Nicole and Sharon marvel at Nehemiah's perseverance and celebrate the finishing of the wall in this episode. It's a stunning accomplishment. They also confess to some unfinished projects in their own lives and discuss what is worth "finishing well" in this life. There might have been some tears in this one. No matter what, let's finish well the race marked out for us, shall we? That's one thing we don't want to leave undone. Listen in and be encouraged to persevere, friend.
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Are you ready to embrace a little stillness, some rest for your soul today. Welcome to the Sweet Selah Moments podcast, where we stop and study God’s words and encourage one another to know Him better and love Him more. This Sweet Selah Moments podcast is brought to you by Word Radio and Sweet Selah Ministries.
Welcome to the Sweet Selah Moments podcast. Today on Episode 58, we are going to talk about finishing well. Sharon, I don’t always finish what I start, I must confess. I have a ton of energy and then lots of great ideas on things I want to do usually all at once. So that leads to a few half finished tasks and projects much to my dismay.
I’ve been there. I don’t always finish things either. I’ll tell you one job that never gets finished and that is cleaning my office, good grief! I’ll do it in bits and pieces, but then I don’t keep it up for awhile. Poor Meaghan comes in and bails me out. Helps me straighten up again. And I’m not great at finishing cleaning projects. That’s for sure. For example, we might have had a family party in the backyard, in July, and there might be coolers still in the backyard. I mean, nobody can see them, they’re sort of hidden but there they are. And I’m like, wow, are we going to leave them there through the winter, Sharon? Or maybe we should take them in.
So you understand. (Laughter)
Right, but some things are more important to finish than others. So let’s cheer ourselves up, Nicole. What have you finished? And then I’ll tell you what I have finished because I don’t want to talk about my coolers anymore.
I like this idea. Well, let’s see. I finished high school and college. That’s pretty good. So, last year I started this little garden project and I’m not usually one to do too much in the yard. It took me quite a few days actually, and I finished it and I really liked how it came out. And I had to lug all these rocks over and build this little wall, not like Nehemiah’s wall, but a decent little garden Wall, but I finished it!
And the whole wall was done!
Yes. And it’s done. I’ve maintained it. But then this past week, speaking of cleaning projects, I finally finished going through all four of my girls clothes, washing, sorting them for the different seasons and then folding them and putting them away. I so dislike this job. I dread it all year. I’m like, oh, fall is coming. I have to, it just takes me like a solid week of doing this job, but it’s done. And I’m so happy. And I even finished a big craft project that I had left to die in the closet alone for a long time. So I don’t know, I seem to usually have this anti-procrastination week and do all of the things I’ve been putting off. I don’t recommend it. I’m like: “Alright, we are doing it all this week!” It’s very exhausting to do it all at once. So listeners, do them all in a more timely way. Don’t be like me. (Laughter)
I love it, Nicole. Josh is probably like, “Okay, it’s anti-procrastination week. All the stuff is getting done.”
And then everything else, like the laundry and the dishes gets piled. The house falls apart as I’m doing all the things I haven’t finished..
Right, And then you’re like, and this is why I never get to them because when I do, nothing else gets done. (Nicole: Exactly!) Well, let’s see what have I finished? I have also finished college. So that was good. I did marry before I finished college and freaked my parents out. They’re like “what?!” And I’m like, “we’ve known each other since we were 16. This is getting ridiculous.” So, we married in the November of my senior year of college and then we moved. So I did my last four classes at the University of Maryland and transferred them back to Gordon college and then graduated from Gordon.
That’s good. You’ve finished it though. You could been like, “Oh, I’m married!”
Yeah. And my parents were so relieved. They’re like, “she’s not going to finish. And we just spent all this money to put her through!” I finished my term at Moms in Prayer, even though that was tough at the end because Dad Gamble was getting more needy, but I wanted to finish my term because I wanted it to be done in an orderly way and not leave people in the lurch. So that was a hard finishing, but I did it. And then I finished my books. I’ve written two books and I’ve gotten to the end. And let me tell you: in the middle, you’re like, this is not working. It’s never going to happen. I’m not going to finish, but I did.
Well that’s good. But the most important of all is to finish well with Jesus, right? Nicole. I want to love him all my life and to die contentedly ready to be with him. That’s my goal.
Yes, absolutely a happy death walking right into his arms. (Sharon: Yes!) I love that. Well, today we’re going to celebrate, Nehemiah’s finishing of the big wall project and then what he did next to tidy things up as he governed the lands.
Oh you mean he didn’t just stop with the wall? Of course not!
