When I was sixteen years old I came home drunk late on a Saturday night and was sneaking to my room. I had to go past my parent’s room to get to my room and as I passed by I heard my mom talking. Which I thought was strange because I knew my dad was working overnight as a security guard at the local hospital. I listened in to see who she might be talking too on the phone so late at night.
I soon found out that she wasn’t on the phone, she was praying. And it wasn’t just any prayer it was a deep and raw emotional prayer. She was sobbing, literally crying out to God. Then I heard my name. She was praying for me. She was asking God that I would repent of my sins and believe on Him. She was asking that I would be protected from the things that I couldn’t even see. She was pouring her heart out… for me.
Long story short, my mother’s prayer that night and many nights before and since have brought me to faith in God. They have shaped my life in more ways that you could ever imagine. Today we are going to look in the scriptures at the story of a Nehemiah a man of boldness, compassion, and prayer.
Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” (Nehemiah 1:1-3 ESV)
It was an ordinary day when Nehemiah’s life took on a bold new direction. The sun didn’t shine any brighter, the birds didn’t sing any louder, and there wasn’t a melody hinting that his world was shifting direction. He wasn’t at youth camp, He wasn’t sitting in a conference and he wasn’t out on a mission trip. It was just a normal day like any other. Yet, it was on this normal day that God did something extraordinary in Nehemiah’s heart.
God can do extraordinary things in our hearts and lives on ordinary days. You don’t need the buzz of fancy lights and loud music to know that God is up to something. You don’t have to hear from professional camp speakers or evangelists for the Holy Spirit to stir your heart. The God of the Universe is able to find you right where you are!
It all began with a simple question. Nehemiah simply asked about how everything was going back in Judah. Now here is the thing, we will find out a bit later that Nehemiah is a little bit of a big shot. He has a demanding job in the government and he sees people from all over the empire. He’s got plenty of stories to tell about all sorts of people and places, but when his brother comes from his rural home town he takes time to ask about how everything was back in Jerusalem.
Nehemiah was concerned about the welfare of his people. They mattered to him. He takes time to ask about home and he listens! The message he hears alters the direction of his life. He finds out that the people back in Jerusalem have no walls for protection and are open to exploitation by those around them.
Who do you care for? If you are a teenager in public school, I want you to ask yourself, “How is everyone at my school doing?” Or if you are home school you might focus on your neighborhood, “How is everyone in my neighborhood doing? If you work, consider your job, “how are people at work doing?” What is life like for these people? Do they have any needs? Odds are you may have never stopped to reflect on this before (we’ll talk about that more in the days ahead) but right now take time to consider how it is going with the people where you live.
I had an ordinary day like Nehemiah where God did something extraordinary in my life. It began with a student I met in Mobile, AL named Steven. Steven had grown up driving by churches all of his life and had never heard about how Jesus had died for his sins. I did some digging to find out how many students might be out there like Steven and I found out that roughly 85-88% of public Middle school and High students don’t attend church and many have not even heard the simplest of bible stories. It reminded me of Romans 10:14 where Paul says, “How can they hear without a preacher?” and it became my Nehemiah moment.