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The Partnership

I had two motivating conversations yesterday from friends with big ideas. I love talking with these guys because they are always looking ahead to what can be accomplished because they entertain dreams in their hearts. They are aware of the daily needs of life and work hard to provide for their families but they live with the sense that life is a partnership with God with limitless possibilities. One of the men said to me, “I don’t know what God has in mind for this situation but there is a stirring in my spirit that won’t go away.” The other said, “This is a challenge I could get up for.” The two scenarios were very different from each other but they had one thing in common. They both required a spiritual partnership. They would only be possible with hard work on the part of people and a large dose of God’s favor.
We see such a partnership form in Nehemiah 2. Nehemiah is working as the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes in Persia. His job is to ensure that meals are festive occasions for the king and his guests. He must test the food to see that it is safe but then he must set an atmosphere that encourages laughter and the building of memories. His heart, however, was heavy over the news of the depressed state of Israel to the point that he could not hide it. Normally, he was very good at leaving his personal life out of his professional activities but the burden had hit a place in his heart that went beyond his ability to conceal it.
As Nehemiah was serving the meal, the king asked him, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” (v. 2) For a cupbearer this was a dangerous question because people were killed for ruining the mood of the king’s meal. It is at this point the partnership begins.
Nehemiah sensed this was the critical moment in the plan. If things went well, the dream could become a reality. Artaxerxes was the only one with the authority to release him to rebuild the wall and he had the resources to fund the project. A “yes” answer would go a long way to making Israel secure while a “no” answer would kill the project before it ever started. With appropriate hesitation, Nehemiah prayed then answered the king. In the pursuing interaction we discover the human side of the equation. Nehemiah’s job was to pray, provide answers to logistical questions and plan a course of action. Take note of the various questions laid before Nehemiah that paved the way for the venture:

  • Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill?” (v. 2)
  • “What is it you want?” (v. 4)
  • “How long will your journey take?” (v. 6)
  • “When will you get back?” (v. 6)

Because he had answers to these questions, the king’s trust in him rose. This was a big challenge to me when I read it. I have lots of ideas of how to make the world a better place. I need to learn that the ideas I am supposed to run with are the ones in which I can envision the practical steps necessary to make them work. In other words, if God is calling, He will provide the wisdom on what the next steps look like.
Then Nehemiah revealed the part of the plan that was not asked about. ““If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” (v. 7-8) It was obvious that he had done more than just dreamed about helping his homeland. He had researched the need, plotted a course, and considered necessary options. His part of the joint venture was in motion.
The only thing left was to see if God would add His favor to the partnership. “And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests.” (v. 8 )
Heavenly Father, please lead us to partnerships in life that take advantage of our skills and demonstrate your hand of favor.

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