The Art of Perseverance: Nehemiah 1:5-11 (2 Killers of Perseverance)

I’m not convinced I was born with the trait of perseverance. Not sure anyone really is. In fact, most people’s typical response to difficulty is flight or fight.

Perhaps this is yours, too?

In my last post, I stated that perseverance is a divinely-designed, power-packed element given to us from God for the purpose of glorifying Him by pushing through any difficulty in life. And it builds within us something we could never buy–character and hope.

Nehemiah is a great picture of a man who persevered against all odds. And he had many odds, as you will soon see!

The major problem he faced, and one that he mourned for days, was the distress of his people due to the destruction of Jerusalem. Its walls were broken down and gates burned. This presented a problem for security and safety. Nehemiah was burdened for God’s people.

Possible Responses from Nehemiah

I laugh as I think about what I would do if I were Nehemiah.

One of my flaws is thinking I will fix this problem by fighting the source. And if I realize I can’t fight the source–I want to flee. “Forget it.”

Flight or Fight.

Not Nehemiah. He wanted to do something about the problem–yes. But he didn’t have these typical human responses to difficulty:

  • Why did You allow this to happen, God? (The I-don’t-understand-theology response)
  • Whose fault is this? I’m gonna teach them a lesson. (The Hollywood Shoot-’em-up response)
  • Just forget this whole stupid thing. I’m outa here! (The I’m-really-afraid response)

These normal responses that stem from our human nature are results of anger and fear. Anger and fear are two of the biggest obstacles to perseverance. In fact, anger and fear kill perseverance in any man or woman.

Responses That Result in Perseverance

Nehemiah’s response was different. After he mourned about the problem (which is a healthy emotional response–he didn’t stuff anything down), he went to God.

Here was his prayer: (1:5-11–I know it’s long, but read it anyway.)

And I said: “I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night, for the children of Israel Your servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel which we have sinned against You. Both my father’s house and I have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yetI will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.’ 10 Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. 11 O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”

Nehemiah’s prayer went like this:

  1. Adoration: he praised God for Who He is.
  2. Confession: he admitted the sins of him and his people that caused the problem.
  3. Promises: he recalled God’s promises that pertained to the problem.
  4. Request: he asked God for help in relation to those promises.

While this isn’t necessarily a formula for prayer, I think it’s really cool what Nehemiah did.

  • With prayers of adoration, he was reminded of God’s power and glory.
  • With confession, he admitted that God was not the cause of this tribulation. He recognized the source.
  • With recalling God’s promises, he decided to think about and stand on truth.
  • And with the request for help, he determined that God will fulfill His promises. And Nehemiah offered himself to be part of God’s plan to fulfill them.

Anger and fear kill perseverance. But taking it to God in this fashion results in the divinely-designed, power-packed element that we need to be a part of fulfilling God’s master plan.

What Do You Think?

What do you think about Nehemiah’s prayer? About his response to the problem?

How does this relate to your typical responses to difficulty?

Leave a comment below so we can grow together!


(2) Comments

  • TC Avey
    26 Jun 2012

    Great post.

    This is an excellent way to handle trials. I pray I can be more like this when trials happen instead of fight or flight!

    • J. Chad Barrett
      26 Jun 2012

      Thanks TC. It makes such a difference when I take these things to the feet of Jesus instead of allowing them to fester under my skin. Praying with you!

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