Nehemiah 2
Are you stuck?
Not so long ago, the Independent published the findings of research study on risk. Six in 10 British people admit to being afraid of taking risks.
Sixty-nine per cent are too worried about the consequences to take a risk, while 58 per cent fear failing so play it safe instead.
So how are you at the art of risk taking? Are you stuck?
Although Nehemiah is a book narrates events in a unique situation 200 years before Jesus, it also specifically dissects the challenges of stepping out in a big way as a response to confidence in God's promises, so as a church it should have plenty to say to us today.
You see - Last week we saw:
The re-establishment of Jerusalem wasn't merely an extended episode of Grand Designs, a nice nostalgic adventure. Rebuilding Jerusalem starting with the Walls was an attempt to re-establish the promises of God that prophetically focused on Jerusalem being a beacon of hope. Rebuild the walls and God's salvation plans were surely back on track. That's why this building project was a big deal.
Which is why we find Nehemiah 4 months after chapter one in continual prayer and rehearsal in his mind of the promises of God, as he spiritually psyches himself up to ask the King to send him.
The theme of Chapter 2 is risk.
And we'll see three types of risk we'll encounter when we choose to step out to serve
God.
1. Risking Financial Security
In verses 1-8 Nehemiah first challenge is a big one!

His task is to leverage his position as personal servant, to ask the most powerful emperor in the known world of time, to not only give him permission to lead this expedition but to personally finance the whole thing.
And (oh by the way), this is the same king who suspended the re-establishment of Jerusalem last time because he thought it was a threat to his own power.
You can see why Nehemiah prayed for four months, and then in verse 4 he sends up an arrow prayer, before rolling the dice on this one.
Do you know what you're in danger of losing Nehemiah?
The journalist Anne Petersen, notes that the emotional burden of being in a precarious job with fragile finances, means "The steadier our lives, the more likely we are to make decisions that will make them even steadier."
We long for steady job, good promotion prospects, and enough professional prestige to make you social media friends and followers drool because your life looks great. You have conferences in the Caribbean and your office has pool table made of Haribo.
Nehemiah we are told is in the Citadel of Susa, that was known as the summer holiday venue for the king. Nehemiah is asking to walk away from the amazing job whilst at the equivalent of Richard Branson’s playboy island.
Would you do that?
Now remember, Nehemiah’s situation is unique to his specific time in salvation history. Where we are things are different. The promises have been decisively fulfilled by Jesus who through his death and resurrection has permanently established a blessed people of God who are a light to the world.
But what is equally true for Nehemiah ...thousand years ago, as it is for us today, is stepping out to serve God, to help build his kingdom always involves personal risk.
And the specific challenge here, to boil it down, is would you have a conversation with a superior at work that might totally backfire and professionally damage you?
Specifically, would you take the risk of the conversation if it is was part of your calling to be a representative of God’s people to the world?

For example, as a Christian knowing how God has asked us to be the light to the world, with our conduct and actions, would you call out bad work practices, an unjust decision, an ethical negligence? - Even if it would risk your job?
Perhaps for more of us though, the high risk conversation with a superior will have a more obvious Christian flavour. For example, “I don’t want to work shifts on Sunday” or “I don’t want to work late on a Connect night.”
Let me turn the screw even more, and encompass almost all of us, with a bloody nose of a question. Would we take the risk of speaking of gospel things with our boss?
I would love to begin the first annual ‘Bring Your Boss To Church Day’, wouldn’t that be fun and terrifying! Probably in equal measure!
Wouldn’t part of you love to see your boss ordered where to sit by Barbara!
That is an all star risky conversation? Some of you are thinking, I’d rather take a 1000 mile trek to Jerusalem and take my chances with the bandits.
2. Risking Health & Well Being
Perhaps you would walk away from the six figure salary if it meant doing something meaningful with your life, but would you place your sense of emotional and physical well-being on the line?
In verse 6 Nehemiah gets the green light from the King, and by verse 11 he has made the 1000 mile journey to Jerusalem.
But when he gets to Jerusalem look what he does? He settles in for three days and at the earliest opportunity to escape from the camp undetected he sneaks out at night to inspect the walls - on his own.
This was no tourist night trail around an ancient city led by a drama student in a costume. The image you need to have is less Polite York or Chester or Edinburgh but the badlands in Mad Max post apocalyptic movie.

