Close to our house, there is a river that winds its way along the perimeter of the fields of our ranch. As a family we enjoy going and spending time there – camping, hiking, riding horses, picnics, and exploring.
One day as I was hiking in the hills, I discovered what I now call my “special” place…a place that I like to go to sit, reflect, and pray. At this point, if I look to my right I see for miles and miles as the river valley weaves its way back and forth, almost serpentine in shape.
When I look directly in front of me, there is a long, winding trail that used to reach down to the river’s edge. But now, what was once a clear trail to the bottom has been replaced with a tangled mess of dirt, grass and trees that are sliding down a near vertical slope.
When I look to my left, there is another ridge that makes its way down to the river. At this point, the water makes a sharp ninety degree angle to the left around this ridge, and continues on its way.
But I cannot see where it goes. I cannot see what is around the bend. It is obscured from my sight.
I have often sat along the banks of the river in this special place and reflected on the simple truth that my life is not like a flat, smooth piece of land with no dips and bends.
It is the exact opposite.
My life is like this river valley with many twists and turns peppered a few landslides, unknown corners, narrow, tumultuous channels in combination with serene valleys where the waters quiet and gently lap against the banks of green meadows.
In each and every part – my Good Shepherd has been with me, opening doors that need to be opened, providing for my needs and making a way so that the work He has given me to do can be carried out.
Just as He was with Nehemiah so many years ago.
The Bible doesn’t tell us how many years Nehemiah had been in service to the king of Persia, but one day God began an orchestration of events that would soon change the course of Nehemiah’s life.
When Nehemiah received word that the walls of Jerusalem were torn down, its gates burned with fire and the people there were in distress, he was greatly burdened. Over a period of about three months he spent much time in prayer regarding this situation. During this time, God planted within his heart a desire to carry out the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. Along with this desire, God unfolded a plan to Nehemiah of what he would need in order to see this work through to completion.
Finally, the day came to move forward and take the first step in putting this plan into action…this plan that had been planted within his heart by the same God who works within the hearts of all His children to will and to act according to His good purpose.
After one more prayer, Nehemiah went to the king, for he was the cupbearer to the king of Persia.
Now I am not sure what the proper protocol was for cupbearers to the kings at that time, but in Nehemiah 2:1, Nehemiah writes that he had never before been sad in the presence of the king.
But this day, as he took the wine and gave it to the king, his face was sad.
And the king noticed.
Realizing that Nehemiah was not physically ill, the king deduced that this sorrow was a reflection of the distress that was in Nehemiah’s heart.
And the king asked him about it.
In Nehemiah 2:2, Nehemiah writes that at this point in carrying out the next step that God placed before him, he became “dreadfully afraid”.
He was armed with a desire and a plan placed within his heart by God. He had prayed about this course of action, and now he was stepping forward with faith in the One who was directing his steps, and yet…
He became dreadfully afraid.
Perhaps it is because Nehemiah was about to see if God was going to open the door that needed to be opened in order for the plans and purposes that he believed God had placed within his heart to be fulfilled.
In those moments as he stood before the king, there was fear coursing through Nehemiah’s veins…
But there was also a trust in God above.
And so he didn’t freeze up and let fear take control. Rather, he breathed a prayer to the God in heaven – the One who is sovereign over all – and then unfolded to the King of Persia his requests.
And you know what?
That day, Nehemiah saw the God of heaven open doors that that only He could open. The king granted to Nehemiah every one of his requests…
For in the days leading up to this moment, not only had God been preparing Nehemiah’s heart, but God had also been working within the heart of the king to prepare him for this moment when Nehemiah presented his requests.
In God’s realm, He works all things together to accomplish His purposes. No part is left to chance. He is God in heaven, who is sovereign, over all, through all, in all things and who works out all things in conformity to the purpose of His will.
I have been so challenged and encouraged by the life of Nehemiah, for after he saw so clearly the good hand of God open this door for him, and clear the way before him so that he could carry out the good plans that God had placed within his heart to do…
Nehemiah kept on looking upward as he kept on moving forward on the path that God had set before him. Regardless of the obstacles he faced – and there were a lot – he didn’t waver in faith. He didn’t doubt the call that God had placed before him to do. He didn’t give up in carrying out the good work that God had given him to do. He didn’t get sidetracked by distractions. He didn’t get overwhelmed with the difficulties.
