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Sad news? Get involved, get on your knees, get moving!

posted 27 Jan 2016, 09:50 by Stephen Childs
A recent article on the Church in Chains website warned that Christianity in the Middle East could be wiped out in the next few years. Christians represented 14% of the region's population in 1910, but just 4% and falling now. Civil war, ISIS, and mass migration have taken a heavy toll. How do you feel when you hear news from far away (or close at hand) about the desperate situation of fellow Christians? What do you do?

Nehemiah was an exiled Jew living in the great Persian city of Susa. He was safe and well provided for. He had a good job. But one day he heard some news that turned his world upside down. The book that bears his name opens like this:

"In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.
They said to me, ‘Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.’" (Nehemiah 1:1-3 NIV)

His people were in a desperate state. What was he to do? We see him do three things:

Get involved (1:1-3)

Nehemiah was safe in the great Persian city of Susa. And yet when he heard of the desperate situation of his fellow Jews back in Jerusalem, he stopped everything and mourned, apparently for months: "When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven." (1:4) When we hear tragic news, do we quickly change the channel? Or do we stop, even for a few minutes, and recognise the horror of what we've just heard. Are we willing to get involved?

Get on your knees (1:4-11)
Nehemiah proves to be a man of action, never happier than with a trowel, measuring line, or sword in his hand. Yet his first response is lengthy, intense prayer (1:4-10). He praises his great and awesome God. He confesses his people's sin, not ducking the blame himself. He "reminds" God of his promises not to abandon his people. And finally he pleads for success as he seeks to improve the situation. Do we pray like this? When we hear of millions being exploited by false teaching claiming to be Christian, do we cry out to God to set people free with his truth? When Jesus' church seems to be crumbling, do we remind ourselves of his promise to build his church, no matter what stands against it?

Get moving (2:1-10)

Nehemiah isn't content to grieve and pray. He knows he has a role to play. He's been given a unique position, and he uses it. He approaches the king, speaking tactfully about the subject on his heart. God grants him success, and he is immediately ready to put a detailed plan into action. Too often we have a vague concern about a problem, but put very little thought into what we could do to solve it. Nehemiah soaks the situation in prayer, and then acts decisively, confident that God is with him. What unique situation has God put you in? What difference could you make if you stepped out courageously? If you opened your mouth to tell someone else about Jesus? If you spoke challenging words that just might turn someone back from a disastrous decision.

God is still building today. Not with bricks and mortar but with living stones (1 Peter 2:5)- people like you and me who are connected together by Christ. In many parts of the world, his church looks to be in ruins. But he has promised to build it, and we can help, if we are ready to get involved, get on our knees, and get moving.