12 Leadership Insights from the Book of Nehemiah by Author Warren Wiersbe

12 Leadership Insights from the Book of Nehemiah by Author Warren Wiersbe

Blessed by these insights from the book of Nehemiah by Warren Wiersbe. If you are involved in any type of leadership this is worth the read.

1. He knew he was called of God

The worker who doesn’t have a divine calling to the work is like a house without a foundation or a ship without an anchor, unprepared for the storms of life.

Nehemiah started with a burden for Jerusalem, but the burden was not the call. He wept over the sad condition of the city (Neh. 1:4), but his tears were not the call. It was as he prayed to God and sought divine help that he received a call to leave his relatively easy job and go to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. Because he knew God had called him, Nehemiah could approach the king and get help; and he could also enlist the help of the Jews in Jerusalem.

Before you quickly move into a place of ministry, be sure God has called you and equipped you for the job. You may not think you can do it, and others may have their doubts; but if God calls you, have no fear: He will see you through.

2. He depended on prayer

The Book of Nehemiah starts and ends with prayer. And in between, Nehemiah oftens sends up quick prayers to heaven and asks for God’s help. Nehemiah was the royal governor of the province, with all the authority and wealth of the king behind him; but he depended solely on God to help him finish the work.

The Christian worker who can get along comfortably without prayer isn’t getting much done for God and certainly isn’t threatening the enemy too much. “To be a Christian without prayer,” said Martin Luther, “is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”

Nehemiah faced a gigantic task, a task too big for him but not too great for God. “Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers,” said Phillips Brooks. “Pray for powers equal to your tasks.” One mark of true spiritual leaders is their honest acknowledgment of their own inadequacy and their humble trust in the power of God.

“Pray for great things,” said evangelist R.A. Torrey, “expect great things, work for great things, but above all, pray.” Nehemiah certainly followed that advice.

3. He had vision and saw the greatness of the work

Leadership involves vision, revision, and supervision; but the greatest of these is vision. Leaders must see what others don’t see and then challenge others to follow until they do see. “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down!” was Nehemiah’s testimony (6:3), and he never lost that vision.

It’s an old story but it bears repeating. A visitor was watching some men work on a building and began to question them. “What are you doing?” he asked one, who replied, “I’m making ten dollars a day.” When he asked a second man the same question, the worker replied, “I’m laying stones in this building.” But the third man answered, “Why, I’m building a cathedral!” He was the man with vision.

No matter what God has called you to do, it’s a great work because it’s part of the building of His church; and that’s the greatest work in the world. I have often told people, “There are no small churches and there are no big preachers.” In God’s kingdom, every job is a big job and every servant is nothing apart from faith in the Lord.

4. He submitted to authority

The call of God is not an invitation to become independent and ignore authority. Nehemiah respected the king and submitted his plans to him for his approval before he went to Jerusalem. He acknowledged what Paul wrote in Romans 13, that the powers that be are ordained of God for our good, and we should submit to them.

Even more, Nehemiah submitted to the authority of the Word of God. He invited Ezra to teach the Law to the people so that they too would obey the will of God. It is a basic rule of life that those who exercise authority must themselves be under authority. Nehemiah was a man who was dependable because he was accountable.

5. He was organized in his work

Instead of rushing impetuously into the task, Nehemiah secretly surveyed the situation and became acquainted with the facts. He talked with the Jewish leaders privately and told them his plan. There were no press conferences or “pep rallies.” He was simply a man willing to wait for God’s direction and then act as soon as the way was clear.

After making his plan, he enlisted his workers and sought to give them the same vision for the task that God had given to him. He had a job for everyone to do and a place for everyone to work. He gave recognition to his workers and encouraged them when the going was tough. He gave them a feeling of security even though the situation was dangerous.

6. He was able to discern the tactics of the enemy

Every Christian ministry needs an “intelligence department” that keeps its eye on the enemy and recognizes when he is at work. Nehemiah was not fooled by the enemy’s offers or frightened by their threats. He could say with Paul, “We are not ignorant of his [Satan’s] devices” (2 Cor. 2:11).

In our study, we have noted the various devices the enemy uses to try to stop the work; and every good leader will want to understand them. Leaders must spot the enemy before anybody else does and be ready to meet him quickly and efficiently. Leaders must recognize when Satan comes as a roaring lion or as a serpent, devouring or deceiving.

7. He worked hard

That seems like a trite statement, but it isn’t; for one of the secrets of Nehemiah’s success was his willingness to sacrifice and work hard. Had he stayed back in the palace, serving the Persian king, he would have enjoyed an easy life. But once he was in Jerusalem, he went to work, he kept working, and he worked hard.