Oh Nehemiah. So Sharon and I will read excerpts from Nehemiah chapter six and seven. There are a lot of statistics in chapter seven. So we won’t read all of them, but here’s the main parts. So Sharon, why don’t you start?
I will starting at verse 15 of Nehemiah Six. So drum roll please. On October 2nd, the wall was finished just 52 days after we had begun. (Nicole: Wow.) Isn’t that stunning?
That was pretty cool.
Nehemiah knows the date. Amazing.
So when our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God.
During those 52 days, many letters went back and forth between Tobiah and the Nobles of Judah
For many in Judah had sworn allegiance to him because his father-in-law was Shecaniah, son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan was married to the daughter of Meshullam son of Berekiah. (Laughter over pronouncing names) All the Bible scholars are dying inside.
It’s so like Nehemiah, Every name!
Every name. There’s no Johns or Bobs.
No! It’s all going to be complicated. (continues reading:) They kept telling me about Tobias’ good deeds. And then they told him everything I said, and Tobiah kept sending threatening letters to intimidate me.
After the wall was finished and I had set up the doors and the gates, the gatekeepers, singers, and Levites were appointed.
I gave the responsibility of governing Jerusalem to my brother. Hanani, along with Hananiah, the commander of the fortress, for he was a faithful man who feared God more than most.
That is a nice thing to be said about you! (Continue reading) I said to them, do not leave the gates open during the hottest part of the day. And even while the gatekeepers are on duty, have them shut and bar the doors, appoint the residents of Jerusalem to act as guards, everyone on a regular watch, some will serve at sentry posts and some in front of their own homes.
Why are we not surprised that he had a system.
Very well thought out. Yeah.
At that time, the city was large and spacious, but the population was small and none of the houses had been rebuilt.
So my God gave me the idea to call together all the Nobles and leaders of the city. Along with the ordinary citizens for registration, I found the genealogical record of those who had first returned to Judah. This is what was written there.
Here is the list of the Jewish exiles of the provinces who returned from their captivity. King Nebuchadnezzar had deported them to Babylon, but now they returned to Jerusalem and the other towns in Judah where they originally lived.
All right, here we go. Their leaders were Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah.
You deserve an applause girl!
It’s a lot of names! Again, no Bobs. This is the number of the men of Israel who returned from exile. So we’re skipping a lot of lists here. We’re skipping from verse seven to verse 66. So if you want go back and read them, there’s a lot of really detailed explanations.
We are not going through all those names, you’re welcome! So on verse 66 after he’s listed lots and lots of stuff. Here we go: So a total of 42,360 people returned to Judah.
In addition to 7,337 servants and 245 singers, both men and women.
They took with them 736 horses, 245 mules,
435 camels and 6,720 donkeys.
Some of the family leaders gave gifts for the work. The governor gave to the treasury 1000 gold coins, 50 gold basins and 530 robes for the priests.
The other leaders gave to the treasury, a total of 20,000 gold coins and some 2,750 pounds of silver for the work.
The rest of the people gave 20,000 gold coins, about 2,500 pounds of silver and 67 robes for the priests.
So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and some of the common people settled near Jerusalem. The rest of the people returned to their own towns throughout Israel.
So there we go. What a finish talk about finishing well. He’s even counted everybody, including the Donkeys!
I know, there’s so much detail.
Yes! I do question why we needed to know how many donkeys, but there was probably a reason. And if I asked him, he could probably give it to me.
Nehemiah was thorough if nothing else.
Well, let’s just talk about the wall being finished in 52 days. (Nicole: That’s amazing.) I’m so shocked every time I read this, I don’t get it. It’s like, there was all this rubble, it was so big a task, but he assigned so many people to it, right? (Nicole: Yes.) And they all had just their part, you know, so they didn’t have to look at the whole thing they had to build in front of their house,
That’s a good point. They couldn’t see the whole big, messy product and get overwhelmed and stop. So it worked!
It did. I’m so amazed.
Despite All the opposition they faced, the fact that they got this done in 52 days is very shocking. I think it had to be from God. I liked where it said the enemies were like, whoa, they finished it so quickly it must have been because God had helped them. Their god helped them. Wow! What a testimony. This was not an easy task.
And you know what? I don’t think they could’ve kept going at that pace. How much is 52 days it’s almost two months. How long can you work 12 hours a day in the same clothes.
Physical labor, and stress too.
Please tell me that in the same clothes was a little bit like, I mean, for days maybe, but not for 52 days!
Let’s hope that on the sabbath day they kind of washed or changed or something. Pretty smelly building of the wall towards the end there.
But you know, I guess when you get to a certain point too, when you’re almost done, you’re like, and we’re just going to finish. We just want it done.
