Good morning everyone! Welcome to week 5, our last week of Fixer Upper. We’ve been learning from a spiritual giant, Nehemiah and investigating what it takes to restore what’s broken in your life. As you know, Chip and Joanna Gaines were the stars of a hit show called Fixer Upper where they would take run down Texas homes and restore them beyond what they ever once were. They work their magic, and flex their creative, design muscle. (Side by Side of a before and after “fixer upper”).
In the beginning of this series we asked a very simple question. What breaks your heart? What is it in your world that needs fixing? Life can look and feel like this. Life can feel broken down, and hopeless. Nehemiah has a story of epic proportions, a story of rebuilding an entire city’s walls in only 52 days. Imagine what God could do in your life when you trust His leading and build according to His plans.
Have you ever been checking out at Target and you see the magazine “Magnolia Journal” or “Better Homes and Gardens” and you get inspired for a fixer upper of your own.
I had this same idea. Well, actually, it really wasn’t an idea so much as it was my house begging for me to fix it. (PIC) Our house sprung a leak… That’s right, we had water running down through our roof, through a light fixture into our bedroom hallway. After moping this up for several months, I determined that this wasn’t a fluke, this was something that needed my attention. I hired a guy to come and fix my roof, and he (PIC) skillfully diagnosed what was wrong, and told me the treatment plan. The roof is fixed. (PIC) There are no more leaks.
But the inside is a different story. What was behind the scenes was in bad shape. (PIC) The sheetrock was damaged, and the insulation was ruined. It needed to be cut out and replaced. It needed my attention. (PIC) And here’s what I’ve done so far. 3 months have gone by and our ceiling still looks like this?
Why does this happen? It is easy to start something. But very often it is hard to finish. It can be overwhelming, or frustrating, or demoralizing. And somehow we just learn to live with the state of our world. I have walked by this pathetic patch job for the past 3 months, to the point where I don’t really see it anymore.
When I asked you in week 1 what is broken in your world, or what breaks your heart, many of you would clearly be able to write that down. You could identify it.
- There’s a relationship that needs repair in your world.
- There are too many Foster kids in need of home, and the Foster Care Crisis breaks your heart.
- Your personal finances need fixing.
These are GOOD THINGS. In fact, I would say that these are GOD SIZED THINGS… God may have burdened your heart, or He may have given you that feeling of “Man, I’ve got to do this.” “If I don’t do this, I’m disobeying God.”
You knew the relationship would require some really hard conversations… In order to Foster Kids, you’d have to take some classes, and get your home ready. To fix your finances, you’d have to find an additional job….
You could identify the issue, and maybe you even knew what to do to help solve that problem. And yet there is something that prevents you from moving forward and seeing that Fixer Upper completed. We know that IT’S EASY TO START SOMETHING, IT’S HARD TO FINISH.
But here’s what we have to learn. We’ve got to learn that God given dreams must move beyond good intentions. If we’re going to change the world. If we’re going to bring hope to the hurting, if we’re going to care for the widow and the orphan, and the poor, the rich, and everyone in between. We have to move beyond just GOOD INTENTIONS. We’ve got put our faith in action and live into the God sized dreams that He has given you.
This is exactly what Nehemiah did. In chapter 6 Nehemiah shows us that even though it is easy to start, and hard to finish, it is possible! In fact, anything is possible with God’s help. Turn with me to Nehemiah chapter 6, that’s page 332 in the Bible’s around you. Nehemiah started out on an epic quest, a God sized goal of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. They had been destroyed for 140 years. The gates were burned… everything about this was a disaster. And Nehemiah said, something needs to be done about this, and it might as well start with me. Last week we learned that anytime you step out with a God sized, God given dream, there will be opposition. There will be Haters… there will be Critics… Spiritual Enemies who wanna STOP the progress you’re making! (3 guys named Sanballat, Tobiah, & Geshem attack Nehemiah to keep him from finishing the job). In fact, the closer you get to the finish line, the harder the enemy will fight to stop you!
In Nehemiah 6 we are going to see how we can Fight to the Finish, and see God’s dreams and plans take place. Look with me at Nehemiah 6:1
1When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates— 2Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.” Nehemiah 6:1-2
Nehemiah gets invited by his enemies to a place called O-NO. Say that with me… O-NO. OH NO. RIGHT. You hearing that? He’s getting invited to a place called OH NO! One of the things that Nehemiah faced as he was approaching the end of his construction build was that his enemies, the enemies of God, were calling him away to OH NO!
If you’re taking notes, this is one of the first things that will happen preventing you from completing what you started, and that is that THE ENEMY WILL TRY TO DISTRACT YOU. Nehemiah’s enemies see him fulfilling his God-given mission… so they say, “Let’s hatch a plan to distract him.” Nehemiah, come meet us on the Plain of Ono!
The plain of Ono is a real place—located about 20 miles north of Jerusalem… a beautiful, lush valley. So Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem were saying, “Nehemiah, come getaway a while! You need a break! I know we’ve had our beef… but come on up to ONO!”
