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Why God Calls Us to Work Together (Series: Nehemiah – Building a Life of Faith)
You have heard me talk about my Grandpa, the one who was a pastor for over 40 years, but this morning I want to tell you about my Grandma Baker, his wife. You might think that someone who served as a Pastor’s wife for over 40 years is now “retired” from serving in the church because she has put so many decades in.
But my grandma is 88 years old now, and she still serves in her local church by going into the church office and folding the bulletin each week. I remember the church Office Manager telling me at my Grandpa’s Memorial Service that the week that he died my Grandma had called the church office and asked, “Is it ok if I don’t come in this week?”—but she was back the next week.
My grandma still serves in her local church at 88 years old because she understands that she is part of a team that is serving the Lord together and she wants to do her part.
So far in Nehemiah we have seen that God always keeps His promises. God had promised that even though His people had turned away from Him and He would discipline them by bringing them into exile, away from their land to another country as prisoners—that He would bring them back!
We have seen that Nehemiah prayed, trusting that God wanted Jerusalem’s walls rebuilt.
And last week we saw that for Nehemiah, obeying God would mean hard and even “risky” work, and that others would not obey. So how did the wall get built? Did Nehemiah get out there and do it by himself? No!
They did it by working together. Notice the variety of people working together: *3:1—high priests/priests, 3:8—goldsmith/perfumer, 3:12—daughters, 3:32—goldsmiths/merchants, government officials, even “gate keepers” who would be kind of like the police. They needed each other because they couldn’t do it alone. But there were other reasons too.
+What are some good things that happen when you work together as a team?
- Get more done.
- More and different skills are put to use. (gifts God has given for the building up of each other/the church)
- More fun. – VBS/FCA Camp
- Make friends. – Block Party
- Learn new things.
- Praise God together.
When I taught Nehemiah to 3rd, 4th & 5th graders this summer, I told them to watch for this in the church because this is how God’s people have always been!
I told them to watch for plumbers and doctors and pastors and school teachers and construction workers and real estate agents all serving in their church. Then I told them, raise your hand if you have a Sunday School teacher or Awana leader who is kind of old? How about a younger one? How about kind of in the middle like me?! Beautiful—this is how it is supposed to be!
1 Corinthians 12:12-20 “ For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”
Do you see at the end of verse 12 how he says that “so it is with Christ”? Not so it is with the church, but so it is with Christ! Think about what a privilege, what a mystery it is, that we as a church represent Christ on earth!! He expects us to be His hands and feet and mouth and to have His mind and heart in the way we treat those who do not yet know Christ, and also those who we will spend eternity with.
And why is this that Christ, the church who represents Him, is one body but made up of many members? Check out v. 13 again—it is because of the Spirit. Because of the Holy Spirit, we are one. If you know Jesus and the person next to you knows Jesus, you both have the Spirit, so you are one because you have one Spirit.
So how does that impact our day to day, week to week life as a church? “ For the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?  But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.  If all were a single member, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.”
If you don’t smile or laugh when you read this, you don’t understand what Paul is saying! What would it be like if your whole body was an eyeball? Gross!
What if your whole body were a nose with just little arms & legs? And you had allergies and sneezed a bunch?
- The body of Christ is a diverse group of people unified and working together
We often have it wrong and think that everybody at church needs to look the same, when in reality the Bible teaches that we will be very different and have very different gifts and skills and backgrounds and even views on some things that are not biblical absolutes.
Yet that is what makes the body metaphor so beautiful. Even though you can be as different from somebody else as a big toe is different than a nose, that does not make one or the other less important or less needed.
- There are some hands that only you can hold.
- There are some people who will only cry on your shoulder.
- There is someone here who needed to hear you praising God out loud today.
- There is someone in the world this week who needs to hear about Jesus from you today.
- There is someone here who needs to be ministered to by you today. That’s one of the reasons we have a coffee time and we try to give at least 25 minutes for that, because church is about not just teaching and worship but also fellowship and encouragement through being with each other.
But even though we can be and were even made so differently by our creator God, we all have one purpose.
Notice the phrase that comes up most often in Nehemiah chapter 3: “Next to him…next to him…next to him…next to him…” Do you think everybody there was just best friends? Even if they couldn’t stand each other, they worked next to each other because the mission was too important to let petty things get in their way!
