The People Had a Mind to Work
A few years ago, I visited a congregation that used an interesting image on the cover of its bulletin. The image showed a long rope with a number of people pulling on the rope together. There was text on the image that read "Everyone Pull Together!" What a great illustration for unity, focus, and a desire to work!

It is common knowledge that a group of people uniting and working together to achieve a common goal is able to do much more than a lone individual. Likewise, a group of people working together with the right attitude is able to accomplish more than a group of people who are lethargic or apathetic regarding the work that needs to be done.

An excellent example of unity, focus, and a desire to work is found in the book of Nehemiah. In chapter 1 we are introduced to Nehemiah, a Jew in captivity who served as the cupbearer for King Artaxerxes. When a group of Jews from Judah came to Shushan the citadel, Nehemiah asked them about those Jews who were able to escape captivity and about the condition of Jerusalem. When Nehemiah found out that the Jews who had escaped were in "great distress and reproach" and heard how "the wall of Jerusalem [was] also broken down" and the gates had been burned with fire, Nehemiah sat down and wept. He mourned, fasted, and prayed for many days.

In chapter two, we read how King Artaxerxes asked Nehemiah why his face was sad. Nehemiah prayed to God and then asked the king if he could return to Judah to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. The king granted Nehemiah's request, and Nehemiah began his journey. Not long after arriving in Jerusalem, Nehemiah went out one night under the cover of darkness "and viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were burned with fire" (Neh. 2:13). None of the priests, nobles, officials, or other Jews knew what Nehemiah had been sent to do.

Later, Nehemiah explained his mission. He said to them, "You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach" (Neh. 2:17). Nehemiah then told the people how the hand of God was upon him, and he repeated King Artaxerxes' words. To all of this the people responded, "'Let us rise up and build.' Then they set their hands to this good work" (Neh. 2:18).

Friends, take a moment to notice how the people responded to the call of duty. Notice how scripture mentions, "they set their hands to this good work." Chapter 3 records a flurry of activity as we read of numerous individuals working to rebuild the gates, the wall, and making other repairs. Within a short amount of time, much was accomplished. Listen to Nehemiah's words in chapter 4, verse 6: "So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work." The people made great progress--in spite of overwhelming odds and opposition. In Nehemiah 4:7,8 we read: "Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion." What did the Jewish workers do? Did they pack it in and leave before the going got rough? No! They prayed to God and set a watch against their enemies day and night (Neh. 4:9). At one point during construction, the builders of the wall and those who carried burdens worked with one hand and held a weapon with the other, but still they worked (Neh. 4:17,18)! Friends, let us consider some lessons worthy of our attention from the first four chapters of Nehemiah:

  1. When the Lord calls us to work (and, friends, we have been called to work), we too should unite and say , "Let us rise up and build," and set our hands to doing the good work.
  2. When we have "a mind to work" , we can accomplish much.
  3. There will be times when we are working for the Lord where the going will get rough, and the enemy will be after us. However, we shouldn't let ourselves become distracted during these times; rather, we should hold tighter "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17) and keep laboring for the Master.

Truly, when people unite to work for the Lord and have a desire to work, much can be accomplished. Friends, do you have "a mind to work" ?