Date: September 18, 2005
Bible Text: Nehemiah 6:15-16 | Roger Voegtlin
Series: Transcribed Sermons
Please turn in your Bibles to the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah chapter 6, verses 15-16 to start with. This evening I’d like to preach a very practical message on some keys to doing the work for God. Again, we know that our anniversary Sunday, our very special 35th anniversary, is one week from tonight. And a live Christian will be pumped up about that. If you are right with God, I believe that you will be excited about that. It’s a great opportunity. In Nehemiah chapter 6, beginning with verse 15, it says, “So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days. And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.” Now, I’ll tell you what, that ought to grab your heart. It does mine. If there is anything that we should want the community to say, it should be that they perceive that it’s built on the energy of God.
You don’t hear me preach much on the man Nehemiah, but if you read the Bible, you’ll agree with me that he has to be one of the great leaders of God’s Word. The Bible doesn’t say a word about his mental capacity; in fact, it stresses more the practical. Nothing is said about his physical powers. There are three things that we know about him. First, that he was a cupbearer; second, that he was a wall builder (a construction worker); and then, that he was a governor. Neither was Nehemiah a theologian. When the revival was spreading, it was Ezra that preached the sermons. I think, though, we can get a good idea about his greatness from verse 15 where it says, “So the wall was finished.” He was a builder, and he got the job done. Now, I couldn’t preach a more practical sermon than I’m going to tonight.
What God wants us to do is get the job done. We have a lot of people who are in so-called full-time Christian service, and all they want to do is talk. That’s all they want to do. They don’t get the job done. And, of course, there are a lot of people in the pew who want to act spiritual; they want people to think they are spiritual. But I want to say something that is so simple. You are not spiritual if you do not get the job done. If you are not doing the job, you are not a spiritual person. We don’t need more eloquent preaching. I love preaching. It amazes me how many can really preach. That’s one of the reasons we have guests come in. We have preaching today. We don’t need any more “how-to” seminars, either, or building experts. There are all kinds of books, tapes, and videos telling us how to build a church or how to do this or do that. No, we don’t need better preaching today; we’ve got good preaching today. We don’t need any more methodology today. We need a revival of preachers and laymen to just get the job done. Now isn’t that easy? Isn’t that something we can all do? Just get a job, get a responsibility, and finish it.
We need to stop talking, and stop putting acts on, stop even just listening, and do the job. We need some deacons like Stephen and Philip who turned their world upside down. Deacons, put your hands up. Don’t be ashamed of being a deacon. Why don’t you determine to leave here and just pray and beg God to do a great work for Him, to be the example you ought to be. Not to look for bigness. When I use the word “great,” I don’t mean that. But to pray that God will greatly use you. We need some Sunday school teachers who will feel the responsibility that is theirs. I like to think about old Moody. So many times, we hear about when he was preaching to the thousands, but I like to think of him as a shy guy, afraid to be called of God, afraid to teach the class, and taking that stick out into the neighborhoods of Chicago, that walking stick, and just standing there and turning around. You say, “He must have looked like he was nuts.” Yep. But he didn’t care what he looked like. He just took that stick and went around in circles until some people came and asked, “What are you doing?” And he invited them to Sunday school and told them about Jesus. I like to think of him taking that pony and walking through the neighborhoods. I like Moody. I don’t agree with everything about Moody. I don’t agree with everything that he said or did. But I sure like to think of him, because I think he is a beautiful example of just a common person who didn’t think he could do anything for God, that obeyed God, and humbly started out there and just tried to get people to Sunday school. I say again, afraid to even teach, but he got them out and eventually God taught him and emboldened him, and he did a tremendous work for God.
I remember my first Sunday school class. I knew nothing. I didn’t know how to do anything. I could not teach. But I could pray. You see, all of us can do that. And I could visit. And the point I’m trying to make is that is all God wants us to do, to do what we can. You don’t look up there at some grand guys, you don’t look at Moody when he is preaching to the thousands. You look at him when he is starting out. We can all pray. We can all visit. I could take the kids to visit other people. I could bring them on activities. Sunday school teachers, raise your hands. Now pull them down and look at them. Think. Is there blood? Are they just a bunch of kids, or are they souls? Are they our responsibility? Oh, again, we need to pray. We need to love. We need to prepare. We need to visit. Bus captains and workers, are you tired? I guess. You did a lot of work today. And I understand that kids let you down today that promised to come. And I understand that parents are not appreciative. But forget that. You are not doing the work for the parents; God is the One Who gave you the job. And the question is not, “What did the parents say?” but “Are you charging the devil for God?” Are you doing what God wants you to do? The secret of Nehemiah is that God gave him a challenge, and he met it. Understand? Don’t get some grand eyes idea. I really think a lot of people just foul their whole life up with that. Just find out what God wants you to do, and do it. Just do it. We’re all for a big day. I don’t know that there would be anybody here that would be against our soulwinning campaign. But what exactly are you personally doing? We need a spirit to do the job.