There was a purpose and a focus that was incredible as they built this wall together. It gave them motivation and joy and teamwork. If you asked a person on the northern side of the wall what they were doing, they would have said, “Building the wall of Jerusalem so that God’s people can come and worship without fear and so that God’s purposes can be carried out because Messiah will come to Jerusalem.” Then if you went to the southern side of the wall and asked a worker what he was doing, he would have told you the same thing.
Our church’s motto is “To Know Christ and to Make Him Known.” We have one purpose and one mission as a church, which is to know Christ and to Make Him Known. We want to know Jesus deeper and we want to make Him known in our community and around the world. In some way, everything we do as a church has to tie back to that.
Think about how focused they were—I’m sure there may have been someone who thought that a deck would have looked really nice jetting out from this one section of wall. But they didn’t go off and build a deck because it would have detracted from the purpose as they all worked together.
Yet at the same time, I’m sure that the section of wall built by the perfumers smelled good.
1) The body of Christ is a diverse group of people unified and working together
This is the main point of this passage. But let’s look at 5 other brief observations that can be helpful to us.
2) Leaders lead by serving (3:1, 3:9, 3:12) – This is true of both religious & secular leaders, in Nehemiah’s time as well as ours.
[3:1] “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.”
[3:9] “Next to them Rephaiah the son of Hur, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired.” [the next guy in v. 10 is “just a guy” working on a section of the wall near his house]
3:12—Here you have the ruler of the other ½ district of Jerusalem! The one who had his daughters out there building with him.
I had different managers when I worked at Sprint over 5 years during seminary: some saw employees as people to use—everyone just put up with them. But my main manager for over 2 of 5 years saw employees as people to serve—the employees thrived under him!
3) The place of worship matters (3:1, temple, priests)
The Sheep Gate—where the sheep for sacrifice were brought.
The book of Nehemiah is not primarily about building a physical place, but it is not less than that.
We see here that the place for worship matters. The priests took special care to make sure this gate was repaired and this is where the description of the building in Chapter 3 begins and ends.
This is why your Deacons and I were here Thursday night discussing and delegating different building repairs and improvements on our place of worship. It’s not ok to have the water table of our Education Building rotting away when that’s not acceptable for public buildings in our culture. The physical place of worship is not primary, but it does matter.
4) If we’re not serving, we need to ask why (3:5)
[3:5] “And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord.”
Another way of translating this: “would not put their shoulders to the work.”
There are seasons of life that you do need to focus on your family or on your health or on your job. But are you taking a break from serving because of that, or is it because it’s more fun to sit on the couch?
Sometimes I quote hymns from the 1600s, and other days we need to hear from Toby Mac. “Til the wheels fall off, Til the spotlight fades, I will lift your banner high, I will lift your banner high; Until the walls crash in, for the rest of my days, I’ll lay it all on the line, Til the day I die, Til the end of the line, It’s Your name I’ll glorify.”
Later in the song: “Til I die and they put me in the coffin, Don’t matter if I’m on the road or if I’m recordin’, Tell me what you think about me, that really ain’t important, Ya imma representing, I ain’t playin’, can’t afford to, I only got one life and I get it though, this is not an act, not a movie, not a TV show…
[This is my favorite part.]…Do it for the King, what you know about that? Say you goin’ harder, mmm I doubt that, You say you doin’ work, but you’re asking where the couch at – How you doin’ work when you asking where the couch at?!
God is not a crutch, you can use Him when you wanna, You only look to heaven when you goin’ through some drama, And when they goin’ through some problem, and that’s the only time they call Him, I guess I don’t understand that life, wonder why? ‘Cause I’m all in—‘till the day I die.”
If someone wrote a summary similar to Nehemiah 3, of who is serving and how they are serving in our church, would you be listed favorably or unfavorably? Why?
5) Serve in an area that matters to you
I want you to notice in Nehemiah 3 several places where it says that so-and-so built next to his house or opposite his house.
*3:10, “Next to them Jedaiah the son of Harumaph repaired opposite his house…”
*3:23, “After them Benjamin and Hasshub repaired opposite their house. After them Azariah the son of Maaseiah, son of Ananiah repaired beside his own house.”
