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Evaluate and Get Started

Nehemiah 2:11-18 (NASB)

So I came to Jerusalem and was there for three days. And I got up in the night, I and a few men with me. I did not tell anyone what my God was putting into my mind to do for Jerusalem, and there was no animal with me except the animal on which I was riding. So I went out at night by the Valley Gate in the direction of the Dragon’s Spring and on to the Dung Gate, and I was inspecting the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which had been consumed by fire. Then I passed on to the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was no place for my mount to pass. So I was going up at night by the ravine and inspecting the wall. Then I entered the Valley Gate again and returned. However, the officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing; nor had I as yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, or the rest who were doing the work.

Then I said to them, “You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates have been burned by fire. Come, let’s rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a disgrace.” And I told them how the hand of my God had been favorable to me and also about the king’s words which he had spoken to me. Then they said, “Let’s arise and build.” So they put their hands to the good work.


How do you eat an elephant?

Before we answer this question, let’s consider how seemingly overwhelming Nehemiah’s task must have felt. In today's verses, we witness Nehemiah's restlessness, driven by persistent thoughts of fulfilling the work God set before him. As he surveys the extent of destruction he aims to mend, he carefully internalizes, ensuring the magnitude of his thoughts don’t overwhelm himself or others. Nehemiah is undeterred by doubt, which threatens to engulf him even as the destruction makes his voyage impassable. Instead, he transforms doubt into fuel for an unwavering determination to rebuild and restore.

Have you ever felt this overwhelmed by a task? Perhaps it was a home remodel, or work project that made you want to throw in the towel.  

If I have an arch nemesis, it would be cattails. When I bought my house, my priority was to first clear the pond consumed by them. For context, our families thought the pond was a cornfield. I started by pulling those I could reach by hand, then the waders went on. Eventually, my brother-in-law and I counterbalanced from a boat, wrestling cattails from the suction of the earth. It wasn’t long before we sat defeated, smelly, and wet in the August heat, staring at a minuscule 10-foot area we cleared. In stepped my family’s Nehemiah for any home improvement project, my mom. Her ability to keep vision, adapt to change, and inspire perseverance was enough to keep me on course. The next day, she surprised me with an excavator sitting in my yard. The cattails stood no chance. We turned my yard into a warzone of mud and cattails, then spent the fall fixing our mess. I have never been so overwhelmed by a home project, but the job eventually got done, one cattail at a time.

Like Nehemiah, my mom didn’t waste time. They both evaluated the situation, then immediately got to work. The grass didn’t grow below their feet. Sometimes God’s calling feels daunting. Sometimes it truly is. Answering God’s call with obedience starts with one step at a time. Every next step helps us to cling to His promises to sustain us through the calling.

So how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.  

Action Steps

Just as Nehemiah did, take inventory of the calling God has set before you. Clearly define what God has stirred in your heart and assess the steps it will take to accomplish this call:

1. What steps are currently within your control? Which steps will you need to wait on God’s timing or provision?

2. Take the first steps by putting into action the ones within your control.  

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word, especially the wisdom and encouragement that can be found in Nehemiah’s story. Thank You for preserving these stories of great leaders who help model obedience to the calling You’ve put before me. I acknowledge that sometimes I may feel overwhelmed by the enormity of this calling. Help me to see beyond the overwhelming nature of the task and focus on taking one step at a time. In Your Name I pray, amen.

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