I remember reading about a woman bus captain who consistently ran over 100. She never went under 100. Now that’s a good bus captain. And she was in a wheelchair. Now bus workers, think about that. She couldn’t go up to the door. It said that she would have to get something to throw at the door. Think about on a wintry day. And some of us can’t bring one person to Sunday school. I remember some businessmen in a church that got together and prayed and vowed together that they were going to win everybody that they worked with that they absolutely could. And I mean, they had a revival among themselves, and many people were saved. Now this sounds unbelievable, but I had the pastor tell me about this. He had two, three, or four doctors in his church. And these doctors vowed together that they were going to get every doctor they could from the hospital. And that pastor told me, I believe it’s in Fort Wayne, if I remember correctly where it happened, that he had 40 doctors saved and added to the membership of their church. You see, don’t say you can’t do it. I remember another pastor telling me from South Bend, Indiana (all these stories are from Indiana), that he had an all-American get saved there at Notre Dame. And that guy just determined to win others. And before you knew it, he had two pews full of their football team coming every service that they were in town. Saved, baptized, and added to the church. Amen? You see, the point I’m getting at is you can reach your peers. There was a poor man in Ohio, and the thing I heard is that he had holes in his sleeves and so forth, not dressed very well. But every single Sunday, he would have at least 400 people ride his buses. That’s something. You see, you can do it. The doctor had the ability to dispense medicine. He also had the ability to reach people for Christ. The businessman could build a business, and he could win souls. The all-American football player could also be an all-American soulwinner. And even in God’s power, this poor guy (and I think some poor people that we may look down upon are going to put us to shame in heaven), he could bring 400 people out.
You see, the point I’m making is we just need to have a mind to do the job. The key is not theology. The key is not some leadership seminar. It is not organization. It is people who get filled with the power of God and get the job done. In fact, I’m convinced, positively convinced in my heart, that the biggest enemy that churches have is pastors that get so wrapped up in book learning and theology that they never do anything for God. Just get the job done! I would say 99% of us know exactly what is meant by that.
The Bible tells us that Nehemiah lived 800 miles from Jerusalem in Shushan in the land of Persia. But his heart was so burdened for his home town that he traveled those 800 miles, and I remind you he could not go by Greyhound, and he did a work for God. And he finished the job. Now I’d like for you to see the things that motivated him. It’s here in the Bible. First, he succeeded because he labored with specific purpose in mind. He had a goal. Now you read it, I’m not taking anything out of context. He had a vision. He was reaching out for that goal he set for his life. He had a target in every aspect that he was aiming at, a purpose. And the reason that most of us never accomplish a thing in life is that we are too scattered. Too spread out. We need to narrow things down. We need to see what is important in our life. I always look at our church, and every once in a while you will see us cut a ministry. You’ll see us cut this, or cut that. Even in my life as I’m getting older, I cut certain things, because I don’t want to be scattered. You don’t get things accomplished that way. Most of us don’t complete our task because we leave loose ends everywhere. We start things and we don’t really complete them. Now listen, everyone I’ve ever met that did a good work for God had a goal. Not only had a goal, but I mean it was big to them. Now, take a businessman. If he is going to succeed, he is going to have certain goals for his business. You take an athlete, like a wrestler. He’s going to have a goal, so many Ws after his name. A student, if he is going to accomplish something, is going to shoot for a certain grade average. Without a goal, you will do nothing in life. And if you can have goals to make money, and goals to win in athletics, and goals to excel in our fields, why not have goals for God? Don’t be afraid of it. Have goals. Maybe your goal should be, “I want to win a business associate to the Lord every year.” Maybe we want to reach our neighbors. I don’t know what God would lay upon your heart. But Sunday school teachers ought to have a goal, “I am going to personally be responsible for bringing out so many.” Certainly on this big day. I remember this friend day board; I mentioned it earlier. We had some college students quit the college because of that friend day board, because we had put undue pressure on them. Now, I’m sorry, they ought to go home. Is it a problem to say, “I want to win, not just win, but just bring one person to church.” Let me stop, college students. You can say, “Well, I’m new here, and I’m this and I’m that.” You can give yourself all the excuses in the world. You know what I find out? The college student that does things right in college, does it right when he gets out. We say, “You ought to have a button on.” College student, do you have a button on? I’m not saying it is sin, but the point I’m trying to make is don’t make excuses. I’m not saying you will succeed in every goal. But make goals, and make them personal.
