MISSION POSSIBLE SERMON SERIES
MASTER CASTER – IMPARTING YOUR VISION TO OTHERS
JUNE 1, 1996
One of the most crucial elements of fishing is casting. On this stage I am going to demonstrate three types of casting very quickly, prayerfully without hooking anyone. Bait casting. Spin casting. And my favorite, fly casting. Watch out, these hooks are razor sharp.
Whether you are bait casting, spin casting or fly casting, presentation of the lure, minnow or fly is extremely important. We are going to talk about casting in this session, not casting in terms of fishing, but casting in terms of leadership. If you want to be a great fisherman, you better become a master caster. If you want to be a great leader, you better become a master caster. There will come a time in your life when you have to present your agenda, your plan, your purpose for your family, for your dating relationship, for your occupation, or for your life spiritually to others. How does one become a master caster?
I am in a series on leadership entitled MISSION POSSIBLE. We have been looking at the greatest leadership journal ever penned and this leadership journal is not found in the business section of Barnes and Nobel or B. Daltons. It is found over in the Old Testament in the Bible. The names of this book is Nehemiah. Nehemiah is the quintessential leader. Nehemiah is the man who knew how to cast and communicate his vision to others. We desperately need to communicate our vision, our plan, our purpose to other people, because life is communication. Don’t sit there and say to yourself that you are not a leader. Last week we defined leadership as influence. Every person who is hearing my voice is a leader in one way or another because all of us have a sphere of influence. God wants us to develop our leadership gifts to their maximum potential. Today we will learn some principles from a little section of Nehemiah, chapter two. Before we learn how to become a master caster, we desperately need to set the historical stage, and the context for this aspect of leadership. I encourage you to pick up last week’s tape because every message in this series builds upon the last.
The year is 586 BC. Jerusalem is going great. One day the Babylonians infiltrate Jerusalem. They destroy the temple and they tear apart, here is the key phrase, the city wall. City walls back then were very important because they provided protection and prestige for the cities. They enabled the cities to function. The Jerusalem wall also represented the power and the grace of God toward the Jews. The Babylonians, led by King Nebuchadnezzar, destroyed all of Jerusalem. He deported most of the Jews from J-town all the way to Babylon. This is known as the Babylonian captivity. Seventy years later, the Medes and the Persians come in and they dominated the Babylonians. A brand new King took the helm, King Cyrus. We nicknamed him last week, Billy Rae Cyrus, and he had an achy-breaky heart toward the Jews in captivity. He allowed the Jews to go back to Jerusalem and to begin to rebuild the city. They began to reconstruct the temple but they could never do the wall thing. Billy Rae Cyrus steps down and in moves King Artaxerxes. Don’t you love that name? King Artaxerxes said this. “It is great that the city is being rebuilt but there is one aspect that will never be rebuilt, the wall. The walls will not be rebuilt.”
Enter our boy, Nehemiah. Nehemiah was a Jew born in Persian captivity. He was elevated to the second most important position in the kingdom. He was cupbearer to the King, which meant he was a wine taster, a food tester, a confident, an advisor to King Artaxerxes. He had a cush job, a job with perks, a job with a great future. He could just kick back and make a lot of money and enjoy the Persian kingdom. One day God said to Nehemiah in essence, “Nehemiah, this is your mission should you choose to accept it. Leave your secure job in Persia, travel 800 miles through the desert to Jerusalem. I want you, Nehemiah, to rebuild the wall. I want you, Nehemiah, to lead out in this effort.” And I am sure if Nehemiah was like you and me he probably said, “God, wait a minute. I am a cupbearer, not a contractor. Give me a break, God.” But God said, “Nehemiah, this is my vision for you.”
God cast the vision in Nehemiah’s heart and life and now it was time for Nehemiah to cast the vision to none other than, King Artaxerxes. Have you ever had to cast something or present something to an individual that you knew would not really like the idea or the plan? Maybe at work, maybe in a dating relationship, maybe at home, maybe around the neighborhood? Kind of gets you scared, doesn’t it, a little freaked out? Nehemiah had waited for four months to mention this to King Artaxerxes. Remember, back in Biblical times, if King Artaxerxes did not particularly like your request, literally he could chop your head off. If you caught him in a bad mood, heads would roll. The stakes were high. Wouldn’t you agree? I have never presented someone to anyone who might chop my head off if he didn’t like the request. Nehemiah, though, found himself in this exact scenario.
