Nehemiah 11 

We all bring something…Serving…

I want to conclude our service today by bringing a few brief thoughts centred around Nehemiah 11…

(Illustration) A story about four people in a church whose names were Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.

The church had financial responsibilities, loads of things to do, opportunities galore and Everybody was asked to help.  Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it. But you know who did it? Nobody. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

Then the church grounds needed some work, and Somebody was asked to help.  But Somebody got angry about that, because Anybody could have done it just as well and, after all, it really was Everybody’s job.  In the end, the work was given to Nobody, and well…Nobody did a fine job.

On and on this went.  Whenever work was to be done, a meal cooked for Somebody, Anybody and Everybody, a prayer to be prayed…Nobody could always be counted on.  Nobody visited the sick. Nobody gave generously. Nobody shared his faith. In short, Nobody was a very faithful member.

Finally, the day came when Somebody left the church and took Anybody and Everybody with him.  Guess who was left. Nobody!

We’ve been working our way through the book of Nehemiah and this morning we’ve landed on chapter 11 which, like a few of the other chapters, consists largely of lists of names, however, there’s a little more than just names going on here…the main point I want to emphasise is in today’s title… “we all bring something”, a prayer, a gift, an encouragement, time…we don’t want to be the faithful nobody![1]

…let me read a few verses then I’ll make a few more comments….(please read the chapter for context)

(READ 11:1 – 2)

Now the leaders of the people settled in Jerusalem. The rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of every ten of them to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while the remaining nine were to stay in their own towns. The people commended all who volunteered to live in Jerusalem…

The scripture goes on to list names of those who came into the city, including for many what their roles were…and those who settled in the outlying areas of Judah. These verses show us along with the rest of the chapter what is required for effective community and that God works through willing people.

…even more specifically it points to one key spiritual lesson: serving

Not unlike the commitment of those who have been baptised today, in what is a selfless commitment, serving is a decision and a way of life that puts what God wants ahead of what I want

Nehemiah wanted the people to see that in order to restore the city to its proper glory, a willingness to serve God was required.

When we consider the story at this point: the wall was built; the people were beginning to be spiritually revived but the need for willing workers, for the growth of community was great.

Civil law and order had been restored to Jerusalem, the city was safe from physical threat, yet so few people were willing to leave the comfort of their lands and houses and come into the city of Jerusalem, where the action was at! What was the problem? Great city, but no people in it! The equivalent is we can have fine premises and facilities but low-level willingness, foresight or incentive to do anything with it.

We have three different movements of people in the scripture (read for yourselves):

  1. Leaders who settled in Jerusalem
  2. A call for a portion (10%) of the people to come into the city
  3. And, those who volunteered, putting self aside, overcoming their reluctance, to come from the surrounding countryside into the city. This was the group that said ‘we’re not going to do this because we must, but because we are willing’. Don’t have to, but I will!

For this group, the NIV uses the word commended in verse 2. But the better word is “blessed”, the people, blessed those who volunteered” (like spiritual high fives, a good on ya mate!)…because they understood the importance and the magnitude of their decision/s.

Across the three groups were leaders, people for public relations (v.24) and musicians.….all roles and skills that needed willing people for the community to function effectively...yes.

While our situation is different, like Jerusalem then, the needs are immense, there are plenty of things to be done where we need willing people to serve in leadership and ministry opportunities….so much gifting and ability in this room, so many of you serving faithfully well beyond boundaries of comfort, and some….holding back…

There is no end of scriptural basis to support the fact we should or ought to serve willingly. But why would we want to? Why we would choose willingly to serve, where my value is serve, my central attitude is serve….is because we want to honour God, and as a response to what he’s done for us in the person of Jesus.

You see we can only give, and give away in serving, what we have first received.

What have we received? Everything we need in the person of Jesus

With how much of our lives then, should we serve? Everything we have, because of Jesus

In this conversation about serving I’m not talking about volume, that is, the amount of stuff we might or might not do. I could be doing a lot, supposedly for God, but with a stink attitude.

