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About this series
Turning God-Shaped Dreams into Reality
The God of the universe is looking for regular people to accomplish things beyond our wildest dreams. In this series, from Nehemiah 1 - 6, learn how God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things and the process by which He molds men and women for His purposes.More from this series
“For the eyes of the Lord go to and fro throughout the whole earth that He might strongly support those whose hearts are fully his.” What an invitation, given to a prophet, but an axiomatic principle all through Scripture.
God is looking for a man, God is looking for a woman, He’s looking for a student whose heart is fully His. And some have a little, some have a lot, some have in between. But God is looking for regular, ordinary people who are all in, that He might strongly support you, give you whatever you need: wisdom, faith, people, staff, finances – whatever you need to fulfill the job that He’s made you to fulfill.
The question is, what does it take to make a difference for God, and what kind of person does He promise to strongly support? There are six prerequisites.
The first prerequisite for the God of the universe, with all wisdom, all knowledge, unlimited power, and a desire to support and help you, is to look at your life, and your heart, and say, “Do you have a dislocated heart? Do you really care? Is your life really open and available to say, I’ll get beyond me, and my world, and my stuff, and my things, to really extend, if You would want me to, to care about other people?
Our model was Nehemiah. We read these words last week: “In the month of Kislev” – November, December – “in the twentieth year” – which was [during the time] of King Artaxerxes of Persia – “while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah, and some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. Then he said to me, ‘Those who survived the exile are back in their province. They’re in great trouble and in disgrace.’”
It’s bad. God’s promises, God’s people, God’s plan – for all practical purposes, downhill. The evidence? The gates have been burned with fire; the walls are broken down. And then here’s a dislocated heart: “When I heard these things, I sat down. I stopped. I wept.” He deeply emoted. And he mourned for some days. And then, he acted. He had no idea. He’s a business guy. He’s the right hand man to the king. He tastes the wine; he tastes the food. He’s living in the lap of luxury, and he’s thinking, What can one person do?
So, he fasts and prays for three months, and he finds a small group of people who have that on their heart. Because you’ll find that he asked God, early, “Listen to the prayer of Your servant,” and then, later in the chapter, “listen to the prayer of Your servants” – plural. And he says, “God, what can I do?”
A dislocated heart is a God-given concern for others that propels us out of our comfort zone. It’s a passionate concern for God’s agenda that supercedes our own personal desires for personal peace and prosperity. And I will tell you, that is counterintuitive, counter the flesh, and, unfortunately, counter most churches.
We said there were three great examples: Jesus in Philippians 2, Paul in Romans 9, and then, you. We talked about individual stories. It’s something that you’re passionate about, that moves you out of your comfort zone to love and care for other people.
How do you develop it? We talked about an honest evaluation of saying, Do I have one, or not? We talked about genuine repentance, to the level that we don’t – I shared my story. You say, “You know something? I’m going to own that. And I’m going to turn around.”
And then, we talked about a careful consideration. Not some knee-jerk, emotional, something that goes up quickly, but, What does God really want me to do? And then, to ask Him for it.
Now we’re going to look at the second condition. When these six conditions, when God finds these in the human heart, I will tell you this: He’ll strongly support you. The second is a broken spirit. And we need to do a little theology lesson before we talk about how to develop a broken spirit. Because in Scripture you need some backdrop about what a broken spirit is.
In Scripture, there’s one thing, one hundred percent of the time, that God is a hundred percent against. When He sees it in a man, when He sees it in a woman, when He sees it in a child, when it happens in the Old Testament, when it happens in the New Testament, He sees it in a corporation, He sees it in a nation – it’s not like He’s unhappy about it. It’s not like He’s mildly displeased. He’s against it. He comes against it. He brings consequences. He hates it.
And that one thing would be pride. Pride. Pride can be “strutting your stuff,” I don’t need God, rebellion. Or pride can be self-reliance, and doing your own thing, as though God doesn’t exist.
But the good news is, there is something that, whenever God sees it – if He sees it in a man, or a woman, or a nation, or a country, or a company, Old Testament or New – when He sees this one thing in the human heart – you could have been to prison, you could have murdered people, you could have committed adultery, you could have had two or three abortions, you could have lied, you could have embezzled, you could have stiff-armed God, you could have blasphemed God – No matter what you’ve done, but if this one thing happens in your heart, heaven rushes to connect with you. It’s called a broken spirit.
