Men of Compassion

Men of Compassion

A Study of Nehemiah

Dr. Jim Denison

Nehemiah 5

With today’s economic woes and worries, we could not have today’s study in a more appropriate setting. We have been called to be men of wisdom, commitment, sacrifice, and courage. Now God will call us to be men of compassion. Who needs your help this week?

See the need (vs. 1-6)

The problems faced by the nation to this point were external: Permission from the king to rebuild the city, and opposition from their enemies in the region. Now Nehemiah comes to the most difficult and disastrous issue of all: Internal conflict. The text begins: “Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their Jewish brothers” (v. 1).

“Outcry” translates the Hebrew word used for the cry of the Jews against their Egyptian masters during their slavery in Egypt. This is shortly before the wall was finished in August-September, near the end of the harvest. Creditors were requiring payment of capital and interest on loans. Nehemiah had asked the men to stay in Jerusalem to do the work, leaving their villages. Now an economic crisis resulted, resulting in four problems.

Food shortages: “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain” (v. 2). They had neglected their fields and crops in order to work on the walls, and now were running out of food for their families.

Debt: “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine” (v. 3). As a result, they would have no means to eat in the future. This was like eating the grain for next year’s harvest, or drinking the water needed to prime the pump.

Taxes: “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards” (v. 4). They owed Artaxerxes property taxes, perhaps as much as 40% (the rate in the Persian Empire) and had no means to pay them. So they borrowed from their fellow Jews, at exorbitant rates of interest.

Slavery: “Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our countrymen and though our sons are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others” (v. 5). This was permitted by the law, and would last six years: “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything” (Exodus 21:2). But they would have no workers for their fields or a way to be together in the meantime.

Nehemiah’s response: “When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry” (v. 6). This was not the only response he could have made. He could have been frustrated with their complaint. After all, he had sacrificed everything to help them rebuild their city, and was doing what he had promised to do. While they had famine, debt, taxes, and slavery, at least they were a people again.

He could have been apathetic to their plight. None of this was his problem, or would affect him directly. His response was the opposite: “I was very angry.” The word means to feel pain and indignation in one’s very soul.

Jesus gave us the example for showing compassion with those in need. And Acts 3 is one of the greatest biblical teachings on showing compassion.

Start where the need is great; ask God to break your heart with what breaks his heart.

Get involved (vs. 7-13)

Nehemiah started with the debt problem: “You are exacting usury from your own countrymen!” (v. 7c). This was forbidden by the Law: “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest” (Exodus 22:25).

Money could be loaned: “If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs” (Deuteronomy 15:7-8). But interest could not be charged. They were in direct violation of Scripture.

He then confronted the larger assembly: “So I called together a large meeting to deal with them” (v. 7d). He began with his own example: “As far as possible, we have bought back our Jewish brothers who were sold to the Gentiles” (v. 8a). Leviticus 25 gives guidelines for purchasing those who have been sold as slaves; Nehemiah and his leadership team have been doing that for the people.

Then he confronted their actions: “Now you are selling your brothers, only for them to be sold back to us!” (v. 8b). With this result: “They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say” (v. 8c).

Now he turned the issue to its greatest significance: the honor of their God. Verse 9: “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?” They had been delivered by the grace of God, and now were defaming his name.

They must change now: “I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury stop! Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the usury you are charging them–the hundredth part of the money, grain, new wine and oil” (vs. 10-11). They had been charging one percent a month, and were to return even this amount.

With this response: “We will give it back,” they said. “And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say” (v. 12).

So Nehemiah solidified their decision: “Then I summoned the priests and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised. I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, “In this way may God shake out of his house and possessions every man who does not keep this promise. So may such a man be shaken out and emptied!” At this the whole assembly said, “Amen,” and praised the LORD. And the people did as they had promised” (vs. 12-13).

He put the officials on record (v. 12). He “shook out the folds” of his robe, a sign of rejection, and predicted that God would do the same to all who went back on their word. And the crisis was averted.

God is calling more people into public service than are answering the call.

Set the example (vs. 14-19)

Nehemiah became governor, the highest position in the land: “Moreover, from the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, until his thirty-second year–twelve years–neither I nor my brothers ate the food allotted to the governor” (v. 14). His term lasted from 444 to 432 B.C.

This food allotment was likely used to entertain guests and foreign dignitaries, something like formal dinners in the White House today. Solomon’s daily allotment is an example: “Solomon’s daily provisions were thirty cors of fine flour and sixty cors of meal, 23 ten head of stall-fed cattle, twenty of pasture-fed cattle and a hundred sheep and goats, as well as deer, gazelles, roebucks and choice fowl” (1 Kings 4:22-23).

