Last night was a tremendous blessing for me as about forty from our congregation prayer walked around the Robert Coleman Park in preparation for Sunday night’s outreach event. Though we weren’t circling the walls of Jericho, we did understand that we were (and always are) up against spiritual forces that are entirely antagonistic to the cause of Christ. That is the nature of Christian ministry.
We were feeling as we walked what Hudson Taylor (for 51 years a missionary in China) felt on the mission field: “It is possible to move men through God by prayer alone.”
The Book of Nehemiah describes a time when God’s people had a job before them that couldn’t possibly be done in human strength. A hundred years had passed. The walls of Jerusalem were torn down. The city had no secure gates. There was excruciatingly difficult work to be done.
The walls had been broken down by the Babylonian invasion in 586 B.C. Two groups had returned from captivity to Jerusalem over that 100-year period. “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1).
Today we sing a similarly sober song when we look at the world around us. There is so much brokenness everywhere we turn, even in the church. There is so much repair work to be done. Idolatry, secular humanism, religious pride. Because the people in Nehemiah’s day had mocked God’s messengers and scoffed at His prophets, they had been taken captive by an invading army. God used the Babylonians and then the Medo-Persians to accomplish His sovereign will, and to teach valuable spiritual lessons.
Rock the Block will be exhilarating but not easy. There is much suffering and chaos in our community, as in every other community. When we move into the lives of people, and allow them to move into our lives, we do so at some risk.
And maybe it’s not all about “them.” Maybe there are some “old walls” in our lives that need to come down so that the Spirit of God can rebuild better walls for His glory! A.W. Tozer in The Roots of the Righteous describes our natural tendency: “Let the owner neglect for awhile his prized and valued acres and they will revert again to the wilds and be swallowed by the jungle or the wasteland. The bias of nature is toward the wilderness never toward the fruitful field.”
Maybe Christ is dealing with some of our sinful habits and attitudes. Some of our worldliness and pleasure-seeking. Maybe some of our uncomfortableness in the area of outreach has to do with what those interactions will cause us to have to confront in our own lives.
The British evangelist and pastor Alan Redpath said it like this: “When God takes up a man and uses him in His service, the first thing He does is to show him his own utter inadequacy, insufficiency, and unworthiness for the task.”
Maybe God is so gracious that He will repair the gates of First Baptist Paducah (First John 1:9), even as we embrace our community with Christ’s love.
In Nehemiah’s day, the people had to come clean (face the truth about themselves), mourn (confess their sin and repent of it), stand strong in the face of opposition (even from within the ranks) and pursue God in genuine praise and faithful obedience. Not a bad recipe for us.
In any event, I’m glad to be in it with you. Thanks to all of you who prayed last night, and to all of you who will pray between now and Sunday night.