February 22 I Thursday
“When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” —Nehemiah 1:4
Missions’ conferences are exciting occasions to hear the incredible things God is doing in this world. The final session of these conferences often include a challenge that highlights various needs around the globe at which point the speaker usually asks something like, “Now who is willing to go?” I read once that for every 200 people who respond to this challenge, only two of them will follow through, and only one will last beyond the first term.
We can compare this emotional challenge to when Nehemiah first discovered how bad the situation was for his people and for Jerusalem. After hearing the news, he wept, fasted and cried out to God for days, but the burden for his people only grew until he eventually asked the king for a leave of absence so he could go to Jerusalem. He was not only granted permission, but safe passage, and despite severe opposition from neighbouring coalitions, the walls around the entire city of Jerusalem were completed in an incredible 52 days.
Why was Nehemiah successful in completing his mission while so many other missionary commitments are left unfulfilled? There are probably many reasons, but one key factor is the time taken to respond to God’s calling. We are emotional beings, prone to act on impulse, and it is easy to be overloaded with emotion when we are informed of the many needs of our world. But where some will make a mission’s commitment in a matter of minutes when solicited, Nehemiah took four months to process the news about Jerusalem, to consider his options, and to ask God whether He wanted him to act or not.
There is no question God wants us to care for the needy and help the oppressed, but not all of us are called to make largescale commitments in foreign places. Emotion is poor fuel for sustaining a commitment, and without the firm conviction of a burdened heart, we will quickly give up when encountering pressure and opposition. If we feel a burden growing for a particular need or people group, the wisest thing we can do is bring it to God. He will either deepen the burden or it if is merely an emotional response, He will lighten the burden till it dwindles away.
If God is calling us to something, He will make it obvious. If He is laying a burden on our hearts, it will persist until there is no second guessing it. And when we go forth in response to God’s calling, we can rest assured He will provide the resources we need, the direction to take, and will be our strength till the last brick is laid.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I surrender my ambitions to You today, trusting You to grow or reduce the burdens on my heart, and to be my strength and direction as I step out in faith. Thank You, God.