What was Nehemiah’s purpose? Look at chapter 2, verse 17, “Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach.” There was a day during the lifetime of David and Solomon when Jerusalem was the great city of the land. But now it’s a doormat. It was conquered by this idolatrous nation, that idolatrous nation; it was a reproach. And Nehemiah said, “By God’s grace I’m going to take God’s city, my city, and lift the reproach off of it.” Amen? That’s a noble cause. Now, I pray that this church never has a reproach upon it. But I’ll tell you what, it will happen in our lifetime if we don’t have goals to keep it from us. Let me tell you your pastor’s heart. I fear that. I carry a burden, a strong burden, not only for you as a people, but for this church and its reputation. If we don’t have goals, if we just cruise through and say, “We’re Fairhaven, and God has blessed us in the past. Look at the stories, and look at the blessings.” If we are always looking at the past and we don’t have goals, and we don’t do our part, we’ll be a reproach. I say again, in our lifetime.
I look around at my friends’ churches. I’m kind of one of the last guys standing now. I was the young guy on the block. And I could take you to church after church in Chicago that ran 1200, 1400, or 1500. They run 200 or 300 today. Oh, they have beautiful buildings. But they are a reproach. The church that I call my home church, Oak Forest Baptist Temple, the church I loved. I say in the past tense because it really isn’t a church anymore. It was the largest Sunday school in Illinois. It ran buses. Oh, Dr. Schroeder was the best soulwinning preacher I’ve ever met. A tremendous soulwinner. It was a soulwinning church, an outstanding church. I’ve mentioned this before. On his 30th anniversary, the 30th anniversary of that church, he invited Dr. Shuler and myself to come and preach. We preached, and that was the end of the church. It’s gone. They were building a beautiful bit auditorium, and it was half built. Gone. I don’t know exactly what happened, but they had to sell it for a lower value and this type of thing. And the church does exist, but I don’t even know where, somewhere else. Do you understand the point I’m trying to make? A reproach. And who do we think we are to believe that it cannot come upon us? And I want to tell you something again. I want you to listen; this is from my heart. I have such a tremendous burden that this church not become a reproach. You say, “It couldn’t happen.” Yes, it could! We’re always on the verge. It could just crumble in no time. That’s why we need revival. That’s why we need days like this. That’s why we need to get excited about the things of God. Not just saying, “Praise God for our church and praise God for what He’s done,” but, “God, do it again. Again, through me!” Fight it, is what I’m saying. Purpose in your heart that it is not going to happen. I pray that Chesterton will always view us as a little bit nutty, and not smirk at us because we are a reproach.
We could never live without life, members. An organization can live without life, but not a local church. A local church is an organism. And it dries up and dies without life. The day that life leaves Fairhaven Baptist Church is the day that we’ll come under a reproach. Now, I’m not talking about workers’ meetings or bus meetings. I’m talking about prayer meetings. I’m talking about the power of God in our lives. And sometimes people come to a church like ours and say, “Well, I’m just used to a small church. I don’t like hard preaching,” or whatever it is. No, read your Bible. Go back to the church of Acts. In the book of Acts churches were growing, doing, going—not dead. People don’t like growing, going churches and hard preaching because they are not doing anything and they feel out of place. Boy, if I weren’t right with God, I’d still want to be in a church that would convict me. Maybe I would come back to God. Let’s build up the wall of Fairhaven Independent Baptist Church. Let’s have goals. It’s not just a day, friend. If I could just get this across. It’s not just a day; it is a great opportunity. And if we don’t participate and we let it go by, and again, that is what the devil wants. He wants us to be all for it. And he wants us to be proud of our church. But just don’t do anything. We let it go by, and enough of us let that type of thing go by, and we will be dead. God will take His hand off of us. You think it won’t happen? I could take you all over America to the vast majority of independent Baptist churches that have ever done anything for God—they are dead. You say, “Preacher, are you mad at them?” I weep for them. My heart breaks for them. I’m not saying that in criticism. I’m saying that as a warning to us. Make a goal. Bring only three, and you get a plate that you can cherish and put in your will. Bring one.