However, he refused to used this position to his benefit. He did not use “the food allotted to the governor,” refusing the example of those who went before him: “But the earlier governors–those preceding me–placed a heavy burden on the people and took forty shekels of silver from them in addition to food and wine. Their assistants also lorded it over the people. But out of reverence for God I did not act like that” (v. 15).

Rather, “I devoted myself to the work on this wall. All my men were assembled there for the work; we did not acquire any land” (v. 16). Other governors loaned to the people, then took their lands when they could not repay their debts; Nehemiah refused this example.

Not only did he not take from the people; he gave to their needs personally: “Furthermore, a hundred and fifty Jews and officials ate at my table, as well as those who came to us from the surrounding nations. Each day one ox, six choice sheep and some poultry were prepared for me, and every ten days an abundant supply of wine of all kinds. In spite of all this, I never demanded the food allotted to the governor, because the demands were heavy on these people” (vs. 17-18).

With this prayer: “Remember me with favor, O my God, for all I have done for these people” (v. 19). He prayed this seven times in the book, knowing that success is determined not by man but by God.

We cannot lead people further than we are willing to go.

Men of Courage

Men of Courage

A Study of Nehemiah

Dr. Jim Denison

Nehemiah 4

Every day in America: 40 Americans turn 100; 5,800 become 65; and 8,000 try to forget their 40th birthdays. The U.S. government issues 50 more pages of regulations. 20,000 write letters to the president. 13,000 get married, while 6,300 get divorced. Dogs bite 11,000 people, including 20 mail carriers. We eat 75 acres of pizza, 53 million hot dogs, 3 million gallons of ice cream, and 3,000 tons of candy. We then jog 75 million miles to burn it all off.

So it is in a “normal” day. But these days are anything but normal. Historians are already calling this financial crisis “the Great Recession.” Pre-owned home sales in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area fell 28% from a year ago; Southwest Airlines’ revenues declined in February and are doing the same in March; late mortgage payments are rising in Texas.

Things aren’t much better for pastors: Monday’s Dallas Morning News reported that “authorities charged a South Carolina pastor accused of setting fire to his own church with second-degree arson. Anderson County Fire Chief Billy Gibson said Christopher Daniels, 40, reported a fire at Blue Ridge Baptist Church in Belton when he opened the church for services Sunday morning.” Now it seems that he set the fire himself. Anything to get something moving in the church, I guess.

What makes it hard for you to follow and serve Jesus today? Is it temptation from the enemy? Hardships and fears with regard to the economy and your job? Struggles within your family?

Jesus warned us that in this world we would suffer tribulation (John 16:33). Paul said that we must through much tribulation enter the Kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). Following Jesus is always a matter of courage; taking up our cross, getting out of the boat; standing up to the authorities. If you don’t need courage to serve Jesus today, you’re not serving Jesus fully. Here’s what to do when you need such courage this week.

Expect to be ridiculed (vs. 1-6)

The text begins: “When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble–burned as they are?” (vs. 1-2).

“Sanballat the Horonite” was probably from Beth-Horon, a town 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem. A papyri written in 407 B.C., 37 years after the event, tells us that he was the “governor of Samaria,” the region just to the north. He wanted to consolidate his power, and rightly saw the reestablishment of Jerusalem as a significant threat to his agenda.

He ridiculed the Jews in the most public manner, before his ruling cabinet. He spoke before “the army of Samaria,” marshalling them in military maneuvers as a threat to Jerusalem. He called them “feeble,” a word which means to be “withered” or “miserable.”

He claimed that they would not be able to restore their wall or offer sacrifices. They think they can “finish in a day,” before their enemies attack them. Their stones are “burned” by the Babylonians, thus missing the iron which held them together and significantly weakened in their composition.

In short, their project was doomed before it began.

He was joined by “Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side,” meaning that they were partners in leadership. Tobiah added, “What they are building—if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!” (v. 3). A fox (more likely a “jackal”) weighs only a few pounds; one was likely to climb up and over any wall built in that part of the world. If even a fox could destroy their protective walls, what might an invading army do?

Nehemiah’s response was exactly the right thing to do: “Hear us, O our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders” (v. 4-5).

Go to God, first. Do not try to solve your problem yourself, call on your advisors, or negotiate with your enemy. If he had attacked the Samaritan governor, he would have been in violation of the law and would have brought Persian reprisal.

