“We didn’t plan to fail; we just failed to plan.”
“Ministry rises and falls with leadership.”
“If there is to be movement,
if there is to be progress in the body of Christ,
LEADERS MUST LEAD!”
Three insightful quotes about the need for quality leadership.
Let’s face it: our world badly needs good leaders.
Our families absolutely need good leaders.
Our churches desperately need good leaders.
We suffer under indifferent or tyrannical leadership.
We are greatly blessed under godly, wise leadership.
So, if we want to improve our leadership skills,
where should we look?
often referred to as the leadership manual of the
When Israel in Old Testament times turned its back on God, He took action to discipline His people for their unfaithfulness to Him. The Assyrians and Babylonians were His agents. In 722BC the Assyrians wiped out the Northern Kingdom. In 586 BC the Babylonians humbled Judah and deported much of its population to Babylon for 70 years of captivity. As those 70 years were drawing to a close, Nehemiah, himself a Jew in captivity with his kinsman, is raised up by God to be the king’s cupbearer – a highly important position. The year is 446BC when Nehemiah chapter one begins, and we see one of the most successful Old Testament leaders spring into action.
Leadership Principle #1: Take the Initiative!
Nehemiah 1:1,2 Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, 2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem.
Nehemiah is imitating Moses here. Both could have wallowed in the perks and privileges of the palaces in which they lived and simply tuned out any thoughts of their kinsmen in need. Neither was seduced and numbed by their status to ignore them.
Often taking the initiative starts with something as simple as asking a question. Jesus asked at least 135 questions. Paul probably asked his share of them.
Turn page after page of the Gospels and you see Jesus relentlessly taking the initiative to make those four books happen.
A child should not have to say to his parents, “Please take an interest in me.”
A church member should not have to say to the church leadership, “Please reach out to me.”
The 13 chapter book of Nehemiah would not have happened without Nehemiah’s taking the initiative.
What initiative should you be taking?
Leadership Principle #2: Be Compassionate!
Nehemiah 1:3,4a And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire. 4 As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days,
Upon hearing this news, a person with a hardened heart would have said, “Tough luck. You’re on your own. What does your problem have to do with me?” If Nehemiah would have responded that way, this book would end here, and we would never have heard of him. Over and over you see Nehemiah is compassionate, deeply moved by the burdens of others.
Jesus wept. John 11:35
Paul shed tears at leaving Ephesus. Acts 20:19
John wept. Revelation 5:4
How would you rate yourself on compassion?
Leadership Principle #3: Pray! Fast!
Nehemiah 1:4b and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
A biblical leader is prayer dependent. Every step in the advancement of God’s kingdom can be directly traced to prayer. Nehemiah knew that. Right here we get a key insight into his spiritual life. He could have responded by becoming bitter, coming up with his own plan and rushing out to fulfill it, or all sorts of godless responses. Instead he goes right to God with intensity. Fasting is mentioned in the Bible more than 50 times. It is not our attempt to twist God’s arm. “Fasting is a way of saying with our stomach and our whole body how much we need and want and trust God. It is a heartfelt, body felt exclamation point at the end of the sentence: I love you, God. I need guidance.” The situation of the Jews back in Israel is desperate. Nehemiah identifies with them. With his whole body and mind he seeks guidance from God.
Is fasting part of your spiritual routine as needed? (assuming your health will allow it)
Leadership Principle #4: Know God!
Nehemiah 1:5 And I said, “O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments
Look at what this tells us of Nehemiah’s understanding of God. Nehemiah was not just a member of God’s family. He had made time to get to know Him well. How important it is that we have a solid understanding of the majesty, power, glory, faithfulness, love of God. Nehemiah is telling us here He has made time to get to know the God of the Bible. That intimacy with God carries him through the battles looming ahead for him in this book.
Nehemiah is a living illustration of the power of
Daniel 11:32 The people who know God will display strength and take action.
The strength of character we see throughout the book of Nehemiah and his bold action rest squarely on the foundation of his close relationship with God. Nehemiah is not acting in the flesh. He is Spirit filled, Spirit guided, Spirit fueled.
If you are a Christ-follower, are you making time to get to know Him better? Learning more of His attributes? Character?
Leadership Principle #5: Take Sin Seriously!
Nehemiah 1:6b,7 confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. 7 We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses.
