I visited a pastor in Hong Kong last week as I was preparing for our new series on Nehemiah entitled “Change your world in 52 days” and part of our conversation was about how we sometimes preach too much about “comfort” and not enough about “affliction”. Nehemiah was living in comfort but he chose to move away from a life of affluence in order to influence and convince his own people to rebuild the broken walls of Jerusalem. In fact, he did much more than just rebuild broken walls he was there to help rebuild broken lives.
It reminded me of what Paul wrote in Philippians,
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”
Paul suffered because he knew Christ and he expected suffering. Most of the time we say we want to know Christ but expect only comfort.
Between the time of Nehemiah and Paul, Jesus came and “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:7-8). It is one thing to seek a comfortable life, but it is another thing to realise that Jesus never guaranteed us comfort, but he said that he would give us joy so that we can be like Paul and “rejoice also in our suffering.”
There is so much to learn from this series on Nehemiah and I am expectant that God will speak to us on how we can live out our calling and change the world!