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5 Lessons from Nehemiah on Serving God

March 26, 2018 jeremy-yap-199223

If you’ve ever looked at a messy situation and thought, “someone ought to do something,” you’ll understand the passion Nehemiah felt for Jerusalem. From distant Persia (modern day Iran), Nehemiah heard that its walls lay in rubble, even decades after the Jews returned home. But what could he do?

That’s the question you may have when you consider some big need you see in your church or ministry or community. You want to do something, but what can you do? Nehemiah wasn’t in full-time ministry—he was in government work. He wasn’t trained in seminary—he was a businessman. He wasn’t even local to Jerusalem, but a thousand miles away across an inhospitable desert.

But when God wants to use you, those things don’t matter. What God requires in His servants is a humble heart and courage to do God’s work, God’s way. Dr. McGee shares with us other lessons we can learn from our study of Nehemiah.

From Dr. J. Vernon McGee:

Lesson #1: “Full-time” ministry is not required

Three men played important roles in the rebuilding of Jerusalem: Zerubbabel, the prince, who represented the political side; Ezra, a priest and scribe; and finally Nehemiah, the layman. Now the prince and priest played their roles well, but they couldn’t get the job done. They failed to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and cleanse the temple. So for that job God raised up Nehemiah.

Nehemiah had a good government job in Persia. As the cupbearer to the king, he needed to be a moral, honest man or else he would be susceptible to bribery. He held the king’s highest trust. Easily, Nehemiah could have been concerned about Jerusalem from afar and remained in Persia. (But if he had, he would not have been in the record of God and we would never have heard of him!)

Lesson #2: Pray about everything

Nehemiah believed in watching and working. He also believed in working and praying. Watch and pray and work characterized this man. In this short book, we have 14 of his prayers. Before he set out on the project, Nehemiah prayed. When he approached the king, he prayed. When he was in trouble, he prayed.

Then the king said to me, “What do you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. -Nehemiah 2:4

What a fabulous example of how to get something done. Pray before you start. Pray as you go. Pray when you’re between a rock and a hard place. Pray about everything.

Lesson #3: Care about the things of God

Notice Nehemiah was deeply concerned about God’s cause. One day while he was busy in the palace, he encountered a brother who had just returned from Jerusalem. He stopped and asked, “How are things going in the land?”

“Not good,” was the response. The bad report troubled him because God’s commandments were being ignored. The walls in shambles meant the people lived in danger.

Now as much as Nehemiah cared about Jerusalem, he didn’t want to run ahead of God. So, as was his typical practice, he prayed about it. He said, “Lord, if you want to use me, I am making myself available to You.”

When God opened the door for him to speak to the king, he didn’t mind asking for the king’s official help and protection along the route.

Lesson #4: God leads different people different ways

God is not going to lead us all alike. He led Ezra back to the land with no support whatsoever, and He led Nehemiah with half of the Persian army with him. God will use both ways.

What was true for them is still true for us: God will lead you one way, and He will lead me another way.

I made a mistake at the beginning of my ministry by trying to imitate a certain preacher. He was highly successful and a great man of God. One day an elder of my church said, “Vernon, we would rather have an original Vernon McGee than an imitation of anyone else.” From that day on I have not tried to imitate anyone, and the Lord help the man who would try to imitate me.

Lesson #5: God sees your faithfulness

The rebuilding of the walls and gates of Jerusalem was one of the greatest building projects we have ever heard of. What Nehemiah did was a tremendous thing, and it was a wonderful testimony of God working through individuals.

It was hard work, and it took a lot of people. Many made significant sacrifices for God. Remember, my friend, God takes note of it all. Many unknown Christians will be called before the judgment seat of Christ and rewarded. You think of preachers and missionaries and other church workers as receiving the great rewards, but I think that some of the greatest rewards will go to some of the unknown saints who live for God in this day.

Dr. McGee on "Why Genealogies?"

Nehemiah asked God to remember him. His concern was for God’s people, but he knew they would forget him. People have short memories. How wonderful to know that while God does not remember our sin, He will always remember our good works. He even records them in a book. Think about that next time you run across a genealogy in God’s Word.

God says, “These are my folk and I want you to know them . . . and know that I know them.” There are quite a few genealogies found in Scripture.

  • Genesis 49 lists the 12 tribes.
  • In 2 Samuel 23, we find the list of David’s mighty men.
  • In the first few chapters of 1 Chronicles are lists of families.
  • Nehemiah 3 gives a list of workers.
  • Romans 16 is a roster of hellos.
  • Hebrews 11 lists those who are faithful.

God remembers each person and records their names in His Word.

If we want to be in God’s will today, somewhere along the line we will have to become involved in a movement that is getting out the Word of God to hungry hearts. None of us can do it alone. It must be a team effort.

–Dr. McGee

My Turn

  1. What cause that honors God is today unfinished or a mess? Ask God to make you willing to do something about it. Follow Nehemiah’s example and pray about it at every turn and be willing to hear what next step God wants you to take.
  2. Read Nehemiah 8:10. Where did Nehemiah find the strength to do God’s work? What did he tell the people to do when they read God’s Word? Answer: Discover that the joy of the Lord is your strength! What challenge that you face today can be answered by this same truth?
  3. When the walls were completed, all of Jerusalem gathered at the Water Gate to listen to God’s Word being read. Many of them had never heard the Word of God before and they wept. Pray today for people in isolated regions of the world who listen to Thru the Bible and hear God’s Word for the first time.


“Nehemiah Will Lead Us in Prayer” focuses on the 14 recorded prayers of Nehemiah. Download or listen to this message here.