Let’s jump into the text and see how to become a master caster. Notice that Nehemiah prays it over. The first aspect of imparting my vision to others, to become a master caster, I have got to pray it over. Nine times in the book of Nehemiah, he prays. He prays short prayers, he prays long prayers, he prays sentence prayers and in Nehemiah 2:2,4, he prays a microwave prayer. Time, cook. Five seconds. Beep. Send to God. “God help. God give me the words. God, this is my defining moment. God, this is it. King Artaxerxes has opened up a window. I have got to share with him the vision you have given to me.” It was crunch time. I love what Nehemiah said in Nehemiah 2:2, “I was very much afraid.” Don’t you love that vulnerability, that honesty. If you are going to be the best leader possible, you have got to be open to others. You have got to show them the good points and the bad points in your life. Don’t surround yourself with yes people. Don’t surround yourself with people who always buy into the party line. Open yourself to people who will speak the truth to you in love. Make sure advice is from people who love you first, not for what you do but who you are. Nehemiah was open. He was vulnerable. He admitted that he was very much afraid.
Nehemiah 2:4. “Then the king said to me, ‘What is it you want?’…” What an opportunity. Artaxerxes was asking him what he wanted. “…Then I prayed to the God of heaven.” How long had Nehemiah been praying for this? Try four months. Four long months. Here is a leadership principle. When leaders pray, they often experience a delay. Why? Prayer and waiting go together hand in hand. When God is delaying, He is building and maturing us and saying, “Chill out, I will answer this according to My timetable, according to My plan for you.” And God waited for four months. One day when Nehemiah was just doing the normal, everyday, average task of giving King Artaxerxes some wine, the opportunity presented itself and Nehemiah was ready. Why? Because leaders pray it over. The strongest position for a leader is on his or her knees in prayer. When Nehemiah was presented with this mission he prayed. It is tough to wait though, isn’t it? We want things now.
Eight years ago, my wife and I began praying for this church. We didn’t know about the Fellowship of Las Colinas. We knew that God had put a vision in our lives to pastor. And after months and months of praying, I remember asking Lisa if she believed God was listening. I had the desire but nothing was happening. I would talk to a church here and a church there and nothing would happen. One day, though, I meet a group of six visionary leaders who were beginning a church here in Irving, Texas of all places. My prayers seemed to be answered. We came up here and this has been the greatest ride of faith that I have ever been on in my life. But I have got to tell you, it was fourteen months of prayer and waiting, prayer and waiting, prayer and waiting. Pray it over.
Notice, also, that Nehemiah thought it through. Leaders pray it over and then they think it through. In other words, Nehemiah planned. He wasn’t just praying for four months. He was praying and he was planning.
This week I was thinking about Nehemiah’s plans. Why did he plan? Why should we plan? Haven’t we heard that we are to live by faith? We should plan because God is a planner. I Corinthians 14:33 says that God is not a God of disorder. We should also plan because God suggests it. I Corinthians 14:40 says that everything should be done in a fitting and orderly fashion. The Bible says we should also plan because it gives us the best usage of our time.
This past Tuesday I had the privilege of spending the day with a man who talks about leadership all over the world. His name is John Maxwell. And John said, “Ed, I make time just to think.” And I challenge you to do the same thing. And here is a leadership principle. Leaders make time for think time because when you make time for think time, your think time will make time. Do you ever just draw away and think? Howard Hendricks said it best when he said, “Serious thinking is the most demanding and rewarding thing I know.” And I would agree with that. We have a team of three or four people who just plan our titles here. We spend hours and hours and hours just going over the titles for a certain series of messages. Why? Because God is a planner. Because God suggests it. And it is the best use of our time. And we are communicating the nature and character of God when we give out His word, so we had better work for it. But I am going to tell you something. Talk about taxing, talk about something that is not fun to do, it is to think seriously and in a creative manner to come up with something that people can understand whether they are in the twelfth grade or first grade or graduate school. It is difficult. I spent about five hours this week just on the sermon outline, condensing it, going through the scripture. It is not my favorite thing in the world, to think. But I have discovered the hard way that leaders make time for think time because think time makes time.
Another reason we should plan is because it creates incredible opportunities. What opportunity are we talking about? It created the opportunity of Nehemiah presenting his vision to King Artaxerxes. And because he had planned, he was ready to seize the opportunity. Here is what he said beginning in Nehemiah 2:5ff. “And I answered the king…” He didn’t say, King, I will get back to you. King, I will fax you later. King, we will do lunch next month. He said that he answered him. And the next three things that he talks about is evidence that he planned. Let me hit the high points of the next several verses. First, he set a time. He had a timeline in front of King Artaxerxes. He told the King that he wanted to rebuild the wall and when the King asked how long that would take, he gave him a well thought out answer. Every vision, every goal must have a deadline. If it doesn’t, it is not a goal or a vision that is worth anything.
