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The Giant of Apathy
Nehemiah 2:1-9
Skip Heitzig

Nehemiah 2 (NKJV™)
1 And it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before.
2 Therefore the king said to me, "Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing but sorrow of heart." So I became dreadfully afraid,
3 and said to the king, "May the king live forever! Why should my face not be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' tombs, lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire?"
4 Then the king said to me, "What do you request?" So I prayed to the God of heaven.
5 And I said to the king, "If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' tombs, that I may rebuild it."
6 Then the king said to me (the queen also sitting beside him), "How long will your journey be? And when will you return?" So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.
7 Furthermore I said to the king, "If it pleases the king, let letters be given to me for the governors of the region beyond the River, that they must permit me to pass through till I come to Judah,
8 "and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king's forest, that he must give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel which pertains to the temple, for the city wall, and for the house that I will occupy." And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me.
9 Then I went to the governors in the region beyond the River, and gave them the king's letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me.

New King James Version®, Copyright © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Hunting Giants

The Oxford Dictionary defines apathy as “lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.” It’s the state of being indifferent to something that should otherwise arouse, provoke, or motivate you. It has been noted that cooling down a fanatic is easier than warming up a corpse. When a person ceases to care, that person ceases to attempt change. Though Nehemiah had it made in terms of his earthly status, the condition in his homeland wouldn’t let him stay silent and inactive. Let’s explore the five steps he took to overcome the giant of apathy.

There are giants in the land. They are not easy to recognize like the literal giants of the Old Testament, "tall as the cedars and strong as the oaks" (Amos 2:9, NIV), but they can be just as dangerous. And we must have the courage to destroy them. In this teaching series, Skip Heitzig explores literal and symbolic giants throughout the Bible and the heroes who slayed them. Daniel challenged the giant of conformity. Nehemiah obliterated the giant of apathy. Esther executed the giant of self. Courage starts where confidence ends.

Outline

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  1. Information: Gather the Facts (vv. 1-3)

  2. Reaction: Let the Facts Stir You (v. 3)

  3. Intercession: Turn Your Passion into Prayer (v. 4)

  4. Action: Do Something! (vv. 5-8)

  5. Collaboration: Allow the Help of Others (v. 9)

Study Guide

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Connect Group Guide: August 29, 2021
Speaker: Skip Heitzig
Teaching: “The Giant of Apathy”
Text: Nehemiah 2:1-9

Main Point
The Oxford Dictionary defines apathy as “lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.” It’s the state of being indifferent to something that should otherwise arouse, provoke, or motivate you. It has been noted that cooling down a fanatic is easier than warming up a corpse. When a person ceases to care, that person ceases to attempt change. Though Nehemiah had it made in terms of his earthly status, the condition in his homeland wouldn’t let him stay silent and inactive. Let’s explore the five steps he took to overcome the giant of apathy.

“So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said: ‘I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father’s house and I have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses.’” —Nehemiah 1:4-7

Talk about It
  1. Share one of the biggest asks or requests you’ve ever made of someone who had the resources or power to grant that request. What was the outcome?
  2. Discuss what battling apathy has looked like for you. Have you been battling apathy, indifference, or spiritual lethargy? What are you going to about it?
  3. Who do you know who could use a push of encouragement to get active and come alongside you in serving the Lord and others? Why?
“When you see yourself as part of the problem, you are more apt to be part of the solution.” —Pastor Skip

Make It Practical
  • Become bold. Nehemiah sat down and wept; then he knelt down and prayed; then he stood up and worked. This week on your own or together as a group, spend time taking at least one of these steps:
    • Sit and ask God to break your heart for what breaks His—ask for a God-given passion and perspective. Read Philippians 3:10 and Romans 9:1–3.
    • Kneel and pray and ask the Lord what He wants you to do. Read James 5:16, Acts 4:24-31, 22:10, and Nehemiah 1:7.
    • Get up and work for the Lord. Invite others who are like-minded to do what the Lord has called you to. Read Romans 12:1, Matthew 9:35-38, and Hebrews 13:3.
  • Move toward action. Effective leadership begins with a listening ear, not a moving mouth. Ask questions to gain information, then let information motivate you to action.
Pray
Lord, whatever it takes, increase our distress for perishing unbelievers, the persecuted church, and destitute poor. Strengthen our resolve to do what we can to bring them deliverance and relief through the whole gospel of Christ. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Cross references: Nehemiah 1:1-7; Psalm 137:5-6; Isaiah 6:1; Amos 6:1; Micah 5:2; Haggai 1:2; Matthew 5:13; 9:35-38; 25:1-13; Acts 4:24-31; 9:6; 22:10; Romans 12:1; 13:11; James 5:16; Revelation 2:4

