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Excise Problems

Remember me, O my God, for good.
–Nehemiah 13:31

How did Nehemiah eat problems for breakfast? First of all, he expected them. Second, he exposed them. Finally, he excised the problems–he dealt with the issues promptly. Look at how, for example, he dealt with the problem of Tobiah living inside the temple. Nehemiah 13:8 says, “It was very displeasing to me, so I threw all of Tobiah’s household goods out of the room.” Did Nehemiah sit down with Tobiah and have a dialogue session? No. He just started throwing his stuff out the window. As a leader, when you see a problem, do not procrastinate. If you see a problem in your marriage, deal with it now. If you see signs of deterioration in your relationship with God, deal with it now. One of the greatest lies ever told is “Time heals all things.” The truth is, time allows problems to fester and metastasize. You need to deal with things promptly.

Nehemiah also dealt with problems passionately. In verse 25, look at how he handled the people who had married unbelievers: “So I contended with them and cursed them and struck some of them and pulled out their hair, and made them swear by God, ‘You shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor take of their daughters for your sons or for yourselves.’” That sounds terrible, doesn’t it? But here is what J. I. Packer wrote about this passage: “Was it a weakness that in Nehemiah’s code of conduct the modern shibboleth, ‘thou shalt be nice’ seems to have had no place, while ‘thou shalt be faithful to God and zealous for God’ was evidently basic to it? Would Moses, David, Jesus, or Paul ever have qualified as ‘Mr. Nice Guy’? The assumption, so common today, that niceness is of the essence of goodness needs to be exploded. Nehemiah should not be criticized for thinking that there are more important things in life than being nice.” Nehemiah was not angry because his own rights had been violated; he was angry because the reputation of God was being harmed. So he passionately said, “We are going to do something about this, and we are going to do it now.” The way to bring about lasting change is to deal with problems promptly and passionately.

When we come to the end of chapter 13, we find Nehemiah still solving problems and battling against the forces of evil. He closed his journal with these words: “Remember me, O my God, for good” (v. 31). You see, Nehemiah was effective because he was more concerned with God’s approval than man’s acclaim. He entrusted his life to the one who “is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). That is what made Nehemiah a great leader.

Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Eating Problems For Breakfast” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.

J. I. Packer, “A Passion For Faithfulness: Wisdom From The Book Of Nehemiah” (1995; repr., Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2001), 182.

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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