When William Carey was called to the mission field, right away the Sanballats and Tobiahs came. That always happened. His own father said, “You don’t have any education. How can you go?” He said, “I can pray.” His father said, “Well, you don’t have any financial backing.” He said, “I can pray.” His father said, “You are weak in body.” He said, “I can pray.” And he stretched out that map of India in his shoe cobbler shop and prayed, “Lord, give me that land.” And he became the pioneer Baptist missionary to India. Just a practical shoe cobbler. Are you listening? The devil likes to say, “Preachers can do it. Missionaries can do it. Assistant pastors can do it. But you can’t do it.” Yes, you can. What a privilege! We’ve been ribbing Tony about his bus. He didn’t do so go last week. He did a lot better this week. But listen, I think I can speak for Tony. That is the most important thing in his life, barring his family. And that’s a privilege. He’s got a great life because he gives himself to this ministry.
Look at the apostle Paul setting his sights on evangelizing the whole Mediterranean world. Now, I’m sure there were times when he would just as soon give up and quit. But when he laid his head on Nero’s chopping block, he could say, “I have finished my course.” And that’s my goal. Now, my goal is not to lay my head on Nero’s chopping block, but you can take care of it afterward. But what I want is to be able to pass a ministry on to you and say, “Here it is. I’ve done what I should do. I’m not what I should be. I’ve not done all that I should do. But I have finished my course.” You say, “That’s right, for a preacher.” That’s right for a daddy! It’s right for a Sunday school teacher. It’s right for a junior church worker. Yes, he was thrown in jail and shipwrecked and hated. We give up so easily. We ought to set goals for God.
So first, Nehemiah had a specific purpose. He had a goal. Then secondly, he got the job done because he labored with a burden. You say, “Preacher, you talk about a burden. What’s a burden? Seeing a need?” No. It’s easy to see the need. “Is it being tired?” If that’s a burden, we all have a burden all the time. No, that’s not a burden. “Is it feeling sorry for somebody, or being sympathetic?” No. Now look over in chapter 1, verses 2-3, and we will see a burden. “That Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.” Now look at verse 4, “And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven.” He said, “I saw the walls were broken down, and I mourned for days. I couldn’t eat. I begged God.” Most people really don’t know what that means, to have a burden. I think the apostle Paul did. We know what he said, “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not. My conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continuous sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” That’s a burden. Let’s not use the word lightly. Don’t say you are burdened until you get a hold of what Paul had, or Nehemiah had, or maybe Moses when he saw them dancing around the golden calf, and he said, “Blot my name out of the book of life before theirs.” That’s a burden. Why is it that some people can see a picture of a child in Africa with no clothes to wear and a swollen belly, and they can cry. But they don’t cry about little kids going go hell. Ask yourself that. Why? Why is it that some can see a little puppy hit on the highway and killed, and can cry about that but not cry about souls going to hell. If you can cry about somebody dying of AIDS in Africa, you ought to be able to cry more so about their soul. Why can’t we get a burden for kids, not just bring them in? Why can’t we get a burden for the Jolly 60’s. So many of them are at the other end of life like I am. Why not really stop going through the motions and get a burden? When Nehemiah went to Jerusalem, they followed him because they could see the results of a burden. Let’s not be cold. Let’s not just say, “Well, I guess I’d better get somebody for the board,” but let’s get somebody we’re praying for and working on. Let’s really pray this week for Dr. Shuler. Let’s pray for the power of God. Have true compassion, the Bible says “…making a difference.”
He had a purpose, he had a burden. But thirdly, Nehemiah got the job done because he labored in prayer. Look at chapter 6 of Nehemiah, verse 16, “And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.” Again, the last 11 words, “…they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.” Now think with me, when is it that a town or a county will see that a church is wrought of God? When they have a great promotion? No. I believe in promotions, but no. How about advertising? No. A great music program? No. When the church is winning friends and influencing people? No. We’ll get the attention of this town and even, I believe, this state when they perceive that the work is of God. We won’t see it unless we are working on our knees.
