The Nehemiah Code: It's Never Too Late for a New Beginning

The Nehemiah Code: It's Never Too Late for a New Beginning

by O. S. Hawkins

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780718091385
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 08/28/2018
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 548,129
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

For more than 20 years, O. S. Hawkins served pastorates at the First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and in Dallas, Texas. He is president of GuideStone Financial Resources, which serves 250,000 pastors, church staff, missionaries, doctors, and other workers of various Christian organizations with their retirement needs. He is the author of more than 30 books, which have sold more than 550,000 copies, including The Joshua Code and The Jesus Code, and preaches regularly at Bible conferences, evangelism conferences, and churches across the nation.

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CHAPTER 1

The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. It came to pass in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the citadel, that Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, "The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire."

— NEHEMIAH 1:1–3

Nehemiah opened his memoirs with the news of a report he received from distant Jerusalem. Hearing of someone who had recently returned from a visit, Nehemiah inquired about the status of the Jewish people and the condition of the Holy City itself. The report was not what he had hoped to hear: "The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire" (Nehemiah 1:3).

If Nehemiah was to get started right in his task of rebuilding, his first step was to make an honest evaluation of the condition of Jerusalem. Although a remnant of the Jews had returned to their homeland and the temple was in place, there was only a semblance of normalcy. The wall of the city was still broken down from the destruction years earlier when the Babylonians had devastated the city. The gates were still unhinged, burned with fire. Those who had returned had dishonored God with their lifestyles and neglect of the temple, and they found themselves mired in deep "distress."

It was time to face the facts. First, the broken wall was in need of being rebuilt to provide safety and security for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And, second, as long as the gates were burned, the enemy would have easy access to the city.

Many of us falter and fail in the rebuilding process at this very point — we don't take the time to make a thorough and careful enough evaluation of our circumstances and situation. For some, it is hard to get to the place of admitting our need, of admitting that some of our own walls are broken and some of our own gates are burned. I know men and women who have met premature death because they would not face the warning signs of pain in their bodies. We all know those who waited too long to go to a physician to get an honest evaluation of their situation. The same can often be said regarding relationships, or, for that matter, anything else that needs to be rebuilt. If we are ever going to rebuild, we must first get started right. And we will never get started right until we make our own honest evaluation of the situation.

There are at least three approaches people take when seeking to rebuild something that is broken in their lives. One is the way of the "superficial optimist." The emphasis here is on the word superficial. This is a cosmetic approach that deals only with surface issues. These are people who are constantly in the process of trying to put a positive spin on difficult situations, often pretending a problem does not even exist. The superficial optimist will resist making any semblance of an honest evaluation, wishfully thinking that if he or she just waits long enough or hunkers down deep enough then everything will eventually be made right. The ancient prophet Jeremiah had this person in mind when he said there were some who say, "'Peace, peace!' When there is no peace" (Jeremiah 8:11).

Then, there are others who approach the process of rebuilding as "busy optimists." That is, they admit there is a problem, but they attack it by trying to get everyone around them to be as busy as they can be. These people set up new structures and new organizational charts. They acquire new personnel. They develop new slogans and motivate the troops with all types of positive-thinking techniques. But they never get around to honestly evaluating and addressing the situation. And all the new policies, new people, new plans, and new procedures in the world can't keep a ship afloat if it has holes in the hull.

Finally, there are those like Nehemiah, who make an honest evaluation of the situation right from the beginning. They have the courage to face the root problems and deal with them directly. We might refer to them as "honest optimists." They have the strength and patience, as well as the wisdom and understanding, to address the systemic issues and actually work to correct them. Those who make such honest evaluations are not afraid of offending others or making enemies. They are not intimidated by threats, and they cannot be formed and fashioned into someone else's mold. Such a person is our man, Nehemiah. He got started right by making an honest evaluation of his situation.

There may be many reading these words who are in need of rebuilding — perhaps it's a relationship, self-confidence, or even a life — but they have never arrived at the place of admitting it. Perhaps you take the superficial optimist's approach, simply dealing with surface issues and ever saying "'Peace, peace!' when there is no peace." Or it may be that you more closely identify with the busy optimist. Instead of honestly evaluating your situation, you busily cover up the problems by moving on to new people and new projects. Learn from Nehemiah, the "honest optimist." Look at him. Listen to him. He made an honest evaluation. He inquired. He learned. Then he admitted that, not only was the wall broken down and the gates burned off their hinges, but the people were in distress. And, as if that were not bad enough, they had become a reproach to their God.

Is there any unfinished business in your life? Are there any walls that need rebuilding? Those who win at the game of life always finish what they start. But, before that can happen, they get a good start by making an honest evaluation of the problem. Rebuilders who go through the painful process of accurately assessing their situations are soon on the road to the realization that ... it's never too late for a new beginning!

CHAPTER 2

IDENTIFY WITH THE NEED

So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

— NEHEMIAH 1:4

When Nehemiah heard the report from Jerusalem and made an honest evaluation of its broken wall and burned gates, his passion index rose. His immediate impulse was to identify with the need. He wept. He mourned. He fasted and prayed for days (Nehemiah 1:4). This was not some faraway problem for Nehemiah; this was personal.