Let me give you a little biblical evidence here. On pride, Proverbs 8:13 says, “To fear the Lord is to hate evil. I hate” – notice the strong word – “I hate pride and arrogance and evil behavior and perverse speech.”
In the New Testament, it’s James 4:6. “But He gives more grace. That is why the Scripture says: ‘God opposes.’” And you know the little word anti, like, “against”? That word for oppose, in Greek – it starts with that: anti. He’s against the proud, but He “gives grace to the humble.”
But notice Psalm 51. It’s David’s confession. This was a man who really knew God well, loved God, wrote the Psalms – valiant warrior, musician. But, like a lot of us, he was at the wrong place, at the wrong time. He let his success swell his head, and, instead of doing what he was supposed to be doing, he ended up walking around while his nation was at battle.
And he looked down on a very beautiful woman, who probably shouldn’t have been bathing where she was. And he commits adultery with Bathsheba, and then commits murder with her husband.
And Psalm 51 is him pouring his heart out before God, knowing that the consequence he deserves is death. And he writes in Psalm 51:16 and 17, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You don’t take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”
See, we have this idea that, I’ve done something terrible. God can never use me, or, I did this, or, I did that, so I’ll try and be a good person, and I’ll try and do more of this, and I’ll be kinder to people. And you have this “works” mentality. It doesn’t work.
When we are far from God – whether like this, or like this – what allows God to come in, and forgive, and cleanse is when we understand we’re spiritually bankrupt, and we have a broken spirit, and we just say, God, I messed up. I don’t have any excuses. I blew it. What I did was wrong – how I did it, how I said it. Would You please forgive me, and have mercy upon me? I’m desperate. I deserve nothing.
Isaiah 57:15. This word, actually, is only used in two or three places in all the Old Testament. But it says, “For this is what the high and lofty One says – He who lives forever, whose name is holy, ‘I live.’” Literally, the word is dwell. It’s where His presence – it’s where God can be God.
There are only two places in the universe where the manifestation of all of God being God can be. And here’s the first one: “I live” – or “I dwell” – “in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
I’m always amazed when I read the Bible – because I never read it growing up. I wasn’t a Christian growing up. I thought all Christians were crazy, and I had some good evidence.
But I think of the great heroes of the faith – and you have Moses, who’s a murderer, and you have David, who’s an adulterer and a murderer, and you have the apostle Paul, who’s a murderer. And, somehow, we get these little Bible stories, and we act like they’re just stained glass people. They were very evil people, in windows of times, who did horrendous things that broke God’s heart.
And then, they repented. And they recognized the distance, and how they violated a holy God. And they didn’t try and cut a deal, and then try to earn their way back into His grace. They just said, “O God, forgive me. I don’t deserve anything.”
And when God sees that in your heart, He’ll rush to meet you. And He’ll start you on a journey of not just forgiveness, but restoration, and healing, and repair.
And guess what – later in this psalm, he says, “God, I want You not only to heal me, and forgive me, I want the day to be that You would actually restore the joy of my salvation. And I would like to be an instrument, yet again, of teaching sinners Your ways.” Because he sure understands what it means to be a sinner.
So, those are two timeless things concerning God. And the danger, when we begin to think about developing a broken spirit, is – I’ve watched this happen. In fact, I’ve read some books, even some very good devotional books.
But there’s this – I call it “worm theology.” In other words, if I’m going to have a broken spirit, all of a sudden, Well, I must be a terrible person. I gotta feel really bad about myself, and that’s right. I’m going to think of anything I’ve ever done, and take the spiritual wet noodle – shame, shame, shame, shame. I’m a bad…and I’ll get myself worked up in some emotional, I’m a terrible, terrible person.
You know what that does? Guess where the focus is? It’s on you. It’s arrogant. You don’t develop a broken spirit by beating yourself up.
Let me give you three keys to developing an authentic, genuine, broken spirit so, that, when the God who made and created all that there is looks inside your heart, will say, “This person has a dislocated heart. And” – number two – “they have a broken spirit.”
Number one, it begins with a restored view of God, we’re going to learn – key number one. Number two, that will lead to an accurate assessment of yourself. And, later, we’ll learn, it’ll cause your agenda of your life to get aligned with God’s agenda, and His purposes.
You say, “Well, where do you get that?” We get it from Nehemiah again. Now, imagine: He’s living in the lap of luxury. Right? You know, he’s got his nice chariot, his nice clothes, his nice food. But he’s heard about this. He’s got a dislocated heart. And it says he prayed and fasted for three months, we’ll learn.
