Don't Miss What God is Doing
When the sermon was over the old deacon stood up and said he had something to say. People shifted nervously in their seats as the packed church began to listen.
“There is such a thing as a church duty when the whole church must act… it is my deep conviction, and yours for we have talked much with one another, that this church has a church duty to perform, and that we have waited long enough to perform it.”
At the close of his speech he motioned for the country church to ordain a young man to the gospel and to do it the next day. Despite his protests, FBC Whitewright ordained a young GW Truett to ministry the very next day at the church.
It was clear to this old deacon that God was working and the church had better get with it. He was proven right as Truett led a storied career and pastored FBC Dallas for 47 years in the first half of the 20th century. It can be very clear when God is working, but sometimes we get so caught up in what we want God to do that we miss what God IS doing among us.
Nehemiah felt the burden of God to go back to his homeland and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. The book is a master class in leadership. Every move he makes seems to be carefully orchestrated and planned out in order to do what God has called him too. He cares about the people and the city and is moved to prayer over their plight. That prayer leads to action when he asks the King for permission and resources to rebuild Jerusalem. He inspects the problems, formulates a plan, and involves people from all walks of life to help rebuild. There is much to learn from Nehemiah as he lives with a singular focus to see Jerusalem restored to glory.
There does seem to be one time that he takes a break from this focus, though. At the beginning of chapter 3 the first gate is built, it’s doors hung, and the walls around it. It’s only a beginning, but Nehemiah takes this moment to stop and thank God for what he has done.
It’s strange because at first glance not much has been accomplished yet. A small portion of the wall and one gate has been rebuilt, but if you walk down far enough you could probably walk around the end of the wall. The city was not safe yet and there was still much work to be done. Still Nehemiah stops to consecrate the first part of the wall and give thanks.
No matter what type of ministry you are in, there is a lot to be done. If you are a pastor, youth pastor, lay leader, volunteer, or anything else, the work of ministry is always ongoing. We have been commissioned to take the gospel to the nations, to every tribe and tongue. It can be so easy to be focused on what still needs to happen that we miss the work God has already done.
Don’t be so focused on what God MIGHT do through you that you miss what God IS doing through you. Every serious Christian I have known longs for God to do more work through them and among them. A healthy church and healthy leaders are always looking to see what is coming next. What’s needed for the next stage, how can we get over the next burden, how do we move forward to the next stage of ministry. Church leaders are inundated with ideas about how to move past “the next barrier,” be it attendance of 100, 250, 500, or one thousand.
When we put all of our focus on the possibility of what God could do through us, then we miss the work that God has done to bring us to the spot we are. There is always more to do. But there is already so much that God has done. Part of the particular burden of a leader is always having to look forward in order to see what needs to come next. But don’t miss the present or past because you are so focused on the future.
It’s easy to never be satisfied, always looking for the next obstacle, the next challenge, the next part of the wall to be built. The task ahead almost always feels greater and bigger than the one behind us. But there are no such things as small victories with God. Every victory is God’s victory. Even the things that we might consider mundane or small, like half a wall being built, are the result of God working in and through his people. We need to recognize and celebrate every work of God among us. Leaders don’t just cast vision for the future, they celebrate the many ways that God has already worked through them.
Nehemiah didn’t lose his focus on the task at hand. But when he led the people to stop and consecrate the first part of the work he reminded them that they could only accomplish that task through the power of God. When we celebrate these small victories we are teaching the church that God is moving among us now and will be the source of power as we continue to work towards the bigger goal.
These victories will look different in every church. It might just be that you make through a meeting without anyone yelling! It might be as simple as the continued faithfulness of a ministry leader over decades of the church. As you plan for what comes next, don’t forget to look and see what God has done to bring you to where you are. More than that, don’t forget to stop and consecrate the work God has already done in your midst. No matter how big or small your ministry is, no matter how long or short you have been a Christian, I am confident that God is working in you. Be sure that He who began the good work in you will carry out to completion.