Notice, too, that he "sat down." He didn't rush into his task. He put everything else aside and contemplated the matter. And as he did, he "wept." As he thought about the reproach and the distress of the people of Jerusalem, a lump rose in his throat and tears welled up in his eyes and ran down his cheeks. The more I have studied the process of rebuilding, the more convinced I have become that one never rebuilds until he personally identifies with the need and weeps over the ruins. We live in a culture that seems to have lost its tears. Much of contemporary Western Christianity focuses primarily on personal enjoyment. We seldom hear of the type of passion and vulnerability Nehemiah showed here.

Nehemiah's first concern in becoming the agent of rebuilding was not the welfare of the people, but the glory of his God. For him, prayer was warfare. He agonized. He wept. He mourned for days. He fasted. Is it any wonder he became God's chosen man to instigate and initiate the rebuilding of God's own Holy City? Nehemiah did what all godly leaders must do: he drew strength from outside himself, from his Lord. He identified with those in need, and he lived daily with this burden for four months.

What about your passion index? Because without a passion for your rebuilding "project," you will, most likely, never see your goal accomplished. It is not enough to be honest about your need, if you do not identify with it passionately. In fact, without this brokenness and passion, the whole process of rebuilding will be just another burden layered on top of your already broken dreams. Those who get on with the actual process of rebuilding are the ones who passionately identify with the needs of the situation. Sadly, there are many who are simply not grieved or burdened about the walls in their lives that are broken and in need of rebuilding. It has been far too long since some of us have "sat down," much less "wept, and mourned for many days."

Take a marriage in need of rebuilding, for example. To be restored it takes a repentant heart on the part of the offending party and a receptive heart on the part of the offended party. I have known couples during my pastoral years who never rebuilt their relationships because of this very fact — they simply never could bring themselves to take responsibility to properly evaluate their situation and identify with the need themselves. It was always entirely the other person's fault.

Rebuilders get started right. And they know the only way to do this is to make an honest evaluation, which then leads to a personal identification with the need and with those around them. In the next step, we will see that Nehemiah also brought his people a true sense of camaraderie. He was, by his own example of leadership, letting everyone know ... it's never too late for a new beginning!

CHAPTER 3

TAKE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY

And I said: "I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father's house and I have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.' Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man."

For I was the king's cupbearer.

— NEHEMIAH 1:5–11

Nehemiah could have approached the process of rebuilding Jerusalem by pointing the finger of accusation at those who bore responsibility for the current dilemma. If Nebuchadnezzar had not besieged Jerusalem, burned it, and taken the captives into Babylon, the Jews would not have had this huge task of rebuilding before them. Perhaps if Zerubbabel had been a bit more zealous about the task of rebuilding years earlier, when the remnant began to return from exile, things would have been different. Nehemiah had a lot of people — with their past mistakes and difficulties — he could have blamed for all the current problems. He could have rightly placed blame on Jehoiachin, Zedekiah, and the other kings of Judah. They had betrayed their people and their heritage by turning away from their God, resulting in the devastation of their people, their temple, and their city. But Nehemiah was wise enough to know that those who play the blame game never get the task of rebuilding completed. He refused to direct the blame to others and, instead, stepped up to take personal responsibility himself.

Too many people fall into the trap of blaming their present problems on the wrong decisions made by other people in the past. But falling into this trap never leads to moving forward with actually accomplishing our own tasks. Nehemiah ultimately had one goal: getting the wall rebuilt. And he was laser-focused on getting this task started right.

Listen to Nehemiah's plea as he confessed to God the sins of the people of Israel: "We have sinned against You. Both my father's house and I have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You" (Nehemiah 1:6–7). Note the plural pronoun "we." For Nehemiah, it was "we," not "they." True rebuilders identify with the fears and failures of those around them. They take personal responsibility for the situation — even if the problems didn't begin with them. Do you see how Nehemiah was team building early on in this process? He confessed other people's sins as if they were his own. There was no "You made a mistake." There was no "You have sinned ..." Instead, Nehemiah cried out to God with two key and personal words: "we" and "I."

Taking personal responsibility is the very point that keeps some from getting started on the process of rebuilding. They prefer for someone else to be blamed for the condition of their own broken walls and burned gates. It always has to be someone else's fault. This is why so many homes stay broken and so many relationships are burned. It never dawns on some of us that we should take personal responsibility. We are too busy with the task of making excuses and justifying ourselves. But the fact is that the task of rebuilding will never be accomplished until and unless we take personal responsibility.

It only takes one person to get the entire process of rebuilding started, whether it is in a relationship, in the home, or at the office. Nehemiah decided to become that person. And he left a lasting legacy testifying to the fact that one person, who is willing to take the initiative, can make a huge difference and be living proof that ... it's never too late for a new beginning!

CHAPTER 4

MOVE OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE

O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.

For I was the king's cupbearer.

