The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. [NIV]
The story about Nehemiah has a lot to teach us about how to identify and maintain the vision God has given us. Here are the five things (and questions) I gleaned from this passage.
- Position: Where has God placed you? For Nehemiah, he was a cup bearer to King Xerxes. He was an equivalent of a public servant of today. He wasn’t a priest, prophet or a king. He was an ordinary guy passionate about God and the welfare of the people of God. No matter where God has placed you, you can accomplish great things for him. David was a shepherd boy, Peter was a fisherman, Matthew was a tax collector, Paul was a theologian. God can use the lowly and the mighty to accomplish his purposes. Another question to ask is: How can I leverage my position to accomplish what God has called me to do?
- Need: What’s the problem? What needs to be accomplished? Every vision that God gives you is meant to meet a certain need. For Nehemiah, the need Israel’s national security: the walls of Jerusalem were broken and that put Jerusalem city and it’s inhabitants in a vulnerable state. The need may be of a personal nature: maybe there are things that need to be fixed in your life. May I suggest that if you have been trying to overcome them by yourself and have failed, then seek a community of believers [peers or professionals] to help you? For others the need may be of a family nature…maybe you are outwardly successful but your family is breaking apart. Others may have a vision for a community or a city, or a nation.
- Perspective: What do you see? Many have eyes but few see. Through a vision, God enables you to see beyond the present reality of things. You are taken into the realm of the future and you see things “the way they are supposed to be” rather than “the way things are.” Instead of seeing communities broken by nepotism, sickness and poverty, you see healthy and prosperous communities transformed by the power of the gospel. Instead of fearful, purposeless people, God lets you see a fearless generation turning the world right-side-up for Jesus Christ. Instead of broken homes, you see healthy families ministering the love and healing of Christ in their communities.
- Sacrifice (Discipline): What does it cost/take? What am I willing to give up in order to accomplish what God has called me to do? Nehemiah had to leave the comfort of working in a palace for some time to supervise the rebuilding of the wall in Jerusalem; he had to face the king to request for supplies, he had to face opposition. No vision simply happens, it is costly. It requires sacrifice. The bigger the vision, the greater the sacrifices. It will cost you some of your friends; it will demand your energy, your time, your comfort.
- Focus: What are the things or people bound to distract you from you vision? You need to be aware of the things that can easily distract you from your God-given vision. These may not necessarily be bad things, even good things can distract us from the best that God has in store for us. Be sure to keep focus.