Michael Youssef - Rebuilding Our Broken Walls - Part 9
Whenever you are doing the will of God, whenever you are obeying God's vision for your life, whenever you know that you are following God's vision, not your own, nothing, listen carefully, nothing. Can you say, "Nothing"? Nothing will ultimately succeed in preventing you from accomplishing the will of God in your life. Nothing. Now, that does not mean that the enemy of our soul is gonna throw everything at you, including the kitchen sink. I mean, he will throw everything. We've been seeing it through the series. But God's power of perseverance and persistence is gonna work in you in such a way that is gonna baffle everybody. It will frustrate your opposition, it will neutralize your attackers, it will silence your enemies, it will uplift your friends, it will encourage the discouraged, and it will bring joy to the heart of God.
Surely, you must be uplifted by now. You must be encouraged by now. Nehemiah's people, he and his team, they faced horrendous opposition. My goodness, they faced incredible obstacles. They faced crippling discouragements from even those who supposed to be encouraging them, those who are in leadership, as we will see in why he mentioned those specifically today. They were criticized by their friends, they were attacked by their enemies, they faced unbelievable obstacles, and yet, they persevered, and they persisted, and they moved forward with God's vision of rebuilding. God empowered them and gave them victory. Beloved, listen. There can be no little doubt today that if you are a believer in Jesus Christ who stand on the authority of the Word of God as the inspired, infallible Word of God, you will... not you might, not possibly, but you will face opposition, even from some people who call themselves Christians.
Years ago, someone made this statement. He said, "The incubation of godly character breeds people of godly vision". The incubation of godly character breeds people of godly vision. What does that mean? What does that mean? When you go home, read Acts chapter 20 in Paul's farewell speech to the elders in the Ephesian church. You will find all of those there very clearly, because the difference between a vision that is from God and human vision, which some people have and that's fine. I'm not against that, but the difference between the two is godliness. That's the great difference. In this church, through the years, we got pressed from every direction from people, well-meaning people. Trust me, they're all well-meaning. They want us to adopt their vision. They wanted to acquiesce to their plans. They wanted us to implement their ideas and their opinions.
But every time I go to the Lord in prayer, God says, "Michael, stay the course". Stay the course. And thus, by God's grace, and God's power, and God's strength, we stuck to God's vision, and we will as long as he gives me breath. What are those qualities of characteristics that characterized Nehemiah's godly vision? There are four in number. Let me share them with you very quickly. This is not my message. This is just a freebie on the house, okay? Those four things, you write them down and it doesn't matter what business you're in, you'll be blessed by them.
The first characteristic is humility. Now, this is a word that is banded about, used by a lot of people, very few practice it. Some even don't know what it means. What does humility look like? Listen carefully. Drawing attention to ourselves, and the importance of our opinions, and the importance of our ideas, pride of ideas and pride of effort. All of this produces disastrous consequences. But when humility is a deep characteristic of a person, when humility is a deep characteristic, then I will accept the trials, and the opposition, and the humiliation that may come my way. That's what we're seeing here throughout those nine messages. Because in the final analysis, listen carefully, in the final analysis, God is gonna use these trials, and those difficulties, and the opposition, and all the stuff you go through to strengthen you and strengthen your resolve, amen?
First, humility. Secondly, passion. Here's the problem with the word "passion". Now, some people think if somebody, you know, who speaks with emotions, you know, I mean, he says he's passionate. No, that's just caffeine. You gotta understand the difference. Passion is not an outward emotion. Passion is ordering your priorities and the priorities of your life to conform with God's vision for your life. Can I get a witness? Look at Nehemiah and see how many times since they began to rebuild the walls, and we've been seeing it over, and over, and over again. They stayed the course, never altered their priorities. That's passion.
Thirdly, endurance. When you know that you are obeying God's vision for your life and not your selfish ambitions, you will endure. Not you might, you will endure. When you have God's vision for your life, your conscious focus, your conscious focus is always on the unseen reality. Nobody else can see it but you. Others might not be able to see it, but you see it. I know that creates problems for you, but that's okay. I submit to you that Nehemiah endured because he could visualize God accomplishing the vision that he gave him from the very beginning of the rebuilding of the wall.
Now, there are some people who constantly worry, and fret, and they always get bent out of shape as soon as they get criticized. "Ooh, we've been criticized". So what? They criticized Jesus. Who do you think we are that we'd be immune from criticism. As soon as opposition mounds, they wanna run. And Nehemiah said, "Shall a man like me run? Never". Others who think that if they are obeying God's vision for their life, everything is gonna fall in place. Everything is just gonna work out hunky dory. I got news for you. We are in a state of war, and sometimes your enemy, Satan, will use people in the church to attack you. Therefore, we should not be surprised that God's vision, at times, appears to be thwarted. Don't be surprised. But you'll never get discouraged because you know it's his vision and you know he's the one who gives you the strength. But you stay the course. Why? Because you know that he who's in us is greater than he who's in the world.