I’m talking about the motivation and intent of our heart, our willingness born out of a desire to please God.

“Serving is not my thing Ross”. When that is our response we have missed the enormity of Jesus’ life & sacrifice for us because when that hits us, serving flows out…love him…

Nehemiah had a city with few willing people, everybody was certain that somebody would do it, nobody……we have a city and community that needs willing people.

I believe God is honoured by, willing-to-serve-him people. If anyone serves Me, he My Father will honour (John 12:26)

We talked a few weeks ago about being an important and necessary part of the work, and as we see from today’s scripture serving is for all, no exemptions, no exclusivity, there is something for us all to be and do…to be a healthy,  fully functioning body. Never depreciate or underestimate the impact or significance of our work in serving God and others. God sees who we are and what we can offer…let us not be limited by what we think we can’t do, but what God can do through us.

When Nehemiah heard the plight of his people, he sat, wept, mourned, fasted and prayed himself into serving the Lord.  Our “These things” ought to catapult us into serving God. God can use your willingness, your “yes Lord I’ll do it”, to serve, to accomplish things that can have lasting significance, for him and toward others.

…God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. (Heb. 6:10)

In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul described all the believers in Corinth as he wrote, “we are God’s fellow workers, you are God’s field, God’s building…”…all working and serving together in accomplishing God’s purposes.

How is God glorified when we serve?

Serving is our worship response to God. It is to do what he says when he says, his way, expecting nothing for self, that directs attention to himself. It is the kind of serving too that results from constantly receiving from God. 1 Peter 4:11 explains this best: Whoever serves, [let it be] as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”

The true litmus test for serving is what occurs in our heart when we serve someone else when we’ve given time away, when there’s been a financial sacrifice, and done something for another person, or we’re asked to volunteer for something...what expectation have we carried of getting something back?

When we’re genuinely serving God and others in a right spirit we’re able to do stuff and literally leave it there with God, trusting him to do what he wills…because serving is our gift, to him!

Nehemiah’s vision in chapter 11 was to restore Jerusalem to a vibrant worshipping centre that would attract people…and they needed leaders, volunteers, and workers to enable that. What could be viewed as an unspectacular passage is actually invaluable in terms of its lesson to us in commitment and willingness to community.

Whoever we are, and whatever we can bring, we have a contribution to make. Whatever we do and however we serve, we do for the glory of God.

(Illustration) There’s a very clever young guy named Somebody Else,

There’s nothing this guy can’t do.

He is busy from morning till way late at night

Just substituting for you.

You’re asked to do this or you’re asked to do that

And what is your ready reply?

Get Somebody Else to do that job,

He’ll do it much better than I.

So much to do in this weary old world –

So much and workers so few,

And Somebody Else, all weary and worn,

Is still substituting for you.

The next time you’re asked to do something worthwhile,

Just give this ready reply;

If Somebody Else can give time and support,

My goodness, so can I![2]

As you think about serving, I want to remind us all of who ultimately the model for serving is. Jesus….who the apostle Paul describes in his letter to a church at Philippi:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others…In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus……rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant (Philippians 2)

The greatest battle we have in serving God and serving others is…self…imagine how strong our involvement in church and other community groups and opportunities could look like…

…I think that’s the main reason Jesus said that to follow him, we must deny our self….

…Doing what I want and pleasing self can’t coexist with following Jesus, “(who) came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Serving is to give ourselves away, for the sake of Jesus, for others

Will you be the one commended, because you made the decision to serve?![3]


[1] Green, Illustrations

[2] Green

[3] ???I’m a huge advocate for self-care, looking after ourselves so we can be at our best, I do think however there comes a point where that becomes unhealthy self-preservation to the point we’re quite aloof from serving, we say no to stuff for no real valid reason, we’ve convinced self we simply don’t want to