by Corey Bullock – Ahwatukee Campus Pastor
What have you been building lately? Maybe you have been busy building a business, a house, a family, a project, a name for yourself. My guess is that if you are anything like me, then two things are true. One, you have probably encountered some problems along the way. Two, you have a tendency to consumed with what you are building.
This was certainly the case for Nehemiah and his countrymen who were tasked with rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. I have been re-reading the narrative of Nehemiah and find that there are so many incredible leadership principals in this story. One particular leadership axiom has made an impression on me and so I will share it with you. Let me give you some context so that you can grasp the axiom.
An exile named Nehemiah caught a vision to go back to his homeland and help his fellow Israelites regain their identity and their holy city. He recognized that the first thing that must be done is to rebuild the wall to fortify the community. He received funding from foreign aid, but would need to rally the people to such a project. While he was busy getting the people to buy into the vision and trying to get them to work together, opposition arose which threatened not only the wall but the very essence of the vision that was being built.
“But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.” Nehemiah 4:9
Nehemiah’s first response was a defensive one. He met the threat on his knees. This was not just a help me Jesus kind of prayer, rather it was more like a day and night we depend on you Lord kind of prayer. I think there is a lot that could be said about his initial move, but that is not what we are going to camp on today. What I want you to see is Nehemiah’s strategic management decision.
Those who opposed the building of the wall planned to attack the workers and Nehemiah caught wind of this impending assault. At this point, he had three potential options:
- Ignore the threat and build as quickly as possible to erect the wall before the attack
- Embrace the threat and cease all work on the wall to divert energies offensively toward the enemy.
- Manage the treat and continue building with a plan and protection
“Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked.” Nehemiah 4:17-18
Nehemiah chose option three. He would not neglect the vision due to opposition, but he also knew too well that building the wall and losing the people didn’t make for a very strategic plan. It is better to be less productive and protected than to be busy at work and at risk. What good would it have done the people of Judea to build a wall that was meant to protect them, if they were killed in the process? I believe Jesus later makes a point that is very similar to this when he says, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul.” (Mark 8:36)
Here in lies the leadership axiom for today – Keep one hand on The Sword!
For Nehemiah, the sword was a tactical offensive weapon made of steel and worn at the waist. In our context however, The Sword is a practical offensive weapon made of words and kept in our heart. Paul describes the sword to the church in Ephesus as part of the armor of God.
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Our sword is the Word of God and it is in fact mightier than any threat formed against us.
For the word of God is living and active. Shaper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
Like Nehemiah, we too have a strategic management decision to make every day as we start to build stuff.
Often I start my days with a to-do list that is exhausting to even look at it. I sometimes feel that if I stop to read my Bible that I will lose some of that valuable time I have to build whatever I am building that day. I can almost hear an audible conversation in my head trying to rationalize why it would be better to just get to work than it would be to spend some time in the Word. I even catch myself arguing that I don’t want to be too legalistic about reading my Bible, because I don’t want my reading to simply become ritualistic.
However, what if I saw the Bible the same way that Nehemiah saw the sword? What if I recognized that I am truly in a place of opposition and that what I am building is at stake? What if I had the same perspective that it is better to work a little slower with a hand on my sword than it is to be without sword and both hands to the plow?
The fear is that strapping on the sword will be detrimental to productivity. The irony is that when you feel safe you work better. This has been proven time and again in the business world especially in employment where there is a real risk of getting injured. When someone knows they are protected they are able to set their mind to the task instead of worrying about being unprepared for attack.
Even the secular world comprehends the practical benefit of reflection and meditation at key points of the day. I have heard of studies that show that people are more productive when they take a break from their work or start their day with some sort of meditation. The idea is that they are able to re-center their thoughts on the task at hand instead of getting lost in the details. If the goal is to build better, then we can even listen to the secular and practical when it comes to this one.
If you want to avert the enemy, then put one hand on The Sword. If you want to focus your thoughts, then put one hand on The Sword. If you want to direct your energies, then put one hand on The Sword. If you want to rally the team, then put one hand on The Sword. If you want to re-energize your organization, then put one hand on The Sword. If you want to build in safety, then put one hand on The Sword. If you want to be more productive in your work, then by all means put one hand on The Sword.
So whatever you are building these days – keep one hand on The Sword!