*3:28, “Above the Horse Gate the priests repaired, each one opposite his own house.  After them Zadok the son of Immer repaired opposite his own house…”
Of course, we all know why Nehemiah and the other leaders assigned people to repair opposite their own house if they lived right next to the wall: first of all, since the primary purpose of the wall is protection, you are going to make sure that the section of wall near your house is sturdy and well-built so that your own house and your own family is protected. Second, you are not going to do the job halfway if you—or your wife—has to walk outside every day and look at that section of wall. You will do your best!
Melanie and I were Resident Managers in an apartment building during Seminary. The reason this was a genius set up is because somebody in an office somewhere who has maybe hardly ever set foot in your apartment building probably doesn’t care much really about the leaky roof near the end of the hall, or the moldy carpet that needs to be replaced, or about the loud resident who insists on blaring music after quiet hours. But somebody who lives there cares simply because they live there! And you also care because of relationships, because you want to help take care of your neighbors as you want them to enjoy living there as well.
If you are not currently serving anywhere and you don’t know what to do, start by serving in an area that matters to you.
- If you enjoy doing little tasks that are helpful, I’m looking for somebody to do volunteer help with office work either at the church or from home 1 or 2 hours a week.
- If you enjoy techy stuff, we are looking to beef up our audio/visual team for Sunday mornings.
- If you enjoy working with children, we always need godly volunteers to serve with children and we really need to beef up our Children’s Church volunteers.
- If you enjoy serving the poor, I have a ministry opportunity that might be just for you.
- If you enjoy giving people hope, TrueNorth, our local crisis pregnancy center, is always looking for volunteers.
Serve in an area that matters to you.
6) The Lord cares about each individual (lists).
I think we would all admit, this is one of those chapters that you need to look at for awhile to figure out what I am supposed to take away from it.
At first, you just read all of these names that you can’t pronounce and about all of these gates that they built near that you don’t know anything about, and you start to wonder why this is in the Bible. I think we have seen that if you look closely there’s usually quite a lot for us today in each list in the Bible.
But if you come to a list of names like this in your Bible reading, even if you can’t figure out the main reason that it is in there, you can always remember this—God cares about each individual who serves Him. He remembers their names. He knows their work. Ultimately, that is all that matters. As you serve Him, He sees your work, your love for Him, and your love for the saints.
The church is known as the Body of Christ, or the Family of God. How do you become part of it? You are born into or adopted into your family! You are born “into the body of Christ” by being born again; you are adopted into the family of God by the Lord adopting us.
So how do we become part of it?
- God *Exodus 34:6-7
- People *Romans 3:23
- Jesus *Romans 6:23
- Response *Romans 10:9-10
Are you trusting in Christ alone for your salvation? Talk with me after the Service if you need to know more about how you can know Christ as your Savior.
My freshman year of college I had an acquaintance in my dorm room named Craig who lived just down the hall from me. I didn’t really know Craig well, but we would talk now and then and it never occurred to me that he would be interested in coming to church or the college fellowship I was part of.
My sophomore year I lived somewhere else, and I didn’t see Craig anymore. But one day he showed up at the college Bible study I helped lead, and then started to come to our church because a friend who had class with him had invited him. Craig became very involved in both the college fellowship and church and I got to know him quite well. I’ll never forget Craig’s senior testimony.
He shared that he grew up going to church and believing in Jesus, but then about 4th grade his parents got divorced and they both stopped going to church. He said that the first time that he walked into the college fellowship that our mutual friend had invited him to, it was like finding your long lost family—or finding out you had a bunch of brothers and sisters you had forgotten about.
He talked about how we need each other in the body of Christ because God has made us many parts, but one body. He said, all of those years that I wasn’t attending church or Bible study I was like an arm that was just lying on the ground all by itself. Craig explained, an arm lying on the ground by itself isn’t useful and in fact, it’s gross. But once he was connected to the body again, he remembered who he was, a child of the King who wanted to serve Him with others. Craig serves in a local church today as a volunteer.
Yes, I believe that God holds the future of our church in His hands. But we will not fulfill His purposes, we will not thrive, if we are not a church that obeys Him through serving the body and reaching out TOGETHER.