Tuck your head down and just get it over with. Amazing. (Sharon: So cool.) Sharon, I love how Nehemiah gives Glory to God in verse 16 of chapter six. He said that when our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. (Sharon: I love that, that’s kind of cool.) They realized this work had been done with the help of our God. So again, they just, the fact that they built it so soon in 52 days altogether all to give glory to God because they couldn’t have done this on their own. This people that had just moved, and gone back home again to all work together?
They were so poor, they were selling their daughters, to pull them together, this sort of disheartened. I mean, that’s why he initially came because the people that had gone back were disheartened. Everything was in ruins. They could barely pay taxes, and they’re half starved. It was a mess.
It was an impossible task.
It really was. And when you meet Sanballat and Tobias, the bad guys, you’re like, of course it was a mess. They couldn’t get anything done. And so to have Nehemiah come back and whip them into shape and get it done. The pride at seeing: the look at what we did. I think there was a restoring of self-respect, a restoring of togetherness. We did this together.
That’s true. Kind of a bonding of this new community of exiles. Because they came back in three groups too. And they’re all kind of like trying to figure out how to be their own people group again, after being exiles in a different culture for so long.
And some different parts of Babylon probably too. It’s not like they all knew each other.
This was really important to start them out.
Real big deal. So I noticed though that even now old Tobiah is still causing problems. They have to have guards up again.
Yes! Still after all this, after seeing it done, he just can’t stop.
Yeah, that’s right. And so we’re locking the gates and we’re making sure that everything’s secure, but again, there’s this calm presence of Nehemiah who’s like, and this is what we’ll do. (Nicole: Yeah). There’s no panic.
No, he didn’t let it derail him.
He consults to God. This is what we’ll do he’s always doing something. So I wonder how much time passed before Nehemiah went onto the project of registering the people? It doesn’t say. He was there 12 years all together. So a little time might’ve passed, but right. But he’s like, okay, now let’s figure out who we got. What’s next, the wall is built. That was number one. Got the people bonded together now, who are these people?
It’s the logical next step.
I love that he mentions God in everything verse 5 of chapter 7: So my God gave me the idea to call together all the Nobles and leaders of the city. Along with the ordinary citizens for registration. I had found the genealogical record of those who had first returned to Judah.
It’s really amazing how detailed Nehemiah was. He really was called and equipped by God. He was, this is a huge job. We had skipped many verses today, but if you go back and read them, it’s amazing. He lists all the men and counts them by family. He lists all the exiles and again puts the number of them next to the family name. He lists all the priests and the Levites and even the temple servants. It’s quite a list. And even in the list you see Nehemiah his heart for his people. He really wants to know the people he’s shepherding. They’re not just a nameless crowd to him. He includes every name that he encounters, no matter how hard it is to pronounce it’s in there!
Note that I wrote this up and I gave you all the hard verses, that was not on purpose, looking at it going, “oh, she might be suspicious of this.”
He did, have a heart for people. He named the people for whom he was governor. That’s just another sign of good leadership to know their names. I love it. So after everyone was counted and money was given for maintenance, things settled down, we assume. We’ll find out more next week, of course. But this brings us to the challenge of finishing projects we start. Right? He finished,
He finished, he finished. And finishing well with Jesus more than anything else. So let’s talk first though. Nicole, what stops us from finishing?
Well, I think sometimes seeing the largeness of the task and not be able to see the end of it, you know, being overwhelmed by that can be hard, or boredom can stop us. As you’re in the middle or feeling it will never, ever end distractions or crises. You know, even when they were building the wall, they had a lot of big problems arise. Or just plain not wanting to do it in the first place.
Yeah. All kinds of things can stop us. When I think of it in terms of, finishing well with God. Yeah. You and I have known Christ since we were children. We could lose the excitement- We haven’t – thank you, Jesus. Of knowing what he did for us. And just, ho hum, you go to church, you do this, you do that. The boredom thing, you know, they’re thinking, you know, whatever I’m saved now, that kind of thing. Instead of the focus that they had on finishing well. Getting the wall all done and they did, they finished well. So I love it. I love it. I think another thing that can stop us is perfectionism. (Nicole: Oh yeah.) Wanting to do perfectly knowing you can’t so you don’t start or, I failed because it’s not perfect.
