THINK: Think of a time when you were deciding whether to get involved in a certain activity or take on a specific responsibility. Perhaps it was a basketball tryout, a musical audition, a new ministry or a part-time job. There was likely an element of uncertainty. You might have wondered if you were making the best choice, if it would be worth the effort or what difficulties you would encounter. But if you talked to God and settled the issue with Him, you had peace. Nehemiah gave up a comfortable job in the Persian palace to move to a war ravaged land and begin the painstaking process of rebuilding Jerusalem's wall. Though he was prepared for difficulty and opposition, Nehemiah was enthusiastic because he knew he was fulfilling God's plan. And nothing - or nobody - was going to stop him.
RESPOND: Who was Nehemiah? (See 1:1 note.) What did he do after hearing about the disgraceful conditions back in Jerusalem (1:3), and why? (See 1:4 note.) What did Nehemiah's prayer (1:5-11) reveal about his attitude and sense of responsibility toward God, himself and other people? Who was "this man" (1:11), and why did Nehemiah pray for favor with him? (See 1:11 note.) Why did Nehemiah pray again before responding to the king, and what can you learn from this? (See 2:4 note.) What can you do to be ready to step through open doors the Lord provides? What did Nehemiah recognize as the reason the king granted his requests? (See 2:8 note.) Why did Nehemiah inspect the situation as he did (2:11-16)? (See 2:12 note.) Why is it important to have a plan before embarking on a project? How is the ridicule from Sanballat and Tobiah similar to what many Christians face? (See 2:19 note.) Why was Nehemiah confident of success? (See 2:20 note.) In chapter 3, what do you notice about the variety of people involved in rebuilding the wall, and how is this like ministry in the church? Why did it make sense for people to rebuild portions of the wall near their homes, and how does this illustrate one of the ways we must serve God?
PRAY: Ask God to give you sensitivity and compassion for hurting people and troubling situations that you could do something about with His help. Ask God to help you serve Him effectively right where you are.
ACT: Are you involved in a task, ministry or purpose that could be more effective with help, backing or clearance from another source - perhaps outside of church? Ask for God's guidance in approaching the appropriate person - such as a school administrator or community official - with your request for help or permission to serve. Be conscious of how your attitudes, conversations and actions reflect on Christ wherever you are.
THINK: How do you handle criticism and hold up under pressure? Do you meet resistance with persistence? Or do you give up your goals when you're opposed? If your goals are from God, the best way to silence critics is to keep praying and plugging away at your purpose until the work is done. When it becomes apparent that what you've accomplished could have only been done with God's help, your opposition will have to take up their case with Him.
RESPOND: How did the Jews overcome opposition to rebuilding the wall (4:4,6)? In overcoming opposition, what is God's part, and what is yours (4:6,9)? How did Nehemiah encourage the people (4:14,19,20)? When working for God in the face of danger, why is it vital to remain physically and spiritually alert? How can your response to attacks and criticism influence others? Why was Nehemiah confident of success? (See 4:20 note.) Why did some Jews make "a great outcry" against their countrymen? (See 5:1 note.) How did Nehemiah respond (5:6-11)? (See 5:6 note.) How and why did Nehemiah's officials act differently toward the people than the leaders before them (5:14-16)? (See 5:15 note.) What forms of attack did Nehemiah's opponents use in trying to stop his progress (6:1-9)? What does Nehemiah's response reveal about his faith and character? How can you learn to tell whether or not a message is from God? (See 6:12 and 6:14 notes.) What was remarkable about the wall's completion (6:15-16), and what did this show other nations? What were some reasons the wall was completed so quickly and efficiently? (See 6:15 note.)
PRAY: Pray for God's help in resisting discouragement and overcoming opposition. Ask for wisdom to recognize and avoid potential distractions to your faith and purpose. Ask God to help you be diligent in your work and alert to the spiritual battles that arise in the process. Give God thanks for fighting for you and giving you victory.
ACT: Encourage a fellow Christian who is in the middle of a large or tough task. If there is a practical way you can help, do so. If you've backed off of a godly task or purpose because of ridicule or opposition, look to God for help and get back to the task. Do your best to treat everyone fairly and don't take unnecessary advantage of any authority or position you have in a way that could make things difficult for others.