How to Tackle a Tough Job

Bible Book: Nehemiah  2 : 1-20
Subject: Leadership; Tools of the Christian; Christian Living; Progress; Growth


How many remember the old sit-com: Home Improvement? We used to watch it pretty much every week and laugh as Tim the Tool Man Taylor gave his comedic lectures about all his “expertise” in tool knowledge. Well, this morning I want to do a little “Tim the Tool Man” lecture of my own. Don’t worry I’m not going to break anything like Tim used to but I did some Internet study this week and came up with a few interesting tools that I want to show you.

Does anyone recognize this tool? It’s a SHINGLE FROE. It’s designed for the task of making roofing shingles in the olden days. Its strange name comes from the antiquated word “froward,” which means “away,” in reference to the direction that this tool cuts. You see, to use it, you would place the froe, blade down, on the edge of a log length, then hit the top of the blade with a wooden club, forcing the froe into the log. Next, you’d pull the handle toward you and pry off a thin slice of the log. Voilà—a shingle! Since buying a box of square-edged shingles is significantly less effort and of higher quality than making each and every one by hand, this tool has long since passed its heyday. But it still can be used to build up the kindling pile.

This next tool was made by the Stanley company a long time ago. It’s an ALL-IN-ONE LAYOUT TOOL. Stanley produced it between 1888 and 1930. It was originally advertised as 10 tools in one (including level, depth gauge, try square, and compass). There are a few companies that make replicas, but originals can still be found on eBay for a couple hundred dollars apiece so if you come across one at a yard sale for a buck—buy it!

This next one is even older. It’s called an ADZE and can be traced way back to ancient Egypt. You use and adze to shape tree trunks and square them up into beams. Of course with modern day milling capabilities that are faster and cheaper—the ADZE has pretty much gone the way of the dodo.

Here’s one that is more modern. It’s a CHANNEL LOCK RESCUE TOOL. It is designed specifically for the rescue worker. It can cut wire, tighten a fire-hose coupling, pry a door open—even close down a valve and it fits handily in your back pocket. If you’re a fire-fighter like Chad Kelley you may own one of these.

This last one is a TIMBER SCRIBE. Think of it as an 18th-century Sharpie. During the heyday of timber framing, builders would use this tool to number the ends of beams for layout purposes—sort of like “tab A into slot B.” If you’re ever in an old house with exposed beams, look for gouged out Roman numerals at the beam ends and you’ll see the work of a timber scribe.

Now—the purpose of this morning’s little tool lecture is to underscore the fact that when you face a tough job—you NEED the right tools. And we see this principle in the next installment of our study of the life of Nehemiah—for God had given him a tough job to do—and one thing that made Nehemiah such a great leader is the way he was able to use the right tools to do it. It’s good for us to study this text because the tools Nehemiah used are the same ones you and I need whenever God gives us a difficult assignment to tackle. Take your Bibles and turn to Nehemiah chapter 2. Follow along as I read verses 1-20.

1 – In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, 2 – so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” I was very much afraid, 3 – but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” 4 – The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of Heaven, 5 – and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.” 6 – Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time. 7 – I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8 – And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests. 9 – So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me. 10 – When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites. 11 – I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days. 12 – I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on. 13 – By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. 14 – Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; 15 – So I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate. 16 – The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work. 17 – Then I said to them, “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, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18 – I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work. 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?” 20 – I answered them by saying, “The God of Heaven will give us success. We His servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”

Now—just curious—how many of you have done the homework assignment I gave you two weeks ago when we started this series? Remember? I challenged you to read a trilogy of Old Testament books: Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah. How many have actually done that? Be honest—it’s okay. Too bad—I was going to give a thousand dollars to anyone who did. Just kidding—but reading these books will help you get the most from this series. And if you’ve ever heard me preach then you know you need all the help you can get—so read!

