Have you been watching the weight lifting in the Olympics? (It’s usually on ESPN 7 at about 2am in the morning, but it’s good.)
These men – huge men – busting out of their Olympic gear with muscles, veins, and eyeballs lift these huge barbells. On each end is plate after plate after plate – which isn’t so bad at first glance – until you realize each plate is about 100 lbs.! These guy take 650 lbs., clean it and throw it above their heads without much of a problem.
If I were in the Olympics and I had to lift that above my head, I think I’d have to settle for a participation medal. Because there’s no way I could lift something like that. There’s no way I could do it. I don’t have the physical strength.
The task is too big!
Does your life ever feel like that?
Do you ever encounter something that feels like a 497 lb. barbell?
Does it ever look like too much?
Today we’re continuing our series called Building Project by looking at the Big Task that Nehemiah discovered awaiting him in Jerusalem. In fact, it was a huge task! A task that would definitely qualify under “it looks way bigger than one person can handle!”
And yet – Nehemiah was confident he could handle it.
Why? Let’s go to God’s Word and find out. Before we do, let’s say a prayer and ask God to bless us. O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Big Tasks Look Big
Last we left Nehemiah, he had just gotten permission, protection, and a promise for supplies from King Artaxerxes. Verse 11 picks up after Nehemiah gathers his stuff, selects his crew, passes through city after city, and journeys 1000 some miles to Jerusalem. It says, “I went to Jerusalem and after staying there three days, I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem.”
Initially Nehemiah simply reintroduces himself to Jerusalem. He probably meets up with some old friends for coffee. Grabs a bite to eat with his 2nd cousin twice removed. Catches a local wrestling match for entertainment and settles into the area.
Notice -- he hadn’t yet told anyone about his plans for Jerusalem. That’s probably just a reference to the people of Jerusalem -- not so much the guards who came with him – He hadn’t yet told them that he planned to rebuild.
I think he just wanted to come up with a plan first. He wanted to propose a simple plan that would be easy and not that much time and effort. A plan that people could easily get on board with.
Think about it. Are people more likely to choose things that are easy or difficult?
Would you prefer to move the mulch from the parking lot to the playground with your bare hands or a wheelbarrow?
Would you prefer to move from one house to another using a full service moving company or by yourself using a single passenger smart car?
Would you prefer to get a college credit from a course called “A Review of Addition and Subtraction” or “Advanced Trigonometry and Calculus formulas Approaching the Infinity Limit”?
And that’s what I think Nehemiah is trying to accomplish. He wants to be able to tell people it won’t be so hard before he gives them the idea.
So he begins his investigation at night. Like a celebrity wearing a moustache and sunglasses, he doesn’t want to be seen until he’s done with his investigation.
He approaches the first area. He gets off his horse. He holds up his lantern ...and is shocked.
Piles and piles of rubble. Stone on top of stone on top of stone. Charred marks from the first fire still mark the gates. The whole thing looks like an old dump, not the impressive wall of Jerusalem he was expecting.
Ok. It’s a bit rough. Maybe there are other parts that won’t be so bad.
So he heads toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s pool but…there it’s even worse! In fact, the rubble is so bad that he gets to a point where his horse, which needs a couple feet of space on each side to maneuver, has to turn back! The destruction is everywhere – so bad that he has to head to the outside of the wall to finish his investigation.
That was worse. But I’m sure once we ride around the city a bit, we’ll find at least a few entrances that don’t need much work other than a fresh coat of paint.
He was wrong. He couldn’t even get back into the city other than through the gate that he had just entered.
This was a big task.
Then, Nehemiah remembers something. Check out verse 16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews, or the priests or the nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work. Suddenly, that itself was a tall task. He was going to have to convince all those people that this complete dump was worth all the cleanup, all the hard work, and all the funding to be restored!
This task seemed a lot bigger than originally anticipated.
Do you have a task in your life like that?
Something that seems so big you wonder how you could ever do it?
I don’t know how I’ll ever repair this marriage. Too much damage has been done.
I think it’s impossible for me to make a connection with my son. We’re too different.
I don’t think I’m ever going to get out of poverty. It’s too much a way of life.
I know my body will never recover from that surgery. Recovery is too tough.
I don’t know that I’ll ever reconnect with God. I’ve done too much wrong. I’ve been too far away. I destroyed my life. I’ve left it in shambles. Relationships have fallen apart. My bridge to God has been burned. There’s grief lying around every corner. Sin has stained my walls and there’s hateful graffiti reminding me of my past actions.
The worst realization? This is all my fault!
It’s impossible for me to do.
Well…do you know what God’s Word says to you today? It says, “You’re right. It is impossible for you to do.”
