to build the walls and was even provided the resources to make things happen.  There, while inspecting the walls he did not utter any word to the priests, nobles and officials who were with him until such time that he saw and surveyed the situation in its entirety.  More than anyone who could give him the right counsel at that time, he drenched himself in what God gave him in his heart.  It was what he needed most to start a gargantuan task. 

With all the blueprint laid out in his mind he faces his people "Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me.They replied, 'Let us start rebuilding.' So they began this good work."

Each day gives us the opportunity to start rebuilding. Let me say it again - rebuilding.  How is the new year new for most of us?  It doesn't have to take us a minute to realize that we are still in the presence of the same group of people whom we either love or loathe.  You get a few hundreds (or pennies) more from doing a job you held for years or even decades but still captivated by the thought of that dream position in Utopia Inc. There are still relationships that you've sewn countless times with all the stitches you could ever think of that it now looks like a ball of gnarled thread than a tapestry of love.  The word "quit" is just a vague urge and you convinced yourself that sobriety is the antonym of "Lindsay Lohan". Your image in the mirror shows you the same features that you tried to enhance or get rid of but gravity and time engages you to a lifelong battle over aesthetics. Again, you look at yourself in the mirror and what's more tormenting are not the things you immediately see with your eyes but what you see with your heart.  The same brokenness ails you, the same weaknesses debilitate you, the same needs and wants clamor inside your heart. Is there anything new in these? You could only wish that they will leave your back door just as 2013 did.       

The concept of a fresh start as we learned from Nehemiah is to rebuild using what's left of the rubble and finding the resources to rebuild the newness of things again.  His success was attributed to these:

1.  His full reliance in God set the stage and lead them to the completion of the task.  From the characters (whether hero or villain), to the setting, and the plot, God directed each act. Nehemiah did not overlook the power of his God.  To show this he prayed, he fasted, and again he prayed. Nehemiah knew from the very beginning there was nothing he can do without God - not his position as a cupbearer to the king, not his ancestry, not his skills, neither his personality.

When he was troubled and told God his desires he prayed: Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant."

When he feared the possibility of failure he prayed: The king said to me, “What is it you want?” "Then I prayed to the God of heaven,and I answered the king,"

In the time of ridicule from the opposition Nehemiah uttered: "Hear us, our God, for we are despised..."

When danger lurked as they build the walls, Nehemiah recollects "But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.

In the event when fear made a detour and struck Nehemiah's companions instead, Nehemiah prayed "Now strengthen my hands.”

2.  Nehemiah took out his sticky notes and made sure all items in his To Do list are ticked off done! A man of faith is a man of work.  The kind of work ethics displayed by Nehemiah was exceptional.  He planned, kept track of time, resourceful, motivated the people, and anticipated calculated risks as the work progressed.  He kept moving and doing and gave us a picture that in the equation of productivity and success, you have to be one of the values.  You cannot be asking God and you are absent from the formula.  There is no doubt in what the power of God can do but an instrument such as us must be there so that it will be manifested.  

3.  Be aware of threats and oppositions.  Lead them and not the other way around. Like us, Nehemiah encountered set backs.  They are there to remind us that while we are rebuilding our aspirations, we should be attentive of our surroundings.  There are so much threat to our dreams that we cannot afford these threats to creep into the gaps of our walls.  While workers and builders were doing their tasks, Nehemiah stationed families under the lowest points of the wall to guard it against the enemies.  As one hand held a tool to build, the other holds a spear to defend.  Build and protect.  Execute and do not compromise.  

 If there is one thing new that you need to start your year, it is a new disposition under God's power.  Let us rebuild our dreams, our lives, relationships, and priorities out of what we have seeking God's grace so that we will not remain exile among the ruins of our past mistakes and weaknesses.  

Let us start rebuilding! (Nehemiah 2:18)