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Nehemiah set an example worth following, pastor says

By Mike Strathdee

As printed in The Marketplace - January/February 2018David Esau IMG 3707David Esau

People looking for a mentor in their daily work would do well to emulate the Old Testament prophet Nehemiah, pastor David Esau says.

“I highly recommend Nehemiah to you.”

Esau, who serves as lead pastor at Eagle Ridge Bible Fellowship in Coquitlam, B.C., made the suggestion in a Sunday morning plenary message at MEDA’s 2017 convention in Vancouver.

Having a mentor is more important than ever in today’s fast-paced and complex world, he said, adding that the words of Proverbs 13, verse 20, “be wise by walking with the wise,” are as relevant now as when they were written.

Esau, who grew up in Manitoba, worked as a beekeeper and a carpenter prior to becoming a pastor. He credits The Marketplace magazine with helping him to understand the spiritual value of the workplace, and that ministry doesn’t just take place in the church. “Ministry is anything and everything that God wants done in the world.”

Joseph’s work as an economist in Egypt in the book of Genesis tells the story of someone called by God to manage huge budget surpluses and deficits over a long time, he said.

“Clearly, work doesn’t take us away from God. It continues the work of God.”

The Bible is a key place to look for marketplace mentors, he said. “Ministry is everything and anything that God is doing and wants done in the world.”

Nehemiah, who Esau described as being “bi-vocational and bi-locational” lived in Persia in the mid-400s B.C. He had a good job as the king’s cupbearer, guarding the royal chambers and providing comfort to the king.

Esau cited the international outrage that erupted when people saw an image of drowned Syrian child Alan Kurdi, whose death sparked a wave of sympathy for displaced people, to express how Nehemiah felt when he learned of the afflictions facing people in Jerusalem. “The heart of ministry is a heart for ministry.”

God moves the hearts of people to get personally involved and leverage whatever assets they have for marketplace ministry, he said. “Who or what has God put in your heart to do?”

In Nehemiah’s case, learning of a need in his homeland led him to ask the king for a leave of absence to go rebuild walls around the city of Jerusalem, and for letters of passage so he could travel safely.

Nehemiah’s competence and integrity, character traits that are crucial for anyone hoping to have success in their work, led the king to grant his request.

Esau stressed the importance of both spiritual and practical preparation for whatever you choose to undertake. Prayer and planning are mutually enriching, not mutually exclusive, he said.

The most fundamental changes that have happened in history are attributed to social movements with a spiritual foundation, he said, quoting American author Jim Wallis.

Using your head as well as your heart is crucial to success. “Too many people start ministry ventures with good intentions but poor planning.”

Another lesson Esau draws from the Bible is the importance of working together, with many hearts and hands. “It takes teamwork to make a dream work.”

The gospel of Luke, chapter 8, verses 2-3 mentions several people who financed Jesus and his disciples in their ministry. “Those women were helping to support them out of their own means.” ◆