Men with a vision are builders. Noah and the ark, Abraham and his family, Moses and Israel, Solomon and the temple. Men who see what God gives them to see, men who have a real vision from God are builders. The Lord Jesus Christ said that He would build His church. When He rose from the dead he commissioned His disciples to carry on the work of construction. Pastors, missionaries, evangelists, in fact, every obedient disciple is in the building trade. We build the house(hold) of God with lively stones (I Pet. 2:5). Paul describes himself in I Cor. 3:10 as a wise masterbuilder. The word chosen by the Holy Spirit here is the word "arkitecton". We are to pray and prepare (and perspire) to become the best builders we can for the Lord.
One of my favourite "architectural visionaries" is Nehemiah. What an example he is to the men of God in our generation! His heart was broken by the desperate situation of his nation. His calling was to build among the remnant. Most of his building material was rubble. His ministry depended on his prayer life and his knowledge of the Word of God. He faced strong criticism and opposition from his neighbours. He was beset by discouragement, ridicule, ecumenism, compromise, and indifference. But he had a vision from God. And he had a few willing workers who caught his vision and made it an historical reality.
A dear old pastor friend who is in Heaven once told us of a conversation he had with the boss of a demolition crew. Bro. John asked him how much skill was needed to demolish a building. The expert said, "Not much. Anybody can tear things down." Bro. John then asked him, "If you were to build the building you just knocked down, how much skill would be required?" The builder replied, "Well, that's a different story. If we built this building we would need men with a lot of skill." There are demolition experts around today who tear down the work of the Lord. Some are in the ministry. Some just warm the pew. Some are "hit and run" experts. Some, like Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem, stand off at a distance and, using the catapults of their hatred, they sling their bitter words against the walls of God's work. Ah, but men with a true vision actively build up the work of the Lord.
It is the example of Nehemiah that provokes me to examine his toolbox. Nehemiah's tools are the perfect tools for men of vision. Nehemiah's first tool was his soft heart for the things of God. He was moved by the plight of his people. His second tool was his knowledge of God's Word. Almost every phrase of his prayer in chapter 1 is a direct quote from Holy Scripture. He knew his Bible by heart. His third tool was his prayer life. He knew to pray first. He knew to pray much. He knew to pray desperately. He knew to pray urgently. He knew to pray in every situation. He knew to pray scripturally. (Now that's a power tool!) His fourth tool was his submission to authority. He had learned that, in order to be IN authority, he had to be UNDER authority. His fifth tool was his calling to make the vision of God a reality. He had the divine blueprint, knew how to read it, and was committed to bring the walls and gates to completion. His sixth tool was his conviction that God's work is to be done by God's people God's way. The Samaritans need not apply. Their ecumenical appeals fell on deaf ears. Tobiah was not welcome in the Temple. Intermarriage with pagans was not tolerated.
There is one more tool I see in Nehemiah's toolbox, and that is his wisdom. It is the doublehanded wisdom found in Neh. 4:17. Every one of his labourers had a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other. The vision is never accomplished without the trowel, but the trowel will be smitten from our hand if it is not defended with the sword. What an unusual combination of tools! Both are sharp edged, but one is for mortar and one is for keeping the enemies at bay. The enemies stood afar off and gnashed their teeth in frustration as they observed the twohanded wisdom of Nehemiah. This is a most solemn lesson for the Lord's builders in our generation.
If we lay down the Sword, if we cease to oppose the ancient heresies in modern guise, if we are no longer "set for the defence of the gospel" (Phil. 1:17), if our hearts shrink from the polemic epistles and the solemn warnings of the Captain of our salvation, if the Sword is dulled by being immersed in reformed theology, or if it is softened to putty in a new evangelical scabbard, then all the other weapons will be stolen from us and the vision will fail. It is the Sword that holds the Enemy at bay while the trowel does its work!
Let us remember that all the business manuals written by all the church growth gurus can never replace the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God! The Sword and the trowel! Set for the defence of the gospel! Militant Truth! Error exposed and opposed without fear or favour! When the Sword is militant, the trowel is triumphant! We can only build in proportion as we battle!
One of Winston Churchill's quotes is a very fitting description of the churches of our day that have traded in their swords. He said, "They (the pre-war nations) go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, (and) all powerful for impotence." So it is with the churches that are no longer militant for truth, no longer set for the defence of the gospel, no longer holding the Sword in one hand and the trowel in the other.
The Sword defends our right to use the trowel and fulfill the vision of building for God.
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