Thursday, June 21, 2012

What to Expect When You’re Expecting - Part 2 "The Good Stuff"

In my last blog I talked about what hardships you can expect in your life when you’re expecting to do a great work for God. I’ll admit, the post came off a bit “Debby Downer,” but if you’re like me, you don’t want things sugarcoated. Even Jesus told his disciples, “In this world you will have troubles, but take heart, I have overcome the world!”*

I’ve saved the best news for last. Let’s look at “the good stuff” in Nehemiah’s story. As you’ll see, when you obey God you can absolutely expect His help! 

God will send unlikely people to help you 

King Artaxerxes noticed that Nehemiah, his cupbearer, was “deeply troubled”* and asked him why. When Nehemiah explained how Jerusalem lay in ruins, the king asked how he could help. The king proceeded to give him time off, letters of recommendation, timber, and an armed guard. Did you see that--a heathen king helping his Jewish servant? That’s favor from an unlikely source!

Leaders will follow you

As Nehemiah describes the various people that helped build the wall, nine of the men were specifically referred to as “leaders.”* Why does that matter? Accomplishing a great work for God may require partnering with people of influence. “Influencers” can mobilize their followers. God will bring you “influencers” to help you raise the army needed to do the work.

People will be willing to work outside their specific talents to do the work that’s needed

A goldsmith, a perfume maker, priests, and merchants all became carpenters to help accomplish Nehemiah’s vision. One man even brought his daughters to help repair part of the wall, which back-in-the-day was considered “man’s work.” When you have a God-given vision, Spirit-led people will do whatever it takes to help you see it through.

You will develop a heart for the oppressed and even do something about it 

During a recent famine in Israel, the poor borrowed money at high interest rates from their wealthy family members just to survive. To pay back the debt, some were forced to sell their children into slavery! Nehemiah found out and was furious! He strongly rebuked those greedy relatives and demanded change. Because Nehemiah had proven himself a worthy leader, the people repented and changed their ways. What do you call that? A beautiful and unexpected side effect of obeying God!

My Nehemiah Experience

Just as my husband and I have experienced the difficulties of ministry, we’ve also seen God do all the “good stuff”. The unlikely people He’s sent our way to help, the gifted and talented leaders who serve alongside us . . . well, it’s miraculous. I’m always amazed how people will humbly serve to make our church plant succeed—getting up early to help transform our movie theatre into a church, helping with childcare, ushering, greeting, tearing down after service, etc. 

God also sent us an unlikely supporter--Joel Osteen. We’d only been a church for a few months when I produced a segment with the Osteen’s for The 700 Club. They found out I was a pastor’s wife, we talked about a few common friends we shared, and voila! Matt and I were invited to a private meeting with local pastors, given front row seats at his local “Night of Hope,” invited to become a Champion’s Network church and attend a CN pastors' conference at Lakewood Church. My husband and I eagerly attended and found ourselves laughing at the improbability of us being there. Looking around, pastors with mega-churches and multi-site campus churches surrounded us—and there we were, with our unknown little church plant of 200 people. Only God! 

My unexpected side effect of starting a church? I’ve developed a heart for women and children suffering from domestic violence. Before 3n1 Church, this cause was nowhere on my radar! While searching for some local community groups where our women could volunteer, I came across the H.E.R. Shelter, a temporary home for families escaping abusive situations. We’ve been working there almost 2 years, and I absolutely love these women and children!

I sincerely hope you will stick with the call of God on your life. It will be hard and you will be tempted to quit (BIG understatement). But if you will hold on to your God-given vision with the tenacity of a bulldog and the stubbornness of a mule, you will see God do unbelievable miracles. Keep expecting! 

* John 16:33
*facts taken from Nehemiah 2-4

Monday, June 18, 2012

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Part 1. . . “The Hard Stuff”

Are you expecting God to use you in a powerful way? To do something significant? To help build the kingdom of God? Nehemiah also felt God’s call to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. His story gives us a sneak peak into the hardships we can expect to face when we attempt a great work for God:

The enemy will assign some “good” people to be your enemies.

Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official were well respected by the people of Judah. Tobiah’s father-in-law was a bigshot, and his son married a woman from an important family. Tobiah was even known for his “good deeds.”* Yet, these “good" men sent threatening letters, spread false rumors, tried to accuse and discredit Nehemiah, and plotted to harm him.

Scoffers and mockers will have some unpleasant things to say about you.

Sanballat ridiculed the work saying, "What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they're doing? Do they think they can build the wall in a single day by just offering a few sacrifices? Do they actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap—and charred ones at that?" *

Tobiah also chimes in, "That stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked along the top of it!"*

Be ready for a  fight.

Nehemiah quickly realizes the dangerous building conditions and encourages his people, "Don't be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!"*

People will complain that the work is not happening fast enough.

The people who were once working enthusiastically now whined, "The workers are getting tired, and there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves."*

The enemy will try to find your weak spot and expose it.

Nehemiah’s enemies threatened, "Before they know what's happening, we will swoop down on them and kill them and end their work."*

Physically, you will be stretched to the max.

Nehemiah records, “We worked early and late, from sunrise to sunset. And half the men were always on guard . . . During this time, none of us—not I, nor my relatives, nor my servants, nor the guards who were with me—ever took off our clothes.”*When you don’t even have time to change your clothes—that’s serious!

My “Nehemiah” experience:

My husband and I started a church in 2009. We’ve experienced similar attacks from the enemy, although our “fight” never required us to hold an actual weapon and no one plotted “physical” harm against us. Instead, we’ve had to fight in prayer using God’s word.

Likewise, I’ve never had to work so hard that I couldn’t change my clothes—thank the Lord! But I have worked so hard that my body & mind began to break down, requiring extra trips to the doctor and to the counselor!

I never expected that planting a church would be so challenging. After all, we were obeying God’s call! Didn’t that assure us of His unlimited favor, blessing, and open doors? Instead, we felt blindsided by the insidious attacks of the enemy many times, and we questioned if we even heard God in the first place. Should we continue to fight for this church plant or should we give up?

For me, Nehemiah’s experience is a reality check. First of all, why should I think doing God’s work would be an easy thing? There is no great work accomplished in the Bible that didn’t require hard work, perseverance, and significant sacrifice—for instance, look at Noah, Moses, Esther, David, Mary, Stephen, Paul, etc. At the same time, I need to be like Nehemiah and trust that God will help us to build this wall and complete the work.

*all scriptures taken from Nehemiah ch. 3 & 4
Look for the follow up blog, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” Part 2, “The Good Stuff”