by Brooklyn Tizzano, Extend Web Services
When I was originally asked to share this devotional with you, I was over the moon! But it wasn’t much later when a question crept into my mind. “Why me?” Quite frankly, there are people who have been on their walk with Christ for longer than I’ve been alive. I didn’t believe I had anything relevant to offer them in a devotional at a mere 23 years old.
Because of my hesitancy, I figured the only way to make up for how young and incapable I felt, was to come up with the BEST devotional anyone had ever heard. I wanted it to blow their minds. I wanted it to include every miracle the Bible ever listed. Water turning to wine, walking on water, blind men seeing, Jesus being raised from the dead. I was going to do it all.
Eventually, I figured it would probably be wise to consider what God might want me to share.
Over and over in my quiet time and in talking to my husband and family, the story of Nehemiah kept coming up. Nehemiah. I felt frustrated! Nehemiah isn’t good enough. Nehemiah doesn’t have any cool miracles or jaw dropping stories! I didn’t see how anything could be gained out of the story of Nehemiah. But through studying Nehemiah, I realized that maybe the miraculous doesn’t happen. But what does happen is that a group of people roll up their sleeves and get to work. I learned that when we are only looking for God in the big things, we will miss him in the small things.
Our story starts with Nehemiah being in exile and he finds out the terrible condition of Jerusalem, specifically the gates and the wall around the city. Nehemiah decides that he’s going to do something about this. At the time, Nehemiah was a cupbearer for the king, and the king gave him permission to go rebuild the wall and gates, and he even gave him some practical equipment to get started (not unlike Life Launch!).
Because no good story is complete without villains, in walks Tobiah, Sanballat and Geshem. These guys do not want Jerusalem rebuilt and they make it their mission to stop this from happening. As Nehemiah and his people progressed building the wall, their enemies got more and more angry.
Have you been there? Excited for what God has called you to do and it feels like immediately you are met with pushback? Nehemiah 4:1 says “Sanballat was very angry when he learned that we were rebuilding the wall. He flew into a rage and mocked the Jews.”...“Do they actually think they can make something out of stones from a rubbish heap–and charred ones at that?”
Do they actually think they can do this? We’ve probably heard this often!
- Do they actually think they can make a difference?
- Do they actually think they can save a life?
- Do they actually think they can counsel young parents?
- Do they actually…
Maybe you’re a lot like me and someone else sees that you’re capable of doing something, but you can’t see it…
- Do I actually think I can give a devotional at 23 years old?
- Do I actually think I can run a center?
- Do I actually think I can help these women and save their children?
Sometimes the enemy is very present and very tangible, and I know, especially with the culture right now, we have a very tangible enemy. But sometimes the enemy is in our head. Sometimes the enemy is what we are allowing ourselves to listen to and not what we know God has called us to.
Setting Up Guards
So what does Nehemiah do when he hears the things they’re saying? He sets up armed guards. Specifically, Nehemiah 4:13 tells us, “behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places.”
Why does he set up armed guards? Because he realizes that if he isn’t taking the necessary precautions to prepare for the plan God has laid out for him, he might miss his miracle. I don’t believe God uses perfect people. I believe he uses people who are present and prepared. Nehemiah recognized that even though he can’t see his miracle and is surrounded by opposition, he still needs to prepare for his miracle. Nehemiah 4:17 says the guards had one hand working and one hand holding a weapon. But notice that these guards weren’t just haphazardly placed. Remember, verse 17 tells us they were behind the lowest points of the wall and the exposed places.
Finding our lowest points and our exposed places requires some humility. It requires us to be able to accept constructive criticism. And that’s hard! Where in your life do you need to set up guards in order to protect your miracle in the making? Do you need to make sure you are staying in the Word? Do you need to make sure you’re staying in the community?