Transcript

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The Giant of Apathy - Nehemiah 2:1-9 - Skip Heitzig

[MUSIC PLAYING]

We're going to have you singing that song before the series is done. Turn in your Bibles, please, to the Book of Nehemiah, chapter to. Nehemiah, in the Old Testament, chapter 2. We have been talking about Hunting Giants in the last few weeks. And today, we look at defeating The Giant of Apathy.

There was once a professor who asked his college class, philosophy class, which do you think is a bigger problem in America right now, ignorance or apathy? And one young student said, I don't know, and I don't care.

[LAUGHTER]

So pretty much, that was going on right then and there. Albert Einstein-- who you all know his name. You know he was the father of modern physics. When he was alive, Europe was being ravaged by a couple of philosophical systems that was going from country to country, communism and fascism. And he saw what was going on, and he made a very powerful statement.

Einstein said, "The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on evil and do nothing." There comes a time when, as we've already seen in this series, it's time to speak up and to move out. Speaking of evil in Europe during Nazi Germany, a pastor by the name of Martin Niemoller, a Lutheran pastor, saw what was going on with Adolf Hitler. And he made a stand against him eventually that cost his freedom. He was put in a concentration camp, himself.

Martin Niemoller said this famous little statement, "First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a communist. Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me."

Did you know that as you look at the scripture through the Old and New Testament, apathy among God's people was a problem? Here's a couple of examples. One prophet by the name of Haggai was raised up to deal with the apathetic, indifferent behavior of the Jewish people in Jerusalem.

They had started to rebuild the temple. They sort of got discouraged from doing it. They eventually said, it's not time to build the Lord's temple. Haggai the prophet came on the scene and said, you say it's not time to build the Lord's temple, is it time for you to dwell in your nice homes while the work of God is undone?

Another prophet by the name of Amos confronted the people of the land who were indifferent to the enemy that was around them. And he said, woe to those who are at ease in Zion. In the New Testament, Jesus gave a parable. You know it as the parable of the foolish virgins or bridesmaids. They didn't tend to their lamps. They didn't trim their wicks. They didn't care much about when the bridegroom was coming. And so he spoke that parable to them.

And perhaps, the classic example of spiritual apathy are there religious leaders at the birth of Christ. They knew the Messiah was going to be born in Bethlehem. In fact, when magi came from the East following that star, and they were going through Jerusalem, they said, we're looking for the one who was going to be born King of the Jews. That rattled Herod's cage.

Herod went to his religious leaders and said, where is the Messiah going to be born? And they immediately said, in Bethlehem of Judea, for it is written in the prophet. And they quoted Micah chapter 5 verse 2, which predicted his birth in Bethlehem. But that's all they did. They knew what the scripture said. They could quote it verbatim, but they didn't go check it out.

I mean, think of this. The magi had traveled 1,600 miles because somebody was born called the King of the Jews. These religious leaders, whose King it was, wouldn't travel five miles to Bethlehem to verify it. That's the height of apathy.

In Romans 13, Paul said, it is high time to awake out of sleep. In other words, can't you hear the alarm clock? It's time to wake up. It's time to get out of the bed of complacency. It is time to make our lives count for God because the night is coming fast. Darkness is falling fast, and people are moving toward the judgment of God fast. So it's time to toss out our pillow and pick up our sword and march into battle.

We need, on a constant basis, to deal with the tendency toward apathy. How do we do that? Well, I've had to turn to Nehemiah chapter 2, and we're going to look at several verses in chapter 2 as well as in chapter 1. And I want to give you five steps to counteract the giant of apathy.

First is information. We need to know the facts. We need to know what's happening. So let's begin with verse 1. It cam to pass in the month of Nisan-- that is not the automobile. That is the month, the Jewish month of Nisan, which is around April. In the twentieth year of the King Artaxerxes, when the wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before.

Therefore the King said to me, why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing but sorrow of heart. So I became dreadfully afraid, and said to the king, may the king live forever. Why should my face not be sad when the city, the place of my fathers' tombs, lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire?

