Every pastor has experienced that moment either as soon as he descends from the pulpit or maybe when he gets to the office on Monday morning when he thinks back over his sermon and realizes he forgot to say something or wishes he had said something differently. Well, I had one of those moments this Monday morning.
We've been going through the the book of Nehemiah for the past three weeks on Sunday mornings. This past Sunday we looked at Nehemiah 2:11-20. It's the account of Nehemiah walking around the city to inspect the condition of the walls and then exhorting the people to rise up and build. I pointed out from the passage the need to face reality when God sets out to restore or rebuild His people. If you are truly serious about rebuilding your church or your life, you have to be brutally honest with yourself as to what current reality is and then move on to what needs to be done to change that reality.
So what is it I wish I had said or wish I had said differently? Well, I mentioned that facing reality as a church, a follower of Christ or an someone who doesn't follow Christ is uncomfortable or hard not because we don't know what we will find when we do, but rather because of what we know we WILL find when we do. We will find lives and churches that aren't what they should be and that can be uncomfortable, even scary. But here's what I should have done a better job of stating: "Because of Christ, facing reality doesn't have to be uncomfortable or scary." Facing reality is uncomfortable or scary because of either the guilt of our sin that we find there or the seemingly impossible journey it will take for us to see a new reality come to fruition.
However, because Jesus lived perfectly on our behalf and died perfectly in our place and is risen from the dead, and has ascended to the Father, we do not have to fear facing reality because of the sin or disobedience or lack of passion for the things of God that we will find there. Jesus already faced that reality for us and has taken our guilt for it and through his life, death, and resurrection has paid the penalty for that sin. Therefore we can face reality and be honest about where we have sinned and disobeyed and do so with full confidence that through faith it is forgiven in Christ. We don't have to be afraid of the reality of what is.
Likewise, we don't have to be afraid of the seemingly impossible journey it will take for us to see a new reality come to fruition. Change is hard and uncomfortable. It stretches us. Whether it's you as an individual or you as an entire church family change can be frightening and seem impossible to achieve. And it is on our own. But notice what Nehemiah says in Nehemiah 2:20, "The God of heaven will make us prosper and we his servants will arise and build." The people no doubt had to get up and work and sacrifice, but it was God who would make them prosper. A New Testament equivalent might be from Paul in Philippians 2:12-13, "...work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." Yes, change is hard as individuals and as a church. The journey can be awfully long and uncomfortable. But God will work in us to will and to work for his good pleasure. How does he do that? It's because His Holy Spirit lives within us. Well, how does his Holy Spirit live within us? It's because his Son lived and died and rose again for us, to forgive us of our sins and give us new life--a life that is available to us by faith, a life that can face reality without fear and face the journey of change as well. We don't have to be afraid of the reality of what needs to be.
Well, that's what I wish I had said or at least wish I had said better. And I could beat myself up over it and as a pastor it's tempting to do. BUT, I don't have because Jesus has lived, died, and rose again for all the things I wish I said or wish I had said better, but didn't.