All Hands on Deck
Nehemiah 2: 11-20 [3: 1-32]
Sermon by Pastor Josh Van Leeuwen
Introduction by Phyllis Yearick
About fourteen years ago, God stirred the heart of someone at Westview Church toward people in the western suburbs of greater Des Moines who were going hungry. She had an idea, which she took to the pastor, and after consulting God in prayer, he approved. Teams formed to seek God’s guidance through prayer and to flesh out the idea: where would this happen? What specific services would be offered? Who would staff it? How would it operate? City leaders doubted the need, but other area churches joined in, and the work began. Volunteers showed up to assemble shelves and prepare the space, then to sort and organize donated items. A food pantry opened and was soon followed by a free clinic and community garden, and for the past thirteen years Waukee Area Christian Services has provided food, medical care, spiritual support, and information about other services to hundreds of Waukee area families and individuals each week, thanks to the vision and persistence of one person who listened and responded to a nudge from God, much prayer, and a whole lot of dedicated volunteers.
This story parallels Nehemiah’s in many ways. Once he became aware of the problems his ancestral home was facing, he prayed for guidance, then when the time was right he asked the king for the help he needed to accomplish this huge task of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. After arriving in the city, he took a night tour with a few trusted friends, getting the full scope of the project. Once he knew what needed to be done, he made his case to the people—priests and temple servants, shop owners and perfumers, Levites and city officials—and they all got to work. Despite some pushback from a few doubters, Nehemiah was confident that God would ensure their success. After all, he had consulted God many times and knew that God supported the rebuilding effort. With Nehemiah leading the way, all the people who volunteered their time and materials could begin to accomplish a job that no one person could possibly have done alone.
Isn’t this how the church works? Each of us has been gifted with talents, interests, and abilities for the purpose of glorifying God and building his kingdom here on earth. In relationship with God, who speaks to us through prayer, scripture, and the Holy Spirit within us, we can be alert to his promptings, discover where he is active, and come alongside him to participate in his plans. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We are here to enjoy God and live in relationship with him, but he also has work for us to do, work that he has prepared specifically for us and for which he has equipped and empowered us.
Of course, just as the nobles in Jerusalem refused to “put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors,” not everyone in the church will choose to join in. But this is to their own detriment, for only in serving God through obeying him and following his direction can we know him better and grow closer to him. The nobles in Jerusalem still benefited from the security and protection that the newly restored walls and gates offered, but they missed out on the sense of community all the other people enjoyed by working together for a common goal. The same is true for us. We still can enjoy eternal life, thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus, but unless we work together, suffer together, serve together, worship together, pray together, celebrate together, and grow together, we will miss out on the beautiful community God offers us through his body, the church.
You are welcome at Westview Church! Join us this Sunday morning at 9:30 for worship (Discovery Hour classes are on summer break and will return in the fall).