We’re talking danger at every corner, we already know from verses 9 and 10 two of the most powerful men, the governers of neighbouring districts saw Nehemiah’s arrival as a threat. Walking the walls of Jerusalem in the dark makes Friday night Piccadilly Gardens look like Disney Land.
Yet he does it. Serving God to the best of his ability required being alone, isolated and in danger for a time.
But he didn’t have to. He could have done during the day, and revealed his plans early, most likely simultaneously turning his enemies furious and totally unsettling the Jews who were there before he had had a chance to do his research and put a thorough envisioning presentation together, which he does like an acclaimed TED talk in verses 17-18.
If he had not risked his personal safety, It would have been more comfortable but less impactful. When it comes to serving God that is as true today as it has always been for God’s people.
Some of you are mobilising yourself to be missionaries in places where your comforts and conveniences, for a time, will be stripped from you, perhaps even your life - but you’re still thinking of going anyway.
But all of us, who follow Jesus are called take up our cross. Here at City Church we are no exception.
If you’re new to City or this is your first time, we’re thrilled that you’re here, but you need to know:
● If you’re looking a for a church there are easier places to go than here.
● We are life boat for city, seeking to share the good news of Jesus with those who
don’t know him, desperately hoping that they might be .
● That means, as a church, we sail into storms, difficult places, hard ministry areas
in order to reach the lost.
● And it takes all of us pulling together, putting ourselves on the line for the sake of
others.
● but when has saving lives and changing world been safe.

Ask those of our church who are currently hurting because they are saying farewell to friends who we’re sending on the church plant to Prestwich. They will feel the un-safeness of isolation, for a time.
Ask those of our church who supporting friends who are going through crisis, where the burden they are sharing, is utterly emotionally exhausting them, for a time.
Or those who lead teams who are in the process of adapting to the two services or the changes in church life, and they are covering the gaps and ragging themselves hard in service, for a time.
Look the goal is certainly not for churches to burn people out. But inevitably, for a time, we risk our safety and wellbeing. For those of you yet to get stuck in, tick the box on the contact card, talk to a staff member, this lifeboat needs more risk ready hands.
3. Risking Reputation
Shakespeare once declared reputation is “the immortal part” of ourselves: Once lost, it’s never to be regained.
Recent research has suggested that companies see their number one threat as losing their reputation.
But this fear affects everyone.
From those of us who faithfully curate our social media posts to never let the world forget your life is vibrant, funny, witty, and rich with experience.
To others, who treat their inbox like an alcoholic treats the drinks cabinet - you can’t keep your hands off it, lest you miss something important or fail to reply quickly enough and the world accidently ends.
Personally, the fear of what others think of me, drives my most reactive, impulsive, most regretful decisions of my life.
So in verses 19 and 20 when Nehemiah takes a conference call from the neighbouring governors, and they threaten to destroy his reputation - “What is this thing you are doing, are you rebelling against the king?”, alarm bells ringing, who would have blamed

Nehemiah for twisting the truth, playing down the building plans, or even entering into a compromised deal with these other rulers.
But he doesn’t - he’s got the subtle negotiating tact of John Wick - “we’re all building the wall and you will have nothing to do with us.”
It’s a bold move Nehemiah,
So what might your bold, reputation straining, move be?
To tell your colleagues tomorrow morning that one of the most stimulating parts of your weekend was that you went to church?
That you believe what the Bible says is true?
That eternal life is real, and in the words of verse 20, “not everyone has the portion or right to claim a place in heaven.”
Let me be clear, I’m not suggesting that you are deliberately inflammatory or aggressive. But put your hands up to say that you’re a card carrying serious Bible believing Christian that and you may as well put a target on your back.
Yet that lack of compromise and honest expression of who he really is and what he is really about, is exactly what Nehemiah does.


4. Look to Jesus
So to step out and jump - in serving the Lord - may mean risking security, safety and even reputation - how does Nehemiah overcome all the normal fears associated with those threats?
Look at verse 8: And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests.
Now look at verse 20:
20 I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success.” Nehemiah is totally confident that God is with him, on his side.

That’s the key to unlocking his ability to look risk square in the eye and say: “I will not be ruled by fear!”
So here’s the question for you, is the reason you’re stuck, not moving forwards as a Christian, not even being able to make the step of becoming a Christian - because you’re not really convinced that the ‘hand of God is with you’?
Because if that’s you, come and have your heart warmed this cold January afternoon by the fire of the gospel.
You see, what Nehemiah only saw in vague shadows, we see clearly. That the same God whose hands architectured the universe, who Genesis 1 casually throws out, “and he made the stars”.
Is the same God, who in the person of Jesus Christ, had those same hands, bound by chains, then roped to a wooden cross, and the huge nails....
And that means we know better than even Nehemiah that gracious hand of our God is with us. Just look at the holes, and you can see that he loves you.
Here’s the thing. If your God is with you, its not that you can jump out of your comfort zone and God will definitely ensure you are financially secure or safe or be esteemed by everyone.
No. There’s a moment in Luke... where a guy decides to take the jump and follow Jesus for the first time.
And as a result of commuting his whole life to Jesus, he