by Dustin Payne
2017 is nearly over, and as we find ourselves engaging in one last holiday treat, we near a time where people actively search and seek to make themselves new. Many people you know will be getting gym memberships, buying SlimFast, dedicating their lives to budgeting and paying off debt, setting goals for personal improvement in their work place and in their families. Yes, a new year often means we get a chance to be a new us. We are blessed with an annual reset and an opportunity to rebrand and reinvent ourselves. In Scripture we have one of my favorite stories regarding change and transformation: Nehemiah.
Nehemiah was a eunuch who served the king of Persia during 440 BC. The story of Nehemiah begins with a sort of confession in which Nehemiah states that his people have acted in corruption towards God, because, y’know, that’s what people do. He then prays and asks God to hear the prayer of those who take God seriously, and being the righteous sort of dude that Nehemiah was, God heard his prayer. During this time, Nehemiah served King Artaxerxes (think of the king of Persia from the movie “300”).
The text reads, “Now I was a cupbearer.”
A cupbearer was actually a highly held position. The cupbearer was entrusted with making sure that the king’s drinks had not been poisoned and would often be required to drink of the wine before the king. The position was rather influential in kingdom as the king would only appoint cupbearers whom he trusted. Nehemiah was well trusted by the king.
As the story goes, the king notices that Nehemiah isn’t happy, to which Artaxerxese inquires, “Why is it you are sad, seeing as you are not sick?” To which Nehemiah shares this longing deep in his heart to go and rebuild the walls of the city of his father’s: Jerusalem. Nehemiah so desperately desires to go and do something big. He wants to reestablish the holy city of his father’s whom he believed God destroyed because of the corruption of the nation.
The king is moved by this dream that Nehemiah has for his homeland and releases him as cupbearer and appoints him as the governor of Judah, which is over the city of Jerusalem.
Nehemiah eventually goes on to rebuild those walls and put Jerusalem back on the map. He is forever established in both Jewish and Christian traditions as an inspirational leader whom God chose to reestablish his nation, a nation of people who love and worship God.
Nehemiah was a cupbearer. How many of us can look back at the people we once were, and look at ourselves today as the person that God has made us? Even more so, what does God have for your future? What big and awesome dream has God placed deep inside of you? What moves you so? What breathes life into your soul? What pangs you to the point that others ask, “Why are you sad?”
I believe that the transformational power of Jesus gives each and every one of us the ability to have a “I was a cupbearer” sort of moment. God is calling you to some great love. He has placed deep inside of you his awesome will. The poet Ezekiel writes God’s decree to us, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
As we approach this new year, who are you going to be? Why not be the person that God believes you to be? Why not choose with me to rejoice in this new heart and new spirit we’ve been given?
For the past several years, I had let my personal angst against the corporate movement of the church discourage me from being the person who God had called me to be. I had chosen to hide as a cupbearer in society, to be a church attendee and not a member of the body of Christ. I chose to lay to rest my God dreams and integrate into a secular space.
I was wrong.
I sure hope that I continue to connect with people and God as I live my life, that God grows me, and that I can share my experiences with you, but I want to encourage you to do the same. Last week at the Forum during our gathering, I asked the church to take these little cards and write their God dreams on them. To write on a card that big scary thing to which God was calling them and to look at it daily in order to remind them that they’ve been called to something great. God has and is preparing them for that dream, that moment when God moves them from cupbearer to history maker.
The invitation is open to you too. Let’s dive into these huge dreams that God has given us. 2018 is an excellent time to start.