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Preparing for God’s Response

If you are going through a season of waiting, do not just wait for God’s response to your prayers. Rather, prepare for God’s response in faith.


Nehemiah 2: “In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.” And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.


Then I came to the governors of the province Beyond the River and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen. But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel.


So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days. Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. There was no animal with me but the one on which I rode. I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal that was under me to pass. Then I went up in the night by the valley and inspected the wall, and I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, and I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest who were to do the work.


Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work. But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim[a] in Jerusalem.” (ESV)


How do you deal with waiting? I am convinced that waiting is one of the hardest things that we have to do. My son recently told my wife that he doesn’t like that his birthday is in November because he has to wait until the end of the year while everyone else in our family gets to have their birthday earlier. No matter how you explain it to him, he doesn’t understand because he doesn’t want to wait.


Whether we like it or not we all wait all the time, don’t we? Sometimes it seems like all we do is wait. Some of us have been waiting for God’s response to our prayers for a very long time.


The problem is that in a season of waiting if the focus is on the waiting, we will grow weary and spend time not trusting God. Therefore, what we need is to focus on preparing for God’s response in faith.


In Nehemiah 2, Nehemiah was not just waiting for God’s response to his prayers. We see that he was preparing for God’s response in faith.


If you are going through a season of waiting, do not just wait for God’s response to your prayers. Rather, prepare for God’s response in faith. How do you do that? How do you prepare for God’s response in faith?


With Nehemiah as our example, we can prepare for God’s response in faith

a. patiently,

b. prayerfully, and

c. purposefully.


Wait in Faith


First, while we wait in faith, we can prepare for God’s response patiently. Verses 1-3 say, “In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid.”


Here we see two helpful things regarding preparing ourselves in faith for God’s response patiently while waiting.


The first is God’s timing. Notice that Chapter 1 was written in the month of Chislev which was November-December and Chapter 2 opens in the month of Nisan which is March-April. This means that for four months Nehemiah waited on God’s response patiently. If you want something done in God’s strength it requires patience because God’s thoughts are not ours and our timing is not His.


For Nehemiah a day finally arrived in God’s timing—not a month earlier nor a day later just the exact day that God determined to answer Nehemiah’s prayers, fasting, and mourning because God was aligning everything.


The New Testament uses the Greek word kairos to describe a God-ordained time or season when at a certain fixed time God acts according to His will and purpose. The season for people back in Judah may have been stark and dark, but unknown to them God was doing something new 800 miles away. He was raising Nehemiah to rebuild the city, the wall, and the people.


Friend, God determines seasons and the length of seasons in our lives. If you are in the season of waiting you are in the season of God’s favor already; you just don’t know it yet. God is aligning things for you. He is bringing things into existence that you cannot imagine. So, pray in faith and wait patiently.


I am convinced many problems exist because we lack patience. After my doctorate, I went back to school to get a master’s in counseling because I wanted to help couples have healthy marriages. I have been doing premarital and marital counseling for some time and the sum of all of my education and experience in counseling is that frustration and anger are born in the absence of patience.


The second helpful thing regarding preparing ourselves in faith for God’s response patiently while waiting is God’s will. When the kairos moment came, Nehemiah’s king noticed the sadness of his heart on his face. This means for four months Nehemiah was able to manage his emotions. Too often our emotions get the best of us. Emotions are good but if we act on every emotion, it will destroy us and everything around us. When we fail to manage our emotions, we also grow impatient. When a person says I don’t feel like going to church, reading the Bible, or praying, they are not managing their emotions; their emotions are managing them.


In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus didn’t feel like going on the cross. He even asked His Father to remove this cup, if possible, yet He didn’t let His emotions manage Him. He took it to prayer before His Father and said, not my will, but yours be done. If your emotions are shaping your character and your decisions, you will never be prepared for God’s response.


Verse 2 tells us that Nehemiah became dreadfully afraid. Why? Because history tells us that it was forbidden to be sad in the presence of the king. His very presence was supposed to be divine and thus the source of joy and happiness. Nehemiah must have known his sadness was a terrible insult to the king, especially in the presence of his queen. That is probably why he hid it for so long and didn’t let his emotions bypass God’s timing and will.


Even now we see that he managed his emotions well. Rather than letting his exceedingly terrified state paralyze him, because the next words from the king’s mouth could have ordered him beheaded, in faith, Nehemiah responded in verse 3, “I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”


I am learning many things about firefighting from my wife, who is a volunteer firefighter. She told me that everything has an ignition point, and when something reaches that exact temperature, that is the moment, not before or after but just at that precise moment, that it bursts into flames. God’s time and His will in a precise moment ignite, not a moment earlier or later. That is a kairos moment.


The application for us is this. If you have been praying for something, whatever that might be, do not give up but in faith prepare for God’s response patiently. The Bible teaches in 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18: “Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”


Wait in Prayer


The second discipline we learn from Nehemiah while waiting for God’s response to our prayers in faith is to prepare for God’s response prayerfully. Verse 4 says, “Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven.” Notice, four months before in Chapter 1:11, that the last entry in Nehemiah’s journal said, “O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”


Now finally, Nehemiah had the king’s, this man’s, attention. Nehemiah has been praying for four months yet he did not spit out his needs right away. We see that he prayed again. His prayer could have been as simple as God help me. When we grow tired of waiting, in our frustration and lack of patience sometimes we rush to act without consulting with God and that has some serious consequences.


