To my faithful readers: here is another except from my forthcoming daily devotional book, STRENGTH FOR TODAY. Actually, this is a combination of two days of devotions.
“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.” (Neh. 1:4)
We have a leadership crisis in our culture today. Many churches are suffering because of a lack of real spiritual leadership, and are compromising their standards for the sake of expediency. Homes are hurting as a result of lousy leadership. Men don’t know how to lead, and women sometimes won’t let them if they try. It’s time to get back to the Biblical principles of leadership. The book of Nehemiah outlines the qualities and skills necessary for effective leadership. Consider the following five lessons on leadership:
First, a good leader knows how to agonize in prayer. (1:1-4) Nehemiah "sat down and wept” when he heard the report of Jerusalem’s awful devastation. It shows he had a heart for God and an intimate prayer life. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16b) Usually when we think of a leader we think of a good planner, a good promoter, or a good public speaker. But the first quality of a truly godly leader is that he must be a man of prayer. See what a powerful prayer this man prayed! (1:5-11) The Bible says he “sat down and wept, and prayed before the God of heaven.” Nehemiah went into the presence of the king with a sad countenance, but it was his honesty and transparency—his burden—that won the king’s approval. God used Nehemiah’s emotional transparency to bring about the decree allowing him to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city walls.
Second, a good leader knows how to assess a problem. (2:12-15) When Nehemiah is granted permission to return to his homeland, the first thing he does, when he gets there, is survey the scene. He has not, as yet, discussed his burden with anyone else. But he gets up in the middle of the night, and rides on horseback around the perimeter of the broken-down city walls. Here we see a man who knows how to evaluate the need. All building projects begin with seeing the need. Often people come in for marriage counseling and want to rebuild their relationship, but are not willing to face up to the damage—the seriousness of their problems. It is the same way with salvation. Unless a person is able to see their need (the sinful shambles of their life) they’re not going to accept Christ as Savior. Every nurse, in training, is taught the value of making good assessments. You can’t have a cure if you don’t know what the problem is. Sadly, a lot of men do not even see the problems in their own homes, in their marriage, or with their children. They are not good leaders because they do not see the need.
“Then I said to them, ‘You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.” (Neh. 2:17)
Third, a good leader knows how to activate the people. (2:17-20) He is a motivator, and inspires others to action. Observe Nehemiah’s rallying cry in verses 17-20. First he talks to God, then he talks to the people. What a great formula for all those in Christian leadership roles. Nehemiah had the gift of an “exhorter”, or an encourager. He displayed the ability to inspire others to get involved. Notice how he laid out the challenge, and gave them a cause: “You see the distress we are in.” Actually, they didn’t until he pointed it out to them. “Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem that we may no longer be a reproach.” (2:17) In other words, this deplorable condition is a bad testimony for our God—it is a shameful reproach on His name! Anything we attempt to do must be “for God's glory”, first and foremost. In Bible times, a city wall was a necessary and strategic part of military defense. That is why Nehemiah said “fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.” (4:14) In our anti-Christian culture today, where every traditional family value is under attack, we need men (husbands/fathers) who "fight for their sons, daughters, wives". In summary, Nehemiah gave the people two powerful, practical reasons why the wall needed to be constructed: God's glory and their very survival!
Fourth, a good leader knows how to administrate the project (Chapter 3). Nehemiah broke the task down into little, achievable goals, and assigned one part of the project, one specific goal, to each family. This is the secret of success in leadership: delegating responsibility to others. The whole purpose of a local church is to train others, and to get them involved in the Lord's work. When each one is doing his part the entire congregation has a sense of “ownership” as it relates to the ministry. What a beautiful picture it must have been: families working side by side on the city wall, contributing their “part” to the success of the endeavor. Back in Exodus 18:13-26, it was Moses’ father in law who gave him advice regarding the administrative art of delegating responsibility to others.
Fifth, a good leader knows how to accept the pressure (Chapters 4-6). Nehemiah had to work his way through five different sources of opposition to the reconstruction of the walls, both from within and without. One of the signs of strong leadership is the ability to cope with pressure. Nehemiah resisted all attacks. His resolve and his reliance on the Lord are a model for all who aspire to be leaders in the church today.
The songwriter put it this way: “Rise up, O men of God, have done with lesser things. Give heart and mind and soul and strength to serve the King of kings!”
Oh how we need godly leaders today! In our homes, in our churches, and especially in our nation. Our prayer should be: "Oh Lord, give us more leaders like Nehemiah!"