Getting Past the 50 Yard Line

Read: Nehemiah 4:1-9

Text: "So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work." (Neh. 4:6)

Theme: Getting past the halfway point requires both TEAMWORK and WATCHFULNESS.


Introduction:

  • Milestones are important in our lives.
  • In my secular job, I often become involved in Project Management, where we measure the progress of a project by tracking various milestones.
  • Of course, often, the halfway point in projects is a problem. Sometimes we get to the halfway point, and don't get any further! I'm guilty of many half finished projects, much to Beth's (my wife's) chagrin. (Of course, though she would never admit it, she has a few of those, too. It's a normal part of the human condition. It's difficult to get past halfway, sometimes.

    ILLUS - The 5 Stages of a Project
    Stage 1: Excitement, euphoria
    Stage 2: Disenchantment
    Stage 3: Search for the guilty
    Stage 4: Punishment of the innocent
    Stage 5: Distinction for the uninvolved
    MSC Health Action News, April, 1993.

  • The halfway point in our Christian walk is a difficult time.
    We joke about midlife crises in a secular context, but the same truths sometimes apply to our walk with God. Some experience a "spiritual midlife crisis."
    When a young Christian, we are on fire, passionate about our faith and our Lord. I was there once. And, although I haven't reached the winter of my earthly walk with God yet, I have observed in others who have that there is a certain maturity, a certain peace, a certain grace to their faith that only seems to come with length of years and breadth of experience.
    So, those early days in our faith are wonderful, and it seems that the latter days have their charm, as well, but what of those midlife times? The no man's land of the Christian walk?
  • In our text, Nehemiah had reached the halfway point in his (and his people's) efforts to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.
  • Notice what Nehemiah learned that we can apply:

I. Getting past the halfway point requires TEAMwork.

A. Nehemiah's plan:
  • 42 teams

    (Men and women, clergy and laity.)

    "Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel." (Neh. 3:1)

    "And next unto him repaired Shallum the son of Halohesh, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem, he and his daughters." (Neh. 3:12)

    "From above the horse gate repaired the priests, every one over against his house." (Neh. 3:28)

  • All working at the same time.

    (Some worked hard, while others shirked.)

    "And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their LORD." (Neh. 3:5)

    "After him Baruch the son of Zabbai earnestly repaired the other piece, from the turning of the wall unto the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest." (Neh. 3:20)

  • Each concentrating on his own neighborhood.

    "And next unto them repaired Jedaiah the son of Harumaph, even over against his house." (Neh. 3:10)

    "After him repaired Benjamin and Hashub over against their house. After him repaired Azariah the son of Maaseiah the son of Ananiah by his house." (Neh. 3:23)

    "From above the horse gate repaired the priests, every one over against his house. After them repaired Zadok the son of Immer over against his house. After him repaired Meshullam the son of Berechiah over against his chamber. (Neh. 3:28, 30)

B. There is so much we can apply here!

1. All (everybody... YOU) are to be involved in the work of God.

2. There will always be those with excuses (SHIRKERS), and there will always be those who work TOO HARD (WORKAHOLICS).

(God help me to be in the latter category. I'd far rather do too much for God than too little.)

3. We need to work on our own neighborhoods... WIN OUR FAMILIES... WIN OUR NEIGHBORS.

cf. "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." (Acts 1:8)

ILLUS - Barnabus - READ Acts 4:36, 13:4, 15:39

ILLUS - Maniac of Gadara - "Go home..."

C. But perhaps the greatest application we can make is to notice that teamwork is necessary for victory.

1. In the practical realm.

ILLUS - Football

ILLUS - Worship programs - choirs, orchestras, sound teams, etc.

2. In the spiritual realm.

  • Teamwork is our method of winning the lost

    ILLUS - Sending of the 70 two by two.

    "Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour." (Eccl. 4:9)

  • Teamwork is our method of ministry

    ILLUS - Feeding of 5000

    "And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude." (Matt. 14:19)

  • Teamwork is our method of building the saints

    "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal." (1 Cor. 12:7)

    "How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying." (1 Cor. 14:26)

    "From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." (Eph. 4:16)

    (i.e. - The body grows when everybody does his / her part.)

  • WE NEED EACH OTHER!

    ILLUS - "There's a wonderful story about Jimmy Durante, one of the great entertainers of a generation ago. He was asked to be a part of a show for World War II veterans. He told them his schedule was very busy and he could afford only a few minutes, but if they wouldn't mind his doing one short monologue and immediately leaving for his next appointment, he would come. Of course, the show's director agreed happily. But when Jimmy got on stage, something interesting happened. He went through the short monologue and then stayed. The applause grew louder and louder and he kept staying. Pretty soon, he had been on fifteen, twenty, then thirty minutes. Finally he took a last bow and left the stage. Backstage someone stopped him and said, "I thought you had to go after a few minutes. What happened?" Jimmy answered, "I did have to go, but I can show you the reason I stayed. You can see for yourself if you'll look down on the front row." In the front row were two men, each of whom had lost an arm in the war. One had lost his right arm and the other had lost his left. Together, they were able to clap, and that's exactly what they were doing, loudly and cheerfully." Tim Hansel, Holy Sweat, 1987, Word Books Publisher, p. 104-105.

