Last week, we kicked off our brand new series, Distracted. We asked the question,

Are you distracted from your great work?

This week, we look at how Nehemiah made his way to Jerusalem, but not without some internal struggle.

Today, in the United States, we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., who was assassinated for taking a stand against racial injustice.

I Have a Dream

Martin Luther King, Jr. was known for his fiery speeches and sermons, as well as his stand against racial injustice in the United States. He marched in Selma and stood in the shadows of the Lincoln Memorial as he delivered his famous speech – I Have a Dream.

His words echoed across the National Mall to more than a quarter of a million people. He shared a 17-minute speech that was based on the American Dream beginning:

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.”1

One of his famous lines includes his children, which says,

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Today, we celebrate his brave path forward, but Dr. King also reminds us of perseverance, vision, and how someone focused can build a pathway to a better tomorrow.

Nehemiah’s Path To Jerusalem

The book of Nehemiah is written like a memoir of sorts2. He invites us into his thoughts as he serves the King as an exile.

As the book opens, a brother from Judah arrives to share what is happening in Jerusalem after some Jews have returned from captivity.

“They said to me, ‘Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.’ When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.”3

The seeds of a mission began forming in Nehemiah’s heart, and he was grieved by all transpiring in Jerusalem.

Look how Nehemiah was overcome – it says he “mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of Heaven.”

Do you mourn, fast, and pray to God when you hear troubling news or are struggling with a decision?

What is Nehemiah’s next step?

Nehemiah offers a prayer that includes praise, confession, and this reminder,

“Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’”4

He humbly reminds God of a promise to his people that is reminiscent of a prayer we read in 2 Chronicles 7:14,

“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

In his book Win the Day, Mark Batterson shares how his church prayed this prayer every day for a year. They would kneel wherever they were at 7:14 and pray for our nation.

Nehemiah would have done something similar today if he had been here.

For some time, Nehemiah had been stewing on what he should do. Scriptures say his heart was troubled.5 He was the cupbearer to the king, and one day the king noticed his sad demeanor.

At that moment, Nehemiah found himself at a crossroads, he could either shrug off what God had been working on him for the past several weeks or months, or he could boldly step into his future. He went with the latter and said to the king,

“Long live the king! How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”6

The king replied, “How can I help.”

I want to think he was a little stunned by the king’s reply; I know I would have been. Here is where Nehemiah takes a bold step – he tells the king he wants to go to Jerusalem to rebuild it.

The king inquires how long he will be gone, and the queen beside him grants Nehemiah’s departure.

Next week, we will travel to Jerusalem with Nehemiah as he starts his great work.

Let me ask you again…

What’s your great work?

What is God stirring up in your heart that leaves you unsettled? What is He churning in your mind that leaves you wondering?

This week, think about these things. Allow God to work in your heart to new things, challenges, thoughts, and ideas.

As we saw with Nehemiah, his return to Jerusalem started with humility, prayer, request, and a fairly long runway. It didn’t happen overnight.

You might be experiencing the same thing right now, and God needs to work more on you to be ready for your next great work.

Don’t forget to follow Nehemiah’s example when bringing your great work to Him – humility, prayer, request, and patience.


Lord, thank you for the example of Nehemiah and Martin Luther King, Jr. We are not perfect, and neither were they, but you used them to change and shape generations. Please continue your great work in us, and mold us into who you want us to be. We love you and praise Your name. Amen!

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  1. Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech on the Washington Mall in 1963 was part of the March on Washington. ↩︎
  2. Nehemiah 1:1 ↩︎
  3. Nehemiah 1:3-4 ↩︎
  4. Nehemiah 1:8-9 ↩︎
  5. Nehemiah 2:2 ↩︎
  6. Nehemiah 2:3 ↩︎

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Hi, I'm Dave Anthold. I am a small group leader, short-term missionary, and visual storyteller. You can read my story here.

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