Next To Him

Bible Book: Nehemiah  3
Subject: Nehemiah; Cooperation; Unity; Victory, Secret of

Twenty times, in Nehemiah chapter 3, we read a particular phrase that forms the title for our sermon today. This phrase reveals one of the key reasons Nehemiah’s God-ordained project ended up as a tremendous success in the face of overwhelming opposition. Without this phrase being true, it is highly unlikely that success could have been even remotely possible. To see this phrase in the text, let’s read Nehemiah 3:1-4. Here we find the phrase in two similar but separate forms. The phrase is “next to them,” or “next to him.” This phrase speaks of the cooperation among God’s people to accomplish a great task.

We need to remember where we are as we come to Nehemiah, chapter 3. God’s people had been taken into captivity by the enemies of God. Years had passed and the city of Jerusalem lay pretty much in ruins. The great walls of Jerusalem had been destroyed and all the gates had been burned. Nehemiah was in a foreign land and had the duty of being cup bearer to Artaxerxes, a foreign king. Nehemiah heard about the walls and gates of Jerusalem and developed a God-given burden to see something done to restore them.

For a mere cupbearer to the king, being held far from Jerusalem, to do anything about the destroyed city required a great miracle. Nehemiah had no money, no power, no followers, no experience, and no human hope of pulling this great task off. But Nehemiah had a burden and he began to pray diligently. For months he wept and prayed. At times he fasted. Then one day God opened the door or opportunity and King Artaxerxes gave Nehemiah permission to go to Jerusalem and accomplish this task. He also gave Nehemiah protection and some material support. The miracle had begun, but it was by no means a sure thing.

When Nehemiah got back to Jerusalem, which required a camel ride of over 50 days, he saw a devastated landscape. Not only that, but there were leaders in bordering areas who were opposed to the work and set up a pattern of resistance to stop it from occurring. Nehemiah surveyed the situation, called upon the people to join in the work and then launched the project.

That is where we enter the story in chapter 3 of Nehemiah today. We see the beginning of the work on rebuilding the walls and reestablishing the gates of Jerusalem. As we see the work described in this passage, we also observe our key phrase over and over again: “Next to him,” or, “Next to them.” A God-given vision had been accepted. A plan had been developed. A God-fearing people had determined to work together to see it done. The devil didn’t like it, but as long as these people stuck together and obeyed God, nothing was going to stop them from achieving the God-given goal! I am reminded of what Jesus said. He said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

The people stood shoulder to shoulder in order to see a miracle unfold. Brothers and sisters, I want to address this subject today. I want us to see that each of us must do our part in order for God’s work to be accomplished this church.

I want you to know that I am not interested in this being a first-class church. It is my goal to make this a third-class church. You might find that statement surprising, but I am serious. Let me explain.

During the days of stagecoach travel, a man had to take a trip. He went to buy his ticket and learned that there were three separate classes of travel: First Class, Second Class, and Third Class. The man looked inside the stagecoach and all the seats looked alike to him, so he simply bought a third class seat.

As they rode along, the Third Class passenger took pride in the fact that he had paid less but was sitting right next to a First Class passenger. Then the coach came to a steep hill. The stagecoach slowed to a crawl and then came to a stop. The stagecoach driver yelled into the coach and said, "All First Class passengers, please remain seated. Second Class passengers, get out and walk. Third Class passengers, get out and push!"

Now you know what I mean when I say that I want us to be a Third Class Church. We don’t need riders, and we certainly don’t need watchers. What we really need are workers! We need everyone to help with the work of building the wall. I am speaking of giving to and participating in this enormous but exciting building program, but I am also speaking of other work that needs to be done in this city through this fellowship.

Let me share three principles of doing God’s work in cooperation and power.

I. The Scriptural Principle of Working Together With God

Let’s skip ahead for a moment and look at Nehemiah 4:6, which reads, “So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.” There is a divine, biblical principle of working together with and for God. I want you to see clearly stated in the Scripture.

Look at 1 Corinthians 3:9, “For we are laborers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.” Working for the Lord is important. James plainly states that faith without works is dead (James 2:17).

Paul wrote of this is a clear way when he spoke concerning the work God had called him to do. He said in 1 Corinthians 9:16, “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel.“ Paul said that a great obligation was in his heart to do that which God wanted him to do.

What I am trying to say is this, we are saved to work and not just to get to heaven. Listen to the Scripture. We read in Ephesians 2:8-10, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Note that we are saved to do good works. God preordained that we should work for Him!