Now, you need to know what is going on historically, very briefly. Nehemiah is in Persia. He's in Iran, modern day Iran, ancient Persia. He is there because the Babylonians took the Jews captive for 70 years. But after the Babylonians, the Medo-Persian Empire came and took over everything, including the captives, including the Jewish people.

Nehemiah is one of those who remained in that captive situation. But about a hundred years before chapter 2 of Nehemiah, the Jews had gone back to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. So they've already been there for about a century. And he finds out the condition of what's going on.

Now, if you go back to chapter 1, in verse 11, you'll notice that Nehemiah said he was the king's cup bearer. And you need to know his occupation because this is when the King had the wine brought before him. That was his job. Nehemiah was the cup bearer. I know that doesn't sound like a great occupation. You might think it's like a glorified busboy. I assure you it is not.

A cup bearer to a Persian King was the most trusted official. Perhaps, the King trusted no one more than the cup bearer, next to his wife. And that's perhaps, maybe even more, depending on their relationship-- another story. So Nehemiah was like the personal secretary. He had to be conversant in political matters and affairs of state. He was the one who tasted the wine and then gave it to the King to make sure it wasn't poisoned.

The King, by the way, is King Artaxerxes. King Artaxerxes-- this one is Artaxerxes Longimanus-- who was the stepson of somebody you are familiar with, Queen Esther. Queen Esther married Ahasuerus. Ahasuerus had a son named Artaxerxes, and that is the king that is in question here.

I just want you to get the picture that you have a Jewish man named Nehemiah occupying a very important political position in a Persian court. And I just want to take the opportunity to say, we need more of that. We need people who are willing to get involved like Nehemiah in a variety of different structures in our country. We need Christians in palaces. We need Christians in politics. We need Christians who are active in secular affairs, in secular society.

We need Christians in courthouses and in roundhouses and in White Houses. We need them everywhere because the Bible says Jesus said, you are the salt of the Earth.

[APPLAUSE]

And the purpose of salt in ancient times was to keep the meat from rotting. And I would say that we need salt more than ever before in our culture. Here we are in the saltshaker. It's a great place to be. It's where we ought to be. But at some point you've got to turn the saltshaker over and get the salt into the culture, into the society, and let it do its job.

So he was there on site in a government position before King Artaxerxes. Now, I think it goes without saying, given a position like this of importance, Nehemiah had it made. He had a great job. He was in a luxurious environment, a comfortable lifestyle. But he was a Jew. And one day as a Jew, because he was a Jew, he hears reports about what is going on in his homeland. He had never been to his homeland. He had never been to Israel. He'd never been to Jerusalem.

But he hears a report about what's going on in Jerusalem, and it shakes him to the core. It has been said that a Jew never forgets Jerusalem. The psalm is said in Psalm 137, if I forget you, oh Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its cunning, may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth. That's embedded into the heart of a Jewish person.

So evidently, he comes before King Artaxerxes. His face is sad. He knows that his city is still in ruins because he mentions that to the King. But let's go back, if you don't mind, to chapter 1 to find out where he gets the information.

So turn back to Nehemiah chapter 1. It says in verse 1, the words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. It came to pass in the month of Chislev-- that's around December-- in the twentieth year, I was in Shushan the citadel-- he's in the palace-- Hanani one of my brethren came with men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped, who had survived the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.

It's just a conversation. Hey, what's going on in Jerusalem? I heard you were there. Well, give me the skinny, give me the lowdown. What's going on? Maybe he expected them to say, oh, everything's great, everybody's happy. But that wasn't the report.

Verse 3, they said to me, the survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire. Now, Nehemiah knew the history. Nehemiah knew that the city had been destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. He knew all that. He grew up hearing about that.

He had also known that 50,000 Jews had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city. He was aware of that. But I think he must have thought that it was successful, things were going well there. So he says, so what's the report? They say, not good. The city is still in ruins. The gates are still burned with fire.

But the point I want to make is that he is asking the questions to get the right information. That is always the first step in conquering the giant of apathy-- find out the situation, find out the facts. Some people won't ask questions because they don't want to know the answer, because if they get the questions they have answered and they get the information, they might have now a sense of obligation. You've got to do something about it. So it's like, don't tell me. I don't want to know.

There's an old proverb that says, he who asks a question remains a fool for five minutes. He who does not ask a question remains a fool forever. So he asks the questions. He gets the information.

In our day and age, it's important that we get information. However, I think it's safe to say, though-- we live in the information age-- it's harder to get accurate information today more than ever before because you're going to get not true journalism anymore. You're going to get an opinion journalism. You're going to get spin put on it.

