broken walls 2 - Preparing to build
(continued from Gill's previous article here)
For months, Nehemiah had been mourning the broken walls of the city of Jerusalem, confessing to God the sin of his people which had led to the desolation. Now he was ready to act, but he knew that he needed his employer’s support before he could do anything. So one morning, before leaving for work, he prayed that his employer would do what he asked (Nehemiah 1:11).
With the condition and needs of his people still uppermost in his mind, Nehemiah looked depressed while he was serving the King that day. For most people, looking miserable at work probably doesn’t matter, but for Nehemiah, it could have been fatal: it was against the law to look unhappy in the presence of the King and punishable by death. His boss obviously knew his cupbearer well though, because he attributed Nehemiah’s unusual mien to a heaviness of heart, and asked him what was wrong. When Nehemiah explained, the King asked if he could do anything to help. Here was the opportunity that Nehemiah had prayed for that morning - notice the immediacy of Nehemiah’s response: ‘I prayed ... and I answered’ (2:4—5). He had been building up to this moment with God for months, so a brief prayer was all that he needed at that point – that’s how ready Nehemiah was to act. Are we so aware of what we want to do for God in our workplaces that we can seize the moment when God opens a door?
The outcome was that Nehemiah was sent back to Jerusalem, representing the King as governor of the region, with letters to secure all the materials he needed for the rebuild. But there is more at play here than Nehemiah’s faith. Why would the King part with his cupbearer (a key employee in defending him from plots) to send him to a troubled region to govern – a region populated with people who worshipped the same God and embraced the same culture as Nehemiah? The answer lies in Nehemiah’s integrity – faithful, honest service meant that Nehemiah was trusted not to be bribed or blackmailed, even though he worshipped and obeyed his own God, not that of his employer. Are we trusted by our employers for our integrity? Do we represent them honestly and fairly, without compromising our faith?
Jack was asked by his employer to head up a bid. It was his first job as a bid manager, and it wasn’t until the bid was ready to submit that he discovered that his employer expected a customary fiddle factor to be included. He refused. There were suggestions from his line manager that his career was over; maybe even his job was at risk. He was the sole wage earner, with a wife and new baby to support, but he continued to refuse, even if it meant losing his job.
Several years later, he lost his job in an unconnected mass redundancy, with no redeployment within the company permitted. But the person who had been Jack’s line manager when he wrote that first bid was now a divisional manager and he decided to redeploy Jack anyway. Why? Quite simply because he wanted someone with proven integrity on his team. The honesty which had been inconvenient in one situation became a desirable commodity in another.
And Nehemiah was such an employee. In his job, he would almost certainly have known about plots to kill the King. But he protected and served his employer honestly, so the King was minded to give Nehemiah what he asked for. In the process, of course, Artaxerxes was also getting what he needed: a loyal governor, one who understood the Jewish people and who was willing to give direction and focus to a troubled section of his kingdom. Maybe your impulse to share the kingdom of God in your workplace is compelling you to act after months of talking to God about it. So do what Nehemiah did – ask God if your employer will give you the opportunity to start a Christian workplace group, and when he or she does, be ready to pray to God and answer.
For Nehemiah, this was a spiritual problem. For the King, it was a practical, governmental problem. But both people got what they wanted and it’s the same win-win for your employer, too. You are able to nurture a spiritual work and your employer gets increased productivity, because Christian values in the workplace may at times be an inconvenient truth, but Christians are loyal, reliable and honest employees and their values, seasoning the company with salt (Matthew 5:13) and shedding Christ’s light in the community, are an invaluable asset.
So, like Nehemiah, pray until you are compelled to act, pray that your employer will give you what you want, and be ready to answer when you hear the question, ‘What can I do to help?’
Next: the best laid plans - how Nehemiah dealt with opposition
Other blogs by Gill Robins