Participation; September 21, 2017

Nehemiah 12:43 And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.

The people’s joy came from God having enabled them to complete the work in the face of fierce opposition. They were all fully invested in the project, having made sacrifices on several levels. Had God miraculously restored the wall they would still have been happy, but not nearly as deeply or as personally. Participation is a major factor in joy of all sorts. Some people just drift through life, never really actively participating in anything. To be honest, their lives hardly seem worth living. One factor in that is a fear of failure. However, without the risk of failure there’s not much joy in success. These days “bipolar disorder” is seen as a major psychological/mental problem, but I wonder about that. A rather high percentage of very creative people struggle with that sort of thing, because they feel life very intensely. Handel is a prime example. He composed the entire Messiah oratorio in about two weeks, sleeping hardly at all, and then crashed, emotionally and physically, and had to be helped up by his friends. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nehemiah crashed somewhat after completing the wall. Medical treatment for bipolar disorder today involves drugs that suppress emotion at both ends. I’ve done a good bit of ministry in mental hospitals, and such patients are among the most pathetic to me, merely existing rather than really living. I realize I am being simplistic here, but the fact remains that participation in life and investment in it are essential to real joy. If there is no real risk, there is no real reward. You could even say that life is joyful because it’s dangerous, though that also is an over-simplification. Fear of failure is one of the biggest barriers to real satisfaction and joy.

This is extremely applicable to us right now. We are embarked on a huge, risky project, but if the church members aren’t invested and participating, they won’t have much joy regardless of how successful it might be. Encouraging participation has always been a weak spot in my ministry, and I’m acutely aware of it right now. I need to take the time and make the effort to get everyone on the same page so that we’re doing this together, rather than just a few of us doing it all. That’s a vital part of leadership, and I really need to grow in that area. I want everyone to rejoice in what God is doing, and that won’t really happen unless they are participating. With my track record in this area being so spotty, it’s clear I need to be humble about it, before God and before people. I need to seek and receive Godly advice, because it’s clear that God’s smart and I’m not.

Father, thank You for this reminder. I confess that it’s a little depressing, because I’ve done so poorly at this sort of thing in the past. Thank You for being greater than my weaknesses and failures. Help me indeed bring many people along with me as You are leading us in this, so that the joy may be multiplied and You receive all the glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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