And that's why today it's so easy to curate your own news feed. You just, sort of, follow on Twitter those news feeds or those people that you agree with or agree with you, and you just get your stream of thought that you want reinforced. And news agencies pump out, according to algorithms, certain information.

So it's difficult to get a real accurate read on a situation. It's possible, but it's, I think, much harder than ever. But that's the first step, information, get the facts. Second step, reaction. Once you hear the facts, you need to let the facts that you hear motivate you, stir you.

So back in verse 2, the King said to me, why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing but sorrow of heart. So the king notices that there is a reaction taking place in Nehemiah, that he's feeling a certain way.

Now, again, I want you to go back to chapter 1. And look at verse 4. He has just had a conversation asking about Jerusalem. They tell him the gates are burned with fire, the city's in ruins. Verse 4 of chapter 1, so it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept.

Now, just pause there for a minute. It'll be so easy for Nehemiah in hearing about a city he has never visited, he has just learned about, when he hears that Jerusalem is burned with fire it would be so easy for him to go, oh, well, that's sad, but it's lunchtime. I mean, he has a very strong reaction. The facts of the situation motivate him, move him.

He said, I sat down, and I wept and mourned for many days. I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. I hope you're seeing that Nehemiah let the information become his motivation. He is stirred by the facts that he hears. He knows what it means. He knows that a city that's broken down, the walls are broken down, the gates are burned with fire, is vulnerable. It is not safe. It is open to attack. The security system is not optimal.

Now, let's apply that. Whenever we hear a need, and there's plenty of need to hear. There's always something going on that seems so desperate in our world. Our reaction to that need is vital. Our reaction to the information that we hear is what should, at some point, stimulate us to action.

Now, it doesn't always do it, but it should. So here's an easy example. Let's say, you have two roommates. They're renting a house. They're very different personalities. One is sort of a "Mr. Clean," fastidious freak, everything's in order, and everything must be just so. But the roommate is like a passive slob. It's like, as long as I got a floor to lie on, I'm good.

OK, so if problems come to that house, if the roof begins to leak or there's problems in that house, which one do you think will be on at first to get it remedied? "Mr. Clean freak," not slob guy. He's not going to do it. He doesn't care. But the one who cares is the one who's going to do something about it.

So unless you see the problem and are affected by the problem, you're not going to fix the problem. Nehemiah hears the problem. He wants something done about it. It broke his heart. It broke his heart because Jerusalem isn't just a city. It's God's city. It's the covenant city. It's the city of God's plan upon the Earth

and so he weeps over what he hears by the way, he's not the only one to weep over Jerusalem. Jeremiah the prophet also wept over Jerusalem. And somebody else that we know very well wept over Jerusalem, named Jesus. He saw the same city Nehemiah had. These three men had that in common. They wept over the city, knowing it could have been so much more than it was.

This begs the question, what makes you cry? What do you hear that brings you strong reaction or emotion? I mean, we hear so much bad stuff in this day and age in which we live. It's sort of easy to get compassion fatigue. But I am convinced that God at some point wants to break our hearts with the things that break His, to get moved by it.

So two steps to get out of apathy-- information followed by reaction. Let the facts stir you. The third is intersession. Once you know something and then you feel something, you need to talk to somebody about that something. And that is God, first. And that's what he does.

In verse 4 of chapter 2, the king said to me, after he said, look, how can I not be sad? My city's busted up, broken down. The king said, what do you want? What do you request? Notice this, so I prayed to the God of heaven. So I prayed to the God of heaven.

Now, I can only guess that this was a pretty quick prayer. I don't think-- I don't imagine Nehemiah said, can you give me a half an hour, king? I got to go have a prayer meeting with my buddies. I think he shot up a quick prayer to God. When the king said, what can I do for you, how can I help, he saw this as an opportunity. But immediately he had to take it to prayer. But I think it was like, oh, God, give me wisdom now. It was quick.

I hope you know that prayers don't have to be long to be effective. It says the fervent effective prayer of a righteous man avails much. He's speaking about Elijah. Elijah didn't have a really long prayer when he saw great results. I think it was just quick.

Peter was walking on the Sea of Galilee. Remember the story? He saw that he could believe in Jesus and he could walk on the water, and he did temporarily until the thought must have overcome him, hey, men can't walk on water. And he started going down. And he cried out in that moment.