As necessary as it is to set up guards, it can also feel mundane. We don’t always see the tangible fruit from setting up our guards. And when it starts to feel mundane, we can start to question our miracle. When it’s no longer feeling like a miracle, we assume this must just be the mundane. The tricky thing about the mundane is that it’s easier to walk away from. It’s easier to put on the backburner. But if we shift our focus to see the mundane as preparation for the miracle, we would never slow down from that! Sometimes I feel like God says yes, this is mundane work! But I need you to stick with me in the mundane! I need to build your faith in the mundane! I need to grow your tenacity, strengthen your trust and fine tune your skills in the mundane. The mundane isn’t mundane when you know what you’re working for, or more so who you’re working for.
I was a college athlete. No one was applauding me for going to my 6am practices. No one was applauding me for going to bed early on a Friday night when my friends were at a party. No one was applauding me for sticking to my meal plan and drinking enough water during the day. But I never let myself view that as mundane because I knew that God had a purpose for my life. I knew that my mundane, day-to-day grind had a miracle on the other side. And in February of 2017 I won the National Championship in the 60m hurdles. My miracle came out of years of hard, not always fun, day-to-day, mundane tasks.
And I believe God has a miracle over your life as well! 1 Corinthians 10:31 says so whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. So when you’re in your center scrubbing the toilets, you remind yourself that this is my preparation. When you are sending out your 100th email, you remind yourself that this is training. When you are folding the maternity clothes and onesies, you keep your eyes fixed on your miracle.
And lastly, we don’t miss our miracle by not getting distracted. I heard a pastor say once that if the enemy can’t destroy you, he’ll distract you. This is the shift we start to see in Nehemiah chapter 6. Nehemiah is just about finished building the wall and his enemies find out about this and are obviously not happy. They ask Nehemiah if he can come down to talk to them. Nehemiah, knowing that this is a setup, declines their invite. Chapter 6 verse 3 is one of my new favorite Bible verses. Nehemiah responds to his enemies by saying “I am doing a great work. I can’t come down.” I love how the MSG translation puts it. It says “Why should the work come to a standstill just so I can come down to see you?”
Nehemiah declined! Nehemiah recognized that not every conversation he is invited to ought to be accepted. Notice how Nehemiah doesn’t say “Sure, let me come down and change your mind!” He doesn’t say “Let me gossip about it to all my friends and post about it on Facebook to see what everyone else thinks.” No! Nehemiah knew that the work he was doing was a good and God-ordained work, so he doesn’t need to entertain conversations that negate that! A verse my dad would pray over me in college was 1 Corinthians 9:24 “In a race everyone runs but only one person gets the prize. So run to win.” And I feel like sometimes we are all gung ho on running to win and keeping our eyes fixed on the prize, but the minute someone wants to talk negatively about us, we are no longer running to win, we are only running to prove them wrong! When there’s a Facebook post or you receive a text or a local news story comes out that is practically begging you to respond, you don’t always need to entertain that conversation. I want to challenge you to keep your eyes fixed on your prize and not allow yourself to get distracted.
Don't Miss the Miracle
So, how do we keep from missing our miracle?
- We intentionally choose the voice we are listening to. We don’t listen to the voice in front of us, and we don’t listen to the voice in our head. We choose to follow what we know His word says.
- We prepare daily for what God has in store for us. God doesn’t use perfect people for a miracle. He uses the people who are present and prepared.
- And lastly, we don’t get distracted. We don’t entertain every conversation. We keep our eyes fixed on the prize.
I wear contacts, however, I can see well enough to at least make my way around my house without needing my contacts in or my glasses on. Occasionally, my husband will ask me to look at something from across the room, not knowing that I’ve already taken my contacts out. After squinting real hard to see what he’s trying to show me, he’ll say “Oh! You don’t have your eyeballs in!” Can I be honest? Some of us don’t have our eyeballs in. Some of us are saying “God! Where’s my miracle? I’ve been doing this for years now and I don’t see it!” But God is saying “Put on your eyeballs! It’s right in front of you!”
We know that we serve a God who never stops working. So even when we don’t see our miracle, even when we don’t feel our miracle, we can choose to roll up our sleeves and celebrate that he is doing miraculous things in and through us every day.