In 1982 two bored Canadians decided to find out who was the better gamesman. So Scott Abbott and Chris Haney invented a game to test their knowledge of sports, people, arts, places, history, science and nature. Their questioning banter became Trivial Pursuit which has sold over 100 million copies. Trivia is Latin for three (tri) roads (via). When ancient travelers met at a crossroads, they would gossip about the meaningless, unimportant “trivia” of the day. Today, men often live out Trivial Pursuit when they pursue TEMPORARY trivialities rather than seeking the ETERNAL things which are important to God (Matt 6:33; 16:21-23; 2Tim 2:16, 22; Col 2:8; 3:1-2; Heb 12:1-2). But Jesus is not a trivial God and the Bible is not a trivial Book. What trivial things do men often pursue? What motivates men to pursue eternal things?
ETERNAL PURSUIT Nehemiah 1.
During Baby-lon’s captivity of Israel, God “searched for a man among them who would build up a wall and stand in the gap” (Ezek 22:30) so that He might rebuild the capital city of Jerusalem and Israel as a nation. In Nehemiah God found such a man! Because God’s people had rejected His love and embraced the world, they lost their nation to the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzer. 50 years later Cyrus, King of Persia, conquered Babylon and allowed a dude called Zerubbabel to return to Jerusalem with some refugees to rebuild the temple(Ezra 1:1-3). 77 years later, God stirred the heart of Persian king Artexerxes to let Ezra restore worship (Ezra 7:6-9). But Jerusalem had been in ruins for 150 years so the Lord looked for a man to stop playing trivial pursuit and stand in the gap for His people by rebuilding the nation starting with a wall to protect Jerusalem (444BC). Nehemiah stepped forward in faith to make himself available to God thereby becoming the answer to Ezra’s prayer for revival in the nation of Israel (Ezra 9:5-15).
How does a clear call and purpose from God chisel to make us more like Jesus? Where might the Lord be calling you to “stand in the gap” to rebuild a part of our broken culture?
(Neh 1:1, 11) Imagine the comfort of Nehemiah’s lifestyle as personal assistant (cupbearer) to king Artexerxes, the most powerful man in the ancient world and living in its most advanced city (Susa). Would you leave position, popularity, possessions and pleasures if God called? What motivated Nehemiah to leave it all to stand in the gap (1:5, 9)?
(1:2-4) One day Nehemiah’s brother, Hanani, unexpectedly showed up with unexpected bad news about his people in Jerusalem? What does Nehemiah’s response reveal about his heart? Why is God looking for leaders (men, husbands, fathers, associates) who will ‘stand’ in the gap on their knees in prayer (Matt 9:35-38)? A godly leader IDENTIFIES with others in their time of need and then responds (Rom 12:15).
(1:5-11) ALIGNMENT prepares us for God’s ASSIGNMENT! What impresses you most about Nehemiah’s heart in prayer? Where do you see Praise? Patience? Pleading? Petition? Confession? Humility? Team building? How can God use this prayer to chisel your heart? Was his focus trivial or eternal? What is your usual focus? Why did Nehemiah hold God to His promise in verses 8 and 9?
PRAYER PRECEEDS PURSUIT Nehemiah 2.
God is not looking for men who will do great things for Him; He is looking for men who will call on Him to do great things! The more a man is overwhelmed by God’s character, the less likely he will be overcome by the adversity he faces! Nehemiah was a great leader because he sought God first for strength, endurance, wisdom and favor before he acted (2:1; 4;4, 9, 14; 5:19; 6:9, 14; 13:14, 22, 29, 31)! Why did Nehemiah pray patiently for 5 months [Chislev/November (1:1) to Nisan/March (2:1)] instead of rushing ahead with his own plans, wisdom and strength? Prayer makes me WAIT on God (1:1; 2:1); TENDERIZES my heart (1:4); Resets my PRIORITIES (1:5-11); ACTIVATES my faith (1:8-2:6); QUIETS my fearful heart (2:1,4); CONFIRMS my direction (2:4-8); Makes me AVAILABLE (2:5-6); Gives me COURAGE to act (2:17-20; 5-6); and CLARIFIES my vision (2:11-18)! TAG Team: Which of these do you need most from your heart prayers to God? For what specific need in another’s life will you commit to pray for this week?
(2:1-10; 18) God moment: describe a time you felt God’s hand upon you during great fear, insecurity, discouragement or sadness (:2).
(Neh 2:4, 8, 18; Prov 21:1; I Tim 2:1-4) Nehemiah prayed a spontan-eous ‘prayer flair’ as he was helpless to change his situation or the political hearts of the day. Pray now for our government leaders (national, state, and local). Pray that hearts would be drawn to the Lord, for wisdom to lead righteously, conviction of need for a Savior and that their marriages/families would be strong.
(2:5-9) “Send me!” Our primary responsibility is to respond to God’s ability through availability (Eph 3:19-20)? What does this look like? Where God GUIDES, He PROVIDES (Phil 4:19)! Give an example when God supplied all that you needed as He led you out of your comfort zone and into the battle zone.
(Neh 2:11-20) A.J. Gordon wrote “you can do more than pray after you have prayed; but you can never do more until you have prayed.” Having prayed, Nehemiah was now ready to act. What was the first thing he did for 3 days upon arriving in Jerusalem? Why? The word ‘inspect’ (sabar) is a diagnostic medical term with the idea of probing a wound before cleaning out the puss. As you inspect the walls of your life, marriage, family, relationships, church and business what needs to be cleaned, healed, bandaged or sutured?
“Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you.” Where do you need to acknowledge dependence on God yet still put forth enormous effort? (Acts 1-2 prayer ‘formula’)
FAMILY FIRST Nehemiah 3 (10, 16, 20, 21, 23, 24, 28-30)
The words ‘build’ or ‘repair’ are mentioned 37 times. Why did Nehemiah direct men to start with their own families? What was his strategy to restore a city (4:14)? What repairs or rebuilding must you make in your marriage/family in order to rebuild our city, state and nation?
MAJOR PUSH BACK (Nehemiah 4:1-23; Eph 6:10-20; Acts 14:21-22; 2Cor 4:7-11)
What must we expect every time we step forward in faith to stand in the gap to rebuild a culture for God’s glory? How did Nehemiah respond? How did he encourage others? What kind of internal (:10) and external (:11-12) opposition did he face. What opposition or discouragement are you encountering and how is God using it as a chisel to make you more like Jesus?
(Neh 4:4-5) Was Nehemiah’s prayer tender or tough? Do you hear prayers like this today? How ‘dangerous’ are your prayers? When you pray does satan shudder, “O crap, he’s praying again! Run for cover!”
(Neh 4:6) A single snowflake can do nothing by itself, but together with billions of other flakes they can shut down a city! Describe your team of ‘flakes’ and how you are building God’s Kingdom together as Brothers in Christ here in Columbia?
(Neh 4:9-17; 21-23; Heb 10:23-24) When did Nehemiah allow the people to let down their guard? Why? How often did he expect to face opposition? Which was more important to Nehemiah, the work or the warfare?
(Neh 4:10, 14) God’s people were experiencing failing strength (10) and heartfelt fear (14). Where do you see these in your family or church? Acting like Nehemiah, what will you do?
(Neh 4:14-15, 20) How did Nehemiah motivate their hearts (Lat. corage), by mentioning God’s character? On what aspect of God’s character must you focus to act courageously this week?
(Neh 4:18-20) Where have you heard your wife, child or friend blow their “trumpet” asking you to rally to their side to help in their particular battle? How did you respond?
(Neh 4:14, 20) The main weapon we have is the “sword of the Spirit, the Word of God” (Eph 6:17). What specific truth/promise/principle from God’s Word will you use to combat the enemy this week?
NO COMPROMISE Nehemiah 6.
If satan can’t make you cave he’ll make you compromise! What tactics did the enemy use to entice Nehemiah to compromise (com/together + promise/pledge) How has satan tried to lure you to make a horizontal promise to others before making a verticalcommitment to God? How did he try temping Jesus to compromise in Luke 4:1-13? Where are you tempted to comprom-ise? What powerful prayer might you use when you are tempted (:9)? Because they did not compromise, the entire wall around Jerusalem was finished in just 52 days (6:15-16)!
GROWING STRONG (Nehemiah 8)
It was never about the wall. It was all about connecting the hearts of the people back to the heart of the Lord! What basic chisels did Ezra and Nehemiah use to help God’s men grow strong by not playing Trivial Pursuit? Which of these are you doing well? Where do you need to grow? How are these basics and rhythms much like our Focused Living Men’s Forums? What spiritual results can be expected when we get back to the basics (9-12, 17-18)?
It had been 1,000 years since they celebrated the Feast of Booths/tents (Neh 8:14-18; Lev 23:34-42), which helped them REMEMBER God’s extreme faithfulness, protection, provision and guidance during their wilderness wanderings on their journey to the Promised Land in the book of Joshua. Why was there a sudden rush to celebrate His faithful-ness? What aspect of God’s character do you feel called to celebrate and how will you do it?
DESTROYING THE ROOT CAUSES OF SIN (Nehemiah 9)
As a result of reading God’s truth the people started to seek Him with a soft heart in response to eternal things as they moved away from the pursuit of trivial things. So Ezra leads them in a prayer to help them detect and then destroy any patterns of sin handed down by their fathers that they might be passing on to their children.
(Neh 9:5-15) Why did he start with the Lord’s faithfulness? List some of the many ways in which the Lord has been extremely faithful to you.
(Neh 9:16-17) What heart characteristics led to eventual rebellion to the Lord in spite of His faithfulness? Are any of these in your life?
(Neh 9:17-25) How did God respond to their rebellion? Where have you seen these same responses in your life?
(Neh 9:26) After enjoying God’s amazing grace, what happened in the hearts of His men? Did you see any similarities with verses 16-17?
(Neh 9:27) How did the Lord respond to their PATTERN of rebellion?
(Neh 9:28-29) Can you guess what took place in the hearts of God’s men yet again? Why? What does Jeremiah (17:5-10) and Jesus (Mark 7:18-23) teach us about the true condition of our hearts?
(Neh 9:30-32) Again how does the Lord deal with His men? Why?
(Neh 9:17, 36; John 8:34; Rom 6:16-18) What can we expect in our lives and the lives of our children if these patterns of rebellion are not broken?
(Neh 9:33-37) What are several powerfully practical things they did to get right with the Father which we must also do in light of these same patterns of rebellion in our lives? (Mark 1:15-18; I John 1:8-9; 1 Pet 1:18; Rom 8:1-9)
(Neh 9:38) The people were so serious about breaking these patterns that they put their sins in writing and shared them with the leadership! Where do you see God’s pattern of grace amidst their propensity for rebellion? Write a prayer of confession for sinful generational patterns as you also acknowledge His grace through it all.