In this fallen world, it’s guaranteed we will face trials. God’s people have encountered challenges all throughout history. We find this recorded in the Old Testament and New Testament. I believe we can learn a lot from those times to help navigate us today. That’s why I recently released a new book, For Uncertain Times: 40 Truths of God’s Care in National Distress.
I want to give you one last glimpse, not just of my book, but of how we can gain direction from these times when God’s people faced struggles nationally. I shared a glimpse from the time of Egyptian bondage (see 9/28 issue), the Assyrian invasion (see 10/5 issue), the Babylonian captivity (see 10/12 issue) and the exile in Persia (see 10/19 issue). This glimpse starts back in Persia but extends back to Jerusalem as the Jews returned to their homeland, which lay in ruins. Unfortunately, we will have to learn in the ruins at times. Here’s the account found in Nehemiah.
Nearly 100 years after the first group returned to Jerusalem, Nehemiah, who was the king’s cupbearer, received a visit from his brother from Judah. Nehemiah asked about the city. His brother reported that the remnant now living back in the land was in trouble. The walls of Jerusalem still lay in ruins, and the gates lay burnt. That left the people in the city exposed.
Upon hearing this news, Nehemiah was heartbroken. Scripture says he wept and mourned, then fasted and prayed. During his time of fasting and prayer, Nehemiah dreamed a dream. His heart for his fellow people caused him to wish the wall could be rebuilt and through that heart, he dreamed of going to rebuild the walls.
He prayed for God’s favor, and soon after, God gave him the opening he needed. The king noticed Nehemiah’s sadness and inquired. Nehemiah again prayed and then requested to be sent to rebuild the walls. God’s favor certainly was on Nehemiah and his dream. The Persian king granted his request. He also gave him protection for his travel and timber for the gates.
Nehemiah then left for Judah. There he rallied the people of God to rebuild the walls. During the process, they met much resistance, but Nehemiah led the people to continue the work.
He dreamed a dream for God, and he put feet to those dreams. He accomplished the mission.
We dream dreams for all aspects of our lives. We dream about what we want to accomplish in our careers, hobbies and homes. We dream about our relationships and what we want them to be, and what we want for our kids. We dream about vacations and larger, more stylish vehicles. We dream dreams for all aspects of life, but we don’t tend to dream big dreams for God. That’s a shame because, more than anything, we should dream about how we can make His name great and help others come to repentance.
Take note, though, our dreams may not always be what God wants for us. This happened in II Samuel 7, where King David dreamed of building a temple for God. David realized he had a palace, but the place of God’s special presence was still the temporary tabernacle. The king pursued that dream, but Nathan the prophet was sent to dial him back. He told David that not he, but his son, would build the Temple. Yet, David still gathered all the supplies he could.
We, too, need to dream for God. If He redirects us, we’ll still end up accomplishing something for Him. First, we need to begin to dream dreams for God, then put feet to those dreams. Be warned, though, that in times of tribulation it’s easy to be thrown off the dream to focus on survival. Distress dampens our dream, but only if we allow it. Be aware, when we find ourselves in the darkest times is when we need to dream the most.
Nehemiah accomplished many amazing things throughout his mission to rebuild the wall, but it all started with him dreaming a dream for God. At this point in history, it would have been easy to dismiss any ideas or dreams of doing something for God, but dreaming was most assuredly needed.
No matter how trying times become, we should always set our eyes on, and dream for, the eternal. The Apostle Paul wrote, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (II Cor. 4:18 NIV).
— Jake is the newest state missionary and would love to share about the work in Northwest Arkansas and encourage your church to stand firm (standfirmministries.com). You can get a copy of Jake’s new book, For Uncertain Times, on Amazon.