How many of you truly desire for the Kingdom of God to grow in a powerful way? Do you indeed, like to see this church grow in the Lordship of Christ, grow in strength, grow in unity, grow in ministry and grow in the Word? How many of you would like to see your families and workplaces to be united, so that you can accomplish God’s purpose for you and your family?
Well, you could see all this and more, if you tap into what I have to share with you through this sermon.
God’s Work is Teamwork
Presently, we are going to see how the work of God has to be done based on the teamwork Nehemiah did for God.
Now God wants us to be light and salt. God wants us to reach out to the world with his word, the gospel. God wants us to grow and believers to mature. So we have work to do. In fact, God wants to work as a team to achieve his purposes. Christian ministry always has to be a team ministry, and you are to be a team player. If you are thinking about it as your ministry, it is not Christianity.
Remember God is perfect, God is the eternal team. We are not a perfect team but we still have to work with a team. Some think better not work with a team, I am the boss and they all work to my vision. That is not how God works. A team where there is functional equality but also functional leadership, there is a leader. (I Thessalonians:1:5-6)
1. God Works As A Team
God is Trinity. Trinity is a team. Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are a team.
2. Jesus Worked as a Team
Jesus used all kinds of people with different backgrounds to reach the world. He utilized tax collectors, physicians, fishermen, women, children, etc. He also used the wealthy, poor, masters, slaves, passive people and dynamic people in his team.
3. Paul Worked as a Team
Paul the Apostle was a team player. It is said that Apostle Paul had almost 40 people in his team.
4. Greater Vision and Achievement
Teams create a vision of something larger than one can see individually. The great commission is not a one-man job. We have a part in it together. Teamwork helps us accomplish this.
Illustration of Strength through Team Work:
In a horse-pulling contest at a county fair, the first-place horse moved a sled weighing 2000 kg. The runner-up pulled 1800 kg. The owners of the two horses wondered how much the animals could pull if they worked together. So they hitched them up and loaded the sled. To everyone’s surprise, the horses were able to pull 5450 kg, that’s 1650 kg more than if they had gone alone!
Teamwork can achieve greater results. Furthermore, I want to speak about the teamwork of Nehemiah.
God brought Israel back to the Promised Land but later Israel continued to sin against the Lord. The Lord warned them through the prophets to stop or they would go into captivity. They ignored the warning and they went into captivity in Babylon. So in Babylon, they cried out to God to be delivered and after 70 years God answered their prayer.
Consequently, the Babylonians had been defeated by the Persians and Cyrus their leader let the first batch of Jews return to Jerusalem led by Ezra the priest who rebuild the temple. Sometime later the walls had still been broken and here comes the man for the hour, Nehemiah.
Listen, God will do his work, his way in his timing but God chooses to work through people. So God was searching for the right person for the job.
Currently, God is looking for a man, God is looking for a woman. Would you be that person willing to step forward and say, “Lord please use me? I don’t have much ability but I am willing to be used by you.”
Here comes Nehemiah, the cupbearer of the king Nebuchadnezzar, living in the lap of luxury and burdened for the broken walls of Jerusalem. He prays and God touched the heart of the king and Nehemiah comes to Jerusalem with the protection from the king and permission to build the walls. Nehemiah comes and inspects the walls and finds that the walls truly are in rubbles. Then he motivates the people who have been around in Jerusalem who had not been doing anything about the walls. All the people agree to construct the wall. The wall was completed in 52 days.
1Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate…2The men of Jericho built the adjoining section, and Zakkur son of Imri built next to them. 3The Fish Gate was rebuilt by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place. 4Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired the next section. Next to him Meshullam son of Berekiah, the son of Meshezabel, made repairs, and next to him Zadok son of Baana also made repairs.
All through this chapter, what is mentioned is teamwork. People stood next to each other and built the wall around Jerusalem.
A farmer noticed a highway department truck pulling over on to the shoulder of the road. A man got out and dug a hole, then got back into the truck. Then the other occupant got out, filled up the hole and got back in the truck. Every fifty yards this amazing process was repeated. ‘What are you doing?’ the farmer asked. The driver replied, ’We’re on a highway tree planting project, and the guy who plants the trees is home sick today.’
What’s the bottom line (morale)? No unity, no productivity! No team work, no success!
Now the moment they started working, they faced opposition.
1. When You Do God’s Work, You Will Face Opposition
But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?”
Listen, whenever God’s people say, “Let’s rise and build.” The devil will rise people and they will say, “Let’s rise and oppose.” The devil also comes in a team. Whenever you are pursuing a divine opportunity, there will be a satanic opposition.
1 Corinthians 16:9
…..a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me. Great door opportunity, but many people are opposing it. Now I know when I am doing something that God wants me to do, I will face criticism, I will face opposition. I will have people talk against it. I expect it.
No matter what the difficulty, we need to pursue in doing God’s work.
2. There Will Be People In The Team Who Do Not Work
Do not stop working for the Lord because some are not participating. Invariable in a team, when all are working, there will be some who will fold their hands and say, “Let me see how they work without me.” Not everyone worked on the walls of Jerusalem with Nehemiah.