Okay—before we proceed let’s review a bit. The Jewish people had been in captivity in Persia for a long time but God was faithful to His promise to one day bring them back home. In Nehemiah’s time that promise was being fulfilled. The Jewish captives had been returning to Israel under the leadership of Zerubbabel and then Ezra. As I said a couple weeks back, NEHEMIAH, had a lofty position in the Persian government. In fact, he was the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes—which meant he was sort of like the chief of his cabinet.

Nehemiah heard that a Jew named Hannani had just returned from Jerusalem. So Nehemiah sought him out to hear how the returned captives were doing and to get information about the state of the capital city itself. Hannani’s report was not good. The people were having a very hard time—because the walls of the city were in total disrepair and the gates had been burned.

This meant the people who had returned and were living in Jerusalem were at the mercy of their enemies and they were suffering for it. This news caused Nehemiah to be deeply concerned—so concerned that he fell to his knees in tears as he prayed to God for help. Even though he had been born in captivity and had never been to Jerusalem, he felt a deep empathy for the people there and he wanted to help. In fact, he felt led to take advantage of his position to ask King Artaxerxes to intercede and so Nehemiah asked God to open the door to make this possible. So—Nehemiah had a big job ahead of him: get an opportunity to enlist the aid of Mighty King Artaxerxes in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and repairing the gates. As I said earlier, to tackle this HUGE job—as a leader Nehemiah knew the exact tools he would need—and we see him using them very skillfully in our text.

I. The Tool of Patience

The first tool this leader used is—the tool of PATIENCE. Nehemiah was a man of decisive action so when he prayed back in chapter 1 it was natural for him to ask God to provide an early—if not immediate—opportunity to speak to the king. Remember—in the closing verse of chapter one Nehemiah said he wanted success “today” in the presence of the king. But it didn’t happen that day or the next or the next or the next. In fact, Nehemiah’s “today” prayer in chapter 1 was in the month of Chislev—and chapter 2 tells us nothing happened until the month of Nisan. Chislev Is December and Nisan is April. That’s FOUR MONTHS. In this diary/prayer journal that Nehemiah kept, nothing was entered on any of those 120 days because nothing happened. There was no visible glimmer of hope, no change.

Nehemiah just kept waiting and trusting and counting on God to move the heart of his superior.

Now—I’m sure the state of Jerusalem and its people was all Nehemiah thought about. I’m sure his passion to rebuild those walls burned as hot as ever—but nothing happened—no door was opened for him to act during those long months—and I’m sure that was hard for him.

Nehemiah DOES tell us that in all those months of waiting he had not been sad in front of the king which shows us his skill of using this particular leadership tool. Nehemiah waited patiently all this time—just as we are urged to do in Hebrews 6:12 where it says, “Imitate those who through FAITH and PATIENCE inherit what was promised.” Nehemiah obviously new the importance of waiting on God. He knew that God’s timing is always perfect. Unfortunately, waiting is hard for US these days. We are not very adept at using this particular tool of leadership. In fact, a recent article on NPR claims that we have become “The Impatient Nation.” We want quick answers to complex problems. The article put it this way: “We: Speed date. Eat fast food. Use the self-checkout lines in grocery stores. Try the ‘one weekend’ diet. Pay extra for overnight shipping. Honk when the light turns green. Thrive or dive on quarterly earnings reports. Speak in half sentences. Start things but don’t fin.. We tweet stories in 140 characters or less, yet some tweets are too long. We cut corners, take shortcuts. We txt—LOL! We send new faces to Washington every two years, then vote the rascals out two years later. Clamor for more safety in the skies, then complain when security takes too long—and is inconvenient. Can’t take the time to drive to the video store or to wait for a DVD to arrive in the mail, so we order them on demand or stream them on the Web.”

Well, leaders like Nehemiah—shapers and movers—the kind of people God uses to make a real difference in this world—they know how to overcome this human weakness. They learn to use the tool of PATIENCE. They learn how to not just WEEP and pray—but to WAIT and pray. The fact is true FAITH in God brings a calmness of heart and a humility that keeps us from rushing about and trying to do in our own strength what only God can do. Here are some verses to help encourage you to learn to use the tool of PATIENCE.

