“We must say what is true and say it with love. In that way we will grow up in all things to be like Christ, who is the head of this body.” (Ephesians 4:15)
Have you ever looked at a problematic situation and thought, “Why doesn’t someone do something about this?” If so, you understand how Nehemiah felt when he heard that the walls around Jerusalem were broken and burned, leaving the city vulnerable to attack from its enemies. Nehemiah wept, cried out to God in repentance, and implored God to allow him to repair the walls.
Nehemiah wasn’t a priest or a prophet. He lived 800 miles away in Persia. He had a secular job, cupbearer to the king. What could he do to change the condition of the walls around Jerusalem?
For four months, Nehemiah wept and prayed. One day, the king noticed Nehemiah’s sadness and asked him about it.
The question terrified Nehemiah. The king could have him fired or executed. Did he dare tell the king what was on his heart? Did he really want to leave his comfortable position and face the dangers and unknown challenges in Jerusalem?
Nehemiah didn’t stay silent. He chose to speak up.
Amazingly, the king granted Nehemiah’s request to travel to Judah and rebuild the walls. The project was riddled with opposition, attacks, and difficulty. Nehemiah never wavered. The walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt, and the people in the city turned their hearts steadfastly toward God—all because Nehemiah had a heart for God’s holy city and the courage to speak up.
We know what happened when Nehemiah spoke up back then. We see it demonstrated then, and we must live it now.
Three things to remember about speaking up:
- Open your heart to needs around you. Nehemiah didn’t ignore the condition of Jerusalem. He didn’t expect someone else to take care of it. He opened his heart and wanted to be the one who made a difference.
- Pray up before you speak up. Nehemiah approached the king from a prayed-up position. He diligently sought God’s help in fixing the problem.
- Choose the right time. Nehemiah waited four months for the right time to tell the king about his desire to go to Judah and repair the walls. And when God provided an opening, Nehemiah said a quick prayer, and then spoke up.
- Speak up to add value. We don’t speak up just to hear ourselves talk. Or to make sure everyone knows our opinion. Or for the fun of winning an argument. We speak up to spread light in the world, to bring glory to God, and to add value to people. We speak up to change someone’s life for the better.
The world can sometimes make us feel uncomfortable about speaking up. That was true in Bible times, all through history, and is still true for us today. There are times when silence and listening is a good choice. But there are also times when we must stand up straight, put on our courage, and speak up—telling the truth with kindness and love. Our voice can be a catalyst for change, a cry for peace, and a beacon of truth. Pray up. And, at the right time, speak up.
Heavenly Father, Forgive me for the times when I should have listened but talked instead, and for the times when I should have spoken up but didn’t. I ask for your wisdom in the words I speak. I ask for discernment in knowing when to listen and learn, and when to speak up and add value. Thank you for your forgiveness, your mercy, and your constant presence. Let my words glorify you. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Join the conversation! How do you decide when to speak up?