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(Re)Building Better: I choose God - building a winning team.

(Re)Build Better  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  57:25
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Nehemiah 1:1–4 NKJV
1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. It came to pass in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the citadel, 2 that Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. 3 And they said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.” 4 So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
Nehemiah 1:11 NKJV
11 O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” For I was the king’s cupbearer.

(Re)Building Better: I choose God - building a winning team.

Theme and Topic
(Pray)
On last week we began a series on building and rebuilding better, a better future. I recognize that as the COVID-19 pandemic ends in the next year or two years, there will be for some a tendency to try to get back to normal—how life was before the pandemic.
For some it will be impossible to live as one once lived for the time of this pandemic has forever changed how life will be.
And for some, life before the pandemic was not good and so there is no desire to return to a life that wasn’t working.
Similar to Nehemiah, the agent of change in this bible history we read, I pray that God will fill you with vision, and wisdom, and compassion and conviction.
…that you see a better future for others and begin to build that future.
Our world needs you to be dreaming of a better future.
Our campus needs you to help build/rebuild a space where people walk in light and not darkness, where people are more loved than judged, where wellness is the norm and our most common (shared) feelings are hopeful, joyful, and peaceful.
But how does one go from a dream to building this reality.
Nehemiah was a man who had a burden for a better future for his people the Jewish people.
(Let's orient ourselves to the text, Nehemiah Chapter 1.
In our text the Jewish people are God's people, God's chosen people. God allowed another nation, the Babylonians, to take God's people captive from the region of Judah. Particularly, Jerusalem located in Judah was physically the special place/special city of the Jews—the location of the House of God, the temple; where God's presence dwelt. The Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, left it in ruins, and exiled the Jews from it.
Later, the king of Persia captures Babylon, establishes the Persian empire and so assumed authority over the Jews. The king of Persia allows/sent the Jewish people to return home, to where they once lived. The Jews return in waves, not all at once, over more than 90 years. In the first group, more than 40k Jews returned to Jerusalem.
Nehemiah ends up leading a group of exiled Jews (the third or so group) back to Jerusalem. Nehemiah's efforts were 90 years after the first people returned to Jerusalem.
Now, in our text, (Nehemiah Chapter 1) we enter the scene 90 years after the Jewish people have been in Jerusalem and before Nehemiah makes his own trip there.
It is the month of Chislev--November or December.
Nehemiah is not in Jerusalem. Nehemiah is with the Persian king in Shushan the citadel--about 1k miles journey one-way to Jerusalem; would take at least 4 months to travel that distance (between Shushan and Jerusalem). Nehemiah is cupbearer to the Persian king, serving in the king's court. Nehemiah has a trusted and stable role in exile.
Nehemiah 1:1–4 NKJV
1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. It came to pass in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the citadel, 2 that Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. 3 And they said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.” 4 So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
Nehemiah 1:11 NKJV
11 O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” For I was the king’s cupbearer.
(Re)Building Better: I choose God - building a winning team.
Talk with you about Building a Winning Team and choosing God for your team.

Building a Winning Team

For illustration purposes, in choosing a winning team, I am thinking about the childhood games that I would play on the playground. You may or may not be familiar with this set up: there are two captains who must choose classmates/playmates for a kickball game, basketball game, volley ball game, capture the flag, etc. One team plays against another team, trying to win. Each team captain alternates picking teammates from among the pool of candidates in front of them. In my experience, each captain, and each team-in-formation, indeed wants to win--wants to ultimately win relationally (keep friendships, for example), win the game over the other team, or both--win relationally and win the game match. In my experience, there are all types of dynamics a person may experience in becoming a team and trying to win.
Today, I am speaking with you about building a winning team for your vision and to encourage you, in choosing who will be on your team, to first say, "I choose God" for my team, for this vision.

A Vision to Live Into

Vision. Your vision. Having a vision to live into is what necessitates having a team.
(I try not to call people into a team without first having a rough idea of a goal for our time and work together; I've done it before--gathered people without first having a vision--occasionally it's necessary; nonetheless it's laborious, it is awkward, and, in some sense, feels backwards. Because as a vision forms and comes into detail the vision tends to reflect and take on the characteristics and capacity (and abilities) of the persons involved. That's why when God is involved in your vision--God for whom all things are possible--limits on your vision are fewer.)
Your vision—I'm not talking about your natural vision; rather what you see with your mind’s eye, perhaps your spiritual vision. I'm not speaking about prophetic vision...not about a vision which will happen regardless. I'm speaking about a vision that may or may not happen, depending on what you and others do, depending on what actions you take.
I am also talking about a big vision. A vision that builds a better future for others--your community, your country, another country, another community, your church, your campus, your neighbors.

Finding Vision

Let's bring to mind the vision that causes you to pause. Maybe it takes your breath away. Maybe it surfaces in you/deposits in you such joy that you are without words/without the vocabulary to explain how you feel about what you see. Maybe the context of your vision gives you an experience similar to Nehemiah who in scripture it says “...sat down and wept, and mourned [for many ]days.”
Notice what profoundly impacts upon you.
This month I lift before your hearing the story of Nehemiah because he learned the reality of what was happening to a people he cared deeply about and then, through fasting and prayer, wrestled with himself and with God about what was (and why it was) and then Nehemiah pursued a resolution with God for what could be a better future.
(There are People, groups, communities in our world that are in need of a better future. That better future might come through you.)
I think of it as Nehemiah sat down to face the reality of what was happening and later, after fasting and prayer with God, after having sat down, Nehemiah then stood up with God’s vision for a better future (or at least the clarity that God desired a better future for the people).
(Maybe for some of us, we recognize a certain scenario could be better but we do not have clarity or conviction as to whether God is interested in that scenario being better. I encourage us, take the time with God--fast and pray--intent on coming to know God's heart for the matter.)
May you be mindful to take moments to sit with what you learn, and hear, and see. (As Nehemiah did,) May you pause from “business as usual” to allow the gravity, the full weight of reality to sit with you....not to crush you, not to move you to despair. Rather to posture you for a life-transforming/altering conversation with God.
Nehemiah “...sat down and wept, and mourned [for many ]days...” and arose having re-affirmed his agreement and partnership with God.
I have two points for you today.