Isaiah 6:12 – “They that believe shall not make haste.”
Exodus 14:13 – “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.”
Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God.”

People like Nehemiah use this tool because they have learned that when we do—when we wait on the Lord to answer our prayer, we are not wasting our time; we are investing it.

In these waiting times God is preparing both you and your circumstances so that His purposes will be accomplished according to His perfect timing. I mean, all those months of quiet reflection surely provided Nehemiah with fresh insights about how to approach the king. Listen. God’s work in us while we wait is as important as what we are waiting for. We must learn to trust that God knows what He is doing—that just as the lyrics to the chorus go, God, makes all things beautiful in HIS time.

Perhaps you are here and you are having a hard time using the tool of patience to deal with a big problem in your life. Maybe you’re single and you feel a legitimate longing for intimacy. You are tired of being alone. Maybe God has placed the dream of some wonderful ministry in your heart and you’re tired of waiting for the door to open so that ministry can begin. Maybe you’re dealing with an illness and you’re tired of waiting—hoping—to be made well. Maybe you’re in school and you’re having a hard time finishing your studies. If this describes you—or if you are waiting for some other reason—learn to use the tool of patience. Wait on God. Trust His timing. He always knows what is best and WHEN it is best. He can see beyond the present—He knows you better than you know yourself—so trust in His perspective—trust in His love and power. Be like Nehemiah. Wait on the Lord.

When you feel Impatient learn to say with the Psalmist, “I trust in You, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hands.” (Psalm 31:14-15 a) Cling to Jesus’ promise in Luke 18:7 where He said, “God will always give what is right to His people who cry to him night and day, and He will not be slow [according to His perfect timing] to answer them.” When we experience seemingly endless times of waiting we need the patience of the man who prayed, “God, I cannot grasp Your mind, but with my whole heart I trust Your love.”

II. The Tool of Prayer

The second tool that Nehemiah used is one he used in chapter one and referring to the tool of PRAYER. Nehemiah tells us that after he first prayed and then those four months passed—finally in the month of Nisan—he was serving wine to the king and queen. For the first time—and I think this was a God thing—I mean, I believe God sharpened Artaxerxes senses so he could sense Nehemiah’s feelings—see his heart—For the first time Artaxerxes noticed something was wrong and asked his cupbearer what was saddening him.

I have to say. I love Nehemiah’s honesty here. Many leaders no longer admit their human weaknesses but not Nehemiah. He said he was AFRAID—very much afraid. And he was right to feel that way because he knew how dangerous it was to “rain on the king’s parade” so to speak. You see, in those days a great deal of effort was put forth to make sure the king was happy—plus—old Artaxerxes could have misinterpreted Nehemiah’s sadness as his knowledge that the wine was poisoned or that a coup was underfoot. You see, Persian kings had a reputation for being impossible at best and often cruel. Since their oppressive policies were acutely resented by those they ruled, they were almost always in danger of assassination or revolt—so they were usually suspicious of any wrong moves or apparent lack of loyalty by their subordinates.

Plus Nehemiah knew that he was about to ask Artaxerxes to reverse his own policy for it had been Artaxerxes who had ordered Ezra to stop rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem years before.

I’m saying Nehemiah was right to be afraid. But with God’s help he fearlessly put his reply very tactfully—inspiring the King’s empathy. He said, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” Artaxerxes replied with kindness—that no doubt was the product of their long and close friendship—all the years that Nehemiah had literally put his life on the line for his ruler—he responded and said, “What is it you want?” At this point Nehemiah pulled this second tool out of his spiritual tool belt for the second time. He prayed before answering the king. It wasn’t a long prayer. He didn’t fall on his knees this time. He didn’t even close his eyes. No–it was one of those bullet prayers. In essence he sent a quick text message or tweet to God.

Have you ever prayed like that in a time of crisis? Have you ever used the tool of prayer this precisely? I do it all the time—many times while I’m preaching!