Do you think it was a long prayer? Do you think, oh, Thou mighty God of the universe? He'd be dead. I think it was like, help! Amen.

[LAUGHTER]

I think it was one of these kind of prayers. So I pray to the God of heaven. But now, if you don't mind, go back again to chapter 1, for just a moment because this is how it begins. He asked about Jerusalem. They tell him how it's broken down, burned with fire. Look at verse 4 of chapter 1.

So it was when I heard these words, I sat down and wept, mourned for many days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said-- now, here's this prayer-- I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God. So this is a longer prayer than the quick prayer in chapter 2 later on.

I pray, Lord God of heaven, great and awesome God, You who keep your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sin of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father's house and I have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses.

Here's what I want you to know about the Book of Nehemiah really quickly. It's filled with prayer. The book opens with prayer. We just read it. The book closes with a prayer. And 12 times throughout the book, Nehemiah prays. It's part of his life.

And in chapter 1, the prayer that we just read, there's some things I want you to make a note of about this prayer. First of all, when he prays in chapter 1, he prays with perspective. Notice that he says, I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God.

You know the most important thing about prayer is the address? Is that you recognize who it is you are talking to because sometimes we rush into the presence of God and our problems are so large and we're overwhelmed and it's like our problems are so big and our God is so small. It's important that you gain the perspective by realizing who it is you're addressing your prayer to.

You're the God of heaven. You've got the best seat in the house. You see everything going on the Earth. Nothing escapes your view. And you are a great and awesome God. That is, you have all and ultimate power to do anything. And when you start praying with perspective, your problem becomes smaller as your God becomes bigger.

Otherwise, your God is very small and your problem is so big. And so often you hear it in our prayers, oh, God, this is a really big thing I'm going to ask. Big? You're talking to God. There's nothing too hard for him.

Amen!

So he prays with perspective.

[APPLAUSE]
Also, notice in this prayer that it includes a promise. That is, it's in reference to a promise God has made. Verse 5, I pray, Lord God of heaven, great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments. You know what he's referring to? Covenants, or deals, arrangements-- a covenant is something God and man make together, a covenant.

So throughout the Old Testament, God made covenants. And the covenant he is referring to is the land covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob God promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that the children of Israel would occupy a piece of real estate today we know as the state of Israel, that of all the people on the face of the Earth that would be their land in perpetuity as an everlasting covenant.

So that's important. He is coming to God in prayer, reminding God of a promise that he made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the covenant. And I think that when we talk to God, our prayers should include the promises of God. In fact, I think it's good even in prayer to quote promises that God has made in the scripture, not because God needs to be reminded of what he said, but you need to be reminded of what he said.

So it's like, Lord, it's in the contract. It's in the covenant. This is what you promised. So it's with perspective. It includes a promise. Something else about this prayer in chapter 1, do you notice that it ends with a confession? And he personalizes it. Notice in verse 6, he says we have sinned against You, both my father's house and I have sinned.

Verse 7, we have acted very corruptly against You. Now, help me understand that because Nehemiah wasn't part of the original group of people that sinned against God. I mean, they have been back in the land 100 years. About 170 years before, 150 years, let's say, was when that sinful generation was judged by God and taken into Babylonian captivity. Nehemiah wasn't even born yet.

Nehemiah grew up in Persia. He wasn't part of that nation that was judged by God. Yet, here he says, we have sinned. I and my father's house have sinned. He identifies himself with those people that he had never met before.

You know, we are so quick to point fingers at people, especially in this divided age in which we live. It's their fault. They're the problem. And you know when you pointer finger at somebody, there's always three pointing back at you. And Nehemiah believed that he should identify himself. He saw himself as part of the problem so that he might become part of the solution.

It's easy to say, our country is in such a mess today because those sinners out there and those people-- can I just say, I added to that sin. There was a time that I didn't walk with Christ. Before my conversion, I added to the filth and corruption that this country is guilty of. So I'm just as guilty.

When you pray, you get clarity. You're allowing God to move and God to speak. And so, in this prayer he gets clarity, kind of sizes up the whole situation, sees himself as part of both the problem and the solution.

So we have information, reaction, intersession-- three concrete steps in battling apathy. There's a couple more. The fourth one is action. There comes a point where once you hear about what's going on, and once you feel deeply about that, and once you pray to God, there comes a point where you have to now engage. You have to take a step.

So back to our chapter, chapter 2 verse 5. The king just said, what can I do for you? And I said to the king-- here it is-- if it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' tombs, that I may rebuild it.