Often when I pray, I feel compelled to thank God that He not only saved me but He gave me a little something to do in His kingdom. I was lost, undone, bound for hell. Jesus called me to Himself and saved me. But, He did not ask me to sit on the sidelines and wait for death. He did not tell me that I am unworthy of kingdom work. On the contrary, He commissioned me and gave me work to do for Him. The work He called me to do involved working with others, learning from others, being helped by others and sometimes helping others. I am a working together with God’s people. I am a worker with God, Himself! What glory and honor He has bestowed upon us. Yet, so many shirk their responsibilities. They complain when they are asked to visit, to serve, to help, or to give. Being a worker with God is not a burden, dear friend, it is a blessing! And, working with other Christians to accomplish His purposes is one of the greatest joys a believer knows in this life!

II. The Motivational Principle of Working Together With God

Look at Nehemiah 3 and notice that the work was begun by the priests. The leaders led by example. There is a great point to be made here. When we see others serve, we realize that we should as well. Their joy in working inspires us to serve. You never know who may be listening to or watching you as you serve God faithfully. People are deciding whether to be positive or negative in the work of God by listening to and watching those they respect. Each person in this fellowship has a circle of friends and you can help this fellowship or hinder this fellowship with your influence.

Let me show you something interesting in Nehemiah 3. Look at the list of names in this chapter. Now, why do you think God would take up so much space in Scripture just to record a bunch of ancient names that most of us have trouble pronouncing? I will tell you what I think. The Lord wants us to see that people, real people, did the work mentioned here. People, like you and like me, took the challenge and met it! They influenced their neighbors, relatives and friends. They motivated one another by standing side-by-side to get this work done. These people were not professional builders. Some of them were priests. Some of them were shepherds. Some of them were merchants. Some of them dyed cloth. Some of them were farmers. But, they put the shoulders together to do the work God had given them. They didn’t all do the same thing, for they had differing gifts, but each did what each could! Some lifted rocks. Some placed the rocks on the wall. Some brought water and food to the workers. Some drew the plans. Together, they did what they could!

It is easy to become discouraged when you don’t have help. I think right now about the Extended Sessions workers in our church. Extended Session is where our little ones are during morning worship. All the children who are birth to 5 years of age must be cared for during worship hour. This is an enormous job involving dozens of children. Sometimes they number over 100 children on any given Sunday. The average church in America hardly has 100 people on Sunday morning, including all adults, teens and children, but we have that many little ones from birth to 5 years of age. The question is, who will take care of them? I will tell you this. They need some encouragement. These workers need someone on the wall with them - helping them. It means staying in extended session once a quarter, or four times a year, to assist this work. In this very room today are many who could volunteer to help in this critical ministry. In fact, you should sign up today to help. Get up on the wall and help those who are trying to do the work.

We must do this with the Arise and Build program. Your prayers and giving are an absolute must. As you do your part, and others do their part, we will all be motivated by the excitement of success. Satan will be put in his place. Christ will be lifted up. God’s people will be encouraged.

God keeps up with names. That is why they are listed in this passage. He knows who is working and where they are working.

III. The Communal Principle of Working Together With God

Note that different people worked in different places on the wall. They were a community, a fellowship of believers, doing what they could to accomplish God’s task. We are not all alike, but we are all in the family of God. Our personalities are not the same, but our salvation is the same.

Some churches have a hard time understanding this. They think everyone is supposed to be the same, like the same things, want to do everything the same way. I heard about a man in one church and that church was having some internal problems. He became so nervous he could hardly speak. He went to the doctor who gave him some medicine for his nerves. Two weeks later the man called the doctor and asked, “What did you give me?” The doctor told him that he had given him some mild tranquilizers. The man replied, “Well, I don’t want any more of them.” The doctor asked why he didn’t he want the medicine. The church member said, “These pills caused me to speak to people at church yesterday that I don’t even like!”

God’s people must be united in Christ. We are a community of faith. The Bible is filled with illustrations of this truth. In fact, in the New Testament we read clearly that there are differing spiritual gifts in the body of Christ. We cannot all do the same thing, but we can do our part. We can’t all give the same, but we can all sacrifice in giving. We cannot all teach, but if we cannot teach we can be a good listener. We cannot all sing, but we can encourage the musicians. We cannot all administrate, but we can assist.

I am reminded of the story of two men who were sure they would not be used in the war effort. They reported to be tested for service. One was blind, the other could not use his arms. The examining officer said, “Sure you can serve. You there, the one that is blind, you can pump water from the well. And, you, the one that cannot use your arms, tell the blind man when the bucket is full.”

