PROMPTED TO ACTION
Pastor Sherri Drury
Sometimes the most important thing we can do in our faith walk with Jesus is to wait, be still, listen, rest and trust. But other times, we can be prompted to action. I love the action that comes out of Nehemiah’s grounded, deep and steadfast faith. Let’s look at his story and be inspired by it today.
At the beginning of Nehemiah’s story, he is struck by deep emotions. He understands the nature of God and the nature of His covenant. . . . . and unfortunately Nehemiah is also very familiar with the unfaithful nature of God’s people. But Nehemiah holds strongly to the fact that His God is a God who keeps his covenant of love. And this foundational truth is woven into the fabric of who Nehemiah is — even as he sits in exile serving a King who does not serve or acknowledge the One True God. And so we can understand his deep despair at the news that God’s people are in great trouble and disgrace.
But the great thing about Nehemiah is that he doesn’t simply sit in his emotions — through them, he is driven towards the spiritual disciplines of fasting and prayer, his first prompt to action. In his despair, he actively grabs hold of the best tools he knows of — and perseveres in these actions for some days —in order to seek God’s help and intervention. He chooses to willingly deprive himself by fasting, all in order to be fully present and undistracted in prayer. He doesn’t want anything to get in the way of hearing an answer from God, sensing God’s directives, and discerning God’s guidance.
His first prompt to action here is an intentional and internal step to strengthen the connection between himself and God. How inspiring!
In contrast, most of us (including me) avoid fasting at all costs. It feels like too much. However, depriving ourselves from any material or physical thing can increase our dependence on God — the only one who can truly meet our needs. When we fight against the popular belief that every human appetite should be satisfied, then we will find true satisfaction in our Creator & Sustainer alone. Fasting is a spiritual remedy to a spiritual problem.
Maybe more than any other discipline, fasting reveals the nonessentials that begin to take precedence in our lives. In the least, fasting helps us keep our balance in life. Even more so, fasting helps us become aware of any things we crave that are creeping into a position of control over us. Our human desires are like rivers that tend to overflow their banks; fasting helps keep them in their proper channels. Additionally, fasting also reveals those things that can cover up our insecurities, sins and wounds. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but what we really need is for those distracting cover-ups to be swept away so that the harmful things can surface and be dealt with. Lastly, fasting reminds us that we are, ultimately, spiritual beings and that food does not sustain us; God sustains us. So in fasting, we are not so much abstaining from food as we are feasting on God.
Let’s look at Nehemiah’s second prompt to action. God’s covenant people are in great trouble and disgrace. Nehemiah has a plan. Once again, he is prompted to act. And he prays that God will give his servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man (1:11). . . . .the king.
His internal action of fasting and prayer prepares him for his external actions of service to help God’s troubled and disgraced people. Not only has he spent time praising God, crying out to God and asking to be heard, confessing his individual sins and the people’s corporate sin . . . he is also then praying over the actions he needs to take to help his people. How often do our prayers include preparation for Spirit-led action? Nehemiah is convinced that he is to join in the solution of the problem that he himself is praying over. He trusts God to move and act, but he also is willing to step up and be a part of it! Again, how inspiring!
I wonder how many times we, in discipline, spend concentrated time praying over a problem that genuinely breaks our heart, but then stop short of stepping out in action. Do we ignore the probability that God may want to use us to be part of the solution of the very problem we’ve been lifting up to him? Not always, but often, intentional and internal prayer and fasting leads to prepared and wise actions.
Yes, Lord! You don’t need us, but you invite us. Help us to be inspired by the two prompts to action that Nehemiah obeyed and modeled for us. Help us be disciplined in our praying and fasting. And help us not to stop short in our cooperative work with You on this planet.