Nehemiah was a happy man as he went about his work in Shushan the palace, so much so that the king noticed the first time when he was sad (Neh 2:2). He had done well securing a big job as the king’s trusted cupbearer, but it came with pressure, and Nehemiah was trying to balance all the responsibility and stress of pleasing the royal family with living for God. He had an active prayer life and received regular missionary updates from Jerusalem where his brethren were seeking restoration and revival. But the latest report stunned him, for the city was unrecognisable, with no wall, and the gates were burned. The city had a sanctuary but no security. The walls would need to be built again. This meant months of hard work. Would the people have a mind (note the singular) to work?
The assembly is no different today – we are all builders and we are labourers together for God (1Co 3:9). One day our work will be judged by fire at the judgment seat of Christ. Will it be burned because it is of no value or will there be reward for gold, silver and precious stones? A mind to work means:
A Mind Obedient to the Word of God
The latest report from Jerusalem was devastating, but before Nehemiah engaged in the work, he turned to God’s word. Driven to his knees in confession and prayer, he said, “Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandest thy servant Moses” (Neh 1:8). Some people work for money while others for fame, but Nehemiah’s work was based on the word of God. If we set out to do a work based only on an emotional response to a humanitarian need, then when opposition comes, we will give up easily because our minds and decisions will be driven by changing emotions. Nehemiah’s prayer was answered, and God opened the door for him to be engaged in the work. “So it pleased the king to send me” (Neh 2:6).
After Nehemiah spent three days in Jerusalem and saw the shocking state of the city, he then needed to motivate the people to build. He did this by telling them the amazing way the hand of God was upon him. When they heard his plan was according to the word of God, and not some personal dream Nehemiah had to build a wall, they knew this was a work they wanted to be involved in. Their mind was strengthened, and they exclaimed, “Let us rise up and build” (Neh 2:18). We, too, could have many good ideas involving work for God, but we need to ask ourselves, Are they within His will? And is our work for God focused upon the assembly? Although their mind was engaged to work, they soon faced opposition; Sanballat and Tobiah thought the whole thing was a joke. Building for God often brings reproach.
A Mind Open to the Will of God
The word of God and the will of God are always in perfect harmony. Nehemiah answered the people with the promise of God’s word, “He will prosper us” (Neh 2:20). Doing the will of God is not what we will do for God but is learning that without Him we can do nothing. It is really what God will do through us that matters. Nehemiah displayed servant character, saying, “We his servants will arise and build” (v20). A person with servant character will have a mind to work. The Hebrew word for “work” can be translated in many ways but the root means “to do.” I may “speak my mind” but it doesn’t require work. Paul exhorted Timothy, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman” (2Ti 2:15). Bible study requires us to have a mind to work. Paul also said to do the “work” of an evangelist” (2Ti 4:5). Gospel work is not just 25 minutes of preaching; it is the 25 days of visiting doors, giving out tracts, praying and weeping. The gospel still works, but we must work too.
A Mind Organised in the Work of God
Nehemiah chapter three is a wonderful commentary on a people who had a mind to work.
Like a drone flying over the city wall, we have a bird’s eye view of the people working in an organised way along the wall. Good work needs good organisation. We can see how systematically God worked through creation. He expects us to be organised, on time and doing things decently and in order (1Co 14:40).
They started with the high priest at the sheep gate (Neh 3:1), where the sheep were brought in for sacrifice. The altar must be in the mind of every servant of God (Rom 12:1), and work must be done with the help of our Great High Priest.
The next thing we notice is how they worked together on the wall. 1 Corinthians 3:9 reminds us that “we are labourers together with God.” It is dangerous to work alone on a construction site, for many reasons (e.g., if one falls, there is none to help). But the main lesson in this chapter is the organisation of the work. They had clearly defined objectives in mind that would ultimately lead to the whole wall being joined together (Neh 4:6).
What about my work in the assembly? Am I building for God in my locality? Is the quality of my work in the assembly comparable to the work I do in my business? May God preserve us from being like the nobles who “put not their necks to the work” (Neh 3:5). May we be like Baruch who “earnestly repaired” (v20). He was on fire for God. Perhaps you could help map the area around your assembly building to evangelise in an orderly way, or maybe you could organise the catering for the conference. There is something for everyone to do, both male and female, as seen in how Shallum worked with his daughters (v12).
A Mind on Watch for the Enemy
As the power of their work became obvious, so did the presence of the enemy. As they faced the opposition, they did as Nehemiah had done – they prayed and set a watch.
The believer with a mind to work will be security conscious; we need watchers as well as workers. They “wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon” (4:17). In Ephesians 6 we are told to put on the whole armour of God, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (v18). May God help us in our work to be watchful in prayer.
A Mind Armed in Warfare for God
Though the builders never engaged in armed conflict, they were armed with weapons. This is the responsibility of every Christian soldier: “Every one had his sword girded by his side” (Neh 4:18).
In Nehemiah 6 we read that the wall was finished, and the Ammonites had to acknowledge “this work was wrought of God” (vv15-16). When the children of Israel gathered together as one man for Ezra’s great conference, the people who were workers were then worshippers (Neh 8:6).
In a day when gospel work is getting harder and when restrictions on children’s work are causing many to give up, may God give us a mind to work until our part of the wall of testimony is finished. We need help to build with our hearts as well as our hands. We pray that God will raise up Nehemiahs in our day to build the walls where testimony is crumbling and to replace the gates that are missing so that God’s house remains secure.
 All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV.