Blessed Builders: Volunteering And Victorious

Blessed Builders: Volunteering And Victorious

Have you ever heard the word “conscription”?  It is not a word that many people know today. Conscription was used the the United States military during war times.  Essentially, it drafted young men from the population to serve key military roles.  It was used in Word War II, Vietnam and the Korean War. If you chose not to comply with the wishes of the government, you only had two places to run, Mexico and Canada.  Many people did just that, they ran away.  They were termed “draft dodgers”. 

I’ve talked with my Dad concerning his service in the U.S. Military Reserves.  He grew up during the time of the Vietnam War and could have been easily drafted.  I can remember him telling me how much more noble it was to volunteer to serve in the military than run from it.  

I can remember growing up and hearing some elections where those vying for a political position were called “Draft Dodgers”.  To be a draft dodger meant that you were a coward.  It meant that you wanted all the great freedoms of being an American, but did not want to serve to achieve those freedoms.  Being a draft dodger was an insult, not something to be proud of.  

Have you ever heard the popular hymn “Im in the Lord’s Army”? 

I remember being taught this song when I went to RA’s as a kid.  That’s right.  The Royal Ambassadors for Christ.  I can remember my RA teacher telling me that as believers in Christ, I was called to serve in the Lord’s Army.  No, we didn’t carry guns.  We carried with us the life changing power of the Gospel.  As an RA, I was expected to show up, not be AWAL.  I was expected to serve.  

I’m curious, what happened to that mentality when it came to church life here in America.  I was taught that it was a great honor to serve in the Lord’s army.  That there was joy in service to the Lord.  Yet, in mainstream American Christianity, we less volunteers and more draft dodgers.  

Have you ever heard the expression “When it comes to church life, 80% of the work gets done by 20% of the people”? That is truer today than ever before.  

I have heard just about every excuse in the book for not volunteering in the Lord’s Army or the Lord’s service.  

1. I’m to old.  That’s a good one for sure.  The Bible tells us that Noah was older than 500 years old when he started to build the ark.  500 years old.  Some of you look 500 years old, but you are not there yet.

Moses was in his 80’s when he led the Israelites out of Egypt.  Any newly minted 80 year old’s in the audience this morning.  Congratulations, you made it to when Moses just started working.  

2. I’m to young. That’s a good one too.  David was 17 when he killed Goliath.  Remember the young boy from John 6.  Jesus needed some food and this unnamed boy gave over his fish and loaves.  Jesus used it to perform one of the most astonishing miracles in the entire Bible.  Remember the great story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.  Most scholars believe to be somewhere around 20 years old when they stood up to the King.  So, being to young or old is not good enough excuse.  

3. I’m to sick.  I get that.  People get sick.  People are struck with all sort of illness that prevent them from being able to the physical work that they would like to do.  Yet, there is still not excuse.  

Psalm 41:3 states “The Lord sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health.”

Even on our sickbed, the Lord can sustain us.  Even when we are sick, we can still pray for those doing the work.  

Illustration: Visiting the Nelson’s
The other day, I went and visited Ed Nelson in the hospital.  He had a procedure and I went back to the recovery room after the surgery.  It was such a blessing.  While I was visiting with Ed, Gini told me how they were able to pray for several people who were sick, alone, and worried.  The Nelson’s viewed the hospital as a mission trip.  

4. I’m to busy.  Yes, I get that one the most.  I feel the pressure of being busy all the time.  I was so convicted by this Scripture.  

Luke 9:57-62 ESV
57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus[a] said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Jesus, I want to follow you as long as it fits into my schedule.  Honestly, that’s where about 99.9% of the church is today.  Stuart Davidson leads the line on this one.  

Jesus states though that true followers of Christ make serving Him, following Him comes at a cost.  

You see friends, we were never meant to be consumers of the church.  What can this church do for me or offer me?  That’s not the attitude of Christ.  Christ came to serve.  Jesus enlisted in the Army of the the Lord.  He was in service to the King.  That’s where we are going to head today.  We are going to enlist in God’s army for service.  So, which one are you?

Are You Diligent Worker or a Draft Dodger?

Nehemiah 11:1-2 (ESV)
Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem. And the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem the holy city, while nine out of ten remained in the other towns. 2 And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem.

So we have been discussing Nehemiah for many weeks now.  The wall was rebuilt, there was a powerful revival now it is time to reawaken the city.  Nehemiah needed people to come make their homes in Jerusalem.  

We all remember 2005.  That was the year that Hurricane Katrina blew through the Gulf Coast and destroyed portions of Mississippi and specifically New Orleans.  Just on the outskirts of New Orleans is Six Flags New Orleans.  As a kid, I visited Six Flags New Orleans on several occasions.  When I was a student at NOBTS I drove by it hundreds of times.  

Well, when Katrina hit, Six Flags closed the doors for the very last time.  Even today, the sign outside the abandoned park still says “closed due to storm”.  A 50 storm surge soaked the park during the storm.  The salt water ruined the rides and Six Flags New Orleans was abandoned to rot and deteriorate.  Literally, nature is reclaiming the park day by day.  