Now—I feel led to stop at this point and contrast approaching the earthly throne of Artaxerxes with God’s Heavenly throne of grace. Nehemiah had to wait for an invitation before he could share his burden with the king—but we can come to the throne of grace at any time with any need—knowing our requests will not be misinterpreted and that we will always find grace to help in our time of need. Artaxerxes saw the sorrow on Nehemiah’s face, but our Lord sees out hearts and not only knows our sorrows but also feels them with us. People in Persia had to be very careful what they said, lest they anger the king; but God’s people can tell Him whatever burdens them. We can be sad before God. We can even be angry with Him. He wants our HONESTY. The word “boldly” in Hebrews 4:16 means “freedom of speech.” It reminds us that we are never sure of the mood of a human leader but we can always be sure of God’s loving welcome.

But in spite of these wonderful Biblical truths about prayer, many believers don’t know how to use this wonderful tool. Their skills at praying have declined. I’m reminded of something I came across this week about the invention of auto-pilots. Since their invention a century ago, they have indeed helped to make air travel safer and more efficient. That trend continued with the introduction of computerized “fly-by-wire” jets in the 1970s. But now, aviation experts worry that we’ve gone too far. We have shifted so many cockpit tasks from humans to computers that pilots are losing their edge. Without actual flight experience or practice, pilots develop what aviation experts call “skill fade” or “skills decay.” Computers now handle most flight operations between takeoff and touchdown—so frequent practice is exactly what pilots are not getting. Even a slight decay in manual flying ability can risk tragedy because a rusty pilot is more likely to make a mistake in an emergency. Automation-related pilot errors have been implicated in several recent air disasters, including the 2009 crashes of Continental Flight 3407 in Buffalo, Air France Flight 447 in the Atlantic Ocean, and the botched landing of Asiana Flight 214 in San Francisco in 2013. As a result of these tragic accidents, a report from a Federal Aviation Administration concluded that pilots have become, “accustomed to watching things happen, and reacting, instead of being proactive.” The FAA is now urging airlines to get pilots to turn the computers off and spend more time flying by hand.

Well, the same “skill fade” principle is seen in our prayer life. We don’t use the tool of prayer as often as we used to—we rely on society and self and science so much we’ve forgotten the need to rely on God—forgotten how to pray. What about you? How well do you use the tool of prayer? Has there been a “prayer skill fade” in your walk with God? To tackle God-sized jobs we need to be able to use this tool.

III. The Tool of Planning

The third tool we see Nehemiah use here is the tool of PLANNING. If you want to be a leader, if you want to make things happen—if you want to make a difference in your world, you must spend time in preparation and planning. Leadership isn’t easy. It’s rewarding. It’s satisfying. But it’s not easy. It requires a lot of hard work—work that no one ever sees—PLANNING work. PREPARING work. Roger Stauback once put it this way, “Spectacular achievements come from unspectacular preparation.” And he’s right because there’s nothing glamourous about getting ready but no job can be accomplished without doing exactly that. Famous University of Alabama football coach Bear Bryant said, “It’s not the will to win that matters—everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare that matters.” And Nehemiah had this WILL TO PREPARE AND PLAN. I mean, he hadn’t wasted those 4 months. He didn’t just PRAY. He PLANNED so he had his answer ready when the question was asked. He knew exactly what he would ask the king when given the opportunity. After all, he’d spent those four months thinking and planning—preparing for the time God opened the door for him to approach Artaxerxes. For example: He was ready to give the king an exact time—how long he would need to be away. He told him the letters he would need to get the job done. He requested the timber, etc. and when the king granted not just his requests but also sent a troop of cavalry soldiers along for his protection—Nehemiah probably he used the tool of prayer again because he gave God all the credit for the Kings benevolent response.

Nehemiah’s actions—his use of the tool of planning—remind us that going out by faith doesn’t mean you’re going out in a disorderly or haphazard manner. You think through a project and plan. You count the cost financially. As they said in the Revolutionary War days, you “Trust in God but keep your powder dry.” Pray to God and with His leading also make your plans. Set your sights. Think through the hurdles. Jesus taught this principle of leadership. Do you remember His words in Luke 14:28ff. He said, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.” Planning is a very important tool for leaders to use for without it—without planning—we are in essence planning to fail.

