February 7, 2010
Well, let’s talk about what we came here to talk about today. I’m beginning a series today on Influence. Every single person hearing my voice at all of our environments is an influencer. If you even influence one person, you’re a leader. Leadership is influence, influence is leadership. I’m going to go through the book of Nehemiah over the next several weeks and one of the fascinating things about Nehemiah is the fact that Nehemiah was a true influence. But notice something. Whenever you influence, you’re going to have people to oppose you. And what’s so ironic, really, it’s totally God. I plan to talk about this a month ago before I knew that this story would come out. Again, that’s God.
Are you a homemaker? You’re an influencer. Are you a student? You’re an influencer. Are you a business person? You’re an influencer. Are you a teacher? You’re an influencer. Everybody is an influencer.
How can we influence? Because it’s all about something that I want to paint. Do you mind if I paint for a second? Just a second. It’s all about what’s on this canvas. Because the God of the universe gives us, I’m talking about the influencers here, because all of us are influencers, right? The God of the universe gives us the target. That’s the bull’s-eye. He gives us all the target. In other words, I have an agenda from God himself. You have a purpose and a plan from God himself. God has given you the target. What’s your target? I mean, I don’t know, I’m just asking you, what is your target? What is God about? What is God up to? Because God has made much of you and me. We should make much of God. So if we want to hit the bulls-eye, I know I do, we have got to hear from God, we have got to recognize this, and we have got to be about his business.
Do you want focus? Do you want to be like a laser beam? It’s all about the bulls-eye.
How does this relate to Nehemiah? Glad you asked. I want you to notice something about influence. I want you to notice something about the bulls-eye, about the target. Leaders, influencers, master the task of the ‘ask’. Jerusalem was in a state of disarray. The city walls were in shambles. The city gates have been burned. Back in this day when the walls were in shambles, when the city gates had been burned, it was not a good thing. It exposed you to enemies, you were just totally out of control, you had no real focus or vision. Nehemiah was in exile. I’m talking about Babylonian exile. He had a very interesting job. You know what his job was? Some of you are like, “Man, I would love his job.” He was a wine taster. Wouldn’t that be cool to be paid a huge salary, and all you do is tastes wine. “Oh, I’ll have the Merlot.” “I’ll have the Cabernet Sauvignon.” Yeah, great, ok, man. I’m thinking “That much money?” That’s what he was doing. And you’re like, “Say what?” Yeah, wine taster and connoisseur of the best foods out there. Now, he did this because back in this day, assassinations were very common. So, Nehemiah would sip the wine, taste the food – if he didn’t drop dead, King Artaxerxes, the man, would say, “Ok, let’s have some wine, let’s have some food, let’s get after it.” But it was much more complex than that. Nehemiah, yes, was the cup-bearer, the wine taster, the connoisseur. Also, he had the ear of the king. The king confided in him. The king talked to him even though they were from different backgrounds.
And notice this, God has placed you where you are for amazing influence. You’re like, “Wow.” Because your neighbor, coworker, teammate, coach, manager – think King Artaxerxes. Think plan of God. Think your mission and commission. He has you right there.
Well, Nehemiah’s just having a cool time. He’s in a town called Susa. Whenever I read that in the Bible I think about Phil Collins, I love Phil Collins. He’s a drummer, you know, I’m a drummer, a frustrated drummer. Phil Collins, that song, Su-su-sudio. Has anyone here never heard that song? If you haven’t, go on iTunes. Oh, it’s incredible. Su-su-sudio. So, every time I think of Su-su-su-dio, Susa, doing everything right and some of his friends came by on their way to Jerusalem. So, Nehemiah begins to ask them about the situation in Jerusalem.
Remember, leaders master the task of the ask. Nehemiah 1:1-2, “I was in the citadel of Susa, when my brothers came from Judah with some other men. I questioned them,” say questioned. Questioned. “about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile and also about Jerusalem.”
Are you asking questions? Again, leaders master the task of the ask. Who are you asking questions to? I mean, who are you lobbing those questions toward?
Illus: Several years ago, I’m kind of embarrassed to tell you this, but I’ll tell you, I got invited to this leadership thing on Lake Michigan. This real powerful leader wanted to talk to some Christian leaders, and he flew us all in. There were about 6 or 7 people in this room. We were overlooking the water and all these leaders had PhD’s and a lot of them were from Ivy League schools and I’m thinking to myself, “What in the heck am I doing here?”