There was a preacher in the holy lands, and he was watching a man working on a potter’s wheel. And he watched for a while and finally he said, “I wish that I could cut into the stony hearts of my congregation like you are forming this pottery.” And the man looked up and said, “Well, you can if you work in the position I am—kneeling.” A church will never reach what they should until they go to their knees. We have these cottage prayer meetings before special times so that hopefully God will get a hold of your heart and give you a spark that you will go home and really, really pray and get a hold of God. Look at chapter 4, starting with verse 7, “But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth. And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it. Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them.” Now they worked, they set the watch. But our weapon is prayer. We’re having our big day next week. It will cost us money. Lots of buses, people visiting, but prayer is what keeps it going. Understand? It doesn’t click without prayer. God has to keep many of us and has kept many of us on our knees praying in the past, whether it was the court case, or money problems, or something like that. But we need to pray about souls. That’s the most important thing we can pray about. I believe that we could have over 3,000 next Sunday without praying. But it would be so hollow, so shallow. And we would die. Nehemiah got the job done because he had a purpose and because he labored with a burden, and he prayed.
But number four, Nehemiah got the job done because he labored with others. Like the apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 3:9, “For we are labourers together with God.” Now there may be some in here who say, “Well, I’m not that important. I’m not a bus captain. I’m not a deacon. I’m not a Sunday school teacher.” Listen to me. When you start looking at position, you are in deep trouble. I have always seen that when a person tries to do a work for God, they fill the gap. God uses them. And the gap gets larger and larger until they are greatly used of God. Don’t sit back and say, “I’m not needed.” I’ll just tell you as your pastor, we don’t have enough workers. Pastor Whitecar took over the ministries, and he’ll tell you. I think he thought, “We’ll just kind of cruise into this.” We don’t have enough workers! We need workers. Nehemiah could never have done his job alone, and neither can we. Nursery workers, we need you. We need you to smile. We need you to be friendly. We need you to be helpful. Always ready to testify, always. It’s not a place to gossip or gripe; it’s a place to serve God. People don’t understand this. I talk about this every once in a while. It is so important—the ushering job is so important. I teach them. It’s not an accident that we have the choir and the orchestra and their families up there. You say, “Why?” Because if somebody causes a problem up there, it distracts the entire church. And even this morning, ushers put some people back there who should not have been there. And then in the middle of the sermon they were going out. Listen to me, ushers. You do what we say. You work together. It’s important. I can’t say this enough, it is not just seating people. Let me explain. Again, you take people who need to hear the gospel, and you put them not in the first pew because they will feel conspicuous, but back in the third through sixth rows, right in here, in good eye contact. Please listen to me. This is practical, but it is important. Make sure they are sitting on the aisle. You people that like to sit on the aisle, scoot in! Don’t send somebody to hell because you want to hang on to that thing. I’m saying it’s important. And you get some of the wrong people there, and it is distracting. You put somebody that should not be down here about the fourth row, and right in the middle of the service they will get up and walk out, talking all the way. The point I’m trying to make is that our jobs are important. “Well, I’m just an usher.” It’s important. You need to greet the people; not just in a light way, in a warm way. Make them feel welcome. In fact, next week we will have hundreds of visitors. We all have to look for visitors and make sure we are looking to shake hands with them and make them feel welcome. You see, I’m saying we need teamwork. We need the bus workers and the Sunday school workers to bring in the masses. And then we all need to do our job to bring in what we’re bringing in. Then we all need to make them feel welcome. And we all need to pray. The preacher preaches, but we all work together. If the ushers don’t do their job, if they are in a daze, people will go to hell. You say, “Do you really believe that?” I believe it as much as I am breathing. People will go to hell because ushers are not thinking.
Working together. Singleness of purpose. One goal. We pray together. We go soulwinning together. We invite together. Together we welcome people when they come. We watch to make sure things run smoothly together. And in verse 6 of chapter 4 it says, “So built we the wall.” Working together. The people, all the people, had a mind to work. And that’s what made it successful. Again, chapter 4, verse 6, “…for the people had a mind to work.” I’m basically through, but ask yourself, Sunday school teacher, worker, junior church teacher, worker, bus captain, worker, ushers, Jolly 60’s worker, Reformers Unanimous worker, Spanish class worker—are you listening. Are you all doing your job? If we do, we will rejoice. Believe me. If we do, and to the point that we do, we will have a great day. To the point that we don’t, we won’t. We need to pray, get out, make welcome, organize, and oh, what a day we can have! Is that too much to ask for Jesus? I don’t think so. In Acts chapter 2 it says they “…had all things in common.” I think that was more than food and clothing. It was aims and goals, ambitions, sentiments, desires. They had all things in common. All traveling the same way. And I guess that is what I am trying to get at. That’s how the world perceived that the work was wrought of God. And what I’m saying today is, “Jump on the train.” All together, all going in the same direction, all with a purpose, all praying, all with a burden.