Lessons on Leadership from Nehemiah
“The Danger of Half-Way”Categories: Lessons on Leadership
The enthusiasm with which we begin a project is often not the same with which we end. Nehemiah got the work started. The people were working on the wall with all their heart, and they got the wall up to “half its height” (4:6). Halfway is a very critical and difficult place. It’s easy to get people excited about doing good work, but when the sweat begins to roll off their face, and their muscles begin to hurt, and they see they’ve still got a long way to go, it’s hard to keep them excited.
“So, we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.” (4:6). Then the very next verse begins with a word of contrast, “But.” Things are about to change. The enemy shows up and in verse 10 we learn that the builders become discouraged and say, “We cannot rebuild the wall.” They went from working with all their heart to being half-hearted about their work. What did Nehemiah do to help them overcome their discouragement?
He changed their focus. Nehemiah knew that the real problem was not that there was too much rubble. The real problem was not that they were worn out. The real problem was that they failed to remember the Lord, Who is “great and awesome,” and they got afraid. So, he says to the people, “Get your eyes off the rubble, and get your eyes off our enemies, and get your eyes back on God” (4:14).
He concentrated on their safety. He armed all the workers. He posted 24-hour guards. He put extra people in the exposed places. “But we prayed to our God and posted a guard.” Remember in the face of ridicule, Nehemiah prayed, but now in the face of threat, Nehemiah prays and acts—he posts a guard!
Vision! – He Challenged Their Future. He said in verse 14, “Fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” In other words, he says, “We’re not just building a wall here, we are building a future.” Discouraged people need to see hope for the future.
Unity! – He Consolidated Their Forces (see 4:19-23). He said, “Do you know what the problem is? We’re so spread out that we can’t be there for each other.” So, he had a man stand beside him with a trumpet, and he said, “If I ever blow this trumpet, I want everyone to come to the sound and we’re going to stand beside the person in trouble.” Then he said, “Some of you are staying outside the city at night, and that’s not going to happen anymore. I want everybody to move inside the city.”
For us today, Nehemiah accomplished two things by consolidating his forces.
First, he increased their dependence on one other. If somebody was being attacked, everyone would run to their side to help. Nehemiah knew that fellowship with fellow believers is a great remedy for discouragement. What does this say to us? We need to listen. When someone says, “I need help,” we run to help. Sometimes it’s not so straight forward. Someone’s in trouble and we need to see the signs and run to their side. We need to encourage them and fight with them.
Second, he insulated them from the enemy. Some people were walking to their homes outside of Jerusalem every night . Along the way they could easily be ambushed by the enemy. If they weren’t ambushed, the enemy would certainly try to tell them a bunch of lies that were meant to scare them. Look at that word “near” in verse 12. It was precisely because some Jews were living so close to the enemy, that the rumors began, and the discouragement set in.
Usually, discouraged disciples have taken their eyes off the Lord, or they’ve forgotten their future, or they haven’t been around brothers and sisters in a while. To build for God, we need people pulling for each other. It will be hard to win the battle unless we care a lot about the person next to us.