Wouldn’t you like to be just like a little bird, you know? Like, He’s praying. I wonder what he’s praying? You know, like, the actual words. What did he actually say? What are the kinds of prayers that really get through to God?
You’ve got it right here. We have a sample. He says, “When I heard these things I sat down, and I wept for some days, and I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said” – there’s his actual prayer – “‘O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and obey His commands.”
Here’s the request: “Let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer Your servant is praying before You.”
Notice the intensity. This isn’t some little, “Oh, I had a little liver quiver.” This is, “Night and day for Your servants, the people of Israel.”
Will you put a box around the words: O Lord? It’s His covenant name. It’s, “O Yahweh, the I AM THAT I AM, the Ever Existent One, the All Powerful One, the Personal One, the God of All the Earth.”
Put a box around God of Heaven – He’s Creator. Put a box around the word great – He’s all-powerful. Put a box around the word awesome. In the Old King James, it has the idea of “terrible,” or “fearful,” or “holy.” He is in a totally different category. And then, finally, put a box around the phrase: who keeps His covenant of loyal love.
A broken spirit begins with a restored view of God, not a beating up of yourself, of your view of you. And notice the high view of God: Yahweh, Creator, powerful, fearful, holy, loyal loving God.
Here’s what you need to understand. We all have issues and problems, right? Some people need a job, some people are in a difficult relationship, some people have money issues. You know, some people have kids who are driving them crazy, and some people have parents who are driving them crazy. Some people have a secret sin that they’ve never shared with anyone, and every time they come to church, they feel really guilty, and they want to draw near to God, and they have all this stuff going on inside.
But whatever the problem is, the human tendency is to focus on the problem, focus on the problem, focus on the problem, focus on the problem. And then pretty soon, you look at all of life, and all relationships, and all circumstances through the problem.
And then, life stinks. And so, you drink stuff you shouldn’t, take pills that don’t help you, watch too much TV, and eat all the time, looking for pleasure, and trying to put something in your mind, or your heart, or your body that will keep you away from those bad feelings.
See, you either have really big problems, and a really small God, or you have a very big God, and very small problems. Those are the only two options.
Nehemiah saw a huge problem. He had a dislocated heart. And he had God-centered prayers. God-centered prayers. Are yours God-centered? Are mine God-centered? Or do we just whine and complain before the throne? “Oh God, what about this? Oh God, what about this? You haven’t done this, you know, and this, and this keeps happening. And what…”
Sometimes, we just worry out loud, and call it prayer. And we don’t even think about who we’re talking to. When Nehemiah prayed, he said, “I am speaking to the I AM THAT I AM. I’m speaking to the One who spoke, and the galaxies came into existence. I’m speaking to the One who has all power, and all resources. I’m speaking to One who keeps His covenant of loyal love.” And it starts by beginning to get a high view of God – a view of His majesty, His power, His wisdom, His love, His justice, and His holiness.
I love what [A.W.] Tozer says. I read, probably, a chapter of this book, the first fifteen years I was a Christian, every day, and then, I kind of cut back to maybe a chapter, once a week. It’s a tiny book, called The Knowledge of the Holy, and it’s just about God: What’s God like? Tozer writes, “Modern Christianity is simply not producing the kind of Christian who can appropriate, appreciate, or experience life in the Spirit. The words in Scripture, ‘Be still, and know that I am God,’ mean next to nothing to the self-confident, bustling worshipper in the middle period of this century.
“But the alarming thing is that our gains are mostly external, and our losses are wholly internal. And since it is the quality of our religion that is affected by internal conditions, it may be that our supposed gains are but losses spread over a wider field.”
We have never had more TV, never more video, never more mega-churches, never more presence. Christianity has never had “the external affluence and influence” but, all the while, the quality of the kinds of Christians we’ve been producing over the last fifty to seventy years is less, and less, and less like Jesus. They’re less holy, and they’re less loving. And they have less faith.
And, in the name of Jesus, we’ve sought personal peace and prosperity, and the average Gospel going out, in many parts of the world, is, Jesus is your self-help buddy, and life is really about you, make my life work out. And if I ever get cancer, or my marriage is in trouble, or my kids have a problem – ‘Hey, God, what’s the deal?'
And a high view of God will produce a life that has issues and problems, but we’ll see them in view of His wisdom, and His power, and His sovereignty, and the response is to trust.