“I should’ve signed up to help with junior high Sunday school!” I whined to my husband. I had just heard about some new girls who were coming to the church, and I thought it would be great to connect with their families and welcome them. My husband wisely reminded me that our schedule was already crazy, and that we wanted to take some weekend trips to the cabin.
But which is better? Missing out on serving in church and being part of a community, or serving my family by spending precious time with them? There always seem to be conflicting opportunities that demand our attention.
The book in the Bible called Nehemiah talks about how Nehemiah rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem. As I was preparing for a talk on prayer, I read through this book, and three of Nehemiah’s actions stood out as helpful to making decisions.
I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the King, “If it pleases the Lord and if your servant has found favor in your sight, let him send me to the city…” (Nehemiah 2: 4-5)
What God says needs to matter to us. Nehemiah went to God before he made any decisions; so I need to seek God’s counsel over my decisions, my husband’s, even my mother’s!
By reading the Bible and praying, we will grow in our knowledge of Jesus and what he’s asking of our families. He is not calling us to add more activities to our schedules, or keep up with the latest travel team. He is not asking us to serve at every church event. The longer I’m a parent, I more I realize it’s not the actual decision but what God teaches me through making the decision that grows my heart and keeps me close to him in prayer.
If prayer were easy, everyone would do it. But those who’ve tasted the intimacy of remaining close to God in prayer know there’s no better use of their time, and no greater impact they can make in God’s kingdom, than to be dependent on Christ Jesus through prayer.
While rebuilding the wall, Nehemiah goes into great detail about how each group worked on the section right in front of them:
Meremoth son of Uriah and grandson of Hakkoz rebuilt another section of the wall extending from the door of Eliashib’s house to the end of the house. The next repairs were made by the priests from the surrounding region. After them, Benjamin and Hasshub repaired the section across from their house, and Azariah son of Maaseiah and grandson of Ananiah repaired the section across from his house. Next was Binnui son of Henadad, who rebuilt another section of the wall from Azariah’s house to the angle and the corner. (Nehemiah 3:21-24)
God not only described who rebuilt the wall, but what specific part they were fixing. God is not only concerned about what his people are doing, but what specific job each is called to do. The builders were not concerned with anyone else’s work—they focused on what needed to be done without getting sidetracked.
In this world of perfectly Pinterest-themed parties for children and occupations that promise every benefit under the sun, it’s easy for me to compare. She looks like she is doing it all…how is the inside of her van is still spotless? Why do her kids never seem to fight? Why does he make more money than me? Often, this constant comparing leads me to make decisions for the wrong reasons. I want to look good to other people.
But when I make decisions in light of what’s important to our family and what will bring glory to God, most decisions become clear.
2 Timothy 1:9 says,
He has saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began…
The clear message of the gospel never changes. God came down to save his children for a “holy calling,” and we are to devote ourselves to him.
I am carrying on a great project and cannot come down. (Nehemiah 6:3)
Parenting is hard. Serving is hard. Working is hard. Relationships are hard; yet we are called to rely on God’s promises. And when we rely on those promises, he will be faithful and true:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Nehemiah did what God is commanding of us. He did not come down. When you must make those tough decisions, pray about it, make your decision, and then trust God to take care of it. Persevere and keep praying for your kids. Do you best at your job. Serve with your whole heart. Nehemiah had passion to do God’s work; God desires that same passion from us.
When Christians grasp what God did on the cross—that he took on our sin so that we might live with him in eternity and have abundant life—our gratitude drives our desire to bring him glory through our service. We use our days discerning his plans for us so we can make the best decisions and live out God’s beautiful calling, by the gift of the grace that saved us.