And then you get to that point where, “Ok, let’s go around the room and get to know everyone, and as you tell us your name and what you do, talk about the last three books you’ve read in the last 10 days that have really meant a lot to you?”
I’m like, “Fly-fishing in salt water.”
So these people are throwing out all of these books and I’m like, “Oh, no.” And it comes to me and I said, “Ed Young. I’m pastor of Fellowship, and, you know,” I said, “I don’t read that much on leadership. I’ve written some books on leadership but I just don’t read. I ask questions.”
And the room became silent. And this leader looked at me with his steel blue eyes and goes, “Oh, that’s not good.”
I think it is good. I mean, I’m all for reading. But I’m so A.D.D. I have a tough time really hanging in there for too long. I enjoy asking questions. I feel like books, and again, buy my leadership books, I’m not saying that, but I feel like leadership books, many of them, are more processed. Questions are organic. I want to feed on organic stuff. So, who in your life are you questioning? You can learn from everybody. You know stuff that I don’t know. You’re smarter than me in a lot of areas. I’m smarter than you in a lot of areas. So, if I ask the right people the right questions and listen for the right answers, synthesize that information, put it through my creative saying, guess what? I’ll become a greater influencer and I’ll become more focused on the target. Are you hitting the bulls-eye? I mean, do you really see the target that God’s given you.
I’ll tell you something that’ll change your life – ask questions. I like the word ‘ask.’ You’re Always Seeking Knowledge. Read. Man, readers are leaders and all that – cool. I believe though, questions are just as good and in many circumstances and situations, even better. Ask those questions. Ask those questions.
Look at Nehemiah 1:4. “When I heard these things,” from his, you know, home boys, “I sat down and wept.” I love the authenticity of the Bible, the vulnerability of its characters. Not only does it show the strength and weaknesses, but also it shows their mistakes and their struggles. I can identify with that, can’t you? Struggles, mistakes? Ok, yeah.
“For some days,” Nehemiah said, “I mourned and fasted.” Well, that’s a shocker. Wow, it’s a shocker that we’ve had this firestorm on the heels of this fast, isn’t it? It’s a shocker we’ve had this opposition when we’re getting ready to bring in leaders from all over the world in a couple of weeks to hear about the local church. It’s a shocker that we’re just launching the C3 global network of thousands of pastors all over the world. What a shocker.
Again, man, when the enemy comes after you and me, when he comes after our focus and purpose, he’s tipping us off to what’s going to happen around the corner. The reason you feel the opposition and the reason you feel the enemy is because of the potential in your life. It’s because you’re going after the target.
Well, it keeps on going. Nehemiah is asking others. He begins to ask God, right? He’s thinking about ‘the target’ and then I love, man, Nehemiah1:11. That is a cool, cool, cool verse. He says, “Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this, your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight in honoring you. Give your servants success today,” (rewind) success today. (rewind) success today. What? I can pray for success? “Give your servant success today by granting him favor” (rewind) favor (rewind) favor (rewind) favor – whoa. I can pray for success and favor? This is messing me up, “in the presence of this man.”
Well, what was happening? Nehemiah asked his people how the whole situation in Jerusalem was happening and going down. Your misery usually becomes your ministry, your target. He’s asking God. “God,” he’s fasting, and praying, “God, what do you want from me. Show me the target.” And now what is he doing? He’s getting ready to ask King Artaxerxes for permission to take 4 years off, to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the city walls.
Now, that doesn’t seem like a big thing to you and me. It’s like, “Ok, ok, ask, ask the king, he’s wealthy, he’s this and that, and no big deal.”
You ever heard of the term, “Hey, man, if you make him mad, or her mad, heads will roll.” You ever heard that? “Heads will roll.” Well literally, in Susa, if King Artaxerxes saw you in a bad mood, if you had bad breath, or if you were wallowing in Whaa-whaa… Vwoom, take your head off. Just chop your head off. So, no wonder Nehemiah was freaky. No wonder he was afraid, no wonder he was like, “God, are you sure this is the target? You mean, I’m supposed to ask King Artaxerxes for the funding and the blessing and the Navy Seals protection to go from Susa to Jerusalem and rebuild the city walls?” That’s what was happening. It’s great to pray for success. Do you pray for success? I’m not talking about, “Lord, make me a multi-millionaire. Lord, give me a yacht.” I’m not talking about that.
