Leadership’s Edge, Discretion
Text: Nehemiah 2
Proposition: Leadership’s edge is more than creativity, the ability to inspire or even the courage to sacrifice, leaderships edge is discretion.
Introduction: One of the greatest traits that Jesus demonstrated was His ability to see the moment and to believe what He saw and then to take action. When the boat was sinking and all on board were either fearing for their lives or accusing Him of being negligent, Jesus could see the fear, the loss of control, the waves, the boat. He believed not only in what He saw but in what it was, in Who God the Father is in the moment, in who they were to Him and then He did what was needed. When He entered the Temple he could see how the money changers were oppressing others in pursuit of profit and He could see that people accepted this as normal. He believed in God’s purposes for the Temple and He restored it. When He saw this prostitute wash His feet with her tears, wiping dry with her hair, He saw a woman aware of her sin, so aware of her shame yet moved past that, humbling herself in a way she had never imagined or done. Jesus saw that and He believed there was a love for Him in this woman that was exactly what the Father desires in every person and He restored her. What Jesus saw at the wedding in Cana, people celebrating a marriage, His mother expecting Him to reveal the truth of Who He is by somehow extending the joy of the wedding, increasing the wine that was just about finished. He believed in the Fathers timing, in the Fathers purpose even to miraculously increase the wine by transforming water into fermented fruit. It is this ability to see and then to believe what you see allowing what you believe to direct or interpret what you see with greater insight or perspective that then directs your action or response to what is actually needed in the moment that distinguishes Jesus from all others. To see, to believe and then to act rightly is what discretion is. What action to take or not to take, what words to say or refrain from saying makes the great difference in outcomes. It is a discipline that every Christian ought to cultivate. Leadership’s edge is more than creativity or the ability to inspire or even the courage to risk or sacrifice. Leaderships edge is discretion and every Christian is called to lead in some way.
Last week we started a series in Nehemiah called The Nehemiah Syndrome, the concurrence or connecting of a number of factors that God uses to catch your attention and then to catch your heart. It was about 450 years before the birth of Christ, Israel had been released from captivity in Babylon yet of the almost 2 million displaced 70 years earlier, only about 54,000 choose to return to the ruins of Jerusalem. Nehemiah, a Jew who served the Babylonian king as his cup bearer, was about to approach the king with a request that could cost him his life because of what he could see, what he believed and what he did. Have a look at Neh.2.
I. Discretion Is All About Timing, Your Timing and God’s Timing.
From the end of Chapter 1 to where we are now about four months of time pass, from the month Chisleu (1:1) to Nisan (2:1), or November to March. Perhaps he waited for the worst of winter to be over, perhaps it was waiting for the right moment but we know Nehemiah continued to pray and wait on God’s timing. Four months can seem like a long wait but discretion will demand timing, your timing and God’s timing. There was also in Babylon a man named Daniel, a prophet of Israel who had an encounter with the angel Gabriel (Dan.9:25) who tells Daniel that exactly 173,880 days from the day that permission was given to rebuild the streets and walls of Jerusalem, Messiah the prince would be presented to Israel. Sir Robert Anderson, the eminent British astronomer and mathematician, makes a strong case that Jesus fulfilled this prophecy exactly, to the day, entering Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday on April 6, 32 A.D., precisely 173,880 days from Nehemiah 2. Discretion involves more than just what you can see and believe and do, it works underneath God’s perspective, often in events that are yet to come which you know nothing about.
II. Discretion Counts the Cost Before Going Into Battle.
You remember those words of Jesus on this in Luke 14:28, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost…”. Jesus says this is what a disciple will have to do if they will follow Him. Nehemiah counted the cost of approaching the king with a heart that was heavy in concern for Jerusalem. The king asks him about this evident change in his disposition and is told that it has to do with the present state of Jerusalem. The walls were heaps of rubble, the gates had been burned and though the Temple had been rebuilt in its midst there was no protection for it or the people in this frontier of post exile Israel. Look at verse 4, “Then the king said to me, “What do you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven.” The cost to come before the king had been counted, now the time to risk asking for what was needed had come and he utters a three second prayer! See, believe, do! He asks to have a leave of absence to go and rebuild the walls in Jerusalem and he asks this not only of the king but of the queen sitting beside him. Verse 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.” The queen sitting beside Artaxerxes is none other than Queen Esther, a young Jewish woman who won a beauty pageant and was made Queen of Babylon, whom God used to intercede for Israel! Nehemiah sees the moment, believes in the Fathers timing and presents the real needs. If he could go with letters of authority from the king, with directives that would enable him to bring the timber necessary to rebuild the gates, with these things God will change Jerusalem. I believe Nehemiah counted this cost before he ever went to the king, each step in its own order. Discretion requires process, it resists the anxiety of the future in order to see what is, to believe in what should be and then it takes the hard actions.
III. Discretion Sees the Joy of Outcomes In Order To Endure the Trials.
Over the distance, past the resistance, with persistence Nehemiah makes it to Jerusalem and then waits three days. Discretion has a persistence that is governed by patience. Nehemiah knows that these people have been through a lot, 75 years have passed since they first returned. Discretion recognizes the sacrifice of others, it sees their effort and it is careful with it. So three days later, in the cover of night Nehemiah goes out alone and to assess the walls and gates of Jerusalem. Look at verse 16, “And the rulers knew not whither I went, or what I did; neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work.” In discretion Nehemiah doesn’t begin with opinions or sides or viewpoints, not even of the nobles, priests or rulers nor even the workers. Discretion seeks but one opinion, what would the Lord seek, what does He desire. Look what happens next, having seen with his own eyes the state of things he comes to all the people in verse 17 and says this, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.” Discretion sees the joy of outcomes and it includes itself in the enduring trial ahead. From humility to perseverance, Nehemiah exemplifies what Jesus Christ accomplishes.
Do you remember that verse in Hebrews 12:2, “…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Anything we might have concluded about discretion in regards to Nehemiah is but a shadow of Christ. Jesus counted the cost before ever leaving glory to incarnate into humanity knowing it would cost Him everything, the cost of the Father forsaking Him as sin was imputed or put upon Him at the cross. Discretion is what Jesus saw, believed and then did. With His discretion He authored our faith and He finishes it through with us into His presence in glory.