Nehemiah knows clearly his kinsmen are not in their current plight because Babylon was stronger than Israel or a more advanced culture. Israel is in penalty box (in captivity) because of sin. Period. There is no other reason. Let’s call a spade a spade. Israel was getting what it deserved, what God had warned of, what God’s people had ignored. For the problem to be solved, sin must be confessed. Nehemiah takes ownership of his kinsmen’s sin and confesses.
If problems are to be solved, root causes must be identified and ruthlessly cut out by the root. Nehemiah does that.
Are you growing in your awareness, avoidance, hatred of sin?
Leadership Principle #6: Cling to the Promises of God!
Nehemiah 1:8-11 Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, 9 but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ 10 They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”
What is this about? Nehemiah is demonstrating that he reads his Bible, believes his Bible, claims the promises of God, and prays those promises.
Is your life Bible promise driven?
Leadership Principle #7: ACT!
Nehemiah 2:1-8 In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. 2 And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. 3 I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” 4 Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.” 6 And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time. 7 And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, 8 and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.
What do we have here?
1. Nehemiah is respectful, submissive to the king at hearing the dismal plight of folks back in Israel. Nehemiah doesn’t ignore the king and run out of the country on his own. Rather, he seeks the kings blessing which will serve him well as he faces opposition in the future.
2. More prayer for guidance, more evidence this guy is prayer dependent.
3. A well thought out action plan.
See some suggestions here you should implement?
Leadership Principle #8: Understand the Problem Clearly.
Nehemiah 2:12-16 Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. There was no animal with me but the one on which I rode. 13 I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal that was under me to pass.15 Then I went up in the night by the valley and inspected the wall, and I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. 16 And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, and I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest who were to do the work.
These verses reek with wisdom. After traveling hundreds of miles back to Jerusalem Nehemiah personally views the wall to see the extent of the problem. He does this at night without the knowledge of any of the locals who might try to pressure him, influence him or perhaps be unintentional dream killers. He avoids getting information second hand from people who might (intentionally or unintentionally) give him a twisted view of reality. Based on his own personal assessment he can then move forward confidently that he has a solid understanding of the problem.
Do you make your decisions based on solid intelligence?
Leadership Principle #9: Motivate!
Nehemiah 2:17-18 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” 18 And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.
How electrifying it must have been to hear “Let us rise up and build” after 70 years of living in ruins and national shame. Why should anyone listen to him? Hearing of the hand of God on Nehemiah and the endorsement of the king was long awaited good news, desperately needed. God’s people needed exhortation. Nehemiah provided it.
How would you rate yourself as a motivator?
Leadership Principle #10: Expect External Opposition
Nehemiah 2:19- 20 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” 20 Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.”
So let’s get this straight. Nehemiah has prayed, fasted, gotten the permission of the king, traveled a long distance, surveyed the situation personally, and exhorted the folks to act. And IMMEDIATELY is faced with opposition? Do you see Nehemiah shrink back, be scared, second guess whether he has wandered out of God’s will? In fact he doesn’t seem surprised and absolutely refuses to stop moving forward.
Maybe 1 Corinthians 16:9 comes to mind here.
For a great and effective door has opened to me and there are many adversaries.
Paul and Nehemiah were both given a great opportunity accompanied by opposition. Both refused to be intimidated.
How about us? Are you prepared to tackle opposition?
Leadership Principle #11: Get Everyone Involved.
Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set its doors. They consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Tower of Hananel. 2 And next to him the men of Jericho built. And next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built.
3 The sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate. They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. 4 And next to them Meremoth the son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz repaired. And next to them Meshullam the son of Berechiah, son of Meshezabel repaired. And next to them Zadok the son of Baana repaired. 5 And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord.
6 Joiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah repaired the Gate of Yeshanah. They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. 7 And next to them repaired Melatiah the Gibeonite and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon and of Mizpah, the seat of the governor of the province Beyond the River. 8 Next to them Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, goldsmiths, repaired. Next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, repaired, and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. 9 Next to them Rephaiah the son of Hur, ruler of half the district of[d] Jerusalem, repaired. 10 Next to them Jedaiah the son of Harumaph repaired opposite his house. And next to him Hattush the son of Hashabneiah repaired. 11 Malchijah the son of Harim and Hasshub the son of Pahath-moab repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens. 12 Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired, he and his daughters.
13 Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate. They rebuilt it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars, and repaired a thousand cubits of the wall, as far as the Dung Gate.
14 Malchijah the son of Rechab, ruler of the district of Beth-haccherem, repaired the Dung Gate. He rebuilt it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars.