And the king said to me, the queen also sitting beside him, how long will your journey be? When will you return? So it pleased the king to send me, and I set a time. Furthermore I said to the king, if it pleases the king, let letters be given to me for the governor of the region beyond the Jordan, that they must permit me to pass through until I come to Judah.

It's hundreds of miles that he is traveling. And a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king's forest, that he must give me timber to make beams for the gate of the citadel which pertains to the temple, for the city wall, and for the house that I will occupy. And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me.

Now, do you notice the flow so far in the story? First of all, Nehemiah sat down and wept. Then he knelt down and prayed. Now he stands up to work. That's the final step. It's like, boy, I'm hearing all this information. Man, I just-- I'm so deeply distressed by it, and I've prayed about it. Great. What's the next concrete action step to take?

So Nehemiah says, here I am, Lord, send me, basically. Here I am, king, send me. You know, that's what Isaiah the prophet said. When God said, whom shall I send, Isaiah said, here I am, send me. A lot of times you say, here I am, send them.

[LAUGHTER]

I mean, why should Nehemiah leave? He's got a cushy job. He's got a comfortable environment. Let others go. He had influence. He could dispatch people to go, but he said, send me. I will rebuild it. He does something.

It's the Romans 12 principle. You know how Romans is written. He gives lots of doctrinal information, and then in chapter 12 is the application chapter. He says, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. That's what Nehemiah is doing. He's presenting himself, makes himself available to fix the problem.

God is always looking for volunteers, willing volunteers. If you ever think thoughts like this, man OK, I got to serve because this church always tells me you need to serve somewhere, so, OK, I'll do something, please don't. We only want willing volunteers. We want happy volunteers. We want those who say, I want to do something because the Lord has put that in my heart, and I'll do it with joy.

The Bible says the eyes of the Lord go to and fro throughout the entire Earth to show himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are loyal to him. God is just looking for people to use. And so Nehemiah presents himself willingly. I was at a grocery store, a while back, and I was in line having a conversation with somebody who recognized me. Hi, Skip. I go to church, and had a little conversation.

There was a woman in line who was watching this exchange. And she turned to me and she goes, are you a minister? And I think she looked at me kind of odd because I think I had shorts and a t-shirt. I didn't have like a little white collar, so she had to ask.

She goes, are you a minister? I said, yes, I am. And then she looked at me and she goes, why? I mean, it was like she was incredulous that I would want to do that. And I said, well, I have to assure you ma'am that I do it willingly. Nobody's twisting my arm. It's something I feel joyfully compelled to do by God.

[APPLAUSE]
When Saul of Tarsus had his encounter with Jesus Christ on the Damascus road, when he was knocked off midday, with the bright sun shining on him and a light from heaven, and he's on his back, he asked two questions. The first question every human being must have answered. The first question was, who are you, Lord?

The second question is something every Christian should ask. The second question he asked is, what do you want me to do? You know, so many Christian believers lived their whole lives without ever getting around to saying, God, what do you want me to do? They spent a lot of time telling God what they want God to do for them but little time saying, Lord, what do you want me to do. What have you called me to do?

And I assure you, the most fulfilling life you can ever live is to go on an adventure with God, where God uses your life, where you look around at the need, you're move by what you see, you pray about what you see and learn, and then you take a step and watch God use you-- nothing more adventurous and fulfilling than that.

So information, reaction, intersession, and now action. He engages. He's ready to go on a trip. He goes from cup bearer to contractor. He's going to put on his hard hat and go to work in Jerusalem. There's a final element I want to add, and that is collaboration. I can't pass this one up. It takes us to verse 9. It's the last verse we look at and then we close.

Then I went to the governors in the region beyond the River, and gave them the king's letters. Now watch this. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me. So he's traveling with a military accompaniment. So this is collaboration-- allow the help of others.

I mean, think about it. Nehemiah gets funding from the government, supplies from King Artaxerxes, needed documentation, and a military backup. Once he gets to Jerusalem, he's going to enlist the help of others in the city that is broken down and gates burned with fire. By the time we get to chapter 3 of Nehemiah, which we won't do in the series, but if you read ahead, you'll discover 38 individuals are named as helpers of Nehemiah.

Over 40 different groups with different occupations all get together and build the city in cooperation with each other. So that's the collaboration that I'm talking about. The giant of apathy is best overcome with a likeminded group, never alone. We need people. This is why Christian fellowship is so important.

