“Remember me, O my God, concerning this … Remember this also in my favor, O my God … Remember me, O my God, for good.” (Nehemiah 13:14, 22, 31)
God powerfully used Nehemiah to bring a revival of His purposes among the exiles who returned to Jerusalem (Neh. 1-11). As we come to the close of Nehemiah’s book and the report of his life and ministry he appears to be more and more concerned with how all of this will be regarded by God. Will he be found to have pleased God? What will be the divine verdict upon his life, labors and service? Clearly he had reason to be frustrated with the human outcome of it all — the people had lapsed badly back into sin during his return to Persia (Neh. 13:6). Spiritual lethargy and compromise filled the void. Disobedience flourished. Clearly Nehemiah’s responses were extreme and dramatic (13:8, 15, 17, 25). He seems to have truly been wrestling with the question: Was it all for naught?
We are all given to times of such doubt and wondering. We need to hear God’s word again: “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9)
To that end consider these quotes from godly leaders who understand the stresses of ministry and an approaching finish line.
“For a Christian worker there are few more fruitful causes of discouragement and loss of heart than the lack of visible evidence of success. We give ourselves to our task without stint or reservation. We pray and work and sometimes weep, and yet the harvest tarries, and we tend to collapse. Our wily adversary plays his cards shrewdly at such times, and often we fail to detect his strategy and we fall into his snare.” (J. Oswald Sanders, Enjoying Intimacy With God, p.135)
“. . . you can mark it down that if you are a preacher God will hide from you much of the fruit he causes in your ministry. You will see enough to be assured of his blessing, but not so much as to think you could live without it.” (John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, p.19)
“Knowing how susceptible we are to success’s siren call, God does not allow us to see, and therefore glory in, what is done through us. The very nature of the obedience He demands is that it be given without regard to circumstances or results.” (Charles Colson, Loving God, p.33)
“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” (Henry Brooks Adams)
“Abram never eventually knew the greatness of his name. . . . Abram never saw the extent of what God was about to do with the man who was prepared to go where God sent.” (Alistar Begg, radio broadcast)
Puritan pastor Richard Greenham, after 21 years of ministry in the community of Dry Drayton left in frustration, hoping for more fruitful ministry in London. He said to the man who would follow him, “God bless you, and send you more fruit on your labors then I have had, for I perceive no good wrought by [my] ministry on any but one family.” “Samuel Clarke reports that Greenham left because of ‘the untractableness and unteachableness of that people among whom he had taken such exceeding great pains.’ History has shown, however, that though Greenham was discouraged by the lack of fruit on his ministry in Dry Drayton and no doubt hoped that he would be more useful in London, his Dry Drayton ministry was far more successful than he made it out to be.” (Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson, Meet the Puritans, p.292)
Heavenly Father, you have called me to preach. Enable me to do so with all my heart. Give me grace to trust you to care for the magnitude of the impact and the breadth of the influence. My name does not matter, only yours does. You can glorify your Name without my ministry. But I delight that you have called me and given me the privilege of studying, obeying, and teaching your Word. I ask that you make the impact great and glorious to your renown. But I leave the knowing of any of that impact to you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.