As a young Christian, 17-year-old, there was a man who, to me, was a Christian giant. And I saw him facing some crushing circumstances, some difficult circumstances, and every time he faces those circumstances, he said, "Oh well, these are just circumstances". And I had to scratch my head, I must admit. You know, I'm not like this. I've been trying to learn that for 50 years. And I said, "Oh Lord, I wanna be like this godly man". These are just circumstances. And the fourth characteristics is adaptability and innovation. I often say, and some of you heard me say this, that we have no sacred cows in this church except the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's nothing except the gospel. And for that, I'm willing to die. I will die slowly, I'll die fast, but I'm willing to die for the gospel. Everything else is open to adaptability and innovation. Everything else is open to new thing and new program.
I tell my team all the time, I say, "Hey, something doesn't work, just scrap it. Try something different". Only the Bible is sacred. Now, these character qualities will empower you, not only to have God's vision, but you will keep God's vision and that you'll maintain God's vision for your life. Now, we have been seeing in Nehemiah and his team, throughout this great book. Look with me please in this chapter 12, verses 27 to 43. We come to the end with the dedication of the wall to God. It is time now to praise and celebrate. The people of Israel have endured humiliation, they have endured defeat, they have endured mockery, they have gone through a long time of exile, they have mourned over the broken walls and over their broken lives, they have mourned over the broken city. But now, they have gone through a time of renewal, a time of restoration, and now it's time to celebrate. I want you to listen carefully what I'm gonna tell you.
See, when you know that you are following God's vision for your life, every day should be a day of celebration. I know it's not, but it ought to be. Because problems come and go, difficult people come and they go, hardships come and go, challenges come and go, but their underlying attitude should be a life of celebration and joy. You know, our Anglican forebearers, the English reformers who reformed the Church of England, these people actually died for Christ, fighting the Dark Ages and Medieval church, like Archbishop Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer, those great reformers in the Church of England. But what they did in their fighting these wars with the Medieval church, they, at least the fruit of that is they called Sunday, and particularly Communion, as celebration.
In fact, you hear me say, "We're gonna celebrate Communion". That is the fruit of victory over the Dark Ages in the Medieval time, because to the Medieval church, and some churches now, Communion is a very somber, very sad, very sorrowful occasion. Do you know why? Do you know why it is? Because they believed that the priest actually is offering Jesus up to God all over again. That's what the mass is. Imagine that. And the Anglican reformers said, "No! Sunday, and Sunday Communion, and Sunday morning worship should remind us that we have been redeemed from sin, that we have been reassured of our salvation, that we are heirs to the living God, that we have been buried with Christ and now risen with Christ. It should be a reminder that we don't belong to the world. It should be a reminder that we are pilgrims on our way to heaven".
Now, I know pastors get a bum rap for being stern, and unjoyful, and some of it is really deserved. I have met some who are really, really, too serious. As a matter of fact, I remember this true story. A lady who was standing in the grocery store, loading her groceries on the conveyer belt. You know that thing? And she noticed a guy standing right behind her who really looked very somber. And she would put the groceries, and she looks at him, and put the groceries, and looks at him. And finally, she picked up the courage and says, "Can I ask you a question"? He said, "Sure". She said, "Are you a minister"? The man said, "No ma'am, I've just been sick for a long time". But listen, listen, listen. There is a serious dimension to this celebration. I don't want you to miss it. This was not a mindless blowout of a party. There was a serious dimension.
Look at verse 30. "When the priests and the Levites had purified themselves, they purified the people, and then the gates and the walls". Set them aside. Then there was a celebration. You see, we saw in the last message, before you can ever have true joy in your life, there has to be a confession. There cannot be no true joy without real confession. Why? Because there can be no peace with God without the peace of God that comes in through confession and repentance. I know in my own daily walk, if I have any unconfessed sin in my life, ministry, whether it be preaching or even one-on-one ministering to people, I feel my words hitting back at me. And that is why I often take time to repent, I take time to confess, and come clean before God before I can minister to anyone, whether it be one-on-one or in public. Why? Because cleansing must come before serving. Purification must precede ministry.
Sanctification must come before celebration. And here, at this time, in the life of God's people, purification had to take place first, then it's the time to experience the full joy. Verses 31 to 37, he said, "I had the leaders of Judah go up on top of the wall". He mentioned Judah by name. He singled them out. See, Judah represented the leadership of God's people at the time. And earlier on, we saw how these people at the leadership were getting wobbly knees, and that was beginning to really discourage Nehemiah. But it's one thing you can face the opposition and the attack of the enemy, it's another thing when you have your leadership getting wobbly knees. And that is why he deliberately said, "And I got the people of Judah to come up first. They're the ones who was really losing heart. I'm gonna put them up there on top of the wall first".
