“Uniting Together for 52 Days”
Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD
Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson
I shared a bit of news three Sundays ago about how God was working in my life to lead me to step aside from pastoring and I want you to know I appreciate your affirmation of that sense of God’s call in my life—stepping aside from pastoring and stepping into a teaching ministry in seminary, Bible college, or university.
Nearly all of you know that by now, and if you’ve just now learned this, well, surprise! We’ll talk more this evening in Members’ Meeting about a tentative last Sunday—probably at the end of November—but let me say again I am excited about the future of the church. This is a great church, you’re a bunch of great people, and the foundation here is solid, so the future is bright.
But what do we do now? That’s the question. We’ve concluded our 5 weeks of preaching on “Who’s Your One”—but that does not mean that “Who’s Your One” is over, amen?! We may have prayed through the 30-Day Prayer Guide, but we need to keep praying for our ones and asking God for opportunities to share the gospel with our ones.
By the way, last time I preached, we studied some things Jesus teaches about hell, and I encouraged you to share the gospel with your one that week while there still was time. I hope you had an opportunity to do that. I shared with you that I would do the same—and so as a matter of accountability, I can tell you that God opened the door and I was able to illustrate the gospel with my one over a cup of coffee. And he was very receptive to my doing so and I shared the full gospel with him. He didn’t pray to receive Christ. Not yet. But he did say, “You’ve given me a lot to think about” and I encouraged him to not think too long, again because of the urgency of our need to escape hell and receive Christ. So I hope you also shared the gospel and I’d love to hear from you, hear how it went. And if circumstances prevented your sharing, I hope you’ll share this week. Keep on praying for you one and keep on asking God for opportunities to share the gospel with your one.
So, what now? Well, I want to launch today a special prayer emphasis during this transition time as we come together and work through the process of moving forward. And I’m calling this time, “52 Days of Prayer.” Put together a prayer guide by the same title, “52 Days of Prayer.” And what we want to do is stop, and focus on intentional prayer for our church—pray for one another, pray for ourselves, leaders, future leaders—praying over the next 52 days. Why 52 days?
Can I invite you to turn back to a familiar book of the Bible? Would you open to the Book of Nehemiah? Open to Nehemiah chapter 6. I just wanted to take this morning and look at Nehemiah and share with you the basis for the 52 Days of Prayer. We won’t stay in Nehemiah—we’ve preached through it already—but just today I wanted to go back and review something significant in the book.
By the way, couple weeks ago, one of our dear church members, sweet lady, she came up and said, “I want you to know that I have really enjoyed your preaching and teaching verse-by-verse through books of the Bible.” She said, “I’ve enjoyed all of them,” and then added, “except Nehemiah!” And I thought to myself, “Should I tell her now?!”
So we’re just looking this morning at Nehemiah, Nehemiah chapter 6. Different kind of message today. We’ll get back to verse-by-verse exposition through a passage of Scripture next week in a new series. Right now, Nehemiah 6.
You’ll remember the wall around Jerusalem had been broken down for many years and Nehemiah leads the people to rebuild that wall.
- Please stand in honor of the reading of the Word of God. One verse, Chapter 6, verse 15:
15, “So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty–two days.” How many days? 52 Days.
- Let’s pray. “God, we thank You for Your Word. It truly is alive and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword. Speak to us afresh as we study together this morning. Guide us as the Good God You are, faithful to direct the every step of Your children. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, amen.”
What things can be accomplished in 52 Days? Roughly two months. What can be done in two months?
It was roughly for two months that the Mayflower made its voyage in 1620 from England to Massachusetts. Remember your pilgrim history?! Took about two months.
The First Continental Congress of our country in 1774—with folks like Samuel Adams, Thomas Paine, and George Washington—they met from September 5th to October 26th. Roughly 52 Days.
Some of you will remember the Falklands War in 1982 lasted just under two months. You can win a war in 52 days or fewer!
In 2006, Los Angeles native Dean Karnazes ran 50 marathons in 50 US states in 50 consecutive days. That’s 1,310 miles in just under 52 days!
Just five years ago a husband and wife team rowed their boat nearly 3,000 miles from California across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii in just under 52 days.
But most importantly, God’s people came together in 445 BC to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem in a record 52 Days. The effect of this accomplishment is revealed in the following verse, Nehemiah 6:16 where Nehemiah says, “16 And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it (when they heard how we had rebuilt the wall in just 52 days), and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; (listen!) for they perceived that this work was done (by Whom?) by our God.”
