The book of Nehemiah offers a vivid picture of what happens to the church in times of ruin and apostasy. When Nehemiah and 43,000 other Jewish patriots returned to Jerusalem, they found the city lying in total ruin. The walls were torn down and the gates removed, so the inhabitants had no protection from their enemies . . . and a whole parade of antagonists plundered the city as they pleased.
These enemies had been given total dominion because of Israel’s backsliding and disobedience to God’s Word. Nehemiah wrote, “Because of our sins: also they [our enemies] have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress” (Nehemiah 9:37).
Jerusalem here is a type of the church of Jesus Christ today. Like the Israelites, many Christians are under sin’s dominion and the iniquity in God’s house has brought on distress and bondage, spreading poison throughout the Body of Christ.
How has this happened? The walls of truth have been torn down—those protective barriers that are erected when believers stand on God’s Word. Because of our sin and compromise, those protective gates are falling, leaving multitudes of Christians open to Satan’s power.
Yet Nehemiah here represents God’s plan of restoration. This man knew that for any true revival to take place, there had to be a safe, protective wall of truth surrounding God’s people.
So, did Nehemiah stride into the wall-less city calling for a revival of supernatural manifestations? No. The only manifestations seen after Nehemiah’s arrival were men and women with picks and shovels in their hands. They were doing the hard work of rebuilding the city’s walls and restoring its gates. And Nehemiah was leading it all.
This work of restoration began the moment Nehemiah took on the Lord’s burden over the ruin in His house. When Nehemiah saw the affliction and reproach God’s people were suffering, he fell to his knees, crying, “The wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire” (Nehemiah 1:3).
What did Nehemiah do next? He fasted and prayed night and day, confessing Israel’s sins. “It came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven” (verse 4).
“There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you’” (John 2:1-5, ESV).
Most Christians know that the wedding at Cana was where Jesus performed His first miracle: “The first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory” (2:11). Christ had just begun His ministry and already had a small following of disciples. Now, by working this wonder, He revealed His glory to the world in spectacular fashion.
Yet, the miracle Jesus performed here also contains deep significance for the church beyond that time and place. Verse 3 contains a powerfully symbolic phrase: “When the wine ran out.” Throughout the New Testament, wine is associated with the manifest presence of God through the Holy Spirit. Paul evokes this when he writes, “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18, ESV).
What does it mean for the people of God to “run out of wine”? In this scene, wine was at the center of the wedding celebration, poured out freely to be served to the invited guests. The scene was a picture of a joyful people to whom God’s Spirit flows freely. But a need arose because the wine had run out and the people needed it replenished to sustain their joy.
As Christians, we all have the Holy Spirit present in us. Yet it is also true that we have to be filled with the Spirit continually. Every one of us experiences an ebb and flow in our walk with Christ. The low times do not mean His Spirit has left us, but it does mean we’re called back again and again to quench the deep thirst that the Spirit Himself puts within us. As children of God, we need spiritual food that only He can give—food that empowers us to love others as He loves, to lead a holy life that pleases Him, and to speak His Word with boldness to others.
We pray, we sacrifice, we fight. For souls!
Nothing is more important! Many believers have abandoned the battlefield for souls because secretly, they are in defeat.
In the Scriptures, the Church is called a body. If one member suffers, all suffer with it. When you hold and cover a hidden sin, you lose something before God. As thousands of believers are silenced this way, the Church can become powerless and unrecognizable. Who you are, what you do when no one sees you, will determine your future.
The words of Abraham to the king of Sodom, the place of fire and destruction, remind us of the reality and seriousness of this implacable war of the secret place. Listen to how Abraham responded to the temptation of the king of Sodom. It can revolutionize your life. He stood before his enemy and said, “I will touch nothing that is of you, not even a thread” (see Genesis 14:23).
I want to call you to a radical, liberating and powerful Christian lifestyle, where you discern the nature of spiritual warfare. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and spiritual wickedness in high places” (see Ephesians 6:12)
“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4).