I can remember when I decided I wanted to make blankets for each grandchild. You know me, I’m not crafty at all. I’m terrible at crafts. So my mom taught me to crochet. And it was hard. And I only learned one stitch, all my blankets are one stitch! (Nicole: that’s all you need!) Double crochet stitch for the whole blanket. Usually one color. Maybe I’ll do a border of another color, so simple. But I had to give up on perfection. I had to just do it. And my girls laugh at me cause I don’t even count. I just, I just crochet the first line and I’m like, oh, it looks pretty good. And then that’s how long the blanket is going to be. So my grandchildren have, Well, Mary said, they laid out the blankets. They said Gabriel’s, the first born, was not really the right shape because I kept dropping stitches. So that’s like one side of it that’s all dis-angled. And it’s really small. And Anastasia’s, you know, could robe a queen,
Put all five grandkids in hers. (Laughter).
So had I let perfectionism stop me. I wouldn’t have made them.
They love their Nina blankets! And you love giving them, it’s such a special thing.
Yes. So it’s a special thing. And I prayed for them as I inadequately made them.
And they don’t see their crookedness. They’re just so happy!
No, they just love their Nina blanket!
Oh, I’m so glad.
So that’s really cool. But, not every project has to be finished. We also have to think about that. What are the things that don’t, when do we know, when they don’t have to be finished?
Right. And you find out that you’re not called to something, God is making it clear, that it’s okay not to finish it. If he’s like, this is not it. Or things, this is a silly thing, but, I had a couple of fun projects going, but they were kind of haunting me because I couldn’t finish them or I didn’t want to, but I felt like I had to do it. So I didn’t, I got rid of one. And then the other one I unraveled. Cause it was not bringing me joy and usually crafting,, I love crafting! These were not fun ones. And I’m like, I am not going to torment myself with these. And I wasn’t allowing myself to do the ones I wanted to do until I had finished my project. You know, got to finish what you start. I was like, you know what? I’m giving myself freedom to say goodbye to these. And I’m so much happier. (Sharon: Good for you!) I finished three new projects that I love.
So sometimes finishing well means not getting stuck.
Being wise enough to know what, obviously with God, if he’s calling you to something else, then you can not finish it.
Right. You did nursery for a season, for example. And then God said that your season’s done. So sometimes we call it the things for seasons too. Well the one thing we do want to finish well is what Paul calls the race marked out for us. And that’s found in Hebrews 12, it’s the chapter right after Hebrews 11, where Paul lists all the faithful people of the past, who believed to the end, even though some of them never got what was promised them. They never even saw the promised land like Abraham and Sarah. They never saw the promised land. And then there were 400 years in Egypt where no one saw the promised land. So after we’ve heard about all these saints, then we go to Hebrews 12. And we talk about, I love the race marked out for us. Because we each have a different one. I mean the major race is to finish loving Jesus. Right? But the work he gives us to do can be different. So why don’t you read that? Hebrews 12:1-3.
Okay. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.
There it is. Great advice on how to, how to not become weary and give up. So I want to go sentence by sentence through this advice. So good. Not even verses. Sentences. I’ll start sentence number one says: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith. Okay? So the first reason I don’t give up, the first reason I want to finish well is I have great examples of people that kept faithful to God, to the end, even when one of them, and we think it was Isaiah, was sawed in two. Oh my goodness. I know that’s not really how I want to end. So, but no matter what, I’m surrounded by people that have gone before me that I can look to that can help me. That can inspire me. (Nicole: Oh, that’s a good one.) That’s sentence one.
Let’s go to the next sentence. So let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. So from this verse, we can say, don’t give up when you’re weighed down by things like guilt, feelings of inadequacy and plain old sin. Strip it off.
I love that. Guilt can stop us. Absolutely. And condemnation, like I can’t serve, I did X, Y or Z.
Right. There’s no condemnation in Jesus.
That doesn’t eliminate you from serving God for life. Guess who wants you not to serve God for life? Not God. Right?
Strip it off and run!
Run! And speaking of which my sentence is: And let us run with endurance. Okay. We have to understand that it’s going to take endurance. We saw that with the wall. Nehemiah wall-building, that wasn’t fun. It took endurance. Endurance means according to Mariam Webster Dictionary, the ability to withstand hardship or adversity, especially. The ability to sustain a prolonged, stressful effort or activity in marathon runners. Endurance, it’d be an example of it. So I need to understand that finishing well in Christ means endurance. It means there’s going to be times. It won’t be fun. When I am nice when I don’t want to be nice. When I keep reading my Bible every morning, when it hasn’t really, you know, done anything for me lately. (Nicole: Right.) Going to church, because that’s what I ought to do. The endurance part leads to the joy part. But you have to understand that finishing well means enduring keeping going.
Yeah, that is so good. And the race God has set before us. And you said that already OUR race before us, you know, He’s put something before each one of us. We each have our own race. God has a plan and a purpose for us. I think of Joni Eareckson Tada, surely she didn’t plan to be a living example of joy in the Lord despite paralysis did she? She probably had different plans for her life.