This is what Charles Spurgeon said to the ministerial students at his Pastors’ College in London: “Do not be afraid of hard work for Christ; a terrible reckoning awaits those who have an easy time in the ministry, but a great reward is in reserve for those who endure all things for the elect’s sake. You will not regret your poverty when Christ cometh and calleth His own servants to Him. It will be a sweet thing to have died at your post, not turning aside for wealth, or running from Dan to Beersheba to obtain a better salary, but stopping where your Lord bade you hold the fort” (An All Round Ministry, p. 197).

“The laborer is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10:7), so let’s be sure we are laborers and not loiterers. There is no place in the Lord’s service for lazy people who give advice while they watch other people work.

8. He lived an exemplary life

Whether it was working on the wall or feeding hundreds of guests, Nehemiah’s life was blameless. His full time was devoted to the work, and he didn’t permit himself to be distracted. He refused financial support that was legitimately his and instead spent his own money to help others. He identified with the people and stood right with them as together they built the walls.

The enemy would have rejoiced to discover something in Nehemiah’s life that would have embarrassed him and hindered the work, but nothing could be found. Not that Nehemiah was sinless, for only Jesus Christ can claim that distinction; but his life was blameless.

There is no subsitute for integrity and the good conscience that goes with it. You can face any enemy, listen to any accusation, or confront any misunderstanding if you have integrity and a good conscience. You have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. It is when people start to lead a double life that they get into trouble, for nobody can serve two masters. Hypocrisy leads to further deception, until the deceivers get caught in their own traps. Sir Walter Scott was right when he wrote:

O what a tangled web we weave

When first we practice to deceive!

9. He sought to glorify God alone

Nehemiah was burdened because the city of Jerusalem no longer glorified God. It was a reproach. He was concerned because the people living in Jerusalem were an object of scorn to their Gentile neighbors. He determined to remove the reproach and give the Jews in Jerusalem cause to glorify God.

In the building of the walls and the repairing of the gates, God was glorified. In the way Nehemiah and his people confronted and defeated the enemy, God was glorified. In their dependence on the Lord, God was glorified. In the great service of dedication, the Lord was magnified. From beginning to end, the entire enterprise brought glory to the Lord.

There is nothing good that God will not do for the worker who humbly serves and lets Him have the glory.

10. He had courage

There is no place for timidity in leadership. Once you know what God wants you to do, you must have the courage to step out and do it. You must be willing to take some risks and occasionally make some mistakes. You must be able to take criticism, be misunderstood, and even be slandered, without giving up. As Harry Truman said, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

Nehemiah had the courage to live in a dangerous city and confront a subtle enemy. He had the courage to deal with the traitors among his own people and to call the people back to faithfulness to the Lord. He even threw Tobiah out of the temple! While you and I as Christian workers don’t have the authority to pluck out beards or forcibly eject unwanted tenants, we need the same kind of courage Nehemiah had when he did those things.

Someone has said that success is never final and failure is never fatal: It’s courage that counts. The ancient Greeks thought that courage was the “master virtue,” because without courage you could never use your other virtues. No wonder the Spanish novelist Cervantes wrote, “He who loses wealth loses much; he who loses a friend loses more; but he who loses courage loses all.”

11. He enlisted others to work

True leaders don’t try to do everything themselves. They not only enlist others, but they also create the kind of climate that enables others to become leaders as well. Real leaders aren’t afraid to surround themselves with people who can do some things better than they can. Leaders don’t feel intimidated by the excellence of others; in fact, they encourage it. Their job is to challenge others to do their best and help get the job done.

Leaders develop other leaders, because they know how to discern spiritual gifts and the potential in a life.

12. He was determined

Be determined! That’s one of the key messages of the Book of Nehemiah. President of Wheaton (Ill.) College, Dr. V. Raymond Edman, used to remind his students, “It’s always too soon to quit.” Like Jesus Christ, Nehemiah set his face like a flint and kept on going (Luke 9:51; Isa. 50:7).


Nehemiah was determined because the work he was doing was a great work and he was serving a great God. He was determined because the city was in great reproach, and he wanted it to bring great glory to God. He was determined because he was part of a great plan that God had for the world as He worked through the Jewish nation.

The church today needs leaders, men and women and young people who will determine under God to acomplish the will of God, come what may. The church needs leaders who will say with Nehemiah, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down!”

More than anything else, I want to be able to say at the end of my ministry and my life, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given me to do” (John 17:4, NKJV).

So, the next time you feel like quitting, remember Nehemiah and stay on the job until the work is finished to the glory of God.- Be determined!


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