What did Nehemiah do that made him so successful and such an effective leader?

Nick Lica

Nehemiah was a man of prayer ( Ne 1)

The book of Nehemiah is a special book because it shows us right in the beginning that foundation of an effective and successful leader must be a genuine prayer life. First four verses inform us about the problem: The wall of Jerusalem is broken and its gates have been burned with fire. First chapter of the book could be dedicated to the whole conversation which Nehemiah had with Hanani, about the Jerusalem life and political situation there. Surely they might have been talking a lot about those things but Nehemiah informs us in only one verse (3) about the situation of God’s people in Jerusalem. His reaction on hearing that bad news was weeping, fasting and praying. These three things describe not only his patriotism for his people but his genuine prayer life. Nehemiah was a man who had a strong relationship with God. In his prayer first he recognizes God as majestic and awesome God, than he confess his sins and sins of the whole Israelite nation, than he realize God’s promise of gathering together of Israel if they will return to God and obey Him. And at the very end of his prayer he make only one request: “give to your servant success today by granting him favor before the king” (1:10b).

Nehemiah knew that the key of success is prayer. He remembered God’s warning spoken through Moses if in Lev 26:33: I will scatter you among the nations and draw out a sword after you; your land shall be desolate and your cities waste. I will scatter you among the nations and draw out a sword after you; your land shall be desolate and your cities waste. Nehemiah surely must have read this chapter from Leveticus that is the chapter of blessings and reward for obedience and punishment for disobedience. The lesson for us here is that the leaders of the church must be first who pray and ask for God’s help for the church. Revival in the church begins when leaders are men of prayer. Prayer changes things and people.

Nehemiah was a man of courage (2:1-10)

He was cupbearer to the Persian king, Artaxerxes I (465-424 BC). This was a privileged position but in the same time very dangerous. To have a strange request to the king or to be sad in this position meant to be put in prison or to death. Genesis 40:1 says: 1It came to pass after these things that the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their lord, the king of Egypt. 2And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief butler and the chief baker. 3So he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison, the place where Joseph was confined. Artaxerxes saw that Nehemiah is sad even if he is not ill. Nehemiah admitted his feelings of fear (v.2b) but he decided to risk and say the truth to the king. Nehemiah asked the king to let him go to Jerusalem. And not only this but he asked for letters to the governors, letter to the keeper of the king’s forest. He was a man of courage because was a man of prayer. He could say: maybe the king will kill me when he will hear that I want to rebuilt a city of my dead fathers. Nehemiah knew that God has power and made many miracles in the history of his people. He had courage to speak with the king because he prayed before to the king of kings. He was not discouraged when he faced opposition.

Nehemiah was a man of faith (2:11-20)

Nehemiah went to Jerusalem and inspected the city. Before he heard about the desolated situation of the city but now he is there and sees it. He was a leader who encouraged the men in the city. His words to the people were words of faith: Let us start rebuilding. The God of heaven will give us success. He prayed for success and now came time when he had to believe that God has heard his prayer. It is easy to pray but is harder to see the reality and yet believe that God will give you success. Trust in God is an important characteristic of the leader. If the leader is not exciting about God’s work the others will be no interested in it. A genuine faith is a faith in action. A faith that goes beyond the obstacles, opposition, and weakness. Always our words and actions show what we believe. Nehemiah knew that God guided him to do this work and this was his motivation: doing God’s will.

Nehemiah was a man of action (3)

It is not enough for a leader just to pray and encourage others. An effective leader must be a man of action. He prayed a lot for these moments but now he must act in the faith and rebuild the walls. He took time (3 days in Jerusalem) to pray, to rest, to plan and to choose others leaders. He informed others only after he knew the size of the problem. Then he set before them a reasonable goal and assured them that God was in this project. He assigned everyone a specific place to work and started the project. He came to Jerusalem to do what God has put in his heart. This project of rebuilding the walls was beyond his strengths. In spite of this he started the work and challenged the men of the Jerusalem to do not be any longer in disgrace. Being a genuine leader means to be a man of action who goes in front of the people and call them to do a concrete ministry.

Nehemiah a man of strategy

He was not acting by accident. All what he did was a result of good planning an effective strategy. When he arrived in Jerusalem he did not started the rebuilding by himself. He walked in the city day and night saw what need to be done first and worked out a strategy and a goal to be fulfilled. When the enemies came to fight against them (chapter 4) he organized people: half of them watched out and the other half worked. He involved in this project all families, children and young people. He prayed with the people in time of crises and worked with wisdom. He and the Jews rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in 52 days. He and the other Jews then called on Ezra to read the Law, and pledged themselves to observe its commands. His intention was not only the rebuilding of the walls but spiritual rebuilding of the people. Chapter 9 describes their repentance and confession of sins. This was a part of Nehemiah’s strategy too.

Nehemiah was a man of integrity

Finally Nehemiah was a man of integrity. He told the truth and did what he said that he would do. He trusted the Lord to the end and finished the project. He focused on the goal: to success and did everything to accomplish it. He prayed about it, he believed it, he took time to plan and to encourage people, and he acted in faith. He was more than a cupbearer of the king was. Nehemiah was a spiritual leader who transformed the ruins into a wall of protection, the city of sorrow into a city of joy; the lives filled with hopeless into a victorious and powerful community.

Conclusion: Prayer, courage, faith, action, strategy and integrity made him a successful and effective leader.

II. What principles can we learn from Nehemiah?

  • The right way how to react when we hear bad news is to pray.

  • Prayer is a foundation of an effective and successful leadership.

  • To be courageous means not to have any fear but to trust in God’s providence.

  • Opposition in ministry is the sign that we build the right thing.

  • Without strategy we can not built and edify the church.

  • What we say and what we do show what we believe about God.

  • The ultimate goal of a leader is to involve people around him encourage and equip them for ministry.