Michael Youssef - Rebuilding Our Broken Walls - Part 2
I trust that the Lord is using these series of messages to encourage you and also to challenge you at the same time. You know, what I'm gonna be talking about is the importance of being good stewards. And we can be good stewards of our resources, which is vital, but we need to be good stewards of the truth. That's really what matters. Today, compromise is taking place all across the board in the church of Jesus Christ. We need to stand firm in the truth and learn from Nehemiah.
The man who ignited the modern evangelic missionary movement as we know it was not an ordained minister. He was not a theologian. He was not a preacher, he was not a pastor, he was not a priest. In fact, he was a cobbler. Obviously, I'm telling you this for a reason, because today and the coming days, I wanna be challenging every single one, regardless of who you are and what age, not to fall into this lie of Satan that says, "What can I do? I'm only one person, only one family. What can I do? I'm a software engineer. I'm a small business owner. I'm an executive in a company. I'm a salesman. I'm a professional. What can I do? I'm aware of what's going on around me, but what can I do"?
So, whatever you do for a living has nothing to do with how God can truly use you to rebuild the broken walls that we see all around us. The man I'm talking about, his name was William Carey. In the late 1700s, the churches in the country of England were self-centered. They were myopic. And William Carey had only one message, and it was from the book of Isaiah chapter 54, verse 2. "Enlarge the place of your tent, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes". And then, he concluded with this mantra. I'm gonna put it right here so you can see it. "Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God. Because we have a great God".
Now, let's do this together. I'm gonna say the first word, and you'll finish it. Expect... Attempt... Because... Now, God used this cobbler with such passion for mission into the dark lands to do great things for God. He became infectious and tens of thousands of people came forward and went about serving the living God all across the world. William Carey himself did not just preach it. He himself volunteered and went to India, and there, God used him to do great work. Question: Did he face opposition? You better believe it. The worst opposition came from the clergy, from the church leaders, from the bishops.
Now, let me bring all this all the way home, okay? George Gallup Jr., the son of the founder of the Gallup organization, after extensive research, he came to the following conclusion. Are you listening? Less than 10% of American population is deeply committed Christians. Less than 10%. As a matter of fact, he found that 8 out of 10 Americans said that they would go to heaven without church and without Bible. So, we have our work cut out for us.
Now, if you're visiting with us, we have begun this series on "Rebuilding Our Broken Walls," learning from the example of Nehemiah. This man too, like William Carey, he was not ordained minister, he was not theologian, he was not theologically trained. He had no official capacity whatsoever within the religious of Judaism, the religion of Israel. He was a layman. He was a professional, and he saw the desperate need, and by God's grace, he reached out and met that need by God's power. That's what a vision is. You see the desperate need and say, "God, what can I do? How can you use me to meet this need"?
Same question as with William Carey: Did Nehemiah face opposition? You better believe it. You're gonna see it throughout this series. But because he had the supply line I talked about in the last message wide open between him and the Lord 24/7, because he has spent 4 months in prayer, and fasting, and crying out to the Lord, God powerfully used him to overcome the opposition. This series of messages is not for some of you, it's for every one of you, wherever you are, whatever age you are. For as we will see, Nehemiah could never have done the work himself. He could never have rebuilt that wall without God's people united together for the task.
Nehemiah chapter 2, he teaches us three things to be exact. He is teaching us to face fear with prayer, he's teaching us to face opposition with courage, and he's teaching us to face timidity with vision. Let's go through these together. He faced fear with prayer. Now, I'll make you a promise. I'll make you a promise that if you ever come to the point in your life when you say, "God, I want to discover my spiritual gift and I want to use my gift for your glory. I want to accomplish something for your glory," the moment you say this, I'll make you a promise. All of hell is gonna break loose. And chief among the opposition is gonna be your own fear. I know what I'm talking about. But you've got God's power, and when you have God's power, you are gonna come to the place of death.
You say, "Wait a minute, Michael. You said the open line, supply line, gives you victory, is the secret to victory. Now, you tell me I have to come to the place of death"? You have to come to the place of death before God can use you. Death to self, death to personal self-ambition, death to a sense of security, death to the sense of entitlement for comfort. Ah, but that, my beloved friends, listen to me from my heart, I'll tell you, that is the bane of Evangelical Christianity today. We don't wanna do that. We wanna be liked, and we wanna be appreciated, we wanna be accepted, and the list goes on, and on, and on. That is what's hindering the work of God. But Nehemiah felt the burden so much in his heart, and his soul, and his spirit, he did not only pray and fast for 4 months, he did not only heard and listen to the voice of God, but that intense burden for what's happening to God's people, to God's honor, and to God's name, it burdened him so much it began to show on his face.
