As we’re a Christian school, I’m going to tell you a story from the bible about Nehemiah.
It is a story relevant to anyone embarking on a new project or seeking to undertake personal change. The people of Israel were at a broken place in their lives. They had previously deserted God, lost their dominion, been invaded, taken into captivity and finally some had returned to their home city of Jerusalem. They found their temple destroyed and the city in ruins.
They had rebuilt the temple but the city infrastructure was still a mess and the walls of the city (which are the testimony of a city’s greatness in their context) were simply in rubble and ruins.
Nehemiah came back to the city in order to galvanise the people to rebuild the walls of the city. The opposition he faced and his responses are a great object lesson for us all.
These people came from a place of defeat and wanted to see a return to dignity, to see change and improvement in their lives. They wanted to “get back on course and lift their game”.
The first step was to get their hearts and attitudes to change right. This is exemplified in rebuilding the temple in the heart of their city. They got right with God and realigned their priorities for a noble cause.
Then they just seemed to give up. They didn’t finish the job. It was much easier to make a commitment than fulfil it, start than finish; want to do it than will to do it. (Stop and insert yourself here: think new year’s resolutions, gym memberships, plans to quit something bad, start something good or be a part of building something worthwhile).
What Nehemiah did and faced has direct parallels to our own situation:
1) First step: He walked around the city and assessed the situation. The first step to positive change is honesty; to know where you are and where you need to go. Be realistic.
2) He summoned up the will power: The local people were disheartened and overwhelmed. Their complaint was that there was “too much rubbish”. They felt the job was too big for them. Clearly to embark upon a noble endeavour we need to overcome internal negativity; the inner voice that says, “the job’s too big, you’ll never change etc. etc. etc” It’s the inner voice that stops most of us in our tracks and saps enthusiasm. This voice needs to be silenced by a positive vision.
3) He contended with adversity: As the people began to build the locals that opposed their endeavour used words to undermine their courage. This is a sad fact of human nature. People find it somehow engaging to speak against things rather than be part of the improvement: gossip, rumour, innuendo, negativity, cynicism. Two points here: 1) how do you use your words: are you a builder or a belittler? Two: how do you respond to the words of others? They can be soul destroying. The key is that Nehemiah did not let the words of others stop him. He didn’t let their words come to life.
4) He understood the nature of all successful change: This is true for any plan of personal or corporate improvement: from improving a whole school to losing some weight and getting fit, of changing a habit or rebuilding a relationship. Nehemiah taught the people to build and battle. Get it, build and battle. The good you do is not done in a vacuum or a void. You will need to both build and battle in order to complete anything of significant improvement in your own life and the lives of those around you.
Hope this story helps. I would encourage you to read the Book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament section of the Bible. It’s not long and the wisdom and application is immense.
Prov 18:20-21 “Words satisfy the mind as much as fruit does the stomach; good talk is as gratifying as a good harvest. Words kill, words give life; they're either poison or fruit — you choose.”