It starts with taking personal responsibility 

Published 10:52 am Monday, November 7, 2022

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       Nehemiah proved to be a fantastic leader partly because of his willingness to take personal responsibility. His kinfolk had been taken into exile where they lived amongst other people. We don’t know the story as to how, but Nehemiah became the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. So, this man walked among royalty. 

       Some of the brethren had traveled from Judah and Nehemiah asked them how things were going. These men described the situation as bleak and desperate. The survivors were distressed, the wall of Jerusalem was broken down and the gates had been burned by fire. Not good news. 

       Here is where we find the first sign of Nehemiah’s willingness to take personal responsibility. After hearing about the condition of Jerusalem and its inhabitants, Nehemiah wept and mourned for days. He could have easily shrugged it off as not his problem but he didn’t. During this period, he also fasted and prayed. 

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       In his prayer, Nehemiah did not blame others for what happened to Judah and the city of Jerusalem, he took personal responsibility for it. The cupbearer confessed the sins of his nation and people by way of not blaming them but rather, including himself as one of the individuals who had broken God’s commandments. It was the blatant disregard for God’s laws that put Judah in this place to begin with, and Nehemiah, although he was hundreds of miles away, included himself in his confession of national sins. 

       Later on, when Nehemiah stood before King Artaxerxes, his countenance was sad because of the condition of his people back in Judah. The king noticed the sadness on Nehemiah’s face and commented that this was nothing more than sadness of heart.  The king then asked why the cupbearer was in such a sad mood. After describing the conditions of his people and the city of Jerusalem, the king asked Nehemiah what he would request in this matter. 

       Nehemiah’s answer here reveals his willingness to take personal responsibility. The cupbearer was far removed from the situation in Judah and could have requested the king send someone to do something. When it comes to personal involvement, people can be reluctant to take action. But that is not what Nehemiah did. Instead of asking for something to be done by somebody, Nehemiah asked that the king allow him to travel to Jerusalem where he would take the lead in rebuilding the walls and gates of Jerusalem. Nehemiah took personal responsibility for both being involved in this situation and doing something to resolve the issue. 

       This was a big risk because the cupbearer could have been ridiculed, lost his job or been ousted from the king’s court. But he was willing to take that risk. At this point, Nehemiah had the favor of the king and queen. They allowed him the time off to travel, gave Nehemiah letters for materials and provided officers and animals for travel. 

       When the day came to depart, Nehemiah set off to face the unknown. He had no idea of the details of the situation, how bad it was, the attitude of the people, and whether they would accept him or not. But those things did not deter him from taking action and being the solution to a problem. 

       Over the course of the event, Nehemiah led a successful endeavor and rebuilt the walls and gates of Jerusalem. He overcame the odds as he had to motivate the people, withstanding foes who attempted to hinder and stop the work, and he kept working until the job was finished. Nehemiah was not aware of all the challenges that would lay before him, he just wanted to help his people and rebuild the walls and gates, so he did. It all started with one man taking personal responsibility.  

       It can be easy to pass the buck, point fingers or play the blame game but at the end of the day, there is a level of personal responsibility each of us has to take for where we are. Change comes in our lives, and even in other situations that surround us, when we take personal responsibility for matters. How many people want to better themselves, learn something new or pick up a new skill? Some want to be better leaders or have a deeper relationship with their children or spouse. Some want to learn more about the Bible or have a deeper understanding of the Lord’s teachings. All of these things start with taking personal responsibility. Change will occur in life when there is an acceptance of personal responsibility. 

       Salvation begins with taking personal responsibility for the fact that we are sinners who have broken God’s law and stand in need of being saved. When someone recognizes they need to be saved, they can then be saved. If you are not lost, you cannot be found. A person is personally responsible for acknowledging they are lost. 

       So, what do you need to take personal responsibility for today?