2.1 Devotion: Leader Discouragement – A Loss of Strength
As we read in the devotion from last week, Nehemiah endeavored to return to Jerusalem for the purpose of rebuilding the city, including its walls and gates. God granted Nehemiah favor with the Babylonian king, Artaxerxes, who provided important resources that were needed. Despite many challenges and opposition, under Nehemiah’s leadership, the Jews from the tribe of Judah began rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem (you can read this story in Nehemiah, chapters 2-4). As enemies of the Jewish people learned of the building project, they plotted to fight against the Jews. Fear and discouragement set in and soon those who were building the wall were so fearful that their progress greatly suffered. We read of their fear in Nehemiah 4:11-12(new tab): “…our enemies said, ‘before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work. Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, ‘Wherever you turn, they will attack us.’” This week’s devotional will examine how Nehemiah began to deal with the growing discouragement of his followers.
Upon successful completion of this assignment, you will be able to:
· Integrate biblical perspectives for promoting holistic well-being in leaders and followers.
For Nehemiah, the first source of discouragement came from a loss of strength, even before the workers began to fear the words of their enemies. Nehemiah 4:10(new tab) tells us that “…the people of Judah said, ‘The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall’” (p. 83). This passage tells us that the workers had been at their tasks for a lengthy period of time. In fact, they had completed about half of the way…and they were getting tired. The newness of the project had worn off, and weariness had set in. Swindoll (2006) pointed out that project managers consider this to be a very normal stage of any project life cycle. For example, many projects begin with enthusiasm, followed by disillusionment when things don’t go as planned. Then, panic sets in and the finger pointing begins. Often, innocent people suffer blame and the process ends with praise for those who no longer participate. The author explained that “the midpoint of a long, demanding project is prime time for discouragement. The disillusionment phase occurs after the momentum of a great start peters out and long before the anticipation of the finish line can inspire hope. It’s the time when the resilient must put their heads down and keep their feet moving and when the weary need an infusion of encouragement” (p. 84).
Have you ever found yourself in Nehemiah’s situation? As a leader, have you dealt with followers who simply had grown weary of the work you were doing? If not, perhaps you can relate to this situation from the perspective of the follower. In the story of Nehemiah, rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem ended up being far greater a task than he imagined. But Nehemiah did not allow discouragement to lead to failure. With the wisdom that God gave him, Nehemiah used several strategies to combat discouragement, both his own as well as that of the workers. The first strategy that Nehemiah implemented was to unify their collective efforts around the goal. Chapter 4, verse 13 tells us that: “Therefore, I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears, and bows.” Did you see what Nehemiah did there? He unified the workers by grouping them with their families, then equipped them with the weapons needed to defend their loved ones. Nehemiah unified them through a common goal, their own preservation! He temporarily halted the work long enough to rally everyone behind his vision, providing encouragement to those who had been disheartened. He also employed a second strategy by directing their attention to the Lord God, as we see in verse 14. Nehemiah assured the people that they should not be afraid because the Lord was greater than any enemy (Swindoll, 2006).
1. Review the rubric to make sure you understand the criteria for earning your grade.
2. Review the information in the Getting Started and Background Information sections.
3. Write a half to one-page reflection paper (Word document) about a time when you felt weary and discouraged from working very, very hard. Maybe you even lost sight of the end goal. Did you give up? Did you press on to meet the goal? What, if anything, would you do differently if you could do it all over again? How might what we’ve learned in this devotion be useful to you when you encounter a similar situation again in the future?