Are you someone who wants to change the world for God? I ran across a passage in Nehemiah today that made me think about what it takes for someone to make a difference in this world for Jesus. The passage may surprise you. It isn’t about church attendance or tithing or even how much you know or don’t know. It’s something that anyone who has the Holy Spirit can do. What is it?
“O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name…” Nehemiah 1:11a
Obviously, if you want to live a life in the presence and power of Jesus, you must be a man or woman of prayer. But Nehemiah says something interesting. He asks God to listen to His people who love to fear His name. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t make sense on the surface. Love to fear? How many of us love to fear anything? I am afraid of ladders, seriously. My dad tells me that it’s a good thing I am not in the roofing business. My answer to him is that because I am terrified of ladders, I would never have even thought of getting into that line of work to begin with. Whenever I have to climb a ladder, I freeze up. It’s not heights that bother me (roller coasters, airplanes, etc are fine), but it’s being high ON A LADDER! I fear ladders, but I don’t LOVE to fear them. It brings me no joy whatsoever that I am afraid of ladders. So what is Nehemiah getting at when he says I love to fear?
First, we tend to be afraid of the wrong things. Jesus once said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Jesus is teaching that it is possible to place your fear (just like your trust) in people of things that do not deserve our fear. Jesus says if we are going to fear anyone or anything, fear the Lord God of heaven!
Second, we are created with a natural connection (though not always apparent) between joy and fear. The reason fear doesn’t always bring us joy is that we fear the wrong things, but fear does yield joy in many cases. For example, I mentioned roller coasters earlier. I am a roller coaster nut. I love them, the higher and scarier, the better. Yes, the terrify me, but I love it. If fearing something as silly as a roller coaster can bring joy, imagine what fearing the Triune God will bring on the joy scale!
Nehemiah was asking God to use him to do a great work. Jerusalem was destroyed. His people had been exiled for many years. Only God could make any difference at all. What did he base his entreaty on? He based it in the fact that he loved to fear the name of God. Do you?