When God’s people work together in unity and solidarity, God gets great glory! When God’s people unite together they can do great things—and the watching world takes note of the great God Who does those great things through His people. It’s a powerful testimony when God’s people work together.
Do you remember how the people came together to do the work back in Chapter 3? Turn back there and recall this. We said that some may be tempted to skip over Chapter 3, reading through Nehemiah, just skipping over Chapter 3 because it’s just a list of so many names. But it’s the names of the people of God coming together, uniting together for 52 Days.
The people of God all work together in a number of different areas—sharing the workload, each person doing his or her part for the whole of the people. Look at the first verse, verse 1:
“Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests and built the Sheep Gate; they consecrated it and hung its doors. They built as far as the Tower of the Hundred, and consecrated it, then as far as the Tower of Hananel.”
Then you read about nine gates around the city wall, these 9 gates are mentioned. See them there in your Bible (underlined in my Bible). Sheep gate is the first one there in verse 1, then you have old gate, valley gate, refuse gate, fountain gate, and so on, all the way back up to sheep gate; a circular pattern.
We noted there were two main themes running throughout chapter 3. They are to the twin themes of unity and individuality.
Unity—two are better than one; solidarity. See recurring phrases: “next to him” and “after him” and so on. Unity.
Individuality—names of individual persons with individual jobs to do.
So we noted a number of implications surfacing from this passage and by way of review, just two of them this morning>
**When God’s People Unite Together:
- Everyone Has a Part
Every one has a part in the rebuilding of the wall. Every one. You know that God’s people can do more together than they can do alone, amen? So every one has a part.
Chapter 3 catalogues a number of individuals among the people of God used to do the work of rebuilding for God’s glory. This is teamwork!
There was a neat little detail down in verse 12. There’s a guy among the people of God named Shallum and, last part of verse 12:
“…he and his daughters made repairs.” Shallum is like, “Okay, every one has a part! Come on ladies, you can help, too!” It was a family thing, got his kids involved in the work, everyone serving together.
They all had their assignments at various sections of the wall and various gates. You’ve got people working together, literally standing together, the upper class and lower class. Rich people working alongside poor people. Various trades; you’ve got goldsmiths working alongside perfumers. Big burly people working along with smaller people. Women, men, boys, girls. Everyone gifted in his or her own way and doing the work of God together; everyone involved and everyone working—what does this a picture in the New Testament? It’s a picture of the church, isn’t it?
It’s what Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 12 where he describes a similar group of God’s people, a people of “diversities of gifts, but the same God working in and through them,” a people untied together in Christ as various members of one body, each one doing his or her part; working together in unity and solidarity.
The second implication from this passage is:
2) No One is Too Big for Any One Task
There’s a surprising statement in Chapter 3 from which this point derives. You’ve got all these great listings of people who are doing the work, and everyone has a part, and it seems everyone is doing his or her part working together in unity, and then an astonishing statement in verse 5: “Next to them the Tekoites made repairs; but their nobles did not put their shoulders to the work of their Lord.”
The word “shoulders” there is literally, “necks” and the picture is a frequent one used in Old Testament to indicate a proud people with outstretched necks, too high and mighty to do what others do, this work on the wall was too beneath them. They would not stoop to serve alongside others. Someone else’s job.
There will always be people who refuse to “get on board” with the rest of the crew. There will always be folks like that. Don’t be one of those guys! Don’t be like the nobles mentioned in verse 5!
It is a testimony to the ineptitude of these nobles, whoever they are, that there is no specific name listed among them. And throughout history they forever are recalled as the ones who were too proud to stoop down and help, uniting together for 52 days.
There self-centered sanctimony anticipates the corrective word of the Apostle Paul in:
Philippians 2:3-4, Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Every one has a part. And no one is too big for any one task.
Now, I want to challenge us as a church to come together in unity and solidarity—each one of us doing our part—and in the next 52 Days like a laser beam focusing intently upon two actions. I’m asking each and every one of us to do these two things over the next 52 Days.
**Two Actions for the next 52 Days:
Prayer is perhaps the most important work of the church. If we don’t pray, we’re saying that we really don’t trust God to do the work in us and through us. If we don’t pray, we’re saying, “God, I’ll do it my way; not really concerned about Your way.” We must pray.
