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Seeds of the Kingdom

Both And

by John Sainsbury

But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.
Nehemiah 4:9, NIV

Often, as followers of Jesus, our lives can feel complicated and difficult, and we can be acutely aware that we have an enemy set against us, an enemy who will use various ways and means to seek to deter us from doing the works God has prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).

In Nehemiah 4 we learn that enemies of the Jews similarly resorted to various tactics to halt the work of restoring the walls of Jerusalem.

First of all they tried ‘ridicule’ (Nehemiah 4:1). When that didn’t seem to have the desired effect, they used intimidation and threat. They plotted to deter the work by force (Nehemiah 4:7-8).

In such a difficult situation, the response of Nehemiah and the people of God was two-fold.

Firstly, they prayed (Nehemiah 4:9a). They brought the specifics of their situation to God knowing that He was the one who would ultimately come to their rescue. These are faithful worshippers of God, so we might expect this of them, and of ourselves, in challenging circumstances.

But, secondly, they ‘posted a guard day and night to meet this threat’ (Nehemiah 4:9b).

They didn’t just pray and expect God to work around them, not involving them at all. Rather, they prayed expecting God to act, but then they also acted, expecting that they would be involved in providing the answer to their own prayers. It wasn’t a case of either/or but rather of both/and.

Whatever situations we are facing today, perhaps there is something useful here for us to learn too. Our initial response may well be to bring our circumstances to God, but we can also be tempted to leap right in and try to manage or control the situation ourselves. However, whether our dilemma is huge and life-threatening or a small thread in the warp and weave of daily life, only God is big enough to be the anchor for our souls, and leaning into Him needs to be the foundation for whatever else we may do.

After this, though, our next response might be to act practically wherever possible in being the means that God might bring about the outcome of those prayers. As an example, we might pray that God would relieve the suffering of His people in a certain situation, a particular place in the world, or someone in need. It’s so important we can pour out our hearts to the loving Lord who knows all things. But then we might ask ourselves what we might do practically to help alleviate that suffering ourselves.

John Sainsbury and his wife Sue are part of the leadership team at Ellel Grange. John has served as a church leader for many years, most recently as Lead Pastor of the Garstang Free Methodist Church. He has a passion for seeing many brought into the fulness of life that following Christ brings.

 

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