The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors.
The nobles are rulers of Tekoa. This is the hometown of Amos, 12 miles south of Jerusalem. The people of Tekoa are not mentioned in the list that returned from exile in Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7. Probably they never went into exile. Now they have been influenced by Geshem the Arab. Probably these Jewish rulers were the sympathizers of their enemies, especially the Arabs.
We have people like that. When we do teamwork, there are some in the team who side up with the ones who want to discourage. They will be in the team, but will not cooperate.
Someone said, “There are two kinds of people in this world, one who shares in the victory, but not in the battle. Some share in the battle and sweat it out.”
There are different kinds of people who come to church, there are participators, then there are spectators. There are encouragers and then they are discouragers.
I wonder which category each of us fall into today.
Participators come and engage in worship, they listen carefully to the message, they give in the offering, they serve faithfully, they are willing to use their spiritual gifts.
Spectators come expecting everyone to wait on them. Sometimes they come late, sometimes they leave early.
Encouragers are team players. They have a common objective, to motivate everyone and will not look at their own interests.
Discourages are the one who needs prominence. If they do not get the prominence, they will discourage everyone. They will carry gossip against anyone who does not listen to them.
You say how do I know what I am?, “If you are irritated about what I said for the last 5 minutes now, you either are a spectator or a discourager.”
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, (Greek: Creates a scandal. Stumbling block, bent sapling, offend, trap-stick) it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!
Friends, Are you a wall builder or a wall breaker? Are you a faith builder or a faith breaker?
Either you are building the wall or you are neglecting your part of the wall. Either you are serving the Lord or you are not. It comes down to individuals who have a part in the church.
3. We Need To Find Our Place In The Work That God Is Doing
1Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place, building as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and as far as the Tower of Hananel. 2The men of Jericho built the adjoining section, and Zakkur son of Imri built next to them. 3The Fish Gate was rebuilt by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place. 4Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired the next section. Next to him Meshullam son of Berekiah, the son of Meshezabel, made repairs, and next to him Zadok son of Baana also made repairs.
The phrase next to him and after him is mentioned some 28 times in the chapter. It means they all worked together. This is called teamwork.
Illustration On Team Work From a Bee Hive
You can learn a lot about teamwork from honey bees. There are approximately 4000 bees in a hive. On a warm day about half the bees in a hive stay inside beating their wings while the other half go out to gather pollen and nectar. Because of the beating wings, the temperature inside the hive is about 10 degrees cooler than outside. The bees rotate duties and the bees that cool the hive one day are honey gatherers the next.
Jerusalem under Nehemiah
Details of the Wall
Perimeter about 3 KM | Height about 39.37 feet | Width about 8.2 feet | 34 Watchtowers | 7 main gates for circulation
Types Of People Who Worked On The Wall
In this chapter, there are different kinds of people that are mentioned who built the wall.
People Were From Everywhere.
Nehemiah’s teamwork involved people from everywhere. The people that are mentioned here lived not only in the city inside the walls. There are people from within the city, next to the city, and outside the city that came to rebuild the wall.
People Were From Different Backgrounds.
Nehemiah’s team had people from different backgrounds. There are different kinds of people in this team. People were from different trades. Nehemiah was a cupbearer 1:11. Some of these people were priests 3:1, some were goldsmiths 3:8, perfumers 3:8, merchants 3:32. There were rulers workers from different classes.
Rephaiah, son of Hur, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem.
Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters.
There Were Men and Women, Young and Old.
Nehemiah’s team had men and women, young and old. Everyone needed to participate in this job to be done.
There was perfect unity among the workers. They stepped out of their expertise because there was a greater need. The same is true of the church. We need to work together as a team to accomplish what God has for us. United we stand, divided we fall.
See how the Bible shows the unity of the Church:
The Unity Of The Church
The New Testament provides six metaphors to show the unity of the Church:
The Church Is A Family
49Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
17He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18For through him, we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household…
The Church Is A Kingdom
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
The Church Is A Building
20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
The Church Is An Army
The church is an army. When you think of the army, think of assembling together to fight an enemy. The enemy is satan.
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
We are an army! The churches together are a powerful weapon. We are called to fight Satan. The primary posture/strategy is defensive. We fight Satan by standing firm, grounded in truth, practicing right living, ready to tell the story of Christ at all times, a confident faith, a delight in salvation, fighting with the Spirit of God and the Word of God. And overall spiritual battles are prayer. For it is certainly in prayer that we remain alert and watchful, focused on Christ Jesus.
The Church Is A Body
We are all part of one body, everyone has a role to play.
1 Corinthians 12:12
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.
1 Corinthians 4:24-27
But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
From him, the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Jesus gives another metaphor:
The Church Is A Collection Of Branches Of The Vine
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me, you can do nothing.
Therefore, the church has to work together as a team to accomplish what God has for us. United we stand, divided we fall. Every one of us has a role to play in the kingdom.
