Nehemiah 2:12 – Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. There was no animal with me but the one on which I rode.
In this section of Nehemiah’s journal, we learn two important leadership lessons. One, a leader must accept reality. Nehemiah used the words “broken” and “destroyed” to describe how dire things had become. Two, a leader will only be able to inspire others to follow if they are convinced that they are following God’s calling. Despite 141 years of failed attempts, no experience for the job, an overwhelming task with only a handful of discouraged people, facing powerful critics, Nehemiah proceeds because it was “what my God had put into my heart to do” (2:12). God’s calling meant he would not be retreating.
Finally ready to cast God’s vision to the people, Nehemiah spoke to them directly and from his heart. First, he identifies with the people, repeatedly saying “us” and “we”. Second, his motive is humility and not pride, as his goal is to spare God’s people further derision. Third, he assures them that God has already answered his prayers and His hand was upon them. Fourth, he recounted the victory God had already given them with the support of the king proving God was with them. Fifth, he looked people in the eye, spoke to them directly, and answered their questions so that they could trust him.
Courageously, the people who had been without success or hope for many years believed in Nehemiah’s God-given vision, trusted his integrity, and agreed to work together. The task was monumental. Estimates are that the wall was anywhere from 1-2.5 miles in circumference, 3-4 feet thick, and 15-20 feet high, broken for many years with the large stones scattered and gates burned.
Rather than allowing the critics to get the final word, Nehemiah wisely spoke to reassure the people that God would make them succeed, thereby making His name great and mocking His critics. The people follow their leader, focusing on their God and mission instead of their critics and enemies.
Nehemiah is constantly praying for the ministry God has called him to. How can you be praying for the ministry God has called you to?