Tell him your specific problem. Ask him for his specific answers, protection, and help.

With this result: “So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart” (v. 6).

Nehemiah later wrote that the entire project was completed in 52 days (eight weeks of six days each); this part probably took four weeks to finish. The people knew that God would be their protector and provider. But only because Nehemiah went to God first.

Ridicule is one of the enemy’s tactics against the people of God. What did Goliath do when David came to fight him? “He looked David over and saw that he was only a boy, ruddy and handsome, and he despised him. He said to David, ‘Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. ‘Come here,’ he said, ‘and I’ll give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!'” (1 Samuel 17:42-44).

Jesus fared no better on the cross: “The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, ‘Prophesy! Who hit you?’ And they said many other insulting things to him” (Luke 22:63-65).

So it has been for all the heroes of the faith: “Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison” (Hebrews 11:36). When we face challenges, it is human nature to wonder if the fault is ours, if we are to blame. “I am not who I think I am, or who you think I am—I am who I think that you think I am.”

Fight for the Kingdom (vs. 7-15)

Such rapid response made Jerusalem even more of a threat to their enemies, with this response: “But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the men of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it” (vs. 7-8).

Sanballat was from the north in Samaria. Tobiah was from Ammon, to the east. “The Arabs” were from the south. “The men of Ashdod” were Philistines living west of Jerusalem. They were a warlike people, well prepared for such a battle.

And so, the enemies of Jerusalem would have attacked from all sides, leaving the people nowhere to turn or run. This was the gravest threat they had faced since returning to the city 70 years earlier.

What did Nehemiah do? “But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat” (v. 9). Pray to God—first. Post a guard—day and night. Sometimes God tells us to get out of the boat, but usually presumption is a sin, like jumping from the Temple heights.

Some threats come from without, others from within: “Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, ‘The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall'” (v. 10). The workers were growing too tired to continue the work. Their circumstances were intolerable as well; “rubbish” translates the Hebrew word for “dust,” the rubble left from the Babylonian destruction in 586 B.C.

Still others are anonymous rather than public: “Also our enemies said, ‘Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.’ Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, ‘Wherever you turn, they will attack us'” (vs. 11-12).

“Enemies” translates the Hebrew word sar, meaning those who cause harm. The enemies of the people not only threatened Nehemiah publicly, they also spread rumors and fear among the people as well. The second strategy would be even more effective than the first.

Nehemiah’s response: “Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, ‘Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes'” (vs. 13-14).

It must have been hard for Nehemiah to put entire families together and at risk. But he knew that the men would not abandon their families to rebuild the walls, so he did whatever was necessary.

All the while, he encouraged them to trust in God and fight for each other. With this result: “When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to his own work” (vs. 15).

Expect to be threatened if you will follow Jesus fully. But know that you fight for all of God’s people, not just yourself. Your witness and service affect the entire Kingdom. You cannot measure the future significance of present obedience.

Prepare for battle daily (vs. 16-23)

Divide the labor and protection: “From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me” (vs. 16-18).

Half protected the other half at any one time. The officers posted themselves as protection, encouraging the workers (as they would be the first to fall in battle). Those bringing bricks and mortar from the stockpiles and quarries brought their sword with them, as they were exposed to danger. The builders worked with two hands, with sword at the side.

Trumpeters stayed with Nehemiah to sound the alarm whenever necessary. Thus each did their part of the work. So it is with the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12, 14; the vine and branches, John 15).

Stay in communication with each other: “Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, ‘The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!'” (vs. 19-20).

We hang together or we all hang separately. Expect division within the family of God.

Be ready and diligent: “So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. At that time I also said to the people, “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and workmen by day.” Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water” (vs. 21-23).

Those living outside the city, where they would be away from the first attack, moved into Jerusalem. None ever took off their clothes, so they would be ready for battle whenever it came.

Be ready every day for spiritual warfare. God’s word tells us how in Ephesians 6. The full armor of God protests the front, not the back, since we are not to retreat from the enemy.

Thomas Merton: “I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. And I know if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

Men of Sacrifice

Men of Sacrifice

A Study of Nehemiah

Dr. Jim Denison

Nehemiah 3

Did you know that deer have no gall bladders? Crocodiles can run rapidly over land but cannot change directly quickly, so if you’re chased by one it is best to run in a zig-zag pattern. Every hour, 12,500 puppies are born in the United States. The Washington Monument sinks six inches every year. The Mona Lisa has no eyebrows. A sneeze can travel as fast as 100 miles an hour.

Sometimes sections of the Bible look at first glance like that—facts with no apparent relevance. Genealogies, long lists of dietary laws. In this lesson we will study the list of the people who helped rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. By my count, 46 different people or groups. Eliashib rebuilt the Sheep Gate; the Fish Gate was rebuilt by the sons of Hassenaah; the west gate was rebuilt by Ralph; and so on. Useless facts? Only until we study them.

We are going to learn about men of sacrifice, men whose commitment to God was so significant that they played a part in one of the most crucial activities in all of biblical history. Without their sacrifice, the story stops here. The nation dies here. God’s redemptive plan ends here. What they did for the Kingdom, we can do for the Kingdom. Your work, your life, your place, your influence plays a role in human history. Do what God calls you to do, and your life will matter for eternity. Where on the wall has God placed you?

Work for God (v. 1)

You know the setting of Nehemiah—the nation was destroyed by Babylon (modern-day Iraq) in 586 B.C. The Persians (modern-day Iran) have overthrown the Babylonians and allowed the Jews to return and rebuild their city. Nehemiah, the king’s chief counselor and most important advisor, has been called by God and permitted by the king to lead the rebuilding effort. He has surveyed the damage and assessed the issues. He has called and motivated the people to join him in this work. Without their walls, they cannot have a city or nation. With their walls, their future is secure. Now the work begins.

The first in the story: “Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place, building as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and as far as the Tower of Hananel” (Nehemiah 3:1).

The “Sheep Gate” was located at the northeast corner of the city. The repairs began here, and proceeded counterclockwise. We know that the Sheep Gate was located here, because it was near the Pool of Bethesda: “Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesdaa and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades” (John 5:2). Archaeologists have located this pool in the northeastern quadrant of the Old City.

The Sheep Gate was the place where the sheep entered the city to go to market. The principal function of sheep in ancient Israel was for sacrifice. These were the animals whose deaths would atone for the sins of the people and enable them to worship and serve their God. Without a gate for the sheep to come into the city, the sacrificial system could not be restored and the people could not be right with God.

“Eliashib” was the grandson of the high priest when Zerubbabel began rebuilding the city 60 years earlier. As High Priest, he was the spiritual leader of the nation. He was the only man permitted into the Holy of Holies, and that only on the Day of Atonement. If he were Catholic, he would be Pope; if he were Baptist, he would be pastor of our largest church. Yet we find him working at the wall, rebuilding the gate which would be critical to his work. Sawing lumber, driving nails, working alongside the rest of the men of the nation.

With him were “his fellow priests,” the “clergy” of the day. Their typical work was presiding over worship services, making sacrifices, leading the people spiritually. They were the staff of the church, showing up to help pave the parking lot or clean the carpets.

We might understand their interest in rebuilding the Sheep Gate, as it was vital to their work. But these men also worked to rebuild the walls “as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and as far as the Tower of Hananel.”

“The Tower of the Hundred” was named either for its height, the steps which were necessary to climb it, or a military unit stationed in the area. The “Tower of Hananel” was an adjacent military structure.

The northern side of Jerusalem was the only part of the city not naturally protected by a steep hill. These towers were vital to protecting the city from northern invaders.

This is the only part of the work specifically “dedicated” by the priests to God, both the Sheep Gate and the walls surrounding it. And so we find the priests engaged in “spiritual” work, but also in the “secular” defense of the city as well.

As you know, there is no clergy/laity distinction in the Bible. The “spiritual/secular” division so popular today comes from Greek philosophy, not biblical teaching. See all your work as “spiritual,” as vital to the Kingdom of God. You will speak to people today who will not listen to me. You will impact lives I can never touch.

You are God’s ministers, his priests, sent to rebuild your part of the wall of his Kingdom. Dedicate your life and your work to the God of the universe, for it is his.

Do what it takes

The story continues: “The men of Jericho built the adjoining section, and Zaccur son of Imri built next to them” (v. 2).

“The men of Jericho” came from the oldest city in the world. Jericho was located 15 miles to the southeast of Jerusalem. The climb takes 10 hours or more on foot, ascending 3,000 feet through some of the most difficult and dangerous terrain anywhere in the world. It is no coincidence that the man who was robbed and beaten in the Parable of the Good Samaritan was traveling this road. But these men took the risk and paid the price to do their part.

Note that they lived too far from Jerusalem to make the city an immediate refuge under threat. They did this work for the sake of the nation more than their personal safety.

