Staying the Course

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It is a new year and just about everyone has a new year’s resolution. What is yours? The typical resolutions involve losing weight, finding a new job, or generally improving your quality of life. Our resolve to commit to these resolutions, however, usually begins to dissolve within a few months. For some, the stress of holiday debts, income taxes, going back to school, and other worries during the first quarter of the year slow us down before we can really pick up steam. So how do we move past the demands of the world and succeed in maintaining the priorities in our lives? Taking a lesson learned from a Jewish man named Nehemiah who did just that provides hope for change in the New Year.

Nehemiah traveled one thousand miles to Jerusalem to rebuild the gates that once stood proudly in the city, but had lain in ruins for 150 years. Despite opposition, Nehemiah maintained his resolve to see his task to completion with purpose, perseverance, and power. These same three principles will benefit you with any challenge you face in the year 2007.

Nehemiah’s purpose was to obey God’s call to rebuild the gates of his forefathers. This was no small task for a man who already had a professional commitment to a high profile employer—a king. Similarly, for some of us, we may want to rebuild ties to relationships that have fallen apart along the way, pursue grandiose dreams we abandoned in previous years, or dissociate ourselves from unhealthy habits, but current commitments seem to conflict with or hinder our progress.

Identifying your purpose can be the driving force that motivates you to bring your plans to completion. Nehemiah’s purpose to follow God’s calling in his life enabled him to begin the preliminary steps for his task, despite how daunting it initially seemed. Likewise, focusing on the ultimate benefit of the task you set before you will be the motivation to encourage you to see your plan through. The restoration of a relationship, the completion of a lifelong dream, or the freedom from unhealthy habits can be the determination to keep you on track for change.

Secondly, Nehemiah had the courage to persevere despite severe opposition. As he and the teams he gathered began rebuilding the gates, an instigator named Sanballat and his cronies continually sent messages to Nehemiah. They tried to intimidate and discourage Nehemiah from completing his already overwhelming task. However, remembering the purpose of his task, Nehemiah replied that he could not stop what he was doing. It was not that he would not stop, out of principle or self-will, but that the ultimate purpose of his task (obeying God to restore Jerusalem) literally prevented him from giving up. In the same way, we would be hard pressed to give up in the face of even the most dire opposition if we knew a valued relationship, childhood aspiration, or healthy life hung in the balance.

Last but not least, the power Nehemiah found in his relationship with God sustained him the 52 days it took to finish restoring the wall and gates of Jerusalem. More than half of the entire book of Nehemiah in the Bible includes his prayers to God throughout this process of restoration, from asking the king for a leave of absence to begin the task, to seeking God’s leading for the Israelites when the wall was completed. Unlike Nehemiah, some of us may find strength in the support of family and friends—or the praise, counsel, or encouragement of men—to help see us through our 52-week plan. Unfortunately, these same loved ones and peers are also susceptible to the very challenges to our resolution that we try to avoid ourselves. There will be times when people are not available, loved ones let you down, or opinions may change. However, God is ever-present, ever hearing, and never changing; He desires for us to have a personal relationship with Him through His Son Jesus, prayer, and reading the Bible, and empower us in our daily lives.

What a wonderful example we have in Nehemiah—an ordinary man in a small book in the Old Testament, yet had such a high calling on his life and accomplished extraordinary things—in a season when we are struggling to affect lasting change in our lives, to allow 2007 to truly be different. May you find the purpose, perseverance, and power to overcome your challenges, that God may bring to fruition all he has in store for you this year!



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