OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #217 Talkers and Doers
Thank you for your responses to last week’s OnFire. There were almost as many who responded as there were people who wrote initially.
Since then I have been rolling the responses over in my mind. Some identified with the comments and wanted to share their own experiences. Others added some very helpful thoughts. Today I want to bring this back to Nehemiah.
The last time we saw Nehemiah (OnFire #215 Lenses for Life) I commented that it would be great to have “life lenses” which would bring clarity to our lives. Nehemiah had clarity about the future and knew that he wanted to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. This clarity was no accident, no divine lottery. Nehemiah knew scripture, he had a soft heart, and was patient as he waited for God to answer his prayers.
As we continue reading at Nehemiah 2:7-8, we discover a little more about Nehemiah and his clarity about the future as he asked for travel papers and timber. Letters to the governors of the provinces would provide him with security as he travelled. He would also need building materials for the gates and buildings.
This sounds simple enough, but we miss something very important if we pass over too quickly. First, Nehemiah could clearly see the future of Jerusalem, and it included repaired walls and gates. This is important because without this picture in his mind of a renewed Jerusalem, it would never happen. We often call this vision - a picture of the way things could be before they exist. Without vision, we continue as we did before and nothing changes.
Vision was highlighted to me as people responded to last week’s OnFire. The question, “What needs to change?” is tied directly to vision - - “What should the church look like in the future?”
Do we want to be people with a deep connection to God? One friend wrote, “I missed any reference to the need for revival/renewal based on intentional efforts at practice of the spiritual disciplines.... It is my firm conviction that much contemporary ministry fails to achieve biblical effectiveness, because we short cut spiritual growth in the attempt to gain numeric growth – strategy trumps spirituality! It is like going for a long journey and refusing to fill your tank (gas) up before leaving.”
A middle school Sunday school teacher wrote that she would like her students to understand service and be deeply rooted in scripture. “We haven’t taught Christian young people that to be a Christian is to serve and it starts within the church. Serve alongside the older Christians, helping people around doing physical work, serve in various areas, outside of church time.” When she asked why her students weren’t bringing their Bibles to class, they responded, “Why? We don’t use them in church.” She encourages her students to bring Bibles and provides spares for those who do not. “It’s not about what I think, it’s God’s word I want them to have in their heart.”
The vision for an authentic Christian community where life’s successes and failures, strengths and shortcomings could be shared safely was behind another comment. “Build a cell-based church where pastoral care is done primarily at the cell level, including discussions amongst cell members about each other's obedient and joyful giving habits. All sorts of unhealthy practices flourish in an atmosphere of anonymity.”
The second thing we see in Nehemiah’s request is that there is a difference between wanting to do something and doing something. In Nehemiah’s day how many different people said that somebody needed to do something about the walls back in Jerusalem? Did they have shops in Susa where people gathered to talk while their drinks grew coldl? Wanting to do something is different from doing something.
Mark came home from school one day clearly upset. One of the other boys in his class was bragging about something that he thought he could do better than Mark. It was a little thing, nothing more than school yard posturing, but Mark needed comfort.
“Mark,” I said. “ You’re going to find people in life like that guy. They talk big, but when it comes time to perform, they don’t. There are talkers, and then there are doers. Be a doer.”
Talking and doing - now there’s an issue. I find it a lot easier to talk about something than it is to do it. It is easier to make myself look spiritual than it is to be spiritual. Easier to talk about a problem than it is do work on it, to talk about what needs to be done than to do it.
I hope Nehemiah inspires us to a deeper level of commitment and courage, that our talking leads to doing. I hope this helps. Be OnFire.
OnFire is a weekly letter on authentic faith and character written by Troy Dennis. This letter published Mar 3, 2010. Scripture references taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Archives are located at www.onfireletter.com Blog located at http://onfireletter.blogspot.com/