Faith to Lead and Faith to Follow
Text: Nehemiah 7
Proposition: There is a time when Faith in Christ calls us to lead and take action and there is a time when Faith in Christ calls us to follow in obedience.
Introduction: About 7 years ago we had a bunch of T shirts printed that we wore to the church’s annual garage sale as we raised some support for another nonprofit group that serves this town. The T shirts had a simple phrase on the back, it simply said ‘Faith Works’. That’s not just true Biblically it’s both an invitation to take a step of faith and a proclamation of who we are!. This morning I’d like to talk with you about two different kinds of faith that we experience almost every day. It’s the Faith to Lead and the Faith to Follow. Have a look at Nehemiah 7 with me and you’ll see what I mean.
I. The Faith to Lead Has a Tomorrow Focus.
When you read the first verses you see the series of tomorrows that have led Nehemiah’s faith. “Then it was, when the wall was built and I had hung the doors, when the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, that I gave the charge of Jerusalem to my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the leader of the citadel,…”. The faith to lead always has an element of risk to it because it involves actions you take today based on the hope of an outcome tomorrow. By that definition the faith to lead is something each of us does every day. You go to work with the certain hopes of not just a paycheck but of what can be accomplished with it. You raise children with that same faith, building in them discipline, integrity, love, and faith with its set of hopes in the outcomes. But faith to lead doesn’t just have a tomorrow view, it also has a belief in something more than just yourself, more than just your skills or abilities. There’s little risk in that. Faith is moving towards the unknown with a confidence in God who owns the unknown. Look at Nehemiah, he leaves a comfortable job as the kings cupbearer in the capital city of Persia and he goes to this frontier land of Judah. The whole purpose is to reestablish the walls of Jerusalem around the Temple of Jerusalem. It’s an act of faith that has great risk, it’s an act of faith that starts with rubble and sees the plan of putting in together as a great city. But it is Nehemiah’s faith in God that equips his faith to lead. Again and again he prays for timing and wisdom as he invests his faith in God before he exercise his faith to lead. Writer Chris Reeves lays out seven ways to look at faith:
1. There is the object of your faith, who or what you believe in. For Christians that object is the Lord Jesus Christ, our mediator to the Father by the counsel of the Spirit of God in us. That’s the object of our faith.
2.There is the subject of your faith, who or what has faith. We are the only physical creatures on the face of the earth that have the capability to put our faith in the Lord God Almighty. Faith is what he has designed in us.
3. There is the substance of faith, what faith actually is, “…the assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen.”
4.There is the proof of faith, what faith is based on. For every Christian the proof of your faith is based on the Word of God in Scripture, “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God". (Rom. 10:17)
5. There is the fruit of faith, what faith produces, an active obedience to God’s Word. The Apostle James sums it up, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (Jas 2:26)
6. There is the consequences of faith, what faith leads to, the building of things that could never have been built, the proclaiming of truth that would never have been proclaimed and the enduring of things that before would have been considered unendurable.
7.There is the reward of faith, what faith accomplishes, even eternal life, even the ability to please God, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Heb.11:6)
What Nehemiah does in leading the people to rebuild the walls, to hang the gates, to appoint gatekeepers, singers, Levites, governors and guards at the gates is all about a faith that leads with a tomorrow focus. That very same kind of faith is what God uses in you and I everyday as you base your faith on Christ and His Word.
II. The Faith to Follow Has An Obedience Focus.
Have a look at what happens next in verses 4,5, “Now the city was large and spacious, but the people in it were few, and the houses were not rebuilt. Then my God put it into my heart to gather the nobles, the rulers, and the people, that they might be registered by genealogy.” Nehemiah looks around the city and sees that there is something missing. There were a lot of houses that needed to be rebuilt which meant no one wanted them as homes. It was an apparent truth to him that there should be more people in the city. Have you ever seen apparent truth, something obvious to you that needed to be changed? That’s where Nehemiah was, he could see it, he just didn’t know what to do about it. That’s when you see this peculiar phrase, “Then my God put it into my heart…’. This is the second time he uses this phrase. Back in chapter 2 when he first gets to Jerusalem he says in verse 2;12, “Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem…”. Clearly it refers to the way God directed him but what is also clear is that in each case the details or even the purpose to some degree is still veiled. When God put it into Nehemiah’s heart to do a count of all the people in Judah it was prompted by the unbuilt houses and low population, but what would the counting of all the people do to solve that problem? When you read the rest of chapter 7 it details the various people and families and the total of almost 50,000 people is given of those who had returned to Judah and Jerusalem. My point is simply that faith is sometimes an informed call to lead based on a focused future and faith is sometimes a call to follow God with obedience when the path ahead is not revealed. The faith to follow is a call to obey what God has placed on your heart. So a couple of things about the faith to follow that has obedience as it’s focus:
1. It needs to be in agreement with the Word of God. If God is putting this upon your heart it needs to be in harmony with the revealed will of God in Scripture.
2. The faith to follow requires an obedience confirmed by others. All the ‘how to’s’ aren’t in place so call together the people of faith around you, share the direction that God is putting upon your heart and listen to their counsel.
3. The faith to follow which calls you to obedience ought to have God’s stamp on it. James 1:17 describes, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” Is it good in every sense of the word, is there a perfect quality to it? I mean is the way and outcome of it holy, will it glorify God?
4. The faith to follow which calls you to obedience will direct you to confer constantly with God as you follow, to pray without ceasing, to pray with thanksgiving even though the whole is yet to be seen. The faith to follow will be the conviction of things unseen and the belief in the character and person of Christ as Savior and Lord who will see you through.
For Nehemiah the faith to lead in the rebuilding of Jerusalem had a tomorrow focus and the faith to follow called him to obey right now, obedience today.