15 And Shallum the son of Col-hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate
This might be one of the clearest examples of the gift of administration/ruling in action. Every believer is given a specific, clear assignment to repair a specific part of the wall. Everyone is put to work. Everyone knows clearly what his job description is. Everyone is needed. There is no way one person or a group of people could complete such a massive project. By working together as a team a huge project is begun.
See the value of team building? Any action steps you should take?
Leadership Principle #12: Deal with Opposition!
Nehemiah 4:7-9 But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry. 8 And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. 9 And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.
The Nehemiah team will not be deterred by threats. More wisdom is displayed here in dealing with these threats: 1. More prayer, 2. Defending themselves with guards. .
Nehemiah 4:14 And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”
Do you see the focus here? There is no way team Nehemiah will be deterred by threats. Another opportunity to encourage his team.
Can you keep your focus and avoid being intimidated by threats?
Leadership Principle #13: Deal with Strife among the Team.
Nehemiah 5:1-5 Now there arose a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers. 2 For there were those who said, “With our sons and our daughters, we are many. So let us get grain, that we may eat and keep alive.” 3 There were also those who said, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards, and our houses to get grain because of the famine.” 4 And there were those who said, “We have borrowed money for the king’s tax on our fields and our vineyards.5 Now our flesh is as the flesh of our brothers, our children are as their children. Yet we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but it is not in our power to help it, for other men have our fields and our vineyards.”
Not the first time in human history that greed swoops in to bring division in time of crisis.
Fortunately, Nehemiah is in the face of the extortioners:
Nehemiah 5:6-7 I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. 7 I took counsel with myself, and I brought charges against the nobles and the officials. I said to them, “You are exacting interest, each from his brother.” And I held a great assembly against them
It is sad that some Jews would seek to take advantage of their kinsmen during a needed national rebuilding effort. But sin knows no limits. And Nehemiah shows no hesitancy to rebuke and force restitution:
Nehemiah 5:11 Return to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the percentage of money, grain, wine, and oil that you have been exacting from them.”
Many a ruler has overlooked corruption. Nehemiah will have none of it.
Do you act that decisively when there is strife on the team?
Leadership Principle #14: Avoid Needless Diversions!
Nehemiah 6:1-3 Now when Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies heard that I had built the wall and that there was no breach left in it (although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates), 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm. 3 And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”
Nehemiah is invited to a summit meeting with longstanding enemies of the project. Who needs that? Nehemiah recognizes a snare, a needless distraction and avoids it.
Do you notice Nehemiah’s focus, his tunnel vision, his clear understanding of what he is to be doing and his total determination to get the job done?
His calling is clear. Nothing else matters. How about you? What are you called to do? Do you understand it clearly? Are you focused on doing it? Focus!
Leadership Principle #15: Expect the Blessing of God!
Nehemiah 6:15 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days.
is it a surprise great leaders get results? God blesses hard work. God rewards team effort. God listens to prayer dependent leaders.
Leaders! Your hard work is not in vain. You are on the winning side. Launch out in obedience to what He has called you to do knowing with certainty He is with you!
Leader, does this encourage your heart?
So – are we done?
Is that the end of Nehemiah? No.
The book goes on for many more chapters. Why?
And here we have the most important principle of all:
Leadership Principle#16: Be Primarily Concerned with Spiritual Issues!
God’s goal on planet earth is not to build buildings or walls or anything else physical. God’s obsession is building people who love Him and worship Him.
Building the wall around Jerusalem was not the ultimate goal of God here. But with the wall now intact and the freedom from the attacks from outsiders eliminated regular, uninterrupted worship of God could resume.
Now that the walls are up the rest of the book is devoted primarily to the renewal of spiritual life of the country.
Nehemiah 8:1-12 the law of Moses is read. Ignoring God’s Word had brought on the captivity. But with the return from exile it’s time to listen to God’s Word and build the future on it.
Nehemiah 9:1-37 sin is confessed. National repentance is needed.
Nehemiah 10:1-39 recommitment to follow the law God gave to Moses.
Nehemiah’s generation was in the mess they were in only
because they had gotten off the track spiritually.
Building that wall was only a means towards getting the country
back to uninterrupted, focused worship of God.
Physical building programs have their place.
But the ultimate goal is always hearts rightly related to God,
worshiping Him, serving Him, loving Him.
Are you focused like a laser beam on getting precious hearts
to love, follow, and obey the Lord?