Q: Ever have a situation where you’re this close to finishing something important… and all of a sudden, at the last minute… OHHHH NO!
- Let’s say you’ve decided to lose 20 pounds… start eating clean! And you’ve made progress… only 5 pounds left to go… You’re out to eat and you’re thinking, I’ll do a salad, and you walk in to the restaurant and see it’s all you can eat TACOS! Oh no! TACOS ARE MY KRYPTONITE… Oh noooooooo!”
- Or you’ve decided as a family to come to church every Sunday this fall. You make that spiritual commitment to build up the faith of your kids… then you get their soccer schedule: “Oh Noooo! Every practice is scheduled for Sunday morning!”
The CLOSER you get to the finish line, the HARDER your enemy will fight to stop you!
- How many of you have heard an “OH NO!” voice in your life?
- What do you do? When you’re tempted to visit the land of Ono?
Look how Nehemiah responds in verse 3:
But they were scheming to harm me; 3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” Nehemiah 3:2-3
And this is so powerful. That little word “NO!” is one of the most godly things you can say.
When God’s called you to serve him… you’re focused on your mission… and the Enemy cries, “Come UP to Ono!” You reply—with all the heart, passion, and courage you can muster:
NO WAY! I WON’T DO IT! I’M NOT COMING DOWN!”
I’m laser-focused… and I refuse to be distracted by you! This is a spiritual discipline—Learning to SAY NO TO ONO invitation! Bc there will be all sorts of things that will compete with what God wants done in your life—even Good things!
Just because you COULD do something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD do something. THE ENEMY WILL TRY TO DISTRACT YOU. Your spiritual Enemy specializes in distraction—and wants to pull you away from your primary calling.
Nehemiah refuses to lose focus. He says firmly: “I am carrying on a great project and… I’M NOT COMING DOWN!
I’ve learned that I have to say the word NO a lot lately, even more than I say yes. I have a passion for what God is doing in my life right now in three main areas. I’m laser focused on three things that I believe God has called me to in my life.
- The first thing is my wife, Tiffany. I want to have a THRIVING MARRIAGE. I don’t want to SURVIVE MARRIAGE. I want to grow old with Tiffany and be more in love at the end than we are right now. Last weekend, we got invited to go out on Sunday night with people we would have loved to be with, to enjoy something we would have loved to have done, but we had to say NO, because the week prior, I was out every single night and this was the first night that we would be home together. You have to say NO!
- The second thing is that I want to be an ENGAGED DAD. I’ve got three kids. Noah, Grace, and Leah. I have several years left with them in my house, and I want to be intentional with what we do together. I know that being their dad is a focus of my life. It always will be. No one else in this world can take that job over. So I have to say NO to hang out with people, drive golf balls, go spearfishing, so that I can be home when they are, and present when they are there.
- The third thing is that I want to be a FAITHFUL PASTOR TO THIS CHURCH. God has given me a LOVE for Hope City Church. You come after Tiffany, and after my kids, but my love for you all, and our church is up there! I love preaching, teaching, I love leading this church. I love praying for you. I love sharing life with you and being involved in your kids lives. This is the great work of my life. And what this means is that I will have to say no to many other things in order to be fully engaged in FAITHFULLY SERVING our church.
Let me ask you, What is the Great Purpose of your life that God’s called you to? Identify it. Write it down. And determine that nothing will get you off your mission.
“I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” 4Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer. Nehemah 6:3-4
Four times the Enemy baits him… and 4 times, Nehemiah says I’M NOT COMING DOWN!” If you wanna build something great for God—a marriage, a family, a career or ministry—you have to be laser-focused on your mission & learn to stay focused in the midst of distraction. Some of you need to internalize this.
If your enemy can’t distract you, he’ll move on to his next tactic. Look at this.
5 Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter 6 in which was written: “It is reported among the nations—and Geshem says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king 7 and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us meet together.”
And so: Nehemiah—who is one of the most selfless, servant leaders in the Bible—is slandered by his enemies!
Just understand this: The more you do for God…the more people will question your motives… spread rumors… and gossip about you. In order to keep you from finishing what you’ve started, THE ENEMY WILL TRY TO DISCREDIT YOU.
This happened with Chip and Joanna Gaines so many times. I don’t know if you’ll remember, but over the last few years, they were constantly on the cover of any tabloid. “Chip had an affair”. “What Chip & Joanna really want you to know about their marriage”. “Joanna’s new secret startup, even Chip doesn’t know about”. Guess what, none of it is true. This is a couple that is deeply committed to their Christian faith, and they would show that on National television every week. The enemy doesn’t want that out there, so what does he do? He tries to discredit them.
Look back at Nehemiah… look what happens.
…according to these reports you are about to become their king 7 and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us meet together.”
Do you know what is happening here? Nehemiah is being threatened with a smear campaign! We’re going to tell King Artexerxes that you’re after his job. You’re building a wall, you’re trying to set up power, and make a play for the money and fame of Jerusalem. These guys are out just whispering about Nehemiah.
