We all have one thing hanging over our lives that has been there far too long. It could be a habit to break, an addiction to conquer, a goal to accomplish, a long-standing project to complete, a relationship to restore or end, or a debt to retire. That one thing keeps showing up and outstaying its welcome. It sits smack dab in the middle of the room like the proverbial pink elephant. Everyone tiptoes around it—never acknowledging or discussing it.
What is your one thing? We all have one thing, if not eight. We’ve tried everything we can think of and failed more times than we can remember. Or maybe we haven’t really tried.
What if we decide that we are finished playing games and instead recognize our one thing for what it really is—sin? Since God is the only one who can take care of sin, what if we resolve to surrender it to Him for real this time? God calls us to constantly strive against our sin. In the Small Catechism, Martin Luther says to drown the old self daily in Baptism and emerge each day as a new person. Such diligent striving requires perseverance—persevering in prayer and focusing on God’s promises, resources, and strength, which He gives in Christ through Word and Sacrament.
So what does this resolve have to do with the Book of Nehemiah?
Nehemiah’s narrative provides a window through which we can observe how Nehemiah persevered against great odds and enemy attacks. His attitude and actions offer insight into how you and I can respond to the struggles—the one things—in our lives.
Nehemiah was an exiled Jew serving as a cupbearer to the Persian king. Just an ordinary person like you and me. But when God burdened Nehemiah’s heart to rebuild the destroyed walls around the city of Jerusalem, Nehemiah accomplished the extraordinary in God’s name. Through faith given to him by God, Nehemiah prayed and persevered so that God’s people once again had a secure place to worship God and study His Word in community. The incredible story of Nehemiah reveals that those who love God and are called according to His purpose are avid students of the Word, diligent in prayer, and fearless to persevere against the sin—that one thing—that God has brought to light.
Enemies certainly threw roadblocks in front of Nehemiah. But Nehemiah prayed, fasted, set goals, and flung himself after that task wholeheartedly, trusting God to lead the charge. His story offers insightful lessons that cast a compelling vision that draws people to our corner, fully committed to God and the goal.
God gives us His strength and guidance to rely on as we persevere against our one thing—not because of our willpower, which is faulty, but because of the unwavering perseverance provided by the Lord God Almighty. Our sinful nature and choices certainly play a significant role.
Later chapters in the Book of Nehemiah reveal that Nehemiah had to eventually return to Jerusalem to redo much of what he accomplished because the people did not diligently persevere. They fell back into sinful patterns. This has always been true in the life of God’s people—including you and me. There is the daily cycle of sin, repentance, and being restored by God’s grace. Ultimate success, including that over our one thing, will come only when Christ comes again and makes all things new.
It may seem discouraging to know that ultimate success eludes us despite faith-filled perseverance. But take heart! By His grace, God enables us to make wiser choices each day as we remain faithful in prayer and the study of His Word. We have the only true hope in the promise of Christ that He conquers all things. In Him, our one-thing struggle will one day be put to rest. Meanwhile, we persevere in the strength He provides, trusting His promise of ultimate victory in the day of Christ.
Let Your Perseverance Journey Begin!
You may believe that your life is far too busy to try to face that sin and tackle your one thing right now. Your schedule is already too challenging and packed, thank you very much.
Believe me, I get it. Really. Threading time through a needle comes down to a question of priority. But I encourage you to prayerfully, honestly try, because countless benefits are worth the investment of your time. Since only God can change your life and provide needed strength to persevere against our sin—our one thing—I urge you to faithfully study the Book of Nehemiah and all of God’s Word. Daily ask God through prayer what He wants you to learn and apply. Ask Him to help you in your efforts.
I pray God will move you from the chair of complacency to God-honoring perseverance!
Study the Book of Nehemiah with me in my new women’s Bible study, Perseverance: Praying through Life’s Challenges.