Look at verses 1 and 2, Nehemiah 2. The king noticed how Nehemiah's burden now is carried on his face. I told you in the last message, he was so close to the king, I'd dare say probably the most important person to him. And he sees what was showing on his face, and he said to him, "What's wrong"? Do you know what Nehemiah said right after that when the king asked him? He said, "Then I was very much afraid. Really, I was terrified". Wait a minute. Remember, this is the moment he's been praying for. This is the moment he has been fasting and crying out to God for. This is a critical moment. This is a crucial moment. This is the moment that has been waiting for him, and he says, "I was terrified. My knees were knocking".
Here's the truth. Are you ready for it? There is nothing wrong with being afraid. There's nothing wrong with being afraid. All the men and women of God who did great things for God in the Scripture, every one of them felt fear. The difference between those who did great things for God and those who did not is those who did great things for God overcame their fear with prayer. They refused to let their fear paralyze them. How did Nehemiah face his fear? Verses 3 to 8. Let me put it in a Youssef language. I sent out a text message. What did that text message say? It's not in the Bible, but trust me, it probably went something like this. "Help, Lord"! Verse 4, "The king said, 'What is it you want?'" Oh, I thought you'd never ask. When he asked this, again, Nehemiah didn't say, "Oh man, this is my chance".
You know what he said? He said, "Then I prayed to the God of heaven". Because the supply line was open all the time, Nehemiah needn't only a second of prayer. S.O.S. Question: Why was Nehemiah afraid? Why was he terrified? I'm gonna give you the answer, but make me a promise. When you go home read it, Ezra chapter 4. It's right there next to Nehemiah. Book of Ezra, chapter 4 will give you the answer, but I'm gonna give it you because of the brevity of time. Let me tell you about the laws of the Medes and the Persians. They can never be reversed. They are set in stone. They are cemented in concrete. And the previous king, Cyrus, issued a decree that the walls cannot be built. He issued the decree. In other words, he wants him to destroy the laws of the Medes and the Persians, which the globe understands, and now in history we understand it. No wonder he was shaking in his boots when the king said, "What is it you want"?
Nehemiah is asking for the impossible, but Nehemiah obeyed God, not his fears. And so, he proceeded to what I call an extremely bold ask. I think the word "bold" does not even explain it. He said, "I want time off from work". Remember, this guy's close to the... I mean, he can't replace him that easily. But that's not all. He said, "I want it with full pay". Then, he asked for a decree, this is the impossible, a decree to build the walls of Jerusalem. Impossible. Why? As I told you, he's gonna be reversing the laws of the Medes and the Persians of his previous king. But that's not all. He said, "I want you to send with me your secret service details to protect me". But that's not all. He said, "I want you to give me a purchase order on your personal credit card, so I can buy all of the supplies that I need for the rebuilding of the walls and the gates".
Now, that's what you call gumption. I am convinced that the king had to be absolutely impressed beyond measure at the audacity of Nehemiah. He did not only ask him to violate the previous king's ruling, but to finance it as well. That, my friend, with some of my friends, we call that chutzpah. When I think of our insipid prayers, when I think of our self-centered prayers, when I think of our timid prayers, when I think of our sporadic prayers, when I think of our half-hearted prayers, I cannot prove it to you from the Bible, but I am convinced God is insulted. Expect... Attempt... Because... I hope you're gonna memorize that in the days to come. Look at verse 8. "And the king granted all my requests". Why? He tells us why. "Because the gracious hand of my God was upon me".
Now, don't miss this point. Don't miss this point. Who gets the credit here? Not Nehemiah. Oh, not even the king. God gets all of the glory. We face our fear with prayer. Secondly, we face opposition with courage. I have to tell you at the outset that some of you know this, that commitment ain't cheap. Are you with me? commitment ain't cheap. Look at verses 9 to 18. As soon as Nehemiah gets to Jerusalem, immediately the opposition starts. Verse 10, "And there were Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite," and all of the mosquito bites. They came out of the woodworks. But listen, whenever you attempt something great for God, all of these mosquito bites will always show up. And those mosquito bites will always criticize your every move. They will always belittle your every effort. They will always question your motives. They will always, always nab at your heel everywhere you go.
And because misery loves company, you go down to verse 19 and a third was added, Geshem the Arab. Misery loves company. He got 'em all. But Nehemiah's attitude was this. Listen carefully. Don't let the critics get you down. Don't let the opposition slow you down. Don't let the detractors detract you. Don't let those who are doing nothing for God stop you from doing something for God. Opposition will always be there. It's what you do with the opposition. In the face of opposition, what did Nehemiah do? He went out in the nighttime and he was inspecting the horrors of the destruction of the wall of Jerusalem and the burnt gates. He goes out in nighttime. While all of Israel slept, he was awake doing some inspection. While all of Israel rested, Nehemiah walked, inspected, studied, surveyed, probed, and prepared.