Prayer is the pause that empowers. Prayer is the mortar that holds the church together.
To help us pray each day for the next 52 days we’ve put together a daily prayer guide. Looks like this (hold up) and they’ve been placed there at each end of the pews. Let’s take a minute and make sure everyone gets a prayer guide. Looks just like the cover of your worship bulletin. If you are sitting near the ends of the pews—and some are in the middle too—take one for yourself and make sure others on your pew have a prayer guide as well. Does everyone have one? Who needs one still? Raise your hand if you need one and folks seated near you will see that you get one. Everybody got one? Great.
Open it up to the first page. You’ll find the basis for our 52 Days of Prayer there on the inside cover. We just talked about this from Nehemiah. Imagine what God can accomplish in and through our church in the next 52 Days! Let’s commit to going to Him every day in prayer for the next 52 Days—starting tomorrow.
Turn the page and you’ll see Week 1: Getting our hearts in tune with God. Then Day 1—September 9. Scripture reading Psalm 96:4-9. This is the psalm that says, “The Lord is great and greatly to be praised.” Then the prayer: “Pray for the fear of the Lord to prevail over all aspects of our church transition. Pray for hearts to be changed and God to be glorified.” Simple guided prayers every day from September 9th all the way over 52 Days till Day 52—October 30th. Pretty simple and straightforward.
But we need everyone involved in the power of prayer. Remember: everyone has a part. And no one person is too big for any one task. So every person praying. You have children in your home? Be like Shallum who got his daughters involved in the work. Get your sons and daughters and the entire family together to pray every day for your church.
You’re not a member or you’re visiting today? Join with us in this time of focused prayer! You’ll find the Scriptures and prayers to be deeply rewarding and meaningful.
Two actions for the next 52 Days. Number one: Pray! Number two:
Be faithful to the church. Attend regularly. Weekly worship, Sunday school. Participate by attending faithfully and supporting your church family.
I’ll be preaching some messages from the Book of Acts starting next week as we’ll resume our verse-by-verse teaching in a short series from the first half of Acts entitled, “Back to the Basics.” We’ll be looking at how the early church came together and what they focused on and what God did through them. We’ll be doing that over the next 10 weeks, 52 Days. Participate in weekly worship.
Another way you can participate over the next 52 Days is by giving your input. Now is the time to think about the church’s future—future leadership, a future pastor, future vision. What things are we doing now that we don’t need to be doing? What things could we be doing better?
We shared a few weeks ago that the responsibility for filling the pulpit in absence of the pastor falls largely to the deacon body. And that’s one reason God laid upon my heart those four guys I mentioned to you—John Kloke, Wayne Jenkins, Scott Davis, and Erick Dalton—these men comprising something of a transition team that would like to involve you and hear from you.
So they will be scheduling some meetings over the next 52 Days where they—along with our ministers—would like to pray with you and hear from you. John—our current Deacon Chair—will share more about that this evening in our Members’ Meeting.
We will also create a link this week on our church website for the transition; a link where you can go and receive updates as well as send your input or suggestions online. Look for that early this week.
These principles of unity and solidarity find ultimate expression in the gospel. Jesus Christ is the great Unifier—bringing us to Himself and closer to one another. It is through the gospel that we have peace with God and peace with one another. Let me just take a moment to say that if you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, turn to Him this morning. Turn away from your sin in repentance and turn to your new Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. If you’d like more information about following Jesus and being baptized, talk to one our volunteers in the Response Room, through the doors here and up the steps. Look for the sign, “Response Room,” and a helpful volunteer will be in the room to meet with you and pray with you.
Folks, let’s unite together for the next 52 days—being prayerful, being faithful. Pray through the Prayer Guide each day. Pray and Participate.
Let me ask you to do something right now. As a symbol of our unity and solidarity, our uniting together for the next 52 Days, if you would say, “Brother Todd, I’m all-in! I’m not going to be like the self-righteous nobles who wouldn’t do the work. I’m going to unite together with my church family. I will pray and I will participate,” would you stand right now in a demonstration of unity? Praise God.
Let’s pray and then we’ll sing our hymn of response. “Father, Your Son said, ‘Apart from Me you can do nothing.’ We know that is true. We don’t want to work apart from You. We want to abide in You. Remain in You. And bear much fruit. We say to You this morning, ‘Master, Thou callest, I gladly obey,” in Jesus’ name, amen.”
Response: “Lord, Here Am I”
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