It was funny to be asked, on arriving in the foyer, if this was the first time we had been in the church: it was the first time for about 18 months (our last visit), but this was the place where I preached most Sundays for 17 years. Quite a few new people since we left five years ago – including those on the welcome desk! Such is life in an international church. We used to talk about being a church with a revolving door, you need to accept significant turnover as part of life.
Anyway it was the first time I had preached in Westlake since we left in 2007. We’ve been invited back on the occasion of the church’s 25th anniversary.
I preached from Nehemiah 4 on what it means to reach the halfway point of a project. Nehemiah highlights that detail about his rebuilding project in 4:6. Reaching a significant anniversary is a good time to remember what has been accomplished thus far and to remember that there is still more to be done.
So we thought about those two things within the framework of Nehemiah’s story. It was already an achievement to reach the halfway mark. They got there, inspired by Nehemiah’s God-given vision; they got there despite opposition; they got there because, as Nehemiah puts it, the people had a mind to work. But the narrative shows that halfway does not mean easy coasting to the finishing line. The opposition intensified, the load of work became too much and there were discouraging voices.
As Nehemiah led the people through the challenges, he was practical – in setting a guard in place, personal – encouraging the people to fight for their families, and theological – encouraging them to remember the Lord who was greater than any opposition.
You can listen to the message here.