This is why we stress what it says in Hebrews, that we should not forsake the assembly of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but we should be getting together all the more as you see the day approaching because when you're together like this, you see God at work in His people. You see the life of Christ in a very, very dynamic way. And it's what build you up. It's what builds others up around you.

You cannot build community with a computer screen. I mean, it's good, and it was good for a brief period of time during that lockdown when nobody understood what was going on. Now we understand what's going on. Those days are gone. Those days are over. It's time to get back with each other.

[APPLAUSE]

And, listen, the easiest thing to do is not to do that. I've had a lot of people say, you know what? I kind of like getting up in my PJs with a cup of coffee and turning into a TV show, and it's like, life is good. I don't have to do anything. You can't sustain that. Your spiritual walk-- you can't have community with a computer. You can't hug your iPhone. You could, but you'd be weird if you did that.

[LAUGHTER]

Isolation is fuel for apathy. We need the collaboration of others, the help of others, because when you're alone, you know what you're alone with? Your thoughts, and that ain't good on any day. Your thoughts, which aren't always wholesome and healthy and biblical, need to be counteracted with truth, not just from a pulpit, not just from a computer screen, but from the lives of dynamic Christians around you to balance out any faults that you might be carrying.

And I've heard from hundreds of you in the last few weeks who said, gosh, we've been isolated for a year. We've watched online, but we didn't know what this was. But we're back now, and I just got to tell you to be able to gather together and to sing together and to hear other Christians around me, it's so transformative. Yeah. That's how we are designed.

[APPLAUSE]
Now, perhaps some of you have been battling spiritual apathy. Spiritual lethargy, that your heart-- you've noticed your heart growing colder over time. You know you're not alone. There is a church in the New Testament that struggled with this. It was the Church of Ephesus. And the Church of Ephesus was, well, of all the New Testament churches, it was one of the best-- had great leadership. It was pastored by Paul the apostle. Then it was pastored by Timothy. Then it was pastored by John the apostle.

It was ministered to buy Aquila and Priscilla. It was preached to by Apollos. Even Jesus gave a special message to the church and revelation, too, and commended them for their discernment, for their perseverance, for their enduring hardship, for their sound doctrine. But do you remember? Jesus said, I've got something against you. You have left your first love.

I have this against you. You have left your first love. Another way of putting that is, you don't love me like you loved me at first. Your love has grown cold. Interesting, here's one of the great churches of the New Testament. They didn't have a moral scandal. Nobody's running off with the church secretary. Nobody's stealing money from the church coffers. There's not one deacon lording it over another deacon. None of that.

The scandal was inward. It was invisible, like a cancer that takes the life of a patient. There was apathy that was settling into the marrow and the joints and the bloodstream of that church. And Jesus said, that's what I have against you. It's an inward scandal where you don't love me like you did at first.

Every woman has a fear, when she marries a man, that his love for her would grow cold and formal and not remain intimate. And every man has a fear that that could happen to his wife. That can happen spiritually.

And so Jesus speaks to a church where that has happened, and he goes, I have the solution for that. You've left her first love. Therefore, he said, remember-- that's the first step. Remember from where you have fallen. Think back to how good it used to be, how close you used to be to your Lord. Remember those days. Do you miss those days?

If so, then, he said, take this second step. Remember from where you have fallen, repent. That is, turnaround, change, confess your apathy to God, and then number three, renew, for He said, do your first works again. A renewed commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is a giant we all face. And if you are sensing, yes, I'm dealing with that right now, you're in the right place, on the right day. All of that changes right now. Ready for that? Let's stand to our feet. Let's make a public renewed commitment to our Lord.

Father, as we close this service, we, right now, present our bodies before you as living sacrifices. Like Paul said in Romans 12, we are presenting ourselves to you. First of all, we want to love you deeply and intimately. Some of us remember back to a time when our trust was really good, and we miss the assurance that we lived with, the joy that marked us, the spring in our step when we got up in the morning because a new life with Christ had begun. We remember that.

And today, on this day, we decide we're going to confess our apathy and make a turn. We're going to repent of allowing life to get the better of us where we slip and slide away from that position of abiding in Christ. And we renew that commitment to You just now. We pray that you will forgive us. We pray that you will use us. We pray that you will show us what steps to take as we learn information about needs around us according to the callings and gifts you have given us. We want to be engaged in Your kingdom, Your work upon this Earth for Your glory.