Then he requested letters to the governors of the Trans-Euphrates. Nehemiah knew, having thought through the process, that when he traveled from Persia to Jerusalem, he would have to cross province after province after province. He needed some passports and visas and letters from King Artaxerxes. Yet, I have heard people say all the time, “I’m just living by faith, just by faith.” What if Nehemiah had said that? Yes, he prayed. He asked God to show him what to do. He also planned. God has given us an intellect, folks. What if Nehemiah had said that he was going by faith. He leaves Persia and the first province he hits he gets rebuffed by the border patrol. They want to see his passport and his visa. Then he would have had to return to the King to request what he should have already requested. He finally gets just outside of Jerusalem and hits the royal forest. Asaph is the foreman in charge of the forest. “Asaph, by faith I am going to Jerusalem, would you give me about four million dollars worth of timber to rebuild the walls and build my residence?” Asaph would ask if he were crazy. He would want documentation. Faith is not a synonym for disorder. We live by faith. We plan it out. We think it through. We do the homework. We do the background studies and, then, we are ready to go. So Nehemiah said he would set a time, get the letters to the governors and also one to Asaph. Don’t you love these names? He was probably some legalistic guy with lots of papers and documents and stamps. Here is Nehemiah, a cupbearer, and he already knows there is a royal forest outside the city of Jerusalem and he knows the name of the man who runs the show.
I hope you didn’t miss this though. Notice how the Bible says that Nehemiah said, Nehemiah asked, Nehemiah requested. He requested things. Here is a leadership principle. Leaders master the task of the ask. If you are afraid to ask for help, if you are afraid to ask for assistance, if you are afraid to do some team building, you will never become the Nehemiah type leader that God wants you to be. “But, Ed, you don’t understand. No one could do it like me. No one can make the calls at work like me. No one can do the finances like me. No one can present the project like me.” That is a formula for failure. You have got to ask for help. You have got to ask for things. Nehemiah did and look what happened. God opened up the flood gates of heaven. King Artaxerxes said, “Nehemiah, sure you can have about four or five years off. I’ll still pay you a salary. I’ll even give you the timber to build the wall. And then I will give you a secret service escort to go from Persia to Jerusalem.” Wow. Thinking things through prepares us for opportunities.
Also, it helps us grow and develop. That is another reason we should plan. It stretches one. Nehemiah 2:8, “And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the King granted my requests…He also sent army officers and cavalry with me…I went to Jerusalem…” Let’s stop there. I went to Jerusalem. Can’t you picture Nehemiah going to Jerusalem on the back of a camel thinking how amazing it was. “Twelve months prior, it was just a dream. God had just picked up a rod and reel and cast a vision into my life and I thought about it and wondered who would lead in the effort. Then God said that I was the man. And now I am riding with the King’s escort to Jerusalem with his cash, with his resources to rebuild something that he said would never be rebuilt. What a great God. What an awesome God I serve.” Maybe Nehemiah said that. I bet he did.
Now when he went to Jerusalem, what did he do? Did Nehemiah announce loudly that he had arrived to rebuild the wall that hadn’t been rebuilt in 90 years? No. Nehemiah did something weird here. He did something that is really strange. “…I went to Jerusalem and I set out during the night with a few men.” People were probably wondering why he was there, what he was up to. But he didn’t say a word. “…By night I went out examining the walls of Jerusalem…” He was still doing homework. He was still investigating. He was still thinking about who would be in charge of what part of the wall, where the bricks would come from, how big, how tall, how wide it should be. And this is the lonely side of leadership. “..By night I went out examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down and destroyed by fire…The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing…” Here is a leadership principle. Leaders keep it low until they are ready to go. You have got to keep that vision from premature death. It is much easier to kill an idea than to launch an idea.
How many of you want to grow spiritually? I think all of you would want to raise your hand. That is why you are here. That is why I am here. How many of you want to develop your relationships? How many of you want to reach your maximum potential at work? How many of you want to get in shape and lose a couple of pounds and increase your aerobic capacity. Have you thought it through? Have you made plans for it? Have you set a deadline? Have you looked out at the possible pitfalls and problems that you might face? Nehemiah would tell you to think it through. Pray it over but also think it through.
And next. You have got to give it away. After you pray it over, after you think it through, you have got to give it away. And this is the transferal of the vision. Here is another leadership principle. Leaders transfer the vision from me to we. It went from a God idea into the life and heart of Nehemiah. He prayed it through. Then from Nehemiah, it went to a team concept.
