Determination and perseverance
Leadership: A word from Mennonite Church USA leadersby Juanita Nuñez
When I first came from the Dominican Republic to live in the city of Miami, I was newly wed and in my early 20s. Adapting to a new country, culture and language was a major challenge. I eventually learned that determination and perseverance are key elements in achieving the plans God has for our lives. For those who are having challenges while serving the Lord, I offer the story of Nehemiah, which has given me inspiration.
Nehemiah, whose name means “the Lord comforts,” was a great intercessor, a valiant, determined individual and a great reformer of his time. The story, in the book of Nehemiah, took place when some Jews were returning to Jerusalem after 70 years in exile and captivity. Many were probably excited at the chance of a new beginning.
However, many unforeseen obstacles and circumstances made this return seem impossible. Nehemiah came to learn of the afflictions of the people, the threat of the enemies surrounding them and the destruction of the city’s gates and walls.
What was Nehemiah’s reaction to this sad news? He mourned, fasted and prayed to God, ruler of heaven and earth (Nehemiah 1:4-11). Even though Nehemiah lived a privileged life in the palace of the king, he never separated himself from the plight and struggles of the people of Israel. Like a lawyer, he presented their case to God. He recognized God as sovereign ruler of the universe and protector of his people, faithful to his covenant with them.
According to the Word of God, Nehemiah did not pray for only one day and expect to see changes right away. The news came around November or December (called Quisleu). He prayed and waited patiently until the perfect time presented itself to speak to the king—about four months later, in March or April (called Nisan). Through Nehemiah’s patience and prayer, God prepared his mind and heart to speak to the king with honesty and humility.
In our instant-satisfaction society, many of us want God’s hand to move immediately. However, we must manifest the fruit of the Spirit in waiting, since God always knows the perfect time to act and accomplish his will.
Nehemiah was troubled to the extent that the king noticed his sad look, which could have cost Nehemiah his life. But God was with him, and his words convinced the king to give him his request to be sent to Jerusalem to rebuild the city.
Once his request was approved, Nehemiah set out with a plan of action. He did not let the current condition of what he heard or saw stop him from accomplishing what God had purposed for his people. He made plans with the Jews to repopulate the city, and he gave orders to the leaders and others involved for the reconstruction of the city. He later inspected the work during the long hours of the night to ensure that it was done with precision and excellence. His oversight even helped protect the Israelites from the enemies who were trying to sabotage the work. Through their diligent work, the Jews were able to reconstruct the walls of the city in only 52 days, bringing glory to God as word of their accomplishment spread throughout the region.
How do we apply some of these truths from the life of Nehemiah to today’s society? Mennonite Church USA faces many new challenges, but its true goal and mission have not changed. We are to continue to build and establish God’s kingdom of truth, justice and peace until it rules every aspect of his creation. Do we have the patience and determination to persevere in sharing the gospel? God is waiting for his children to impact the world and to shine brightly in it. Where are the Nehemiahs of today—reformers loyal to God, his Word and his will? What is your part?
I believe God has given each of us the ability to be a reformer, and it depends on us how much our lives will impact society.
Juanita Nuñez is a member of the Executive Board of Mennonite Church USA and co-pastor of Iglesia Cristiana Ebenezer in Apopka, Fla.
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