Many churches and believers today claim to be engaged in “spiritual warfare.” Multitudes of believers are “binding spirits,” identifying strongholds, naming or identifying demonic principalities in a bizarre and mystical mix of noise and bold proclamations of victory. Self-proclaimed “generals” are giving orders and latest “cutting edge” strategies and revelations for guaranteed revival to the throngs of new experts while everybody is rapturously singing and shouting how scared Satan is of them!
Dear reader, allow me a few questions. Where are the souls saved, their lives changed, delivered, purified and transformed? Measurable growth and increase, water baptisms, true prayer and unity? Where are the wisdom, the amazing grace and the fruit of the Spirit shining forth brilliantly in the lives of believers filled with God? Where are the works of mercy and generosity, sacrificial giving to missions, compassion in action for the poor, the Christian commitment where we don’t count our hours and we don’t seek or need any recognition? Where is the victory, the divine protection over the work of the enemy and of flesh?
Claude Houde, lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada, is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences conducted by World Challenge throughout the world. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.
Recently, our ministry received a heartbreaking letter from a prisoner. He wrote:
“Pastor Dave, I’m in prison because of my sexual addiction. I know I wasn’t born this way, but it’s what I’ve become. I have been married three times and I have four children.
“The truth is, I want to stop, yet I don’t. I quit smoking cold turkey and that was no problem but I’ve never been able to stay away from pornography. I truly believe in the healing power of God and I’ve cried and begged Him for help. But I just can’t seem to find the door to escape from my perversion problem.
“My desire to do the Lord’s will is ever with me, yet I constantly push that desire aside and fall back into my lust. I’ve lied to God, promising never to do it again, but I always go back to it.
“I hurt because I know I’ve made the Lord sick. When I go to chapel, I feel two-faced. There are men here who respect me because I’ve given them good advice, but I haven’t kept it myself. I play the piano and sing in chapel, but I don’t feel right—because I’m not right.
“I’d rather die and go to hell than ever bother another innocent person again. But I don’t want to go to hell. I want to serve God, and I want His love. I’m trapped because I hate what I do, yet somehow I love it. I don’t know what to do.”
I said to this young man: “Don't give up hope. God wants to bring healing to you.”
You must believe that nothing in your life is impossible with God. There is no clutch of the devil He cannot break.
So, dear saint, get hold of faith! Believe God to absolutely change and transform your life. If He transformed the demon-possessed man, brought healing to the woman with the issue of blood and to Jairus’ daughter (see Mark 5), He can provide for you. Our God can fix anything.
“With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27).
God can restore whatever has seemed dead in our lives with just a single word. Are you having financial problems, unable to pay your bills? So it was with the Lord’s disciples—and He fixed their situation supernaturally.
When tax time came around, Christ and His disciples had no money to pay the needed amount. So how did the Lord fix the situation? He sent Peter out to catch a fish. Jesus told him he would find a coin in the mouth of the first fish he caught, and that coin would cover their tax bill. “Go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish . . . and when thou has opened his mouth, thou shalt fine a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee” (Matthew 17:27).
I can only imagine what Peter must have thought; “Tax money in a fish’s mouth? This I’ve got to see. I’ve been a fisherman all my life, and I’ve seen a lot of things inside fish—worms, hooks, seaweed. But I’ve never seen a coin inside one.” Yet, when Peter reeled in the fish, he opened its mouth to find a gleaming coin. The amount was enough to pay their taxes, just as Jesus had said.
Why did the Spirit move upon the gospel writers to record this story? And why did Jesus choose to fix their situation through a miracle? Why didn’t He just take up an offering, or send the disciples out to work for a day to bring in wages for the tax?
I believe Jesus moved supernaturally here because He wanted to prove to His children that He will do the impossible for us. He can fix any financial problem, any family crisis, any overwhelming need.
He wanted us to know that He is the same God who fed Elijah with bread delivered by ravens (see 1 Kings 17). He fed a crowd of 5,000 (see Mark 6:34-44) and another crowd of 4,000 (Mark 8:1-9) with a few fishes and loaves of bread. He knows that at certain times in our lives only a miracle will do. And He wants to assure us that He can do the impossible for us, in any situation!