Next, “the Fish Gate was rebuilt by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place” (v. 3). The “Fish Gate” was the gate through which people brought fish from Tyre and the Mediterranean coast, as well as from the Sea of Galilee. It was the chief commercial and economic entrance to the city, the Wall Street or Main Street of the day. The economic future and vitality of the city depended on the work done by these “sons of Hassenaah,” men who are otherwise unnamed and unknown to history.

“Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired the next section. Next to him Meshullam son of Berekiah, the son of Meshezabel, made repairs, and next to him Zadok son of Baana also made repairs” (v. 4). Meremoth, the son of a priest, also worked on a second section of the wall (v. 21). Here we find another example of clergy/laity synergy.

Now the work crew becomes even more disparate, as they turned to rebuilding the western wall.

“The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors” (v. 5). Tekoa was the hometown of the prophet Amos (Amos 1:1), 12 miles south of Jerusalem. Like the builders from Jericho, these people lived too far away to use Jerusalem as an immediate refuge. They did the work out of love for their country, not personal gain. And they did so with no engagement or support from their leaders. Others from Tekoa worked on yet another section of the wall as well (v. 27).

“The Jeshanah Gate was repaired by Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place. Next to them, repairs were made by men from Gibeon and Mizpah–Melatiah of Gibeon and Jadon of Meronoth–places under the authority of the governor of Trans-Euphrates” (vs. 6-7).

“Uzziel son of Harhaiah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired the next section; and Hananiah, one of the perfume-makers, made repairs next to that. They restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall” (v. 8). Goldsmiths and perfume-makers were not typically given to heavy labor and construction work. But they did whatever it took.

“Rephaiah son of Hur, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section” (v. 9). Here we find a “ruler” working alongside those he ruled. And note that “Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters” (v. 12). Here we find another ruler at work with his daughters at his side. They were exposed to severe and significant danger, but served the nation they loved.

On the story goes, as builders put their shoulders to the task of rebuilding the walls of their sacred city. One group repaired not only the Valley Gate but also 500 yards of wall (v. 13). A ruler rebuilt the Dung Gate, the gate leading to the Hinnom Valley where refuse was dumped. An enemy would have been only too happy to attack the city through that valley and gate if he had not done his work well.

In verse 17 we find Levites at work, not on the Temple but on the walls of the city which would surround it. Each person did whatever it took, and the city was rebuilt, the nation saved.

I am a believer because a mechanic bought a bus with his own money and repaired it on his own time. An insurance executive gave up his Saturday mornings to knock on doors, looking for young people to ride that bus to church.

A family living down the street from that church gave up their home each Sunday morning for the youth group to use for Sunday school. A busy pastor’s wife played the organ for the church but also chose to teach 10th grade Sunday school. A busy pastor came to my home to visit my brother and me on a Tuesday evening after we began attending his church. They did whatever it takes to serve Jesus.


Is there anywhere God cannot send you, anyone he cannot ask you to love and serve and help, anything he cannot ask you to give or do? Find your calling, your passion, and use it to serve God, paying any price to fulfill his purpose for your life.

I recently met Terry Bradshaw, the Hall of Fame quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers. At the age of seven, he came to believe that God was calling him to play quarterback in the National Football League. He dedicated his life to that calling, giving it whatever it took.

He was allowed to play linebacker in Pop Warner football. Then in the seventh grade, he was not chosen for the school team. In eighth grade, he was not chosen for the team. Because he had a strong arm in PE, he was allowed to play linebacker on the 9th grade team. He became the B team quarterback in 10th grade, and in 11th grade, never being permitted to throw a pass. As a senior he was allowed to throw only 73 passes.

He was pressured by friends and family to go to LSU but didn’t want to go, so he purposefully flunked the ACT. And so he enrolled at Louisiana Tech, where he became the MVP of the Senior Bowl and was selected as the first choice in the draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Before he was finished, he had won four Super Bowls and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. All because he was persistent.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Terry suffers from clinical depression and ADD, and has all of his youth and adult life. He cannot treat both, so he treats the ADD and suffers from the depression. Ten years ago, after his wife left him and took their daughters, he hit rock bottom. In talking with a Christian counselor, he came to understand the gospel. On his knees in a barn, his life in turmoil and despair, he gave himself to Jesus.

Now he travels the world, making $50,000 a speech to tell his story. When they tell him that he cannot discuss his religion, he does it anyway. His message to the men on Monday was simple: You need Jesus. You need to be saved. Then you need to find your calling, your purpose in life for God, and give it everything you have.

Nehemiah would agree. Do you?