Read His Words Before Ours!
What is the difference between faithful and faith-filled? Prior to pondering Nehemiah and the confidence with which he prayed, I may have described them as two sides of the same coin: faithful and full of faith.
However, as I continued to think about those two concepts, I began to see parallels with the scientific terms potential and kinetic energy.
Yes, I am taking us back to science class for a moment.
Kinetic energy is the energy of an object in motion.
Whereas, potential energy’s origin is found in the location of said object or the nature of its construction, not in movement.
For instance, think about pushing a snowball off a mountain top (can you tell I grew up in Wyoming?). The snowball itself has great potential energy when it sits, motionless, at the top of the mountain, although it’s not actually demonstrating any of that energy. However, once the snowball begins migrating down the mountain, rapidly picking up speed and growing in size, anyone living in the valley below may discover the power of its kinetic energy.
This analogy demonstrates the difference between faithful and faith-filled, which we will see applies to Nehemiah and his prayer life. Approximately 100 years before we meet Nehemiah, Israel’s time of exile in Babylon had ceased and they had been given freedom to return home. However, not all exiles chose to return. A new generation had been born and raised in exile, and Babylon had become home. Hence, why Nehemiah was still hanging out in Babylon when we read his biography. The previous troupe who had returned home were tasked with rebuilding a ransacked Jerusalem, but a century later, Nehemiah learned that the Israelites continued to walk a razor-thin line of survival:
“The remnant in the province, who survived the exile, are in great trouble and disgrace. Jerusalem’s wall has been broken down, and its gates have been burned.” (Nehemiah 1:3)
As he led Israel to rebuild Jerusalem, Nehemiah prayed intensely faith-filled prayers. He cried out to the Lord and entrusted the outcome to the faithfulness of God. He understood the “potential energy” of a heart beseeching the Lord. Nehemiah was positioned to experience the miracle of the Lord working through him, but the ability to accomplish the tasks before him did not reside within Nehemiah himself.
The Lord, however, carried the capability to see Nehemiah’s mission come to pass, and Nehemiah prayed with expectation the Lord would remain true to the promises He’d given the people of Israel. (Deuteronomy 30:1-5) Nehemiah understood the concept of faithfulness and recognized it as a demonstration of God’s character. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Faithful is defined as:
- Firm in adherence to promises or in observance of duty,
- given with strong assurance, and
- true to the facts, to a standard, or to an original.
All three of these definitions apply to the character of God.
Consider generations earlier, when God cut a covenant with His servant, Abram (later renamed to Abraham), regarding the establishment of an entire nation through Abraham’s lineage. God alone assumed the weight of the promises’ fulfillment. (Genesis 15)
The covenant would be upheld by God’s faithfulness.
The Lord demonstrated His faithfulness to Abraham and His people throughout the Old Testament. In pondering His faithfulness to those in the New Testament, the apostle Paul comes to mind. After his profound conversion experience (Acts 9:1-25), Paul sought to spread the Gospel with the same energy he once used to persecute Christians, which cost him dearly. Shipwrecks, beatings, and imprisonments filled Paul’s missionary journeys. In 2 Thessalonians 3, he encourages believers to remember the Lord is faithful, a truth I believe helped guide Paul into the incredible obedience he displayed throughout his life.
The truth of the Lord’s faithfulness is for us, as well. In fact, today I am choosing to believe in His faithfulness as I navigate some unexpected scenarios in my current season.
Maybe, like me, you wonder, “What is the practical application?”.
For me, it looked like the following three steps today, ones I will probably need to repeat often.
- Pray like Nehemiah. He laid out the elements troubling his heart and directed his prayer to the Lord. This was an active conversation with Him, not simply thinking through details. I am often guilty of equating thinking about something with praying about it.
- Believe the Lord will respond in His faithfulness. The Lord’s character is consistent. Once I spent time praying through the details of life, I thanked the Lord for Who He is and the promises He has given in Scripture. I reminded myself of the goodness and faithfulness of God.
- Surrender the outcome to the Lord. This step is crucial and is sometimes the most difficult. The Lord will faithfully listen to my prayers and respond to them, but His answers may not be what I hope or expect. He may not remove the circumstances, provide insights immediately, or even seem to acknowledge my prayers. However, my role is to pray in faith, trust the Lord will reply in His faithfulness and timing, and obey as He leads me. The rest is up to Him.
Nehemiah and the Israelites rebuilt the great wall surrounding Jerusalem–an undertaking the Hebrew remnant previously believed impossible!– in 52 days. Paul brought the Gospel to innumerable people throughout his life. Regardless of the mission the Lord has appointed for each of us, the same faithful One Who led Nehemiah and Paul leads us as well, and His activity makes all the difference.
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!