Read: Proverbs 4:23; Nehemiah 1:1-11

We recently celebrated our nation's independence. All across our nation celebrations took place in the smallest of towns and in our great urban centers.  On the surface, it likely seemed like everyone was celebrating. But many were disappointed with recent Supreme Court rulings.  Some were saddened by estrangement from family and friends.  And still others saddened by the fact that long held dreams are no longer within reach.   

Disappointment can become a spiritual cancer that corrupts our souls. 

So what is the solution? How does God want us to guard our hearts?

The Book of Nehemiah is more than a diary about a great building project. It is a resource that informs us as to how we can move from near spiritual ruin to revival. At this point, be sure to read the biblical text in Nehemiah 1. Keep in mind that Jeremiah’s prophesy of seventy years of captivity had been fulfilled (cf. JER 24:11,12). Two groups of exiles had already returned to the land of Israel.  And Nehemiah, who was under the employment of the King of Persia, ASSUMED that the city of Jerusalem would be thriving with hope and prosperity. But Nehemiah learned from one of his brothers that Jerusalem was in disarray, both physically and spiritually.

Notice how the text of chapter 1 unfolds. Nehemiah gets word that the city of Jerusalem was burned and broken. In verse 4, he mourned for many days.  In verses 5-8, Nehemiah calls out to God to intervene in the midst of his and Israel’s great disappointment.  And then in verses 9-11, the demeanor of this great builder is changed. His sadness appears to be turned into confident hope.  Why? Nehemiah was learning a principle that “disappointed people” in the 21st century need to learn as well.

God sometimes allows us to face disappointment, so we can engage in 'pre-revival' self-examination.

What does 'pre-revival' self-examination mean?  It refers to the foundational thinking that has to occur before we can experience real intimacy and hope in God. It refers to the kind of steps Nehemiah took in his disappointment prior to experiencing the revival that occurred in chapters 8 through 10. And just what were those initial steps of self-examination? Our text reveals at least three responses that are worthy of our consideration. 

1. Disappointments invite us to examine our weakness amidst God’s power. 

Notice what Nehemiah said in verse 4, “So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days.” We don’t like to admit our weaknesses, but there is no personal renewal without admitting that we are helpless without God’s intervention. That is what Nehemiah had to acknowledge. And then notice how he addresses God in verse 5. The Almighty is viewed as the “great and awesome God.” He is the One who can empower the helpless to ultimately experience renewal and hope.

2. Disappointments invite us to examine God's truthfulness.

Nehemiah did not put all of the blame on the Israelites for the hopeless situation they were in (cf. 1:6).  In verse 8, Nehemiah acknowledges that God was true to His Word, even when the Israelites were not (1:8-9).  To put it another way, Nehemiah realized human sinfulness in contrast to God’s holiness.  And yet God was restoring the people even as He had promised in Deuteronomy 4:25-31.  Nehemiah probably would not have realized these truths about God if he had not first faced his own disappointment. 

3. Disappointments invite us to examine the God's providence. 

Nehemiah's closing statement in chapter one was a request to God that he would have God’s favor as the king’s cup bearer. He realized that his job was more than tasting the king’s wine. And he knew that he was more than an ancient secret service agent who protected the monarch from poisoning and assassination. Nehemiah realized that he was placed where he was by means of God’s providential care. He had access to the king that many others did not! Yet the magnitude of this truth would not have occurred unless Nehemiah first experienced disappointment and dashed expectations. 

What disappointments are you facing?
You could complain and tell God how unfair life is. However, God has another way He wants you to look at your life. Those disappointments are invitations to behold God in all of His greatness. And when we see Him for who He really is, revival will not be far behind.

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