So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. (Nehemiah 4:6, N.K.J.V.)
The book of Nehemiah tells the story of a Jew named Nehemiah. He served on the royal staff of the Persian ruler Artaxerxes as the king’s cupbearer. However, that is not what made Nehemiah famous. What made him famous was leading an unlikely movement to rebuild the walls surrounding the city of Jerusalem. Those walls had been torn down over a century earlier by the Babylonian army that had conquered Jerusalem and burned the city’s temple in the process.
Thanks to the previous efforts of another Jew, Zerubbabel, a new temple had been erected in Jerusalem, albeit one not as grand the original one (Ezra chapters 1-6). But that new temple, which was now several decades old, stood in constant jeopardy as long as Jerusalem’s protective walls still lay in ruins. This was Nehemiah’s cue to volunteer himself to gather the permission, the resources, and the people to lead the effort to rebuild those walls.
Despite serious opposition instigated by local enemies, Nehemiah and his group of workers managed to completely finish the wall in just 52 days. It was nothing short of one of the most remarkable building achievements in history. The secret to their astounding success is stated in our text verse, Nehemiah 4:6, which reports the group’s progress at the halfway point of the project — when the rebuilt wall stood at half its desired height. The verse simply says: “the people had a mind to work.” Yep, that will get a job done.
It’s sad, downright tragic in fact, that our churches today are not marked by congregations who have a mind to work. Instead, we have congregations that have minds to (take your pick): argue, fuss, fight, obsess over money, play, be entertained, compromise, or be lazy. It’s no wonder that we can’t make a dent in shaping the spiritual, moral fabric of our times. Who wants to follow the example of a bunch of people who get together, claim to be members of the same spiritual family, and proceed to act like kids in a sandbox?
One notable preacher once said, “You can’t build a great church on spare time and pocket change.” How right he was. A great church requires sacrifice, not just the sacrifice of money but also that of time. This, of course, is to say nothing of the sacrifice of work.
Unfortunately, most church-members nowadays pour so much of themselves into doing the work of their secular jobs and their daily chores that they can’t muster up any work at church, too. That’s why they are content to come, sit, soak, and leave. They never really invest themselves into a church, which makes it easy for them to head down the road and find another one anytime things don’t go to their liking.
It is with all this in mind, Christian, that I ask you: How much work are you really putting into church? When it comes to your local church, do you have a mind to work? Do you have what it takes to lose some of your time, your energy, and your resources in helping rebuild a wall? Do you show up at church with rolled-up sleeves rather than a turned-up nose? One out-of-heart pastor said, “My people aren’t born again; they are born against.” That’s not you, is it, Christian? If it is, then you are standing in the way of God’s work rather than joining in with it. And that’s a real shame because, after all, there is always so much of His work that needs to be done.