We should pray for success when we are what? Following and focusing on the target. Pray for success in your marriage. Pray for success in your dating relationships. Pray for success in your friendships. Pray for success in that business deal. Pray for success with your family.
I’ve prayed for success for 20 years for Fellowship Church. Pray for success. Pray for favor. Pray for favor when you talk to that person. Pray for favor when you’re in that situation. Pray for favor when you’re thinking about doing this or that.
If we’re following God; if we’re about the target, if we’re walking under his authority, He wants us to pray for success. But watch this. Success in God’s will is not always what we would call success. Sometimes, God will allow opposition to come your way and mine. Because in the economy of God, what does God say to the devil? Hey devil, you go first. Read the Old Testament and New Testament. “Go ahead, take your best shot, my boy.” And then, God always raises the standard.
So for many of us to go to the next level, somebody’s got to curse you. Somebody’s got to lie about you. Somebody’s got to mock you. Somebody’s got to make some stuff up. Somebody’s got to start the rumor mill for you and me to go to the next level. Read it in Scriptures. It’s throughout the Scriptures. Master the task of the ask. Ask God – it starts with God. Ask others. And then you’ll see that target that’s clear as they say in the south, Zig-zag lightening. That’s how clear it is.
But here’s something that’s crazy. You see ‘the target.’ God gives you ‘the target’ and as you step up and step out and begin to follow the target – listen to me, you become ‘a target.’ Whoa. I’m getting deep here now. Whoa, check it out.
Master the task of the ask, but also notice this, God will always give you the provision for the vision. Now, Nehemiah, I mean, step into his sandals. He’s going into the oval office. “King Artaxerxes, my brother. Pay for the entire funding as you rebuild Jerusalem and give me Navy Seal protection.”
Look Nehemiah 2:8. “Because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the King granted my request.”
So, what did he do? He’s like, “Ok, let’s get it on. Let’s do this thing.” Nehemiah began to go immediately for the target. He began to make preparations for the trip to Jerusalem. He began, right? To strategize and to think about rebuilding the city walls.
So, the Bible says Nehemiah went to Jerusalem, and this is so interesting, when he got to Jerusalem, he didn’t start talking smack. He didn’t say, “Oh, I’m here! I’m here to rebuild the city walls. That’s what I’m here for. I’m here, I’m here because God’s given me this big ol’ target. And that’s just what I’m going to be about. I mean, I am all about the target. That’s me.”
He didn’t do it. He kept it on the DL. He kept it quiet. Only shared it with a few people. And here’s something else that you’ll see in Scripture. When God has a plan, he always chooses a man or a woman. You’re the keeper of the vision, you’re the keeper of the vision for your family, for your company, it could be for your team. I’m the keeper of the vision for Fellowship Church. And I will not fight over a lot of stuff, but when someone jacks with the vision of Fellowship Church, Oh you better believe it, I will fight.
And we’re going to see this in Scripture. Nehemiah was all about that. However, he stayed to the task. He stayed the wall.
So Fellowship Church, don’t jump down off the wall. Don’t jump down off the wall and try to mud-sling with the vision-vandals, with the side-walk supervisors. Because as Nehemiah began to access the situation with just a few, notice this, your vision always goes from me to we. When he began to look at the situation, he saw what he needed to do to rebuild the city walls. Now, he becomes a target. Check out what happens.
Nehemiah 2:10, here we go. “When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this,” there was also a guy named Geshem who was very negative, “they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.”
“If we knew all the information, Nehemiah, about what you were doing, if we knew all of the details and the Navy Seal protection, if we knew how long the beams were and how much the stones weighed, if you would just share with us this whole deal, we would help you.” Say what? Say what? Whoa.
God will give you the provision for his vision. You’ve got to ask. It keeps going. Nehemiah 2:17 & 18. “Then I said to them,” talking about his boys, I mean, Nehemiah is building the vision here. “’You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.’”
He didn’t say, “Ok, let’s form a committee. Let’s do a focus group. What do you think? What do you think?” No, no, no. “Here’s what God’s told me. I mean, here is the target. Let us rebuild the wall. And whenever you start rebuilding the wall, I mean, what’s your wall? I don’t know. Whenever you start going for the target, what’s going to happen? All hell will break loose in your life, but here’s the good news, all heaven will break loose. We’re not fighting for victory, we’re fighting from it. We got to realize who we are and whose we are. Nehemiah understood it.
Nehemiah 2:18, he said, “I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me. They replied, ‘Let us start rebuilding.’ So they began his good work.”