In 1911, Roald Amundsen became the first person to lead a successful expedition to the South Pole. Amundsen was also famous for his incredible commitment to prepare for this expedition. While in his late twenties, Roald Amundsen traveled from Norway to Spain for a two-month sailing trip to earn a master’s certificate. It was 1899. He had a nearly two-thousand-mile journey ahead of him. And how did Amundsen make the journey? By carriage? By horse? By ship? By rail? No—he bicycled. Amundsen then experimented with eating raw dolphin meat to determine its usefulness as an energy supply. After all, he reasoned, someday he might be shipwrecked, finding himself surrounded by dolphins, so he might as well know if he could eat one. It was all part of Amundsen’s years of planning—building a foundation for his quest, training his body—-and learning as much as possible from practical experience about what actually worked. Amundsen even made a pilgrimage to apprentice with Eskimos. What better way to learn what worked in polar conditions than to spend time with a people who have hundreds of years of accumulated experience in ice and cold and snow and wind? He learned how Eskimos used dogs to pull sleds. He observed how Eskimos never hurried, moving slowly and steadily, avoiding excessive sweat that could turn to ice in sub-zero temperatures. He adopted Eskimo clothing, protective and loose fitting to help sweat evaporate. He systematically practiced Eskimo methods and trained himself for every conceivable situation he might encounter en route to the Pole.

Amundsen’s philosophy: You don’t wait until you’re in an unexpected storm to discover that you need more strength and endurance. You don’t wait until you’re shipwrecked to determine if you can eat raw dolphin. You don’t wait until you’re on the Antarctic journey to become a superb skier and dog handler. You plan and prepare with intensity, all the time, so that when conditions turn against you, you can draw from a deep reservoir of strength and knowledge. And equally, you prepare so that when conditions turn in your favor, you can strike hard. Leaders like Amundsen use the tool of planning.

While we were on our trip to Israel a couple years back I got to talking to a man in our group. He was from a church in Maryland and told me about an almost disastrous mission trip that his church sponsored. A man from a VERY conservative Muslim nation came to the church an invited them to send a team to serve there. With little or no planning they immediately got plane tickets and went—but as soon as they arrived problems hit. A team member who had a serious medical condition became deathly ill—no one had thought to ask team members about their health before going. They also found that the political situation in that middle-eastern country was bad—and deteriorating quickly. In fact, when a representative from the US embassy heard there was a team of Americans there he URGED them to get on a plane and head home as soon as possible. He said, the embassy was closing and could not be responsible for their safety. Now—they experienced God’s provincial care in a way they will never forget—but that one team member almost died and the team almost didn’t get home. PLANNING and PREPARATION would have prevented this.

IV. The Tool of Perseverance

The last tool we see our hero use is the tool of – PERSEVERANCE. Nehemiah and his entourage arrived in Jerusalem after a long arduous four month journey. No doubt he was exhausted. He was probably suffering from “camel lag.” So he took three days to rest and then he began his reconnoitering. By the way this points to another tool leaders use. They know the importance of rest. They know that the bow that is always bent will soon break!

Well after his rest, when Nehemiah examined the walls he realized rebuilding them would be a demanding job. The circuit of the walls was nearly two and a half miles long and the new wall needed to be three or four feet thick—and twenty feet high. The stone blocks that needed to be reassembled were massive. Many had fallen down into the valley and would have to be unearthed and lifted back up to the site. I mean, this was not like rebuilding a garden fence. Repairing this wall was not going to be an easy undertaking. It would require lots of workers and workers of diverse skills. Listen. God’s work is OFTEN demanding—but it is worth our time and energy for it impacts eternity itself.

