Time Out: Leadership (Nehemiah)

Time Out (by Jerry Schmoyer)

My name is Nehemiah. I was a leader of the Jews. Some people think being a leader is hard. It’s really quite easy. All you need is inexhaustible patience, unfailing insight, unshakable stability, unbreakable will, decisive judgment, indefatigable physique, irrepressible spirit and unfeigned affection for all people. I didn’t have that, but God helped me with it.

If you are a leader, perhaps there’s something you can learn from me. If you have a job, a family or a friend, then you are a leader. A leader is someone who knows where he is going and how to get others to follow him. Being a leader is something you are, not something you do. It’s a function, not a title conferred by others. That’s the way it was for me.

I lived in Babylon after Jerusalem fell to Babylon. My story starts in Babylon in 445 BC. I was born in Babylon. My grandparents had been taken into captivity at the fall. I was a top adviser to the king, Artixerxes. God used me in some very unexpected ways.

A leader is a person who prays. When I heard about the terrible conditions in Jerusalem I prayed for God to send someone to help them — and wouldn’t you know it, He sent me! (Neh 1:1-4) God used me because I spent so much time in prayer with Him.

A leader is a person who prepares. When I finally got to Jerusalem we found everyone there was discouraged and very pessimistic (Neh 2:11-12). It seemed hopeless. I patiently gathered as much firsthand information as I could, prayed about it, talked with some trusted advisers and made some long-range plans. To carry them out I had to detail short-range goals and all that would be necessary to accomplish the needed work (Neh 2:4-8). When the time was right I shared my plans with others, motivating and encouraging them to follow (Neh 2:17-18). I had delegated work so everyone had a specific assignment to carry out. When the enemy was about to attack to stop us we kept working and didn’t give in to fear (Neh 4:3-9). I prayed trusting God to protect us, but I also posed a guard. It takes prayer and work to be a good leader: pray as if all depends on God and work as if all depends on me.

A leader is a person who perseveres. Food shortages forced poor people to have to sell their children to the rich so they could have money to feed their other children. Money was lent at a high rate, with 50% inflation. A leader must contend with internal problems, which are often more difficult to handle than attacks from without. I had to take action about these difficulties, so I did. I did what was necessary, even though it wasn’t popular. I stood for the right. (Neh 5:9-11)

Even when the enemy attacks intensified I didn’t let them intimidate me or distract the work. Not even threats of assassination stopped me (Neh 6:1-4). A leader can’t be influenced by fear!

A leader is a person who purges. We needed to remove sin and evil from among us. Ezra was still preaching, and God used his words to start a revival. Lives were changed and people started obeying the Bible. I went back to Babylon for a very short visit and when I returned I found more purging had to be done, for the people had quickly returned to their sinning.

Praying, preparing, persevering and purging are ongoing duties of a godly leader. They aren’t always enjoyable, but they are certainly necessary! Which of these do you need to work harder at? Set some goals and start today. You don’t have any option about being a leader — you are one. But it is up to you what kind of a leader you are!

Genesis 18:19, “For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

Acts 20:28, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.”

1 Timothy 3:4, “He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.”

Hebrews 13:7, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”

1 Peter 5:2-4, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers — not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”


  • Which are you best at as a leader: praying, preparing, persevering or purging? Pray and thank God for making you able to do these things.
  • Which need most work: praying, preparing, persevering or purging? Pray and ask God to help you with that aspect of leadership. Pray about ways you can begin today.
  • Who is an example of a good leader to you? What makes them stand out? What can you learn from them?

Jerry SchmoyerJerry Schmoyer has been a minister in Pennsylvania for over 25 years and has worked with teenagers for 14 years, ever since I became one myself. He authors the weekly Time Out series here at Life in Student Ministry in hopes to spiritually refresh your soul as you continually pour so much of yourself into students. God bless!

Posted on October 5, 2009

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