If anyone knew what it was like to face overwhelming obstacles, it was Nehemiah.
Nehemiah’s life is told in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. He was an Israelite in a foreign land, working as a head servant within the pagan Persian Empire. His job included regular access to the king of Persia, so he had a unique position of perspective and influence.
And yet, his hometown was in ruins. Nehemiah had most likely never been in Jerusalem, the City of God. It was more than 1,000 miles away and had been mostly abandoned for more than a century. But when Nehemiah heard a report that the Holy City had been attacked once again—its walls and gates burned down, and its people left vulnerable to additional attacks—he was overcome with sadness and grief.
Like Abraham, Moses, and many heroes of faith before him, Nehemiah could have remained in his position of safety and security and ignored the needs of his fellow Israelites. But God inspired him to act. Nehemiah knew he needed to enter the race marked out for him.
Nehemiah faced four common obstacles that we all often face in our walk of faith:
Indifference: Nehemiah could have waited for someone else, someone closer to or with a better knowledge of Jerusalem, to step in and show Israel the way. He could have said, “It’s too late now,” or “I’m not the right guy for the job.”
Insufficiency: Nehemiah had a unique position in Persia, but he undoubtedly was taking a risk by asking for a leave of absence to check on Jerusalem. Similarly, he had no resources of his own through which to restore Jerusalem. He could have said, “I don’t have what it takes.”
Opposition: Once Nehemiah decided he would try to help rebuild Jerusalem, he had constant resistance. The nearby tribes joked and laughed at his efforts. Outside leaders rallied to thwart his attempts. Even his own people doubted whether the job was worth the demand. Nehemiah could have said, “There’s too much working against me.”
Slow Progress: Lastly, even when Nehemiah was given resources and began the work, it began slowly and without the immediate look of success. He could have said, “I gave it a shot. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
Nehemiah could have said all these things. He may have even thought them over and over. But he didn’t pack his bags and return to his royal position in the palaces of Persia.
He didn’t quit.