Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 4, 1964
NUMBER 5, PAGE 4,13b

"If Wishes Were Horses ...."


Jerusalem lay in ruins and desolation; her walls were broken and fallen, her gates burned with fire. Rubble and rubbish made passage through her streets difficult and hazardous. In far away Shushan, capital city of the great Artaxerxes, Nehemiah received word from certain men out of Judah; "and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, that were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, 'The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.' And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept...." (Neh. 1:2-8)

But weeping solves few problems. And Nehemiah wasted little time in useless tears. He was grieved at the desolation of the great city — and he determined to do something about it. He recounts his action, "So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said unto the king...." (Neh. 2:4,5) Prayer alone was not enough; no matter how fervent his desire, how ardent his longings, how intense and earnest his petition to God, prayer had to be combined with action. So Nehemiah prayed, and immediately then set about to work toward an answer for his prayer. There is an old proverb to the effect that, "If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride." Wishing is not enough; prayer is not enough. It takes thought, and planning, and WORK.

Nehemiah understood this. Through the long and arduous task of rebuilding the city, cleaning up the rubble from her streets, restoring the true worship of the true God, Nehemiah faced almost incredible obstacles. The indifference and at times smoldering hostility of his own people, the ever growing opposition of his enemies, the intrigues and deceitfulness of those who were determined to keep the city from being restored — all these things were a constant threat. But neither indifference from within nor opposition from without could defeat his purpose. For through it all Nehemiah considered himself as a "coworker" with God. It was God's will, not his own, that he was seeking to accomplish. The enemies who sought to hinder were opposing God, not merely Nehemiah. So the toiling men of Judah did two things: "We made our prayer unto our God, AND set a watch against them day and night." (Neh. 4:9) Nehemiah encouraged his fellows with an admonition laying the responsibility squarely upon them: "Be not afraid of them: remember the Lord, who is great and terrible and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses." (Neh. 4:14) That makes one remember the hard-bitten orders of Cromwell so many centuries later: "Trust God and keep your powder dry!"

"Remember The Lord — And Fight!"

Our generation desperately needs the earthly admonition of some modern Nehemiah. We have seen God's family torn asunder by discord and dissension, with harmony disrupted, fellowship broken, and bitterness and malice running deep and malevolent. Under such desolation there are many who might want to bemoan the times with vain and useless regrets. This is no time for foolish bewailing of what has taken place; it is no time for trying in endless argumentation to "place the blame" for the devastation that has come to God's house. The issues are clearly drawn, and for the most part, the minds of people have been resolved. Let those who are faithful to God resolve to reach every single person they can with the word of truth, reclaiming as many as possible for the morass of liberalism and materialism — and then go out into the communities with an unswerving determination to win people to Christ!

This will not he accomplished by wishful thinking. Nor will it be accomplished by prayer alone. Nor will it be accomplished by an endless rehashing of arguments on institutionalism and such apostasies from the truth. Certainly every child of God should have the true facts brought to his attention; but once that has been done, fully and clearly and as accurately as possible, then there is little point in a constant, continuous, and unrelenting cultivation of that same soil! It would be far more profitable to spend the time and effort in converting complete aliens than in trying to "re-convert" those who have once known the truth but have departed from it. There is an added factor here, which we often fail to consider: namely, when we baptize a former Methodist or Baptist or Catholic into Christ, we have at the same time made a total convert to the truth of that person. Such a Christian will have no questions or doubts or arguments at all about orphan homes, Herald of Truth, Campaigns for Christ, International, or church contributions to the colleges. Coming out of denominationalism such a person can see clearly that these institutions and organizations are the very things he was wanting to leave; he will have no interest in becoming entangled in them again.

There is no substitute for work. Instead of self-pity at the wrongs suffered, or wounded feelings over false and malicious charges made; instead of recriminations and charges against those who have "gone liberal," it will be a far healthier thing for every servant of Christ to "forget the things that are behind" and buckle down to work! Wishful thinking makes no converts and builds no churches. God, the infinite judge, will render the final decision as to "who split the church." We can well afford to leave that ultimate verdict in his hands. While the breath of life still is within us, we should "remember the Lord — AND FIGHT." It is not enough merely to "remember the Lord." Prayer alone will not get the job done. It takes toil and sweat, and sometimes perhaps even blood and tears. But, above all things, modern Christians must have what those ancient Jews had — "a mind to work." Nehemiah did not forget God; but he realized that the final decision as to whether the wall would go up rested not with God, but with God's people. It must have been with immense satisfaction that he could finally write, "So we built the wall.... for the people had a mind to work."

— F.Y.T