You see, Nehemiah had done a lot of work.  The city was restored and Nehemiah knew that it could not be left without inhabitants.  Otherwise, nature would take the city over and it would fall into running once more.  So Nehemiah devised a plan.  He cast lots of everyone living in the outlying cities.  If that family’s lot was chosen, they were to leave their home and move into the city.  One out of every ten lots cast would be called to come and dwell within the city.  

Now, how many of you would have been on board for that.  For some, this was an upgrade.  For others, it was not.  

So Nehemiah, before the lots were drawn, requested volunteers to move into the city.  This way, fewer people would be displaced from their homes.  Nehemiah’s vision to grow the city became a potential service and mission for the people.  Nehemiah wanted to see who would join God’s army.

Scripture even tells us that those who volunteered to be used by Nehemiah and by God were “blessed”

Did you catch that?  Volunteers desiring to be used by God for God’s purpose are blessed.  Not only were they blessed by God, but it says that the people blessed the volunteers.    

I love volunteers.  As pastors and church leaders, we really love volunteers.  Without volunteers, our jobs would be so much more difficult.  Volunteers enrich our ministries, encourage us and are enormously appreciated.  Think about it, at Eastern Shore Baptist Church, volunteers teach, treasure children and youth, stay tuned in the choir and try to reach the world for Jesus.  

Volunteers Enrich Ministries, Encourage Staffers and are Enormously Appreciated!

What Was Really Happening In Jerusalem?

I. Hope vs. 1
Nehemiah 7:4 ESV
4 The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few, and no houses had been rebuilt.

Nehemiah 7:4 NLT
4 At that time the city was large and spacious, but the population was small, and none of the houses had been rebuilt.

Nehemiah 11:1 states that the “leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem.” So, Jerusalem was not empty.  The leaders were there.  Nehemiah had set up a home in the city.  So had Ezra.  Many other leaders were there as well.  

The hope was that if the leaders lived in the city that others would follow.  That’s what leaders do.  They lay down an example for others to follow behind.  

Nehemiah’s hope was that the city of God would be filled.  He could not ask the people to do something that he himself was not willing to do. 

John Maxwell says this about good leadership.

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

Sure, it was the hope of Nehemiah to fill the city, but he did more than hope.  He did something about it.  He moved in and inspired others to follow his example.  

When it comes to filling God’s city, what is your hope? Do you long to see this place filled?  I do.  What are we doing to make a difference?  Is our hope translating to action.  

These men and women longed for the Jerusalem to be great but they knew that it would not be great unless they all pulled together.  

Last week we had hosted a band camp for the Baldwin Youth Orchestra. 

 It was a very noisy week around here.  Once or twice I poked my head into the Chapel to see what was going on.  There were student everywhere.  There was the orchestra and there was the conductor.  The conductor always faced the orchestra.  He never turned his back to the people that he was leading.  He was right there with them working. As he would move his arms, they would start playing.  They had their music but their were moving off of his example.  

Notice that the conductor never conducts with his back to the orchestra.  He always leads facing them so that they can see his example.  

Nehemiah hoped that God would fill the city but he was willing to lead the way.  He was willing to be the example.  If this church is an representation of God’s city and we are God’s people, are we being good examples? Is filling this church with soul’s a high priority for us? 

Friends, we must hope.  Hope is so important.

Romans 15:13 ESV
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

II. Holes vs. 2
Nehemiah 11:1-2 (ESV)
Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem. And the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem the holy city, while nine out of ten remained in the other towns. 2 And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem.

From the very beginning of Nehemiah, we are introduced to a man dealing with holes.  First, he has a hole in his heart.  His city is broken.  Next, he is confronted with holes in the wall.  The city’s defenses were down.  Then, he sees holes in his people.  Sadly, his people were broken and destitute.  Everywhere Nehemiah looks there are holes.  Everywhere he looks he sees things that could be better, should be better, but they are not.  

You know, as a pastor I have met a lot of people.  I can pretty much divide people up into two groups.  I call them “Hole Spotters” and the others I call “Healers”.  We will talk about Healers in just a moment.  

Hole Spotters are an interesting group of people.  You see they walk into the church and they see all the things wrong with the church.  They see the holes in all the ministries.  They see the holes in each staff person.  They see the holes in the physical church building.  

Hole Spotters can sometimes be really helpful if they are able to make the jump from Hole Spotter to Healer.  Yet, many Hole Spotters never make the jump. They stay in the Hole Spotting mode.  

Nehemiah went from Hole Spotter to Healer.  Sure, the city was large and spacious, but it was far from perfect.  It was going to take some real visionaries to say “sign me up” to move into the city.  Anytime you are building something, whether it be a church or a city, there are going to be problems.  Things are not going to function right.  

You see most Hole Spotters are negative people.  They see the problems, the stay frustrated and usually they are not very helpful.

