November 4, Wednesday

Editor’s Note: The AMI devotionals from Nov. 3-9 are written by Pastor Yohan Lee of Radiance Christian Church (S. F.).

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Nehemiah 4:15-20

When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. 16 From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, 17 who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. 18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me.19 And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. 20 In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”

4Metaphorically speaking, how do you eat an elephant?  The correct answer is: one bite at a time.  The point of this metaphor (or is it a joke?) is that in order to tackle seemingly overwhelming projects, the best and only strategy is to take many, small manageable bites until the project is complete.  I know many of you have real, overwhelming problems: stress at work, financial struggles, marital difficulties, troublesome children, aging and sick parents, etc.  And on top of it, you may feel like God is distant, and your spiritual life is in neutral or even reverse.  As you look at life as a whole, life may seem as impossible as trying to eat an elephant.

Even if you feel this way only sometimes, today’s passage has some wisdom for you.  Nehemiah and the Jews were on a mission to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem; however, Sanballat and Tobiah were not only were ridiculing them, but they were now threatening physical harm in opposing this project. Additionally, in Neh.10:11, we see that the labor force was getting discouraged: “Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, ‘The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.’”  Many in Nehemiah’s shoes would have fallen into stress, panic, self-pity, or maybe even minor depression.  But what Nehemiah ended up doing was quite ordinary and practical—he simply told some of his men to strap on swords while others worked the wall.  So everyone worked with tools in one hand and a sword in the other.  As far I can see, God did not give this plan in any special revelation, but Nehemiah just went about his work and used some practical wisdom.

Where I am going with this? Sometimes, the best thing we can do for ourselves spiritually is to be faithful and diligent in practical ways. For example, if you are running yourself ragged at work because deadlines are coming up, then get a good night’s sleep, eat a healthy meal, get some exercise.  If you haven’t had QT in weeks, and you feel like God is far, sit down tonight and read one chapter of the Bible or pray for 10 minutes.  You do not have to solve every problem immediately, all at once—just like you don’t have to swallow the whole elephant.  Take small bites.

Prayer

Lord, help me to be responsible and do what is assigned to me faithfully, to work hard, but also to have the understanding that I have limitations.  Give me peace of heart and trust in You.

Bible Reading for Today: Zechariah 7

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Lunch Break Study

1 Thess. 5:12-22

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle,[c] encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies,21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

Questions to Consider

  1. Why does Paul ask the Thessalonians to esteem those who labor in the Lord?
  2. In v. 14, Paul gives specific instructions for dealing with different people. What principles in ministry can we gather from this?
  3. In your life, how can you be better at rejoicing always and praying continuously?

Notes

  1. Obviously, Paul wants us to respect our church leaders, but it’s just a reminder that those who labor in the Lord serve God and His people.
  2. What I find most interesting about these instructions is that they are very appropriate for each person: The lazy ones need to be warned, the timid need encouragement, and the weak need help. People have different problems and need different methods of support; we can’t take a cookie cutter approach to all.

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Evening Reflection

How did you handle the stress and difficulties of the day?  Did you waste time and energy fretting about things that you could not control?  Were you willing to work hard and be satisfied with the results?  Ultimately, are you growing in your trust of God?

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