Nehemiah was brokenhearted after hearing about the state of Jerusalem after years of Israel’s exile in Babylon.
“The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” (Nehemiah 1:3 ESV)
When a calling is placed on our hearts (like starting something new to reach new people for Jesus), our human reaction is to be quick to act, solve, and fix...on our own. But that was not Nehemiah’s first step. Burdened with the broken state of Jerusalem, Nehemiah first went to God in prayer.
Nehemiah's reliance on God through prayer led to a successful rebuild. As he prayed in humility. As he prayed with great expectation. As he prayed to not go it alone. As he prayed against opposition.
There is no better way to start a new ministry for the growth of God’s kingdom than in prayer.
Launching your startup in humble prayer.
As found in Nehemiah 1, after Cyrus the Persian king gained control over Babylon, he issued a decree allowing all captive people to return home. For God's chosen people returning to Jerusalem, this meant not returning to the richness of their former world but returning to rubble. When hearing the news that the walls and gates of Jerusalem were destroyed, Nehemiah was saddened. God placed on Nehemiah's heart the burden to rebuild. And how did Nehemiah begin this endeavor? ANSWER: In humble prayer.
Before launching your startup that leads to more baptized followers of Jesus, what needs rebuilding in your life? What of your life has been reduced to rubble? What has been stalled, ruined, disrupted or destroyed?
- A new job after being laid off?
- Your self-esteem?
- A new life after broken relationship?
- Courage in face of trial?
- Reminders of your identity in Christ?
- A new outlook on Jesus' calling/mission for your life to reach others with His Good News?
Use this adapted version prayer of Nehemiah (1:5-7,10-11), as a blueprint for your humble prayer before God.
O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love, listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for [FILL IN THE BLANK]. I confess that I have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! We have sinned terribly by not obeying Your Word. The people you rescued by your great power, through Jesus' work on the cross, are your servants. O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by [FILL IN THE BLANK]. In Jesus' name and for His glory, not my own. Amen!
Pray with the expectation that God will bless beyond what you ask for.
Regarding your startup, I share not so much a lesson, but an expectation: When the glory is given to Him for the world to witness and come to faith in Jesus, don't be surprised when God blesses you beyond what you ask/pray for.
Read this abridged account of Nehemiah asking permission to go home to rebuild Jerusalem's walls:
"The king asked, 'Well, how can I help you?' With a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied, 'If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.' I also said to the king, 'If it please the king, let me have letters addressed to the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River, instructing them to let me travel safely through their territories on my way to Judah.' ...When I came to the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River, I delivered the king’s letters to them. The king, I should add, had sent along army officers and horsemen to protect me." (Nehemiah 2:4-5, 7, 9 NLT)
I read through this chapter a few times and it was this that kept catching my attention - "The king, I should add, had sent along army officers and horsemen to protect me."
Nehemiah asked for letters. These he received...PLUS an army. Wow! Glory to God!
In our finite minds we make our requests based on our limited knowledge and what we see. God, in His infinite wisdom, love and grace, sees the bigger picture and provides accordingly.
Be reminded of Paul's words to the Ephesians:
"Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely MORE than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.
(Ephesians 3:20-21 NLT)
Pray for who may join your startup team.
Before getting into Nehemiah, take in these words from Paul, "In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well." (Romans 12:6 NLT)
A look into Nehemiah 3: "Then Eliashib the high priest and the other priests started to rebuild at the Sheep Gate...The Fish Gate was built by the sons of Hassenaah...The Old City Gate was repaired by Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah...Next was Uzziel son of Harhaiah, a goldsmith by trade, who also worked on the wall. Beyond him was Hananiah, a manufacturer of perfumes. They left out a section of Jerusalem as they built the Broad Wall. Next to him was Nehemiah son of Azbuk, the leader of half the district of Beth-zur. He rebuilt the wall from a place across from the tombs of David’s family as far as the water reservoir and the House of the Warriors." (Nehemiah 3:1, 3-3, 6, 8, 16 NLT)
The above was an answer to Nehemiah’s prayer in chapter 1 where we see him praying on behalf of others like him, who feared the Lord God. “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.” (Nehemiah 1:11a ESV)
Nehemiah wasn't alone in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. There were others. Launching a startup is a team effort, each party using his and her own gifts and talents.
As Paul wrote to the followers of Jesus in Corinth, "Our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it." (1 Corinthians 12:18, 27 NLT) Read all of 1 Corinthians 12 for a look at the way all of these parts work together and compliment each other, all in service of Him and His mission.
Consider the plethora of self-help books out there, it is easy to focus only on what one does individually to start something, even when it is a new ministry that brings glory to Jesus. In our churches there is a tendency for individuals to serve alone. There are tons of silos out there doing his or her own work. There is little working together. But that is not how the Spirit wired us up. He wired us up differently but with the common purpose of working together for His Kingdom and mission to save those who do not yet know Jesus.
Take some time to ponder these questions:
- Where in my startup am I attempting to go it alone? What do I have to confess...maybe an ego thing?
- Who in my life can join me in the new ministry God has given me?
- What things/tasks are others more suited for that I need to release to them?
- How am I seeking God in this startup through regular/daily prayer for His wisdom and guidance
May God bless you with His wisdom as you prayerfully consider these questions. For His glory and honor! Responding with thanks to Jesus' love and grace!
Prayer in the face of opposition.
An abridged version of Nehemiah 4: "Sanballat was very angry when he learned that we were rebuilding the wall. He flew into a rage and mocked the Jews...Tobiah the Ammonite, who was standing beside him, remarked, 'That stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked along the top of it!' ...They all made plans to come and fight against Jerusalem and throw us into confusion. But we prayed to our God and guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves...So I placed armed guards behind the lowest parts of the wall in the exposed areas. I stationed the people to stand guard by families, armed with swords, spears, and bows. Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said to them, 'Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious...” (Nehemiah 4:1, 3, 8-9, 13-14 NLT)
When your startup is about bringing Jesus glory and sharing His Good News to the world, opposition will come.
It will come from outside you and your community. It may even come from the inside, for we are all sinners (exactly why we needed Jesus to save us).
It certainly seemed like Nehemiah and his community rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem were following Paul's yet-to-be-written instructions, "A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere." (Ephesians 6:10-13, 18 NLT)
- Trust in the Lord's power.
- Arm yourself and prepare for opposition (strengthen yourself by the power of His Word).
- It is a "we"-thing; you are not alone nor should you be when faced with opposition.
- Pray for God's protection day and night.
So considering the startup God has called you to launch, what is your next step in prayer?
Are you most in need of being humbled? Are you only seeing the limits on what can happen instead of the abundance God can produce? Are you most in need of others joining your startup? Are you most in need to overcome the obstacles and opposition which stand before you? Or "E", all the above?
How will you begin to pray TODAY?