Our circuit steward, Andrew Cashmore, spoke last Sunday (8th May) and part of his talk was about having courage. This message came as a follow up to the ‘day out’ FSMC had the day before. This ‘day out’ was to discuss our vision for the church. We spent time reflecting the past, reviewing the present and reconsidering our future. A similar day was held several years ago. Much of that day’s decisions were acted upon. Some still wait answered prayer. Now we, as a congregation, are facing the reality that we must move forwards. We cannot stand still and let pride or complacency stand between us and what God has for us.
Earlier this week I helped to rebuild a Cornish stone wall at the back of my neighbour’s garden. It had become dilapidated. To fix it we had to be prepared to dismantle it and start again. But, actually, it made the job easier and better. When asked about the future of the church as FSMC, the group I was with considered what we would do if we had to start all over again. So, what would you do? What would be your priorities?
In the book of Nehemiah, we have the story of the walls of Jerusalem being rebuilt. It can be seen as any one of us rebuilding our lives after a period of success or prosperity, followed by a time of regress. Henry Ford always said that key changes should be made when a company is at the height of its success. Don’t wait until things have already started to go downhill. Don’t allow neglect. My neighbour’s wall had been hidden by a crop of bamboo plants. He decided to remove these as their roots were spreading too far. (There’s another analogy here me thinks). The truth of the state of the wall was hidden behind the bamboo. It needed fixing.
While it is lovely and comfortable to look at all the good things we do and are at FSMC, it takes courage to tackle those areas that require change. Perhaps Nehemiah’s example is one we should follow?
Mourn and pray (Ch. 1 v 3-4)
They said to me, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire. When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.”
I wonder what the correlation is between making decisions about the future of our church and our prayer life. It is good that, whether as church or individuals, we are concerned about our relationship with God.
Realism and action (Ch. 1 v 11)
“O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honouring you. Please grant me success today…”
Nehemiah had a plan and asked God to bless his actions. This request came after he had confessed on behalf of the nation of Israel regarding their sins and disobedience. Confession makes us vulnerable and takes way out of our comfort zone, but, if we are to be real with God, this forms a part of our future. Nehemiah didn’t pray and confess and sit back and wait for God to do something. He had a plan which he intended to action.
Courage and Awareness (Ch. 2 v10)
“But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of my arrival, they were very displeased that someone had come to help the people of Israel.”
Nehemiah knew he would face a lot of opposition. The Horonites and Ammonites (any ‘ites’) were arch enemies of Israel. If we try to rise and build, be sure that Satan will try and stop us. In his message Andrew also reminded us to wait on the Lord, just as the children of Israel waited for three days before crossing the River Jordan. Then they would face battles. Nehemiah went out at night (ch2 v 11ff) and surveyed the walls. He got a full picture and formed a clear plan before starting the rebuild. He was fully aware that it would be anything but plane sailing.
It took about twenty five years to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Terry and I took a day to rebuild his wall. FSMC and each of us will have our own time scale. Maybe your church or your life could do with a ‘day out’. Using Nehemiah’s example might help in the future God has for you and us at FSMC.