Every leader understands whether he’s trying to lead a group of people, his business, his family, or simply trying to lead himself to a better place, he is going to run into problems. Recently, I had the incredible privilege of sharing a short message for President Trump, Vice President Pence, and their families before the inauguration. I shared with him that like every administration before him and after him, President Trump is going to face problems. Every leader does. I do. So do you. And so did Nehemiah.
Nehemiah was a leader who had a goal. He wanted to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem for the glory of God. But Nehemiah soon ran into difficulties as he pursued that goal. I shared with our president that Nehemiah responded in specific ways that I believe made him an incredible leader. I believe you and I can apply these lessons to our lives, as well, because each of us is a leader in the area and around the people that God has placed us.
1. Nehemiah refused to allow his critics to distract him.
Someone has said there are three guaranteed ways to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.
Any true leader is going to face criticism. If you’re trying to lead your company to new heights, trying to retrain for a new job, trying to rear godly children, or trying to improve your relationship with God, no matter what your dream in life is, you’re going to face criticism of that dream.
But there are several ways we can combat this criticism. First of all, we can discern the cause of criticism. It may be that it’s meant to help you, and if so, learn from it. It may be that it is jealousy, insecurity, or even Satan that is inspiring the motivation—or the criticism. Dismiss it.
Chuck Swindoll observes, “Anyone who steps into the arena of leadership must be prepared to pay a price. True leadership exacts a heavy toll on the whole person, and the more effective the leadership, the higher the price. The leader must soon face the fact that he will be the target of critical darts…Good leaders must have thick skin.”
After you discern the criticism, deliver your critic to God. I think it’s significant that Nehemiah did not attack his critics. He just kept on working (Prov. 26:4-5), and continued pursuing the dream in spite of criticism. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair said, “I do not believe that unpopularity is a badge of courage, but sometimes it is the price of leadership.” True leaders understand they’re going to be criticized. And remember the test of a leader is what it takes to stop him (Neh. 4:6-7).
2. Nehemiah refused to allow setbacks to stop him.
As you read through Nehemiah’s journal, you’ll find that he faced tremendous obstacles as he attempted to rebuild the nation: an economic recession, terrorist attacks from enemies, and discouragement among the citizens.
But none of those setbacks was enough to stop Nehemiah.
Nehemiah was successful because he refused to be paralyzed by the fear factor. Anytime you allow fear to cause you to run away from your God-given call in life, anytime you allow fear to tempt you to abandon your marriage or your job or your ministry, you can know for sure you are acting outside God’s will. God never uses fear of man to motivate us (2 Timothy 1:7). Nehemiah ignored the setbacks, ignored the fear, and continued to lead.
The truth is, we’re all leaders of someone. If you’re a parent, you’re trying to lead your family. If you are in business, you’re probably trying to lead a group of employees or coworkers. And if you can’t think of anybody else you’re leading, all of us are leading ourselves. We’re trying to lead ourselves from where we are in life to the place where God wants us to be in life. But we can’t do that alone.
3. Nehemiah Sought God’s Help to Empower Him
Nehemiah was a gifted leader, but he knew he could not succeed without God’s divine help.
Nehemiah originally came from Persia to Jerusalem, to rebuild the wall that represented the glory of God. But that wasn’t ultimately why Nehemiah came back. You see, more than just building a wall, God wanted to build a group, a community of devoted believers, followers of Jehovah who would be his representatives in the culture. That’s still our job today.
Whether you are President Trump leading an entire nation, a pastor leading a church, an employee crunching numbers, or a teenager in the classroom, each of us needs God in order to live according to our calling – to be salt and light.
When President Ronald Reagan addressed the Republican National Convention in Dallas in 1984 he said, “America needs God more than God needs America. If we ever forget that we are ‘one nation under God,’ then we will be a nation gone under.”
We just experienced a new day in the life of our country. But no matter who serves in the White House, one thing is certain: We need revival. And revival always begins with our recognition of our need for God.
When we recognize our need for God, we want to obey Him. Obedience to God leads to happiness, exhilaration, the joy you could never experience any other way. And that’s revival: when the Spirit of God using the word of God motivates the people of God to obey the will of God. When that happens, we see the Lord accomplish His purpose in and through us.
When the Spirit of God using the word of God motivates the people of God to obey the will of God, we see revival individually, which revives our churches, which will revive our nation.