Have you ever had people whisper about you? It’s painful isn’t it? It’s hard to hear people spread things that just aren’t true. And that’s what Nehemiah says in verse 8. This is hilarious:
8 I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” Nehemiah 6:8
Translation: This is all… FAKE NEWS! Nehemiah refuses to get drawn into the drama… he’s like “you guys are making this up!” and then he prays & gets back to work.
9 They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”
Nehemiah knew what was happening. His enemies were doing everything within their power to discredit him in order to prevent him from finishing his work.
If God given dreams, are going to move beyond our good intentions, what do we need to do? Again, we need to follow in the steps of Nehemiah…. We need to FLEX YOUR SPIRITUAL MUSCLE.
To often when people are distracted by others, or discredited by others we roll up our sleeves and start to flex a bit. We use our words to cut them down and put them back in their place. All you are doing is putting yourself on the same level as them. Instead of flexing his physical muscles, Nehemiah flex’s his spiritual muscle. What does that look like?
But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.” Nehemiah 6:9
Too often we pray, God strengthen my fists! Or strengthen my tongue… I’m gonna give them a tongue lashing like they’ve never had before!
Nehemiah flexes his spiritual muscle. He again returns to the Lord in prayer. “God keep me on task, keep me on point. Help me stay laser focused on the great work that you’ve called me to! Strengthen my hands, enable me to do the work that you’ve put in front of me.”
When you are faced with someone trying to prevent you from accomplishing what God wants to do through you, you have to Flex Your Spiritual Muscle too!
This starts with DISCERNMENT. Nehemiah was discerning from the very beginning what was happening around him. Discernment means not only distinguishing right from wrong; but recognizing the good from the better, and even the better from the best. It took discernment for Nehemiah to say NO TO ONO. He knew that a little time in Paradise would distract him from the work that needed to be done. And you will need discernment to Finish what you’ve started.
Maybe God has got you on the mission to care for the poor and the needy. You better believe it will take discernment to know how to actually help, and not just throw money at the problem.
The next step in flexing this muscle is to DETERMINE WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE next. It’s one thing to understand the difference between right and wrong, the difference between something that is good and something that is best. The next thing you need to do is figure out what needs to be done, and go and do it. BE DETERMINED TO DO IT!
When God convicts a person with a God sized dream, it’s got to move beyond good intentions. The way to move it from good to great is with some GOD HONORING DETERMINATION. Nothing will minimize your commitment to this goal!
Pray, just as Nehemiah did, “GOD STRENGTHEN MY HANDS!” Nehemiah had a spine of steel. There was no swaying him. He was focused on honoring God by rebuilding this wall. I came here to finish this job. And I’m not leaving till it’s done.
Q: Can you say that about your cause? For the people God’s calling you to fight for:
I’m not giving up on this marriage. I’m not giving up on my kids. I’m not giving up on defeating my addiction. I’m not giving up on my business. I’M NOT COMING DOWN. And I’M NOT GIVING UP!
There’s no QUIT in me! The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead IS IN ME!
Satan couldn’t keep Jesus down… and I’m not giving up either! I’m going to stay on this wall & fight to the finish!
And God’s going to get glory when this is over!
And He will… if you persevere… press through… and fight to the finish like Nehemiah.
Look at the result—this is the end of our story. Verse 15:
15So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. 16When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.
I don’t know what you’re facing today… what task God has called you to… who you’re fighting for… or what you’re trying to rebuild. It may be BIG & it make TAKE TIME… and it may seem impossible. But NOTHING is impossible with God! Amen?
NO – THING is impossible with the help of our God! By the strength of the Spirit, Nehemiah fought to the finish… What should have taken years or decades… he did in 52 days! With the help of his God!
Q: Can I ask: WHAT IS GOD CALLING YOU TO FINISH?
Let me encourage you with this. As we close out this series. Notice something… Nehemiah didn’t do this alone. He had an entire community alongside of him. He had perfumers, and goldsmiths, and religious leaders, and farmers, and bakers, and every kind of person working alongside of each other in connection with one another.
One of the greatest things about the Christian life is that it is not meant to be lived alone. You aren’t in isolation. You are meant to live in community, in relationship with one another.
If God has put a dream in your heart. If you’re like me, and you’re laser focused on what God has called you to, I’m going to say this as plainly as I can. YOU NEED PEOPLE AROUND YOU TO HELP YOU AND SUPPORT YOU. This is why we love connect groups here at Hope City. We know that the most meaningful times in life, are when you are meaningfully connected to God and others. Don’t miss out on this. Don’t underestimate this. And certainly don’t downplay this.
Today we are starting our fall semester of connect groups. Semester means yes, you have an out. You aren’t signing your life away. Just think between now and after Thanksgiving, what if you met with a small group of like minded people once a week. IMAGINE what that could do for you. IMAGINE what that could do for the dream that God has called you to. The calling that He has placed on your life.
In just a few moments, I want you to go outside, our connect group leaders are going to be around the tables there, you can meet them, and hear more about the dates, and times that they meet. This may just be the encouragement that you need to see your good intentions turn into God’s intentions.
Remember, IT IS EASY TO START, BUT HARD TO FINISH. Let’s love, and serve our community together.