Harkening back to my days as a youth pastor, we started Bible Study with a game. The guys were split into two groups. I provided each table with a stack of magna-tiles (courtesy of my kids) and a picture of what to build. Each team had to secretly designate one destroyer and one protector. The destroyer could randomly run over to the opposing team’s table and attempt to knock down their wall. The protector was to keep guard over the table and defend against any attack from the opposing team’s destroyer. He could defend his wall at all costs (except murder).
After the game, we turned to the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah was a Hebrew living in a foreign land. He was also the cupbearer to Artaxerxes, the Persian king. Nehemiah got word that all the exiled Jews went back to Jerusalem. When they got back to Israel, they found the walls of the city were destroyed. Destroyed walls was a sign of weakness and instability. The people were vulnerable to an attack anytime because they had no wall to protect them.
We read 1:3-4: “They said to me, those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire. 4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven”.
I asked the guys, “How did Nehemiah respond when he heard what was happening back in Jerusalem?” Nehemiah wept, he prayed!
I wanted them to see it’s ok to hurt. It’s ok to feel bad when we lose a game but, don’t just feel bad, do something about it. Nehemiah started with prayer.
After praying, the Lord gave him favor. The king noticed Nehemiah was sad and not himself. He asked Nehemiah what was wrong. Nehemiah explained the turmoil his people were going through in Israel. The Holy City’s walls and gates were destroyed. The king asked what Nehemiah wanted to do and Nehemiah requested to go back and rebuild. The king granted him 52 days and access to resources to build. The king also provided Nehemiah with letters to governors that he could use as a pass as he traveled through the different regions. He left and rallied the people of Israel to rebuild. He told the people about his plan to rebuild, and they responded, “Let’s start rebuilding!”. He gave each tribe and family different sections to build. (This is why I split the team into two groups during our game.)
I pointed out that King Artaxerxes noticed something wasn’t right with Nehemiah and we discussed the following questions: “How do you react when you see a teammate not acting like themselves?” and. “ Share a time when a teammate has checked in on you and uplifted you.” Players had some great comments, and we were all encouraged.
The people of Jerusalem responded when Nehemiah showed great leadership and communicated to them about his plan to rebuild the wall (2:18).
This is when the haters come in…
We read, 2:9-10 - 10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.
With success also comes haters. Sanballat and Tobiah did all they could to dismantle Nehemiah and the people of Israel in their plan to rebuild. Daily they mocked them (vs. 2:19, 4:2), called them names (4:2), tried to intimidate Nehemiah (6:10), even plotted to kill them (vs. 8) when they saw the progress they were making. Nehemiah then orchestrated a plan to have them split up. He had some people work on the wall while others stood watch, guarding against potential attacks.
It was at this moment the game we played came to life to them. They had just played out what was happening in Nehemiah.
Finally, chapter 6:15 tells us, “So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days.”
We talked about how to handle haters when the season isn’t going as planned.
Finally, we concluded by reflecting on what we can learn as a team from Nehemiah’s leadership..
Here are some of the answers…
l If you don’t like your situation, change it. Do something about it to benefit the team.
l Don’t complain. Be a positive leader!
l When you want to accomplish something (like a Championship), it requires total “buy in”.
Putting these responses into action can change the dynamic of a team.