We hope you enjoyed this special service from Calvary Church. We'd love to know how this message impacted you. Email us at mystory@calvarynm.church. And just a reminder, you can support this ministry with a financial gift at calvarynm.church/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.

Additional Messages in this Series

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8/15/2021
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The Giant of Conformity
Daniel 1:5-16
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
There are giants in the land, both moral and spiritual, and we need courage to confront them! Truth is, the world around us is not at all sympathetic to the Christian cause. In fact, they would like nothing more than to silence us and make us conform to their standards. As our Lord said, “The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you” (John 15:19, NLT). Daniel and his three friends were pressured to conform, but they refused. Let’s find out the source of their strength to make such a courageous stand.
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8/22/2021
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The Giant of Silence
Matthew 14:1-10
Skip Heitzig
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"Silence is golden," says the old adage. But that is true only sometimes. Many other times, to be silent is to be complicit in the evil that is being committed around us. John the Baptist, one of the most outspoken prophetic voices in history, helps us navigate the need to speak out against evil and immorality. He confronted a powerful political leader of his day, pointing out where he had violated God’s law. John was imprisoned and executed as a result. Should Christians enter the public square to dialogue about moral issues? Yes, but let’s see how.
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9/5/2021
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The Giant of Fear
1 Samuel 17
Skip Heitzig
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One of the most paralyzing of all human emotions is fear. It can rob us of reason and faith. It makes a bad situation worse than it really is, and it saps us of energy and confidence. David would write later on, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4). But in our story today he faced a fearsome giant (literally) that his country was in dread of. Let’s consider how fear works and by what means it can be defeated.
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9/12/2021
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The Giant of Self: How One Person Can Make a Difference
Esther 4:13-17
Skip Heitzig
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On this weekend that commemorates the tragedy of September 11, 2001, we especially honor those who gave their lives in trying to rescue others, especially the first responders in law enforcement and fire departments, as well as citizens. Journalist Geraldine Brooks reminds us, “September 11, 2001, revealed heroism in ordinary people who might have gone through their lives never called upon to demonstrate the extent of their courage.” Today we look at the story of Esther’s choice to put self aside and make a difference for those facing death. Here we see the extent of her courage!
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9/19/2021
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Addressing Deconstruction and Cancel Culture
Sean McDowell
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Sean McDowell is a sought-after international speaker on cultural, ethical, theological, and apologetics topics, and he retains a PhD in Apologetics and Worldview Studies from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has authored and co-authored over one dozen books and study guides, including So the Next Generation Will Know: Preparing Young Christians for a Challenging World and Chasing Love.
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9/26/2021
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Skip Heitzig Interviews Cissie Graham Lynch, Vince Torres, and Lenya Heitzig
Skip Heitzig
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In this special service, Skip Heitzig interviews Cissie Graham Lynch, Vince Torres, and Lenya Heitzig. Cissie Graham Lynch is the host of the podcast Fearless, in which she discusses living with a fearless faith in a compromising culture. Vince Torres is president of the Family Policy Alliance of New Mexico, and he joins us to discuss political issues facing Christian families today. Finally is Reload Love founder Lenya Heitzig, who speaks about the global efforts to fight terrorism and how everyday people can help.
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10/3/2021
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The Giant of Overwhelming Odds
Judges 7:1-15
Skip Heitzig
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By now you have discovered that we who are Christians are surrounded! There seems to always be more who are against us than who are for us. We face the reality (and we feel it, too!) that we are living in enemy territory. That doesn’t give us permission to be adversarial or combative, for we’ll attract more flies with honey than with vinegar (see 2 Timothy 2:24-25). But Christians are either overcome by their unbelief or they are overcomers because of their faith. How do we navigate through life when the odds are stacked against us and circumstances seem overwhelming?
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10/10/2021
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The Giant of Religion
Acts 6-7
Skip Heitzig
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Religion might not seem like a giant to overcome unless you’re an atheist. But did you know the source of much persecution and oppression around the world is religious groups? The prophets, the apostles, the early church, and even Jesus Himself all had run-ins with religious leaders and formalized religious systems. Some of you come from a very religious background but now enjoy the freedom of a relationship with God through Jesus. How does one successfully stand up to religious pressure while impacting it with the gospel? Let’s see how Stephen did it.
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10/17/2021
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The Ultimate Giant Slayer
Hebrews 12:1-3
Skip Heitzig
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There are 9 additional messages in this series.
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