1) One is too small of a number to achieve a great work. And therefore, 2) I choose God to form a winning team.

Take home message: for every great work (or even good work), partner with God.

1) One is too small of a number to achieve a great work.

Nehemiah 6:3 NKJV
3 So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?”

What makes something a great work?

"Great" means....(of sizable significance) (“of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above average.” Oxford dictionary of English)

A "great work" is an accomplishment that is big/“considerably above average” in scope, impact, effort, and/or duration to finish. A work can also be deemed/tagged/labeled/determined to be great based on the person who authorizes that work and/or the person (or people) who carry it out.
(It is not always clear in the beginning whether a work is great. Sometimes in my eyes, in your eyes, a work starts off just as work--seemingly there is not much too it...perhaps it's been done before; nevertheless, the work might seem ordinary because its horizon of completion is not far off, rather near and sometimes quite visible. Yet, I have come to recognize that what begins simple and of moderate scope can quickly escalate.)
(You can testify that this academic year-and-a-half have been like no other. How many of you thought that at this stage of your life you would be dealing with a pandemic and in such a life-altering way? Yet, here we are. )
Nehemiah had a little heads up: his kinsmen said that the people in Jerusalem were in great distress. (That the survivors of exile, survivors of captivity--though they survived exile and captivity--are today still trying to survive, this time trying to survive distress and reproach.) And any time you have an extreme, the impact of the adjustment will also be extreme. The adjustment itself might be minor but the experience of the adjustment/experience the change is degrees different than the experience before the adjustment/before the change.
"Great distress" automatically qualified the resolution to be a great resolution. Nehemiah wanting to resolved the great distress, perhaps understanding the magnitude of the resolution, partnered appropriately--he prayed to God and kept in communion with God as Nehemiah walked this thing out.
(And so whether a work seems moderate or great, and especially if it appears to be great, it would be wise of us to partner appropriately for the journey ahead.)
Partner appropriately.
Speaking about friendship (a favorite scripture):
Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 NKJV
9 Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up. 11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; But how can one be warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
There can be strength in partnership. There can be great ability in partnerships. Divine partnerships can bring you divine success.
Story: Childhood games--choosing your playground team. I was not the ideal selection.

God is the surest decision and the best bet you can make.

Why: because you are going to need some help; the work is bigger than you; opposition is a given (whenever you see oppression know that someone is profiting); the unexpected will require more than you initially intended to pay
What makes God the surest and best partner? Why choose God?

I choose God because....

God never fails. Ps 115
God is not a man that He should lie, nor the son of man that He should repent. Numbers 23:19
Big dreams need a big God. "I am God...besides Me there is no God." Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 44:6; 45:5. Hosea 13:4
God loves me. People can be with me and not love me. (I tend to be more loyal to mission than to a person.) (John 3:16 For God so loved the world...)
It's God's mission and not my own. (I may be the carrier of the vision but God is the Visionary.) (Jeremiah 29:11)
God can't loose. Even when it looks like He's lost or you have lost. Romans 8:28
Greater is He who is in me than he that is in the world. This is important because haters of progress will try to stop you. Derail your plans, exhaust you, fatigue you, frustrate you, isolate you, confusion, puff you up (pride). (1 John 4:4)
If God is for you, who can be against you? Romans 8:31 (NKJV) What then shall we say to these things? If God [is] for us, who [can be] against us?
(Recognize that divine partnership can be different from agreements. My agreement is with God and I partner with whomever He uses to work/show favor towards His plan. Joseph agreed with God and partnered with Pharaoh...because God worked through Pharaoh to save the peoples of the earth.)
Partner with God not just for the projects of life, partner for all of life.
God Will Save Me
A terrible storm came into a town and local officials sent out an emergency warning that the riverbanks would soon overflow and flood the nearby homes. They ordered everyone in the town to evacuate immediately.
A faithful Christian man heard the warning and decided to stay, saying to himself, “I will trust God and if I am in danger, then God will send a divine miracle to save me.”
The neighbors came by his house and said to him, “We’re leaving and there is room for you in our car, please come with us!” But the man declined. “I have faith that God will save me.”
As the man stood on his porch watching the water rise up the steps, a man in a canoe paddled by and called to him, “Hurry and come into my canoe, the waters are rising quickly!” But the man again said, “No thanks, God will save me.”
The floodwaters rose higher pouring water into his living room and the man had to retreat to the second floor. A police motorboat came by and saw him at the window. “We will come up and rescue you!” they shouted. But the man refused, waving them off saying, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!”
The flood waters rose higher and higher and the man had to climb up to his rooftop.
A helicopter spotted him and dropped a rope ladder. A rescue officer came down the ladder and pleaded with the man, "Grab my hand and I will pull you up!" But the man STILL refused, folding his arms tightly to his body. “No thank you! God will save me!”
Shortly after, the house broke up and the floodwaters swept the man away and he drowned.
When in Heaven, the man stood before God and asked, “I put all of my faith in You. Why didn’t You come and save me?”
And God said, “Son, I sent you a warning. I sent you a car. I sent you a canoe. I sent you a motorboat. I sent you a helicopter. What more were you looking for?”
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