By BJ Rudge, Ph. D.
The greatest battles we often face will occur the moment we step out in faith. Consider Nehemiah who stepped out in faith when he asked the Persian King for permission to go and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. While being commissioned by the king to complete this task, we find that Nehemiah’s act of faith and trust in God came with challenges. For example, opposition quickly arose to discourage and prevent him from doing what God had called him to do,
“But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, ‘What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?’” (Nehemiah 2:19; see chapters 4-6 for further examples of challenges and opposition that Nehemiah had to endure).
Just as it was in the life of Nehemiah, I recently saw how the act of stepping out in faith by one of my soccer players was preceded by a personal challenge. Prior to our season I had been praying for God to provide ministry opportunities. I was specifically praying for God to prepare the hearts of my athletes for whatever He wanted to accomplish. I wanted this season to be more than just about wins. I wanted to see the Holy Spirit change lives for eternity.
As we began the season, I continued to bring this request before the Lord, still wondering in my own mind how He would respond. While conducting my player evaluations, where I give my players feedback on their progress and talk about areas of improvement, one of my players asked me if she could start a team Bible study. While I knew this girl was a Christian, I was startled at first. She was quiet and kept to herself. I told her that she could present this to the players and whoever wanted to participate could do so before practice. While I still was unsure whether she would actually move forward on this, a few days later she fulfilled her word by going before the team and asking if they wanted to take part in a team Bible study.
About a week prior to this, she was injured in a game. After our trainers and a doctor assessed her, they all felt it was nothing major and anticipated she would be back on the field soon. The day after she spoke to the team about starting a team Bible study she had to follow up with an orthopedic surgeon. It was at this appointment where she found out she had torn her ACL and would miss the remainder of the season. At one moment this young girl chose to step out in faith and start a Bible study with her team, while at the very next moment she was facing season-ending knee surgery.
In the case of Nehemiah, God moved forward through the challenges he faced and brought a great victory. Not only was the wall built, but also those Jewish exiles that returned to their land made an agreement to obey the commands of God as they once again occupied His holy city Jerusalem.
While the story with my player still awaits a final chapter, I know that, just like Nehemiah, if she remains faithful to what God has called her to do she will see a great victory in the end.
We all need to remember that we serve a faithful God and when we place our faith and trust in Him, we can have the same confidence Nehemiah did that He will fulfill His plans through our lives,
“So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God” (Nehemiah 6:15, 16).