Whenever you build the vision, you’re going to have workers and shirkers. Workers and shirkers. You gotta go with the workers.
Who are the workers in your life? Who are the people who challenge you? Who are the people you are accountable to? Who are the people who got your back? Who are those people? You go through a fight, you go through opposition, all you gotta do is turn around and see who’s got your back.
Those are the people you build a wall with. God has given you the target. Do you know your target? What’s that one thing that only you can do? Do you know your target? You know the target, then you become a target. That’s cool, because when you become a target, you know you’re after the target. It’s awesome. It’s awesome.
Leaders master the task the ask. God gives us a provision for his vision. But notice this, I’ll say it again. When you step up, the enemy always tries to mess you up. Opposition.
Look at Nehemiah 2:19. They’re baa-aaaack. “But when Sansabelt, I’m sorry, Sanballat,” Guys you remember Sansabelt slacks? Do they still have a company Sansabelt? They’ll probably come back in style. I mean, you remember Sansabelt? No one does? Some of you young people? Well, if you ever want to see Sansabelt at it’s best, when we have our 20th anniversary here in September, I’ll show you some pictures of Owen Goff, the first three years of Fellowship Church, that’s all Owen wore. Sansabelt slacks. They’re amazing, because you didn’t have to wear a belt with them. They’re polyester. You just button them. And after you take them off, you just stand them up in the corner of your room, and… I guarantee you, if we ever have a hall of fame at Fellowship Church, a museum, those Sansabelt blue pants that Owen wore, will be in the hall of fame. There’s no doubt about it. Every time I read Sansabelt, I can’t even say it now, Sanballat, I think about Sansabelt. That’s just a little bit of A.D.D.
“When, Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it…”
Let me stop, in the name of love. Put some people in your life, substitute the names here, or names of people that might be drinking (gulp-gulp) Hater-aide in your life. Sanballat, well Sandy, Steve, Sam, I don’t know. Tobiah, Terry, Tim, Tom. Geshem, Gary, Gertrude, ha, someone – who are they? Who are they?
Illus: You know, when I went to Florida State, I didn’t realize what God was doing down there. And I’ve told you so much about Florida State. And I tell you about it because God used it in such a huge way in my life and I’m going to tell you man, when I went to Tallahassee Florida, living in that athletic dorm, I think I was the only Christian, I hate to hate on my school here, I think I might have been the only Christian, I think in the whole dorm. Maybe, might have been one or two.
And the ridicule, oh my goodness, that I received as a freshman at Florida State from my teammates and coaching staff, “Man, why don’t you do cocaine, why don’t you smoke weed, why don’t you get drunk? Why don’t you have sex? Why don’t you…” I mean, everything steal, whatever. And they all did that. I’m not calling any names, so, you know, don’t come after me. But you know who you are teammates. But, no, I’m kidding, it was crazy. But you know, I didn’t realize what was happening. Because they made fun of me. Oh, they mocked me. They’re like, “Oh, man, something is wrong with you. I can’t believe it – you got this beautiful girlfriend, Lisa. Man, are you…” every horrible thing you can think about, you can imagine, let your imagination run wild just for a second, not too wild, and you can think about that. I had never been ridiculed like that for my faith. I’d never had people come after me like that. I was like, “Wow, man.” I remember feeling so lonely at Florida State. Just absolutely lonely. I remember walking across that campus, a beautiful campus by the way, just talking to God. “Man, why am I here? I mean, these people hate me. I know no one, no one, no one.”
God was preparing me for what he has prepared for me. I didn’t know it. God was giving me the target. “Ed I want you to be a part of building a church for these hell-raising, cocaine snorting, skirt-chasing, crack-pipe smoking Florida State people. I want you to build a church for people who love God, who are believers, who understand that the church is not a yacht club, but a rescue society.” I didn’t realize it at the time.
And here’s what happened. It’s really strange. And students and young people, let me encourage you. When you receive all the opposition like I receive, it would have been, and it was tempting, to go with the flow. I mean, I’d be lying to you if I said, ok. I mean, Hugh Heffner rated Florida State as the best place to attend if you were a male. I mean you could imagine, it was just, all of the temptations out there, all of this and that and whatever. And I was tempted. I was tempted. Was I perfect? No. But I did not get into that situation. I clung to God, I clung to just a few Christian friends. Clung to my church. God, though, was developing stuff in my life. Because of my sophomore year, the beginning of my Junior year. Some of these guys who had just abused me were like, “Hey man, hey Rev.” that’s what they’d call me, Rev. “Hey Rev., man. I want to talk to you. Man, my life is screwed up.” I mean, just boom. “Hey Rev., come here man, something’s not right. You know, I know you’re living right.” And I was like, “God, these people are looking at me like a leader. I mean, I’m not, I’m not a team leader, I’m not the best guy on team by far! I’m riding the bench most of the time.”