    ILLUS - Chuck Swindoll mentions that geese are a great illustration of the teamwork we need: It's those stately geese I find especially impressive. Winging their way to a warmer climate, they often cover thousands of miles before reaching their destination. Have you ever studied why they fly as they do? It is fascinating to read what has been discovered about their flight pattern as well as their in-flight habits. Four come to mind.

    1. Those in front rotate their leadership. When one lead goose gets tired, it changes places with one in the wing of the V-formation and another flies point.
    2. By flying as they do, the members of the flock create an upward air current for one another. Each flap of the wings literally creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. One author states that by flying in a V-formation, the whole flock gets 71 percent greater flying range than if each goose flew on its own.
    3. When one goose gets sick or wounded, two fall out of formation with it and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with the struggler until it's able to fly again.
    4. The geese in the rear of the formation are the ones who do the honking. I suppose it's their way of announcing that they're following and that all is well. For sure, the repeated honks encourage those in front to stay at it.
    As I think about all this, one lesson stands out above all others: it is the natural instinct of geese to work together. Whether it's rotating, flapping, helping, or simply honking, the flock is in it together...which enables them to accomplish what they set out to do. Chuck Swindoll, letter, October, 1991.

II. Getting past the halfway point requires TeamWORK

A. Labor saving devises are common today.

ILLUS - Microwave ovens (I recently read a newspaper article that told of a survey listing these as the "most popular appliance.")

ILLUS - Weedeaters (remember the days when you had to use those little hand shears?)

ILLUS - Computers, calculators... the list goes on.

B. However, big jobs require WORK.

"And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?" (Neh. 4:2)

ILLUS - Jacob was rich, but notice: "Thus have I been twenty years in thy house; I served thee fourteen years for thy two daughters, and six years for thy cattle: and thou hast changed my wages ten times." (Gen. 31:41)

ILLUS - Ruth was highly admired, but notice: "So she gleaned in the field until even, and beat out that she had gleaned: and it was about an ephah of barley." (Ruth 2:17)

ILLUS - Paul won the world, but notice: "And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers." (Acts 18:3)

"Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands..." (1 Cor. 4:11-12)

"For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God." (1 Thes. 2:9)

"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might... " (Eccl. 9:10)

C. There must first be a WILLINGNESS to work.

"So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work." (Neh. 4:6)

  1. Success in the Christian life is not a matter of ability.

    QUOTE - "God doesn't call those who are fit, He fits those who are called!"

  2. Success in the Christian life is not a matter of time.

    ILLUS - I get convicted when I read of Wesley, who preached 3 sermons a day for 40 years!

  3. Success in the Christian life is not a matter of health.

    ILLUS - I knew a dear brother in New Jersey who, when his health prohibited him from visiting people personally, began a telephone visitation program that saw wonderful results.

  4. Success in the Christian life is STRICTLY a matter of the will.

    QUOTE - (I heard this from a preacher once) "You're going to do exactly what you want to do."

    (The older I get, the more I agree with this statement.)

    ILLUS - The following letter was sent to an aspirin manufacturing company:

    "Dear Sir: You manufacture aspirins that relieve suffering, colds and fevers. The mixture used in your tablets makes it possible for people to get out of bed and fight off headaches, muscle spasms, and bad nerves. I have noticed these tables work wonders on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and especially well on Saturdays. BUT people who take them on Sundays seem to get no relief. They cannot get rid of their headaches and pains and are not able to attend church on Sundays. Is it possible for you to examine your table and put in it an ingredient that will work on Sundays?" (Sword of the Lord)

    WILLINGNESS IS VITAL:

    • For salvation

      "You will not come unto me..."

    • For victory

      "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God." (Rom. 6:12-13)

    QUOTE - "There are three kinds of workers. For example, when a piano is to be moved, the first kind gets behind and pushes, the second pulls and guides, and the third grabs the piano stool."

    QUOTE - "My grandfather once told me that there are two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was less competition there." (Indira Gandhi, Bits and Pieces, April 1990, p. 11)

    QUOTE - "The sign in the store window read: NO HELP WANTED. As two men passed by, one said to the other, "You should apply--you'd be great." (Principles regarding work, Decision-making and the Will of God, p. 336)

    QUOTE - "The world is full of willing people; some willing to work, the rest willing to let them." (Robert Frost)

And so, if we are going to get past the halfway point in our ministries, our projects, or even in our Christian lives, we need to WORK HARD at it, and WORK TOGETHER at it.

III. Getting past the halfway point requires watchfulness.

A. After victory comes testing.

"Then cometh the devil..."

ILLUS - Jesus after His baptism - temptation.

ILLUS - Elijah after the victory on Carmel - Jezebel.

ILLUS - Moses after the Red Sea - Dathan / Abiram... murmuring and complaining people.

B. Nehemiah gives the solution.

  1. "We made our prayer..." (Neh. 4:9)

  2. "... and set a watch..." (Neh. 4:9)

    "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:" (1 Peter 5:8)

  3. MOST OF ALL, KEEP BUILDING!

    "So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work." (Neh. 4:6)


Conclusion:

Are you near the halfway point... approaching the 50 yard line in your Christian experience?

Do you sometimes feel like the rubbish is overwhelming and like you can't make it past that point?

You MUST keep a watchful eye for the enemy.

You MUST keep working... be WILLING to work... and WORK AS A TEAM!

Following the principles learned from Nehemiah, we can carry on past the 50 yard line, and build the wall for our Lord.


Please direct questions, comments, and submissions to William E. Johnson
Copyright © 2000 William E. Johnson.