Nehemiah 2:17-18. “Then I said to them, ‘You see the trouble we are in…Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.'” He was saying that even though the mission seemed impossible, it was possible. “I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me.” Again, he is pointing to God. Nehemiah did not speak of messing up, of failing, of facing impossible conditions. Leaders face their fears. They go for it and they always have success in mind. Always. Leadership starts with preparation. Then it moves to incubation. Then it culminates in the presentation. Leadership does. Are you being the kind of leader that God wants you to be?
You pray it over. You think it through. You give it away. And you build it up. You build it up. Nehemiah 2:18. “They replied, ‘Let us start…” Nehemiah was motivating them and they were ready to start. There is a major difference between leadership and leaderslip. A lot of us have the gift of leaderslip. What is leaderslip? Leaderslip is starting off great. You go to this conference. You listen to that tape. You read this book. You have this mission statement, this goal, this agenda, this plan. You are going to start this company, do this with your life, build this relationship, get involved with this area of ministry. You look good, you smell good but people look at your life and say, “Where are the results, where is the life change, what is the take home?” Leaderslip people never have it because they keep the ship in the slip and it just beats around on the dock, day after day after day. It makes a lot of noise. “I’m going to do it. I’m going to change. I’ll be different.” Leaderslip.
Conversely, people who have leadership go to the conferences. They rub shoulders with visionary people. Then they fire up those engines and they leave the slip. And many times they will break ropes to leave the slip. And they set sail. They get out there on the open water and they hit the waves, the bad weather. They sail smoothly and run quickly because they are involved in leadership. And the people that Nehemiah dealt with had the gift of leadership. They replied, “…let us start rebuilding’ so they began this good work.” How do you implement a good idea? Here is a leadership principle. Leaders know when to say no. You have got to say no regularly, sometimes hourly, to be the kind of leader that God wants you to be. Nehemiah had a focus. He could have gotten involved in this political agenda, in this action group, in this team building process. And though those were probably good things, and wonderful things, and fine things, he said no, no, no, no. There is one thing I am going to do. God told me to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. Successful people in God’s economy are focused people. They don’t try to do 334 things. They just do one thing. And the evil one loves to put up in your life and my life these good things. “Ed, get involved in this good thing. Ed, get involved in that good thing.” And we are so involved in good things that we miss out on the main thing. You have got to say no. Are you saying no regularly? Or are you saying yes not to hurt someone’s feelings, a company’s program, a ministry’s mission. You have got to say no and it is tough. It is not easy.
The master casters pray it over, they think it through, they give it away, they build it up and they tune it out. Here is a leadership principle. There is no opportunity without opposition. There are a couple of ways to live life without opposition. If you want to live life without any criticism, do nothing and say nothing. The vision vandals hit the scene. Every time God gives someone a vision, every time God gives a family a vision, a church a vision, there are always vision vandals. They don their vision vandal masks, they take their vision extinguishers out and they just squelch the idea. And look at the name of these guys. Nehemiah 2:19-20. “But when Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us.” And what did Nehemiah do? Did he respond by saying, “What are you doing. I can’t believe you are criticizing me. What has gotten into you? Do you realize God sent me? I am God’s man. This is God’s thing.” He didn’t say that. “I answered them by saying, ‘The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding…” Every time you receive criticism and opposition, consider the source. Ask yourself who is giving you the criticism. Ask yourself if they love you and want to help the situation. And consider the spirit of their criticism and critique the opposition. If it is vindictive, if it is mean spirited, read it, listen to it and then turn and go the other way. But if it is in the spirit of love and tenderness and grace, take it in. Some of it will be right and some of it will be wrong. But I will prepare you now. It is going to hurt. I have heard some people say criticism doesn’t bother them. I have heard Ted Turner say that, Barry Switzer say that. I have heard Bill Clinton say that but I just laugh. It tears those guys apart. I have heard Margaret Thatcher say that. But it tears her apart. It hurts.
We receive very little criticism here in this church, but the criticism we have received hurts. But I have learned something. Pioneers take the arrows. There is no opportunity without opposition. You have got to love everybody, but you have got to move with the movers. Nehemiah moved with the movers. He cast his vision to the people who were on God’s team. He didn’t worry about the criticizers. He said he loved them and they were free to join him but that the wall was going to be built. He went for it. Look what happened. He rebuilt the wall in fifty-two days, record time. Tune it out.
How is your casting? Who really cares about fishing? I am talking about your vision casting. How is your Nehemiah master caster doing? You can’t buy this at K Mark or Wallmart or some local bait and tackle shop. You have got to get this from God. When God gives you His vision, He will equip you to become a master caster.