Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
This week, we are looking at six principles that Nehemiah demonstrated for handling difficult people. First of all, he practiced prayer. But even when we are praying for God to handle a difficult person in our lives, many times the answer does not come according to our timetable. That is why principle number two is so important. When you are dealing with difficult people, exercise patience. Nehemiah 2:1 says, “It came about in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, that wine was before him, and I took up the wine and gave it to the king.” Now, why did Nehemiah tell us the date on the calendar? Let’s go back to chapter 1: “Now it happened in the month Chislev” (v. 1). Nehemiah’s story began in the month of Chislev–that is December. The month of Nisan was about April. That means Nehemiah had been praying for four months that God would change his boss. But every morning, he would go into work, and there would be no change in Artaxerxes. Have you ever had that experience? You start praying about something, and when the answer does not come in a day, or a week, or a month, you give up praying. You become discouraged. John Ortberg wrote, “We are too often double espresso followers of a decaf Sovereign.” We are in a hurry all of the time, all hyped up, saying, “God, do this! Do this, do this, do this!” God is calm. He says, “I am going to do it, but I am going to do it My way, according to My timetable.”
Nehemiah did not give up praying. Instead, he did what Jesus would tell us to do hundreds of years later. In Matthew 7:7, Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you.” In the original text it literally says, “Keep on asking, and it will be given to you.” Here is a great definition of patience: patience is doing what you should do, while waiting on God to do what only He can do. Nehemiah did not give up–he demonstrated patience, not only in his persistent prayer, but also in his good attitude. In Nehemiah 2:1, he added, “Now I had not been sad in [the king’s] presence.” Why did he mention that? If you are a parent, maybe your child has tried this: they walk around the house with a sad expression on their face, just hoping you will say, “Honey, what’s wrong?” They use that sad face to manipulate you, to get you to do what they want you to do. Nehemiah could have done that. He could have come into work all downcast, hoping that Artaxerxes would say, “Nehemiah, what’s wrong? What can I do for you?” But Nehemiah did not resort to a bad attitude. Instead, he followed the principle in Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” Nehemiah could have become discouraged that there was no change in Artaxerxes. I am sure at times he was tempted to just blurt out what it is he wanted. But to speak to the king before he spoke to you was to risk death, so Nehemiah waited on God’s timing. He demonstrated the principle of patience.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “How To Handle A Difficult Boss” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.
John Ortberg, “If You Want To Walk On Water, You’ve Got To Get Out Of The Boat” (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 176.
Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.