Nehemiah 4:9 But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.
People who never pray are making a huge mistake, but people who only pray and never act are likewise making a big mistake. As I tell people frequently, genuine prayer involves offering yourself to God as an instrument for the answer to that prayer. Nehemiah and those with him were facing an existential threat from Sanballat, Tobiah and crew, so they prayed to the One who could help them, and they also acted in expectation of His help. I have encountered people who thought that human activity was an indication of a lack of faith, but failure to act is often an indication of laziness and presumption. Strictly human activity is a waste of time and energy, and we indeed see a lot of that in churches all the time. However, some people act like they’re too spiritual to work, and that’s the height of foolishness. The problem is, we aren’t very good at discerning what is really going on, and sometimes someone who seems inactive is actually being very faithful in the tasks the Lord has set for them. I have a pastor friend serving in a very difficult location. I first met him at a Christian meeting where he gave a testimony, and it impacted me greatly. He said, essentially, “I have resolved to do nothing.” What he meant was, he was through with humanistic programs, and was committing himself to to do only, but fully, what God showed/told him to do. He has won several of people to faith, and more importantly, he has led them into genuine discipleship to Jesus Christ. He isn’t inactive, he just isn’t going by some humanistic playbook. He has sharpened his spiritual ears to listen to listen to the Lord, and in my opinion, he’s doing a pretty good job of it.
This is something I’ve really struggled with. Japan is very understandably known as a “graveyard of missionaries,” not because of active persecution but because the low “rate of return” causes so many to give up. I have seen program after program generate expectation, only to produce next to no fruit after consuming lots of time and effort. That’s why my friend’s testimony resonated so strongly with me. Going on 40 years of ministry in Omura, our weekly attendance average is certainly less than 20. However, we have had several people commit to full-time ministry (though not all have followed through) and this month we will finish paying off the land the church building sits on, leaving our solar panels as the only financial debt. I don’t know any details of the Lord’s plans for us, but I do see some encouraging signs, and I want to be active in my obedience. I have accused myself of laziness and being off focus many times over the years, at times with real justification, but God is faithful. My “Sanballat” isn’t anyone I can see with my physical eyes, but he is certainly real. I am to be strong in my Lord, and faithful to Him.
Father, thank You for this reminder, and this encouragement. Help me indeed do everything You desire of me, both in terms of prayer and in terms of physical activity. The attacks, particularly on Cathy’s health, are unrelenting. I ask for wisdom, faith, and faithfulness, so that like Nehemiah, we may push through to the victory that You have prepared for us, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!