— NEHEMIAH 1:11

Comfort zones. We all have them. Those areas of life from which we seldom, if ever, like to venture. For some, there are racial comfort zones. In these people's lives, little interaction ever takes place with anyone outside their own skin color or ethnic background. Others live in economic comfort zones. That is, they find their fellowship primarily with those in their own socioeconomic circles and seldom venture far outside them. Some live in political comfort zones. They don't have much to do with those who don't think as they do or vote for the same people and par- ties they promote. If we are honest, we'll admit that, more often than not, comfort zones present one of the biggest obstacles to rebuilding.

Nehemiah concluded the first chapter of his book with a final and seemingly benign sentence, "For I was the king's cupbearer" (Nehemiah 1:11). On the surface it certainly does not sound too impressive. What was he? A dishwasher? A waiter? Or was he some type of a bus-boy? This statement seems so out of context with the rest of the chapter; it just hangs there like some sort of dangling addendum. But there is so much behind this simple sentence. Nehemiah was, in fact, the king's most trusted confidant. He was constantly by the king's side. He tasted every drop of drink and every morsel of food before it went into the king's mouth. Nehemiah was no busboy; he was the faithful counsel to the most important man in the land.

The fact that Nehemiah had risen up through the ranks to become the "king's cupbearer" speaks volumes about his own character and reputation. Persia was the world power of its day, and the king would select only the wisest, most honest, most loyal and trustworthy person he could find to be his personal cupbearer. The point Nehemiah is making with this statement is simply this — he had made it. He was fixed for life. He had a civil service job with what must have been incredible benefits. Yet he was willing to move out of his own comfort zone in order to be the agent of rebuilding in Jerusalem.

One of the reasons there is so little rebuilding of relationships and lives today is that too few of us are willing to step out of our own self-imposed comfort zones. We like our "benefits," and we aren't particularly willing to sacrifice them — not to help another and not to bring glory to God.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The Nehemiah Code"
by .
Copyright © 2018 O. S. Hawkins.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Nehemiah Code, 1,
Part One: Rebuilders Get Started Right,
Chapter 1: Make an Honest Evaluation, 11,
Chapter 2: Identify with the Need, 17,
Chapter 3: Take Personal Responsibility, 21,
Chapter 4: Move Out of Your Comfort Zone, 25,
Part Two: Rebuilders Build a Team Spirit,
Chapter 5: Start with Your Goal in Mind, 37,
Chapter 6: Seize Your Opportunities, 41,
Chapter 7: Make a Careful Analysis of Your Situation, 47,
Chapter 8: Motivate Your People to Get off Dead Center, 53,
Chapter 9: Stay on Track, 61,
Part Three: Rebuilders Let Go Without Letting Up,
Chapter 10: Set Clear Objectives with Specific Tasks, 77,
Chapter 11: Pick the Right Person for the Right Job, 81,
Chapter 12: Be an Example Yourself, 85,
Chapter 18: Rally the Troops, 129,
Part Five: Rebuilders Never Cut What They Can Untie,
Chapter 19: There Is a Time to Back Off, 143,
Chapter 20: There Is a Time to Stand Up, 149,
Chapter 21: There Is a Time to Give In, 153,
Chapter 22: There Is a Time to Reach Out, 159,
Part Six: Rebuilders Finish Strong,
Chapter 23: Stay Off the Side Streets: Keep Focused, 177,
Chapter 24: Stay Off the Sidelines: Keep Faithful, 185,
Epilogue, 195,
Appendix: Nehemiah 1–6, 199,
Mission: Dignity, 211,
About the Author, 212,

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

'O. S. Hawkins has 'broken the code' to bringing practical and powerful insights into the patterns and principles of Scripture. There's a reason that more than a million of his devotionals have been embraced by those who have discovered this insightful series.' — Mike Huckabee, television commentator and former governor of Arkansas

'True devotion to Christ draws us into the Bible and increases our love for the Word of God. That's what makes the Code series so powerful. Deeply biblical, relevant, and faithful—this series will greatly bless you, your friends, and your church.' — R. Albert Mohler Jr, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

'Too many devotionals are long on the thoughts of men and short on the wisdom of God. I endorse the entire Code series of devotionals from my friend O. S. Hawkins because they start with Scripture and keep the focus on the Lord.' — Greg Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship

'Whether on the football field or the field of life, you need a playbook. The entire Code series of devotionals is a great resource for my own spiritual growth. I read one of the Code books regularly in my own devotions and enthusiastically recommend them to my family, friends, and fans.' — Roger Staubach, Hall of Fame quarterback and real estate developer

'In my forty-five years in ministry, I have never seen a more desperate need for truly biblically wise counsel. Unfortunately, most of the books available are man-centered, which do not even provide temporary help. That is why I am so thankful that Dr. O. S. Hawkins penned the Code series. The questions that are asked in the Bible are the questions everyone is asking, and thank God the Code series gives us truly sustaining and uplifting answers. This book is a must for everyone. Read and reread it, and be eternally blessed.' — Dr. Michael Youssef, senior pastor, Church of the Apostles, Atlanta, Georgia

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