II. Our God is Bigger
Segue with me to the Gospel. A rich man approaches Jesus. Everything he has in his life, he’s built. He’s built a career. He’s built a family. He’s built his stock portfolio. He’s built his riches. He’s pretty sure that he’s already built up some eternal riches, but he wants to ask Jesus to make sure.
“What do I need to do to gain eternal life?”
Jesus gives him the formula. Keep God’s commands. Love God. Love others. Do so all the time and perfectly.
The man considers his life. A grin comes across his face. He brushes off his shoulders: “You bet. I’ve done that. Anything else?”
“Sell everything you have and devote your life to me.”
The man’s face drops. He looks around in shock. He stares at Jesus to see if he’s bluffing but – he’s not. He turns around and walks away – dejected.
The disciples who have been watching this are even more dejected! If he can’t do it, who can? He’s handsome. He’s rich. He’s got it all. If he can’t build himself a way to heaven, then how can any of us? We’re fishermen. We’re sinful tax collectors. We don’t have it together anywhere near as much as he does. How can anyone do what you are asking?
He says, “With man this is impossible…but…nothing is impossible with God.”
And that’s the point, isn’t it? When it comes to salvation…when it comes to forgiveness and peace with God and the path to heaven…we cannot. It’s impossible! But not with God.
Look up at that cross. That’s a symbol for the best reconstruction crew of all time. Because on that cross – Jesus fixed your life.
He replaced the broken bridge to God with a cross.
He cleaned up all the stains of your sin.
He removed the rubble of guilt.
He power-wash cleaned you inside and out.
He paved you with the jewels of his righteousness at every street lamp.
He built a wall of protection made out of the Holy Spirit himself.
He says, “Here I will dwell; you will be mine.”
God did that impossible thing! Something that not one construction crew, band of workers, or a Habitat for Humanity group could even approach building.
He built your salvation.
That’s the same God who is with you whatever your task is.
He was with Nehemiah! Nehemiah knew it. And so in spite of how difficult, challenging and tall of a task the rebuilding of Jerusalem was going to be, look at what he does the next morning. V17 I said, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem!”
And the people don’t refuse. They don’t say It’s too hard. They don’t tell Nehemiah to do it on his own.
They said yes. They said yes, because they knew they had a pair of very capable hands behind them.
I’m not talking about young Jake’s hands that didn’t quite know how to make brick yet.
Nor elder Malachi’s hands that shook as he lifted up a saw.
Not even Eli the carpenter’s hands that swung a hammer at slightly above average speed.
But the hands of the Almighty, Eternal, All powerful, world creating, volcano shaking, God were with them.
And as big as the project was – God’s hands were bigger.
And as big as the task that you are going through may be. Remember: God’s hands are bigger.
III. WHAT NOW?
Now take a look at a picture of the universe. It’s huge. We haven’t even explored all of it. What’s interesting is that if you take a look at a picture like this, you need to realize that earth is such a very tiny speck. But then, if you take a look at a map of the world. It’s gigantic. On it, Raleigh is so very tiny small. Not even identifiable. And if you take a look at a map of Raleigh – zoomed out on Google maps – Gethsemane is so tiny. And the field across the way for our Building Project is so tiny as well.
So…if that field is tiny compared to Raleigh compared to NC compared to the world compared to the universe compared to God!
What is our Building Project to Him?
And what is your big, impossible task to him?
Nothing. Nothing in fact is impossible with God.
Keep that in perspective. You’ll gain a lot of confidence.
(2) Start Building
That’s what happened when the people decided to do what they were going to do. They started building! Scripture says, “They began this good work.”
Maybe they put together a Building Committee, volunteered for a design group, set out sign-up sheets for making bricks and a sign-up sheet for making noontime meals for the workers. They gathered money. They said prayers. They did whatever it was they could do to make the project work!
Do the same thing. Whatever your task is – get to work.
And if you are able to help with our building project! Please do. Give and volunteer and pray. Email me to find out some of the ways that you can help.
(3) Ignore the Haters
Did you notice chapter 2 doesn’t end all that pleasantly? Scripture says that a host of foreigners – non believers – mocked and ridiculed us. They said, “What is it you’re doing? Are you rebelling against the king?”
That makes things tougher. When someone is telling you, you can’t.
But look at Nehemiah’s response. “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding.”
In other words – You’re right. We can’t. But God can. And as his children, we see that. WE see God. We see his hand at work and we know he’s working for us.
You don’t see that. And that’s ok. It won’t stop God from getting the job done.
Ignore the haters.
Ignore the blog posts that talk about how you’ll never rebuild your life.
Ignore your friends who say you’ll never fix that relationship because it’s just too big of a job.
They don't see what you see.
They don't see that your God is big.
And there isn't any task too big for Him.