This message is a part two of a three part series on the Book of Nehemiah. Today we ask the question: “Do I Trust?”
Nehemiah finds himself in a very high risk/high reward situation and with the stakes that high, he needs to trust someone. Is it a person, is it himself or is it God Himself? Whom you trust makes or breaks you!
What we’re doing is studying the Book of Nehemiah and over the course of three messages we’re going to ask three questions. Last week the question was “Do I Care?” This week it’s “Do I trust?”
Trust = confidence in strength, reliability or truthfulness.
And it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before. 2 Therefore the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing but sorrow of heart.” So I became dreadfully afraid, 3 and said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire?”4 Then the king said to me, “What do you request?”
Nehemiah was in a high risk, high return kind of job. He was the cupbearer to the most powerful man in the world at that time. One misstep, one act of disloyalty or perceived disloyalty, would end with Nehemiah’s demotion or death. It was a very trusted position. The king needed to know that the person who served him this closely wasn’t going to be anything but loyal, competent and downright pleasant to be around. The cupbearer also tasted all the king’s food and drink first to be sure that no one poisoned the king.
Notice how we start the chapter. It was the month of Nisan in the 20th year of Artaxerxes reign. That’s significant because from it we learn that Nehemiah’s prayer after the news from his cousin about Jerusalem was now four months ago. From all that fasting and praying and weeping and shock and seeking in chapter one, it’s now four months later. You know we’re about 4 months from Christmas, right?
Trust is first what you do in the waiting.
When God speaks to your heart about something, you care and care deeply. And the natural conclusion after all of that emotion and all that initial reaction to God speaking is that it’s going to happen, come to pass, an answer will appear, immediately. Like the next day. But then the next week comes. And then a month and then months and maybe even years, although it wasn’t that long for Nehemiah.
What have you had to wait and trust for? Anybody?
Then for our friend Nehemiah, the wait was over suddenly. Waiting does come to a sudden end!
The king, who had seen Nehemiah daily for a long time, from the time Nehemiah started to pray and fast and weep, one day, four months later, says “Hey, you look sad”. Nehemiah was shocked. And frankly terrified.
If you worked in the king’s court, you never dared to be anything but delighted to be there. You smiled, you kept your shoulders back, you had an efficient but joyful step. Because anything else meant that you were somehow unhappy being with the king, unhappy with his court or rule, ungrateful, and that just couldn’t be. So the king needed to see you “up” when you were on duty, no exceptions. Nehemiah took this very seriously. I’m sure he had seen executions prompted by a bad attitude on the part of the servant/official/citizen. Otherwise he never would have made it this far. So he says, “Now I had never been sad in his presence before”.
So when the king comments on his sadness, he knew something was up. Oh boy, I’m on now!
Trust is secondly, what you do when you’re scared out of your mind.
Nehemiah had been praying and had the situation in Jerusalem on his mind all the time. What did he do?
Fear is a powerful emotion. There’s always an underlying cause too. Like, I had a terrible experience before and I don’t want to have that happen again but it seems to be happening now. Ahhh!
Or fear comes when you are face front with something big and powerful. That could hurt me, like smush me or drop me from the sky or whatever.
When I was a little guy, like 2 years old, on a winter day, my Dad brought me over to his old place of employment as a teenager, a car garage and gas station. It was literally in the 1950’s, so picture this old fashioned, greasy gas station with two repair bays. They predated the hydraulic lifts that modern gas stations have, so instead of that they had a rectangular hole, a pit, you would drive over and park your car there for whatever was being done that day. The mechanic would climb down a ladder and be under the car to change the oil or fix whatever from below. My dad was a new dad and like all dads wasn’t always real careful. Aw, they’ll be alright, they’re kids!
So Dad set me down on the ground and he started visiting with his old boss and buddies. Bruce, being 2, wandered away. And to all of their horror, I stepped right over the edge of the open mechanics pit and fell in. They freaked out and jumped in to get me to see if I was alright. Thank the Lord, it was winter and I was totally dressed up, head to toe, with boots and heavy snow pants and a thick coat and hat. I don’t know how I could walk, actually. And what happened was that because of the thick clothing I sort of bounced when I hit the bottom of the pit. And I was just fine. I’m sure my sweet Mom had an interesting conversation with Dad when we arrived home, but that was something I was unaware of.
All I know is this. I’ve had a tremendous fear of heights and the sensation of falling when I’m near a precipice, all my life. And when I’m in one of those situations, usually I sort of freeze or make for safety.
Fear is powerful. And it normally creates three reactions in us. Fight, flight or freeze. We panic, but one of those reactions follows. Courage is action in the face of fear. But what Nehemiah brought to the table at this frightening point of his life was something else. It was faith.
He brings up the issue wisely and correctly, as only someone who has genuine faith can do. “May the king live forever.” As in, this has nothing to do with yourself or the excellence of your reign. It’s my home city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, and it’s a mess.
When the king says, “What do you request?” he knew that was his moment. So what did he do? He threw up what someone once called a “flare prayer.” His first inclination was to turn, not to his mind, not to his emotions, but to the Lord.
Trust when things are scary is powered by your faith in God. Who He is, what He has said and what He has done so far.
Which brings us to a third point.
Trust is what you do when you don’t know what to do.
I wish it were as easy finding direction as it is for Dora the Explorer. She’s this cartoon character who, every episode, has to go somewhere to solve a problem. And Dora asks the question, every episode, “Who do we talk to when we don’t know where to go?” The map! Say map! And this talking map comes out of her backpack and tells the audience and eventually Dora, where to go. Don’t you wish life were that easy?
The reality is that God gives you direction if you’ll just ask Him.
If you put your dilemma to God and ask Him for His direction, you’ll get direction! He determines how He gives it to you, but it always follows a line of authority. The Bible. Your conscience. Your parents, boss, or teacher. Somehow, God will use one of those and begin to convince you of the way you ought to go.
Nehemiah knew just what to ask for from the king, once he prayed.
5 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.”6 Then the king said to me (the queen also sitting beside him), “How long will your journey be? And when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.
And then, maybe right then, maybe a little while after, he asks for official letters of passage, timber from the royal forest and along the way he got a royal escort to go with him to Jerusalem. And why, according to Nehemiah, did all this happen?
Verse 8, at the end…
“And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me.”
Nehemiah was going to have a trip filled with more scary moments, dangers, enemies and a whole host of problems, big ones, in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. But this gave him the fourth aspect of trust.
Trust is remembering God’s past faithfulness and applying it to the present and future.
Every experience Nehemiah had with this, with the Lord behind him and before him, gave him an assurance that God would be with him again with the new challenges. And those experiences with the faithfulness of God gave others the ability to trust too.
18 And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me.
So they said, “Let us rise up and build.” Then they set their hands to this good work.
Your good stories of God’s faithfulness to you will give courage to others who hear you. So if you’ve experienced God’s goodness in some way, find a way to tell the story! On video, in conversation, on Thanksgiving service, you get it out there.
Do you need to trust God today?
Can you entrust your whole future to God? He’s faithful!