Oh yes. Nobody signs up to be paralyzed from a dive.
That was the race marked out for her. And she’s found joy in it because she keeps her eyes on the race before her and her God.
Yeah. She’s a wonderful present day example of someone who said: “Okay. I didn’t sign up for this race, but here I am. How do I run it well?”
And she’s definitely running it with endurance.
She is running it with endurance and joy! You’re right. She has a joy in her that is supernatural. It’s the fruit of the spirit. (Nicole: Oh, absolutely.) So good. All right. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. So we don’t give up. We keep going because we keep our eyes on Jesus. And that’s the only way we keep going. And He’s our champion who keeps us in the faith. We need Him. We look to Him it’s when we get our eyes off of him, that we get so tripped up. So one of the ways to be faithful is to always look to him.
And I love that- We just have to look to him and he does the faith. We don’t have to make our faith big. And then look at Him. He says, look to me, the initiator and the perfector of our faith.
I don’t have to rev up my faith.
Yeah. He puts it in us, which is crazy.
We just keep looking,
Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross. Disregarding its shame. Don’t give up because of the joy, the joy is coming. It’s there and it’s in the race too! Not every step, (Sharon: Right) Not every step, but it’s there.
And then it’s the ending. The joy set before Him was us with Him in heaven. And He’s there preparing a place for us right now. And I can’t even imagine because Eden was pretty great and it’s going be even greater than that. Evidently. It’s gonna be amazing! So the joy set before us too is, someday all will be made well. So, so cool. All right. So now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people, then you won’t become weary and give up. So we’ve got to look at all Jesus did and how He now has that seat of honor because He pushed through and remember it will end well for us too. It ends well, Nicole, (Nicole: yay!) Finish well, I want to walk into heaven having not turned my back on the Lord in any way, shape or form.
I have seen both. I have seen people that appear to be great Christians for most of their lives, finish poorly. And it frightens me. It shouldn’t frighten me because I know that fear is not a good thing to have, but it is intimidating. I’m like, Lord, I don’t want that to happen to me. I want to love you every day of my life. I want to walk the path you’ve marked out for me. I don’t want to reject that. I want to reject lesser things. I really want to be a faithful one. You know that beautiful hymn: Oh Sacred Head Now Wounded. I love Him so much. I choke up on the third verse every single time. And it actually becomes a prayer to me. Although I sing it with tears in my eyes because I just really want it. I’m going to recite it. Not sing it. You should all be grateful for that! But here it is, this is the poem that was then put into this Hymn, talking to God, to Jesus:
What language shall I borrow to thank thee, dearest friend. For this thy dying sorrow, thy pity without end. Oh, make me thine forever. I’m going to cry now. (Nicole: I know!) And should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never outlive my love for thee. That’s my goal. Just take me home now. Jesus. If i am going to somehow out live my love for you. I want to die loving you and super excited about where I’m going. (Nicole: Yes!) Okay. Well, any last thoughts before we finish?
We talk about this a lot. So this is a very frequent prayer of mine too, Sharon, to finish well. A few years back, I was in a Bible study in the old Testament. It was so good. But looking back on those great men and women of faith, they were very human. Just like, us. And some of them didn’t finish well. (Sharon: Yeah.) That always made me kind of sad. It’s almost like they’d done all these great things for God. They just kind of let themselves slide into eternity. Sharon, I so want to finish well, I want to be faithful to God until my last breath. My aunt Francis was 104 when she died and she finished well up until the day she went home, she was encouraging and praying for people. And that’s the kind of legacy I want to leave.
Amen. Absolutely. Pray to the last breath. (Nicole: Yes.) Oh Lord. I know I’m not just praying for me and Nicole, but for the people that are listening too, we do want to finish well. We love you. We want to honor you with our lives. We want to receive from you the path marked out for us and trust you with it. And we can not do this thing unless you help us. So help us Father God to run the race well. The one marked out for us in Jesus name. Amen.
What an amazing story of perseverance we read today with Nehemiah. We hope it’s inspired you to persevere and endure so you too, finish well, even if the middle part is really hard. We’d love to hear from you. Write us at Sweetselah.org/podcast or join our Podcast Partners by donating at sweetselah.org/donations. Make sure you write Podcast Partners in the comments and please come back next week. We will be looking at a solemn time of repentance and dedication. Join us for Episode 59: When You’re Wrong And You Know It.
We are so glad you stopped for a while with us. This Sweet Selah Moments podcast is a co-operative production of Word Radio and Sweet Selah Ministries. More information about this podcast can be found at Sweetselah.org. Thank you for joining us.
You can download and print the transcript here.