Nehemiah also saw that rebuilding the wall was a hazardous assignment. He examined the damage at night under cover of darkness because there were enemies lurking around. There were people who would be opposed to his assignment from God. He also realized this job would be a cooperative venture. He would need the help of all the people in Jerusalem and this would be hard because they had already tried to rebuild the wall once and had failed. Nehemiah would have to find a way to motivate these people to rise up and do the work and that would be hard because they had become accustomed to their sad state.

This week I read about an airplane pilot who had a hard time getting along with the local aircraft mechanic. One day the pilot brought his plane to the hanger where the mechanic did repairs. He wrote the following complaint in the shop log: “Unfamiliar noise in engine.” The next day the pilot was somewhat surprised to see that the plane was already back in service. Curious as to what problem the mechanic had found, the pilot checked the log book. The entry simply said, “Ran engine continuously for four hours. Now noise is familiar.”

It’s easy for us to become like the residents of Jerusalem—accustomed to our sad state—and when we do God often sends a Nehemiah to motivate us out of that attitude. Nehemiah did this in three ways.

First, he identified with the workers. He said, “You see the trouble WE are in.” He let them know that he was involved in this.
Next he reminded them that the sight of those collapsed walls for well over a century had created the impression in the pagans who lived around there that the God of Israel had abandoned His people.
Then he invited immediate action by saying, “Come let US rebuild—and we will no longer be in disgrace.” He included HIMSELF in the job.

But the residents weren’t his only problem. As I said earlier there were enemies lurking about—people who LIKED the wall being down. There were three primary bad guys: Sanballat the Noronite and Tobiah the Amonite and Geshem the Arab. In verse 10 Nehemiah said that they were VERY MUCH DISTURBED. They didn’t want this wall rebuilt because that would keep them from raiding the residents of Jerusalem so they derided the efforts of the workers. They suggested that they were rebelling against King Artaxerxes. And I love how Nehemiah handled them. He told them rebuilding the wall was an assignment from God Himself and that the Jews were servants of God Himself and that they—Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem should mind their own business..


Listen—whenever we tackle a tough job from God, we should expect opposition—opposition like Nehemiah faced. If there’s no opposition then you’re probably not disturbing our adversary enough. Remember Satan only shoots at moving targets. We have to be able to use the tool of perseverance—keeping on—in spite of opposition and difficulty.

This week I read that for nearly 3,000 years people have eaten bread, but it took the creative efforts of one man to revolutionize the way we eat it. In the early 1900’s a young man named Otto Rohwedder overheard a familiar complaint among housewives: slicing bread was burdensome, time-consuming, and sometimes even perilous.“What if,” pondered Rohwedder, “there was a machine for bakers to pre-slice bread?” Otto was so moved to create and to help that he sold his jewelry business and embarked on a long, painful journey to bring his invention to life. In 1916, he built his first prototype of a bread slicing machine in an abandoned warehouse outside of town. After an initial failure, Rohwedder feverishly sketched hundreds of blueprints. Then in 1917, a fire broke out and all of his blueprints and years of hard work were burned to ash. By 1927, he had built a new and improved bread slicing machine. Unfortunately, nobody showed any interest in the five-foot by three-foot monstrosity. Finally, after a friend stepped in and invested in the project, on July 7, 1928, nearly thirty years after he began, the first loaf of commercially sliced bread was sold. A newspaper ad claimed that the sliced bread was “the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped”—a phrase which was eventually hacked into the modern-day saying, “the greatest thing since sliced bread.” Sales of the sliced bread took off. In late 1930, a New York-based company used Rohwedder’s machines to build an entire business around sliced bread. Their product was called Wonder Bread. Today, deeming something to be ‘the greatest thing since sliced bread” is a testament to its ingenuity, and to the decades Otto Rohwedder spent toiling in his workshop—PERSEVERING to bring flourishing to the world—one slice at a time.

To do anything great—anything significant requires that we be skilled at PERSEVERANCE. Building a marriage—raising children—lovingly leading a stubborn friend to Jesus—anything we do for God requires us to persevere because we live in a fallen world. Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”