And even while his critics were asleep, he was awake. He was listening to God and he was obeying God. What was he doing? He was rejecting fear. He was stepping out of his comfort zone. He was experiencing loneliness of leadership. Parents understand. Christian leaders of all stripes understand this challenge. Sensitive believers know how that feels. Please listen to me. Today, everywhere you look, it has become painfully obvious that the walls of our culture are shattered, that the walls of our churches are burnt, that the walls of our families are broken down, that the walls of the cities are in rubbles, that the gates of our schools are burnt down, leaving our children and families vulnerable to Satan's attack. If you know what some of those curriculum, and I've been reading about this, what these curriculums in schools are teaching our children, you'll be heartbroken and horrified.
You see, we send our children to school to learn, but instead they are taught to detest their country and deny their faith. Instead of learning to succeed in life, they are taught political correctness, safe sex, despising the founding fathers. Oh yeah. The walls are broken down and the gates are burnt, but the question is, who will be the Nehemiahs of our generation? May God give us not just listening ears, but obedient heart. The protective enclosure of our moral walls and spiritual gates have been turned into rubbles. Most professing Christians today are biblically illiterate. They don't know how to respond. No wonder the church, like the surrounding culture, is ravished. There can be no doubt that institutional Christianity has failed. It has failed. But we must never confuse institutional Christianity with biblical Christianity. Amen.
And while the surrounding culture is littered with rubble of moral relativism, the true Word of God stands supreme as the only secure wall against cultural decay and decline. I know and you know, as we survey the wreckage of our culture, much as Nehemiah surveyed the wreckage of Jerusalem, we can get overwhelmed, and I do on occasions. Thank God it doesn't last for very long, but we can get overwhelmed with the enormity of the task. As we see friends and neighbors who once believed in the authority of the Scripture now have bought into this Satan's lie of denying the infallibility of the Word of God, we can get discouraged and we can get despondent. But remember, like Nehemiah, we serve a great and mighty God.
Like William Carey, we need to stand firm against the opposition and we need to say to one another, expect... Attempt... Because... We face fear with prayer, we face opposition with courage, and we face timidity with vision. On a regular basis, I hear folks in the church who are taking a stand, Nehemiah-like, confronting the relativism that comes out of other churches, and they face it with courage. Please know that I thank God for you and for your courage, and I pray for you. Several times, the Lord has taken me into that passage in the Scripture in the gospels where it says, "And Jesus could do no more mighty things because of their unbelief".
And I went back and really looked at that. It's not that he couldn't, it's just he wouldn't. God is not dependent on us, but he loves to see belief. He loves to see commitment, not half-heartedness. And so, he wants to work with the remnant to rebuilt the broken walls. How did Nehemiah build the wall? Now, I've asked the question deliberately this way 'cause Nehemiah did not build the wall. Did you know that? He did not do it. Nehemiah did not build the wall. After surveying the task, his message to the people, verse 17, very simple, "Let's build the wall of Jerusalem, so that we no longer be in disgrace".
Don't miss this. Don't miss what I'm gonna show you here. Nehemiah did not say, "You must build," or "I'm gonna build and I want you to pray for me". No, doesn't work that way. Doesn't work that way. He said, "Let us rebuild". And that is the attitude of any genuine, true, God-called, Christian leader. Nehemiah was not a boss. There is no such a thing as a boss in the church of Jesus Christ. Nehemiah identified with the people. Nehemiah never expected them to do anything that he is not willing to do more himself. Nehemiah never shouted orders from an ivory tower, but he got down in the trenches, as we will see in the next message.
Nehemiah communicated a vision: what God can and will do. There is no telling what God can and will do with the committed few, regardless of the scoffers, regardless of the antagonists, regardless of the opposition, regardless of the critics, I want you to hear me right, for God is greater than all of the critics. God is greater than all of the oppositions. God is greater than all of the mockers and the ridiculers. Do you prefer to tear down or build up? Do you seek to encourage or discourage? Do you seek to spread optimism and faith or do you spread doom and gloom? It is my prayer that every single person in this place, anybody who's watching and listening, to say, "Let's build".
Let's build together. And as God removes all of the Sanballats, and all of the Tobiahs, and all of the Geshems, we are left with the constructionists. We are left with the builders. We are left with those who courageously would say, "Let's turn the world upside down". And when that Word was used, it was not used a few thousand people. It was used of 12 fisherman and a church persecutor. They said they turned the world upside down. But remember this, we'll always encounter the Sanballats, and the Tobiahs, and the Geshems, always whenever you begin to do great things for God. Will you face them? Will you go forth with courage and confidence? For opposition does not intimidate us, obstacles will not stop us, and critics will not hinder us for doing great things for God, and attempting great things for God, for we have a great God.