Jerusalem Had Holes Religiously
Jerusalem Had Holes Militarily 
Jerusalem Had Holes Socially

Holes everywhere.  

When I was in high school, I had a buddy named Lee.  He played basketball with me.  He was a great athlete but he had one downfall.  He got sick at the sight of blood.  One day we were sitting in biology class and my teacher was playing a portion of a live action heart surgery.  There it was on screen, a beating live heart and doctors operating.  When Lee saw the beating heart on screen, he fainted.  Right there on the floor. 

When we turned 18, we were allowed to give blood for the first time.  Oddly enough, it was sort of a right of passage.  Most of the seniors went down to give blood outside the gym.  Lee was in line.  He and I went back together and even laid on those cots that they let you lay on to give blood.  They poked Lee and Lee looked down and saw his blood being drawn and BAM, out cold.  

After he came to I went up to Lee and asked him why in the world would he volunteer for something that he knew would make him faint.  Ill never forget what he said.  

“Well, I have blood, and someone needs it.”

Lee saw the hole, and instead of backing away from, embraced it.  He made the transition from Hole Spotter to Healer.  

Nehemiah was the epitome of Psalm 121.  He knew that he had big problems, but he knew that the Lord would help him.  

Psalm 121:1-2
"I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

III. Healers vs. 2
Nehemiah 11:1-2 (ESV)
Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem. And the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem the holy city, while nine out of ten remained in the other towns. 2 And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem.

So we have talked about Hole Spotters.  Now let’s talk about Healers.  Remember the process, families would be numbered and 1 out of every 10 families would be chosen to live in the city.  Essentially, one out of ten families would be drafted to live in God’s city.  

Except there are others would could volunteer to go into the city before the draft.  Volunteers who would rather live in the city than to see others uproot from their current homes to live in Jerusalem.  Imagine if your number were drawn and you had to pack up and move to a different home in a different city with different neighbors.  Most of us would not want to do that.  

However, these people volunteered and they were blessed. They were thanked and appreciated by the people.  Imagine the synergy that these volunteers brought to the people.  

Illustration: The Great Blondin
In the nineteenth century the greatest tightrope walker in the world was a man named Charles Blondin. On June 30, 1859, he became the first man in history to walk on a tightrope across Niagara Falls. Over twenty-five thousand people gathered to watch him walk 1,100 feet suspended on a tiny rope 160 feet above the raging waters. He worked without a net or safety harness of any kind. The slightest slip would prove fatal. When he safely reached the Canadian side, the crowd burst into a mighty roar.

In the days that followed, he would walk across the Falls many times. Once he walked across on stilts; another time he took a chair and a stove with him and sat down midway across, cooked an omelet, and ate it. Once he carried his manager across riding piggyback. And once he pushed a wheelbarrow across loaded with 350 pounds of cement. On another occasion he asked the cheering spectators if they thought he could push a man across sitting in a wheelbarrow. A mighty roar of approval rose from the crowd. Spying a man cheering loudly, he asked, “Sir, do you think I could safely carry you across in this wheelbarrow?” “Yes, of course.” “Get in,” the Great Blondin replied with a smile.
The man refused.

That makes it clear, doesn’t it? It’s one thing to believe a man can walk across by himself. It’s another thing to believe he could safely carry you across. But it’s something else entirely to get into the wheelbarrow yourself.

It’s not enough to believe that Christ theoretically could save you. Until you “get in the wheelbarrow” and trust all to him, you are not saved. 

But I have some good news for you. Jesus has carried many people safely across the great divide, and he has never lost anyone yet. You can trust in him!

I can almost see the scene can’t you.  There Nehemiah is in this great city.  

Nehemiah:This is a great city right?
The Crowd: Yes Nehemiah, great!
N: It’s a beautiful city right?
TC: Yes Nehemiah beautiful!
N: Wouldn’t it be great to live here?
TC: Yes Nehemiah, great.  It would be great to live here?
N:OK, who wants to move on in?

You see, volunteers are important.  We need volunteers to get in the wheelbarrow.  Just like Nehemiah wanted people to volunteer to serve in the Lord’s army, we need people to serve here. Volunteers are tremendously valued.

Why Are Volunteers Important

A. Volunteers Prevent Exhaustion 
B. Volunteers Provide Examples
C. Volunteers Prompt Execution 

So, what is the practical application for us today.  

1. There is certainly holes in our church. This place is not perfect.
2. There is great joy in serving.  If you see a hole, become a healer. Volunteer.
3. Volunteers breed volunteers.  I have seen it.  I have heard people say “I’d do this job but I will have to do it alone.”  Wrong. people respond to passion.  If you do a job passionately and positively, people will join in.  Sure, it will take time, but it will be worth it.  
4. When we serve, we are blessed.  We bring blessing to people and we are blessed by God.  

Remember, when we serve, we serve God, not men.

Colossians 3:23 (ESV)
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…

Are You A Consumer In A Marketplace or a Volunteer In The Lord’s Army?


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