But all of a sudden, it was like God was elevating me as a leader, and the whole thing began to develop and emerge out of what? Opposition. Out of that Holy tension. Out of that cross pull. It’s a good thing. God allows it. And students, I’m telling you. If God could give me the strength, as much of a sinner as I am, he’ll give you the strength as well. He can give anybody, anybody, anybody the strength.
So, when you step up, the enemy tries to mess you up, he’s tried to mess me up at Florida State, man. He did. There’s no doubt about it. He still comes after me. He still comes after you. But every time it’s like, because I’ve walked with God long enough to know, “Uh-oh, something awesome is getting ready to break through. Something crazy is getting ready to happen right here at Fellowship Church.” They, man, the media even ran this story again this morning, so you know, wow, you better hold on to your theater seats, we’re going to a whole nother level.
Nehemiah 2:19, “But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. ‘What is this you are doing?’ they asked. ‘Are you rebelling against the king?’”
What’s your motivation? I can’t believe it.
Let me stop here and deposit something into your life that God deposited into mine. Envy begins where your influence ends. Did you hear that? Let me say it again. Envy begins where your influence ends. You show me anybody, myself, whoever, you have a certain sphere of influence, right? When you see someone else in your life who has greater influence, that’s when I’m tempted, at least, that’s when you’re tempted to do what? To become envious. Jealous. And mean-spirited. And we become thirsty. We gotta drink some of that hater-aide.
The Bible says, we put those who weep, thank you for weeping with us, rejoice with those who rejoice. But you know what opposition is? I mean really. In your life and mine, do you know what an opposition is? Do you know what an opposition is to Fellowship Church? Do you know what it is? Let me just boil it down into a word picture, into a statement that is as simple as I know how.
Here is what opposition is, for example, at Fellowship Church. It’s a bunch of Chihuahuas barking at a freight train. We’re a freight train. You’re a conductor, I’m a conductor. I don’t go, “Whoa, let’s stop! Aah, look at that Chihuahua. Aaah, let’s stop. Look at that Pekinese. Oh, let’s stop, look at that Maltese.”
No, we’re a freight train. And we’ll have Chihuahua’s and Maltese’s and Pekinese’s and Poodles along the way. They’re still out there. Next week, next month, next year. We’re a freight train. Why? Because we’re after the target. Why? Because we become a target. And we become a target, we realize, we’re walking with the target.
And you know, the more I looked at that, the more I looked at the target, and I can get into the whole thing about how Nehemiah rode around the city in a counter-clockwise fashion. I can talk to you about how he used natural people groups, kind of like an Adopt-a-Highway program to rebuild that wall. We’ll talk about that later, ok.
But as I looked at that closer, here’s what I saw. God began to say, “Ed, you know what? You know what? You want to talk about vision, you want to talk about leadership? You want to talk about seeking me? You want to talk about that? It’s all about vision. It’s all about eye-sight. It’s all about seeing the unseen. It’s all about focus. It’s all about power.”
It’s all about the lenses of the Lord. Because if you really want to see, friends, if you really want to see, you’ve got to follow the target. You’ve got to follow the target.
And for 20 years, we’ve been about the target. We’re not going to focus on something else. We’re not going to get involved in another target. We’re about the target. What’s the target? People who are far away from God. What’s the target? Those of us who have been rescued radically are radical rescuers. That’s the target. Influence. Influence.
Master the task of the ask. Influence. Look around for the provision for God’s vision. I call them tools for fools, man. We’re fools for Christ. God will always give us the tools. We gotta just ask God for the discernment. Realize that when you take God’s position, you’re going to face opposition. When you step up, the devil’s going to try to mess you up. He’s going to try to screw it up for you and for me. And we’re not going to let that happen. Because we know that God is building some amazing stuff. So, let’s continue to be people of influence. A church of influence, here and also around the world. Are you ready church? Are you ready? I’m ready, man. I’m ready to go to that next level. I’m ready to understand that we’re the head, not the tail, that we follow the Lord Jesus Christ, himself. Let’s pray together.