Instead, as a servant of God in heaven, he prayed and brought each problem to his Sovereign King and placed it within His hands. He then moved forward to the next step that was required to continue moving the King’s work forward, for he knew that the One who had opened the door for him to begin this good work would be the One that would make a way so that this work could be carried through to completion.
And you know what?
It was. Nehemiah 6:15 records that the rebuilding of the walls was completed in 52 days:D
I can’t help but wonder how often Nehemiah looked back and remembered that day when he stood before the king of Persia…distressed in heart…dreadfully afraid…yet, with a burning desire to carry out the work that God had placed within his heart to do. As he stepped forward in faith taking the next step, he got to see the good hand of God open the door and make a way so that this work could be completed.
The course of his whole life changed that day, but after seeing God’s good hand work so mightily, he took courage and kept moving forward, trusting that the Most High God of heaven would continue to make a way for his servant.
And you know something?
Again and again, in my own life, as I have stood at crossroads, armed with desire, a plan and a purpose that God has placed within my heart to do, I have seen Him open the doors that need to be opened so that I can carry out the steps that He has set before me to take. As He works within me to will and to act according to His good purpose, He does not remove the obstacles that I face. Rather, He leaves them there so that I learn to keep my eyes focused on Him and trust Him as I keep moving forward.
I am so thankful that He gives me markers or events that I can look back on and see how His good hand opened a door before me to walk through.
And as I reflect on this, God encourages my heart with this truth…
Will not He who opened the door for me to walk through continue to direct my steps and provide for my needs as He carries His work through to completion?
Indeed He will…
Just as He did for Nehemiah so many years ago.
Every work – whether a small nudge or a major course change – that God starts, He will complete. He does not leave anything to chance. In fact, in Ephesians 1:11 it says that He works out all things in conformity to the purpose of His will.
By His Spirit, He plants within the hearts of us, His children, a burden and/or a desire. Then, as we spend time in prayer before Him, He begins to work within us to will and to act according to His good purposes unfolding within our hearts the next steps that He has prepared for us to take. Armed with this knowledge and faith in Him, we must then, in obedience, follow our Good Shepherd where He leads us.
Wherever you are at – in the preparation stages of prayer and seeking God’s direction for a burden that He has placed within your heart to do…at the crossroads where you are about to see God open a door for you to take the next step…or facing obstacles as you seek to carry out the good work that God has given you to do – my prayer for you today, is that you will know the presence of God’s good hand upon your life. May He direct your steps as He opens the doors that need to be opened and then walks beside you, providing for every need that you encounter, as you walk with an obedient heart of faith before Him.
Father, You are the God of heaven and our Sovereign King. We are Your servants who desire to do Your will. Please Father, this day, grant us the eyes to see, the ears to hear, the mind to understand, the heart to believe and the feet to obey the course that You have set before us. Please open the doors that need to be opened and close the doors that need to be closed. As our Good Shepherd, please make the next steps so clear to us that we cannot miss them. Please fill our hearts with faith so that we can with obedient hearts follow wherever You lead us. Please, Father, sustain us with Your strength so that we do not become weary in doing good. Guard us with Your peace so that we do not become anxious or overwhelmed by the obstacles that we face. Remind us that You are with us wherever we go, so that we move forward with a heart that is steadfast and full of courage. Encourage our hearts you’re your promises and reminders of how, in the past, You have been faithful in our lives and the lives of Your servants. Lord, we cannot carry out the work that You have given us to do on our own. May we remember that so that we keep on walking forward with eyes and hearts focused upwards as You carry through to completion the work that You have begun in us. Thank-you that we can know for sure and for certain that you will make known to us the steps that we need to take and provide for every need that we have, for that is what You have promised to do, and You will be forever faithful to do what You have promised to do. Thank you for being our Good Father.
May Your will be done in our lives.