These are the key people, and when they lost heart it became a discouraging time. You and I know that leadership makes or breaks. It makes or breaks a company, a business. It makes or breaks a ministry. It makes or breaks a church. Leadership is vitally important from the beginning in the Scripture. In addition to Judah, he brought up on the wall a great number of musicians. I mean, they were singing, and they were dancing, and they were jumping up and down on the wall. Why? What is Nehemiah doing? Listen carefully. He's doing something very, very important. Why was he jumping up and down? Why were they praising God? Why? Why is he doing that? Why is he jumping up and down on the wall?
Back in chapter 4... I know some of you remember this. Back in chapter 4, you know what Sanballat, Tobiah, and all those miserable, Geshem, and all those people say? In verse 3 of chapter 4, they said, "This wall is so flimsy, if a fox goes on top of it, it will break". Are you with me? Nehemiah was saying, "Hey, Sanballat, Tobiah, look at this! Look at us! We're all of us, we're standing up there and jumping up and down praising God. The musicians, the instrumentalists, all of us, we're heavier than a fox". He didn't say that, but he's making the point. And the wall's standing, ain't fallen. "Look at us, you miserable enemies of God".
Look at the hundreds of people singing and dancing on top of the wall, and it's standing. Sometimes I feel like I wanna jump up and down when the enemy is after me. I really do. I recommend it to you. Do it, but just do it when you're alone. 'Cause you will need to show Satan the joy of the Lord. I challenge you to do it. Tell him, "Satan, you can't defeat me. You cannot take away my salvation. You cannot steal my joy. You cannot separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus. You cannot take me out of his hands".
Tell him, "Satan, you might bark, but you can't bite, because on the cross, Jesus knocked out your teeth. Hey Satan, Satan, you can stir people against me all you want, but God is always with me. You might create obstacles and difficult circumstances all you want, but you're a loser. Hey Satan, I know you read the Bible, and the Bible said that you know the Bible and you tremble at the Word of God. Read it some more and remember that when you are in the lake of fire, I'll be reigning and ruling with Christ; that when you are in chains, I am jumping up and down in heaven; when you are bound, I am now and for eternity will be blessing the Lord". Try it sometimes. Try it sometimes.
Look at verses 38 to 43. Try to use your imagination here, okay, please. Nehemiah was leading two choirs. Not one, two. One from one end, one from the other, and they're gonna meet in the middle somewhere. And they were dancing and lifting hands up to the Lord. If you use your imagination, don't think about choirs in our modern sense with flowing robes, and hymnals in hand, and kind of walking like board stiff. Think of a bunch of wild Pentecostals, singing and rocking the house, and you get close, you get close to it. Here, Nehemiah is describing that day. Here's what he said. He said, "And on that day they offered a great sacrifice, rejoicing because God had given them great joy".
You see, they were rejoicing so loud that people far away could hear the joy. Their enemies can hear their joy. The weak-kneed who stayed away could hear their joy. I know some of you go to football games, and basketball games, and baseball games. God bless you, keep doing it, but that's... okay, you know what I'm talking about with the roar of the crowd, and the band playing, and some of you shout your voice hoarse for your team. For what? I'm not gonna go there, but when you come to the real celebration of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, when it comes to the real celebration of your salvation, my goodness, they can't even move your lips.
When we celebrate the Lord, we sing to him. We don't sing it for one another. We're singing to him. We focus on his unique presence with us in worship, because he said he indwells the praises of his people. And when Nehemiah said they sacrificed unto the Lord, what is he saying? Well, you see, some people sing and it's okay. They can mouth the hymns, but then they got their pocketbooks sealed. Hello? There are some people who can sing the songs, but they keep all their time to themselves, never sacrifice any time to serving the Lord, and serving his church, serving his people. They don't wanna sacrifice anything of value or anything that would cost them something dear. They wanna worship God on the cheap. That's why they sacrificed to the Lord. No, no, no.
See, the meaning of the word "worship" comes from the Latin, "worthship". That's where it comes from, "worthship". And so the question is, what is the Lord worth to you? What is he worth to you? What is he worth to you? When you worship God, are you going to show him his worth just singing a few songs? No, it's a total sacrifice. It's a total sacrifice. It's a total job. Worshiping God does not mean you give him the crumbs, and the leftovers, and the discarded stuff.
No, no, no, no. It's not that you give him that which cost you nothing. No. But only you can decide what a sacrifice to you is, because what's a sacrifice to you might not be a sacrifice to me. You know what God wants from you. Believers, please listen to me. I know some people come to the Lord looking dour, and prune-faced, and tight-lipped. I want to plead with you. I want to plead with you. Learn how to come to his presence with joy. That doesn't mean you fake it. No, no, no, no. Just take a few moments and think about the God of glory leaving his splendor, pleading to death on the cross, and then rising again for you. That will give you joy. That will give you joy.