Bring different people to stage, different in looks and background. Arrange them in a row and tell them about building the wall. These different people, different ages, backgrounds. All of them have a role to play. These people are like you. We all have a part to play. If one place of the work is weak, that is a place which can be broken, then the whole work is weak. Every one of us has a part to play. We need to work together.
B. C. Forbes founder of Forbes magazine said here is how you spell success. He said you do not spell success with ‘SUCCESS’ but here is how you spell success ‘TEAMWORK ‘.
Coming back, see this phrase over and over in this passage; next to him, after him. Everyone had a role to play. I am sure they were all communicating, they were working together.
NIV So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.
KJV So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.
Illustration on teamwork based on geese formation
Have you ever wondered why geese fly in a very organized V Formation? Winging their way to a warmer climate, they often cover thousands of miles before reaching their destination. We can discover a lot about teamwork by studying geese – their flight patterns & in-flight habits.
Those in front rotate their leadership.
When one lead goose gets tired, it changes places with one in the wing of the V-formation and another flies point.
By flying as they do, the members of the flock create an upward air current for one another.
Each flap of the wings literally creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. One author states that by flying in a V-formation, the whole flock gets 71 percent greater flying range than if each goose flew on its own.
When one goose gets sick or wounded, two fall out of formation with it and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with the struggler until it’s able to fly again.
The geese in the rear of the formation are the ones who do the honking.
I suppose it’s their way of announcing that they’re following and that all is well. For sure, the repeated honks encourage those in front to stay at it. As I think about all this, one lesson stands out above all others: it is the natural instinct of geese to work together. Whether it’s rotating, flapping, helping, or simply honking, the flock is in it together…which enables them to accomplish what they set out to do.
Do you know that with the present technology we are more connected to everyone than at any time in human history, but at the same time we are disconnected from any other time as well? Millennials would rather text someone than talk to them.
So just like Nehemiah, there must be unity in our work. We are one body. Even though we are diverse, there is unity. Even though we are different, yet we are all called to be working together for God’s glory. Does not that make us glad? That we are all part of one family. That changes the way we look at each other. If there is a conflict between any two of you, we do not look at each other as enemies, we are one and we still work together for God’s glory. That is the focus.
If someone hurts, we feel the hurt for them. If someone rejoices, we rejoice with them. If someone is happy and progressing, we are very happy for them.
A.W. Tozer, “Unity in Christ is not something to be achieved, it is something to be recognized.”
A football manager once said in an interview, “It’s easy to get good players, it’s getting them to play together that is the hardest part.”
We need to work as a team. Teamwork means that we share a common ideal, embrace a common goal. Regardless of our differences, we strive shoulder to shoulder, confident in one another’s faith, trust, and commitment.
How to be a Christian Teamworker?
1. Be under the Lordship of Christ.
Be born again, baptized, and Spirit-filled believer who has Jesus as the Lord of his life. You join God’s team when you are under Jesus’ Lordship.
In Paul’s writing to the Ephesian church we get more inputs on teamwork:
2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus
2. Be Humble.
Be Humble with one another. The team is more important than me.
3. Be Gentle.
Be Gentle with one another. The attitude that demonstrates power with reserve and gentleness. Another word is meekness.
4. Be Patient.
Be patient with one another.
5. Let there be Integration.
Maintain unity. As believers, we are not called for isolation, but to be identified in a community of believers.
Illustration of Team Work:
There is a tree called the Sequoia tree or the Redwood tree. They are referred to as the largest living things on earth. It reaches to almost 250 feet in the air and lives for 1500 years.
Do you know that each tree’s root grows down only about 4 feet below the ground? While growing deeper helps many trees remain upright, the Redwood tree does not have deep roots. But if you look around the tree, you will notice that the Redwood trees grow only in groves or bunches. While the roots of these trees are only 4 feet below the ground, the roots are intermingled with the other Redwood trees next to them. One tree has other trees surrounding it, supporting it and keeping it strong. No Redwood grows alone.
Unity in the body of Christ
The body of Christ does need to have our roots grow down in Christ, yes. But the body of Christ also will need to grow around and among us. We need one another. We need to be able to hold one another, support and rejoice with one another.
So we need to get together and talk together, pray together and come together because we are all part of the body of Christ. We are all part of the family of God, we are all part of the church. God has given believers spiritual gifts to be used in the church.
How many of you know your spiritual gifts? These are not talents, these are supernaturally given by God.
6We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; …..
Together we can achieve more. See the contrast here:
Next to him, Baruch son of Zabbai zealously repaired another section, from the angle to the entrance of the house of Eliashib the high priest.
One man stands out from all the others. And he certainly did it zealously and with passion. So which one are you: Are you a Baruch or like the nobles? Do you serve or do you expect to be served?
Are you a team player or are you a detached soldier in Christ?
Surely God wants you to get involved and work for God. You may be doing a secular job, but God needs you in this team. God needs housewives in this team. God needs students in this team.
Nehemiah lived in the lap of luxury yet he was willing to leave everything behind, taking responsibility and gathering all the people to accomplish the mission of reviving the walls of Israel back to life.
Nehemiah was a team-player and part of God’s team. Are you willing to be part of God’s team today?
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