There is something all of us can do. The problem is that we leave so much to be done by so few. I read about one man who reported to the doctor stating that he was tired. The doctor asked him why and this is what he said. “Doc, there are 200 million people in American. There are 84 million retired people, 75 million people in school, 22 million who are employed by the Federal Government, and 4 million in the armed services. That leaves about 15 million to do the work! Then, there are 14,800,000 work for state and local agencies. That only leaves about 200,000 to do the work. You have to count the 188,000 people in hospitals. Now you have 12,000 people left. Of course, there are 11,998 people in prison. Doc, that leaves 2 people to do the work. Now you re sitting here listening to me talk and so that leaves me to do all the work. No wonder I am tired!”

Sometimes you can feel that you are working alone. We are actually a community of faith. We exist in fellowship with one another. This is a blessing and a responsibility. Nehemiah rejoiced to be in community of faith – he could not do the work alone!

IV. The Temporal Principle of Working Together With God

I don’t mean that God is temporal, but I do mean that we are temporal on this earth and we have certain windows of opportunity in which we can do God’s business. We must not allow the door to close on us before we get the work done.

Listen to what Jesus said in John 9:4, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” Jesus had a window of opportunity to do the work He was sent here to accomplish. He would not fail!

The Bible speaks of redeeming the time because the days are evil. What does that mean? Time is slipping from our grasp. We have a small window of life on this earth. Once this time has passed us by, we cannot do God’s work here. We must do the work now!

There is a unique passage in the Bible that is often overlooked. It occurs in John, chapter 4. Jesus is at the well at Sychar. A woman came out to get water and Jesus revealed that He was indeed the Messiah, the Savior. The woman ran back to town excited about meeting the Son of God. The disciples had been to town to get food. They came back and offered Jesus something but he refused it. They were puzzled. Surely He was hungry. Jesus answered, “Jesus saith unto them, ‘My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.’”

Jesus intended to get the Father’s work done even if it meant not eating. He intended to complete the work that the Father had planned. That is the spirit God’s people must have in order to fulfill the mission He has given us.

V. The Supernatural Principle of Working Together With God

Nehemiah and the people completed the work. This was not possible because they were so strong or smart. This was possible because they gave all they had, and depended on God for the rest. When God’s people work in that manner, God always supplies what is lacking through our weakness or poverty.

When I think of working together with God, I am reminded of the snowflake. I don’t know if you have noticed it or not, but the seasons are about to change. It is still very hot but one can feel and sense the coming autumn. Some mornings I can feel the coolness in the wind and I know that autumn and winter are not far behind. I told Jayne the other day that I hope we get some snow this winter. Sometimes I miss the mountains near my home where I grew up as a boy. Even if we didn’t have snow in the foothills where I lived, I could see the snow-capped Blue Ridge Mountains from my front yard. It is amazing what a tiny thing like a snow flake can do. You know how fragile a snowflake is. Yet, when enough of them stick together they can stop a Mac truck. Tiny snowflakes that work together can keep a giant 747 airplane on the ground. The secret of the snowflakes success is the way it combines its tiny nature with others like itself. You and I are just like that. We can’t do much alone, but we can be mightily used of God when we bind ourselves together!

On a baseball team, not every player has the same position or purpose, but each must contribute in order for the team to win. In the orchestra here at our church, not all the people play same instrument, but all must play from the same music or the presentation would produce a cacophonous noise rather than a beautiful melody. Even in our bodies, we have different members for various purposes. One cannot do the work of another. Each must do its work for us to survive very long. The same is true in the family of God. We are all different. We have different abilities. We have different positions, but we must all do our part to the best of our ability in order to bring about God’s desired result.


In 1 Corinthians 3:9 Paul speaks of us being Workers together with God. We are to be laborers together with God. Being together is not enough, we must work together. When we work together, we can do so much more than when we work apart from each other.

In a horse-pulling contest at a county fair the first-place horse moved a sled weighing 4,500 pounds. The runner-up pulled 4,000 pound. The owners of the two horses wondered how much the animals could pull if they worked together. So they hitched them up and loaded the sled. To everyone's surprise, the horses were able to pull 12,000 pounds. Sometimes in the Lord's work we try to pull the weight of a job all by ourselves. However, when we team up with others we work with greater efficiency and can accomplish so much more.

Let us this day determine that we will continue to be a church working together for our Lord. It is amazing what God has done through you across these years. But, I fear we may become content. We see all those who have been saved and the vast number joining our fellowship, and it becomes quite easy to take joy in what has happened and forget what God desires to see happen. Let us renew our dedication to His work in this place for His glory. We will work, “Next to him and next to her,” as believers united in the incredible privilege of accomplishing God’s will!