As that eminent 20th century philosopher, Dr. Seuss, once wrote, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
The easiest thing one can possibly do is complain. There are always going to be negatives to point out in life – negatives in the culture, the home, the church, and anywhere else. And to complain is to say that something needs to change. Things aren’t satisfactory as they are. Something’s gotta give.
The question at that point is simple: do I care enough to do something about it?
Noticing a problem and complaining about it means I care at least a little. But the real issue is whether I care enough to roll up my sleeves and get to work.
In Ezra and Nehemiah we see the perfect example of how much can be accomplished by God-centered people who truly care. This is the church’s great need, in this age or any other.
The setting finds the Jewish people still largely in captivity in Persia, after the fall of Babylon. The temple is gone, and Jerusalem is in shambles. Ezra’s book begins with a return to rebuild the temple, but the effort stalls out due to interference, official decree, and (as Haggai and Zechariah show us), disinterest. Nehemiah begins with a report regarding the state of utter disrepair of the walls of Jerusalem.
It’s when these two men come on the scene that things begin to change. Ezra is introduced as a man who had “set his heart” to study and practice God’s Law, and to teach the people God’s statutes (Ezra 7:10). Nehemiah’s story begins with him weeping, mourning, fasting, and praying upon hearing about the walls of Jerusalem. Bottom line, these two men cared greatly about the state of God’s house. Most importantly, they cared enough to do something about it.
In their separate ways, both men led the push toward restoration through all kinds of challenges, external and internal. Broadly speaking, Ezra led the people spiritually while Nehemiah led the people administratively, resulting in not only a new temple and a new wall for Jerusalem, but a restored practice of feasts, Sabbaths, and tithes before God.
They accomplished all this through hard work, perseverance, principled stands, and most importantly, prayer. But the characteristic that tied all these things together, in fact the characteristic that drove all the others, was how much they cared.
Examining ourselves and our situations, what is there that needs changing? What might we complain about? Some things are out of our control, but there are yet many that God has placed within our sphere of influence. In our homes, churches, neighborhoods, workplaces, and even the society in general, there is always going to be much work to do.
There is also plenty of comfort right now, which makes moving forward challenging. Once we do begin to move, we find distraction and resistance, much like Sanballat and Tobiah brough to Nehemiah’s cause. The point is, there will always be excuses and even reasons to not do something, or to give up prematurely. But if we care enough, those won’t stop us.
The question to each Christian remains the same: do I care enough to be used by God to make a difference?
Does the success of His kingdom mean enough to me to move me forward in active obedience? We need Ezras, we need Nehemiahs, and we need plenty of people “with a mind to work” (Nehemiah 4:6).
Will you rise to the occasion to build up the house of God?