Take the example of Moses, a man with holy discontent. In Numbers 20, Moses was told to speak to the rock in the desert to bring forth water for Israel, but in his frustration with the people he grew impatient and struck the rock as he had done previously instead of speaking to it as God said. God supplied the need, but He also denied Moses’ entry to the promised land. Those who prepare for God’s response prayerfully become prayer junkies. Like Nehemiah, they develop the habit of not acting on anything without prayer.


So, what is the application? Do not be quick to respond to the first opportunity of relief you get thinking this must be the answer to your prayers. Pray for discernment when the opportunity becomes available.


Wait Purposefully


The third and final discipline we learn from Nehemiah while waiting for God’s response to our prayers in faith is to prepare for God’s response purposefully. In verses 5-20, it becomes clear why Nehemiah’s prayer Chapter 1 that ended with “give your servant success today” did not receive a response right away. God gave Nehemiah the burden, but Nehemiah had to be trained to carry the burden to aid God’s people in Judah. You may have the burden but not training.


Nehemiah needed preparation to respond to the king’s questions effectively which required time. Notice, his response in verse 5: “And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.” He told the king what God laid on his heart: to rebuild the city in Judah, the city of Jerusalem where the temple of God was. Notice two things in verses 6-20.


First, he was waiting purposely because he was working on a proposal. In the King’s presence, he must have heard others bringing proposals. He must have known what type of questions the king would ask. Verses 6-8 say, “And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time.” Later we will find out he took off for 12 years. Unless God gives you favor you don’t get such a favor. To me, that is a miracle.


In verse 7 he continues with more demands. “And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, ” and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.”


As a cupbearer, his experience was limited to tasting wine and food to ensure it was not poisoned. For that job, you mainly just needed to be alive. But his response shows adequate knowledge of foreign policy, defense policy, and commerce policy. This means Nehemiah didn’t wait passively but rather actively. He was learning all of that while he was waiting, and his hard work paid off because his proposal satisfied the king.


Second, we see he was waiting proactively because he was working on a plan. Nehemiah investigated not only what he needed then and there but also what challenges he would face on his way and when he arrived in Judah. So rather than being reactive to opposition and challenges, he proactively worked out a plan. From verse 9 onward, he executes his plan.


“Then I came to the governors of the province Beyond the River and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen. But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel.” [We will hear more about these two villains later.] “So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days. Then I arose in the night, I, and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. There was no animal with me but the one on which I rode. I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal that was under me to pass. Then I went up in the night by the valley and inspected the wall, and I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, and I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest who were to do the work.”


Notice, he didn’t share his mission with anyone. Perhaps he wanted to see and observe firsthand what he had heard from others. “Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work. But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.”


He did not care about the nay-sayers because he knew God had given him a vision and plan and God was leading him.


When I started a school in Pakistan at the age of 18, the nay-sayers mocked me and said the school would fail. They did everything in their power to stop it, but God’s hand was with me. It shocked the enemy that in the first year, I had close to 200 enrolled students.


Holy discontent is not just feeling dissatisfied about the state of things in your life and the world because it upsets you and because it upsets God. It is also active work on your end. You align your heart with God’s to take positive actions to change the world. Nehemiah had to align his heart with God’s to take positive action to change the current state of his people in Judah. I did the same.


So, what is the application? If you have been praying for something for some time now, perhaps for months and years and nothing seems to happen, this should not be an excuse for sitting idly. Waiting and planning were pivotal to the preparation for Nehemiah.


In the movie The Karate Kid, Daniel got frustrated with Mr. Miyagi’s endless household chores and said he does not understand how it is helping him with karate. Mr. Miyagi then asked him to show him to wax on/wax off. This is when Daniel realized that all the meaningless household chores prepared him so much that he was able to block Mr. Miyagi’s attacks.


This is what we see in Nehemiah’s patient, prayerful, and purposeful waiting. If you are going through a season of waiting, do not just wait for God’s response rather prepare for God’s response in faith

a. patiently,

b. prayerfully, and

c. purposefully.


Ask yourself, “How have I seen God work in my life when I trusted His timing and His will and not my own? What one thing can I change to avoid the temptation to rush God in the season of waiting to build faith?”


My appeal to you is neither to go ahead of God nor lag behind Him. Do not allow yourself to think that prayer and planning are antithetical because, for believers, they are complementary to each other. The presence of prayer is not the absence of faith. We plan in faith that our prayers will be answered in due time, therefore we prepare for God’s response in faith.


Nehemiah prayed and planned and carefully set goals. He worked hard to learn what was needed to execute the plan. So, no matter what it is, in faith, start by surveying your situation. Gather data, think it through, pray over it daily, and begin to implement the plan in detail. Friends, know this, when you think it is over, God might say it is just the beginning. When you say I cannot take it anymore, He may say you don’t even know how much you can take, because He is expanding your capacity to endure.


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