Building in Progress

1 Oct 2013 by Donna Uning CM – 


“We want to succeed in some ways and aim keeps us going otherwise we go around in circles,” said Rev Dr Tan Jin Huat from Seminarari Theologi Malaysia (STM) teaching from the Book of Nehemiah at a retreat here recently. The theme of the talk was “Together, we build”.

How do we make progress in the work of God? “Nehemiah was a man with a clear vision. He was also a man of prayer and a planner,” he said about how Nehemiah waited for the right time and the right words when talking to the king. He knew what he wanted and knew how to do it.


Rev Dr Tan Jin Huat
Rev Dr Tan Jin Huat


Nehemiah 2:11-12, “I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days 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.


After he got his permission and provision for travel, Nehemiah did not tell the people what God had told him. Instead, he surveyed the problem.

“As pastors and leaders, in ministry we must get to know and see the different gifts of the people we lead,” he said telling we must have direction. Nehemiah did it secretly, even when he was sizing up the problem. “What is confidential, you must keep confidential,” he added.

“In church, people come to worship and find a place of solace,” he said where others come looking to be ministered. “Ruins will be ruins unless something is done.”


Nehemiah 2: 17-18, “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.” 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.

Jesus said to make disciples of all nations, not one nation. “He inspected the problem,” he said reminding the church that Sarawak is an equal partner in Malaysia. “Pray that we have the ears to hear and eyes to see the needs of others,” he called emphasizing the importance of this ministry.


Praise and worship at the retreat
Praise and worship at the retreat


In verse 17, Nehemiah asked the people who had been looking at the terrible condition of the wall. They saw it and knew about it for years, yet they did not do anything about it. He struck a chord with the people and asked them to rebuild the wall together.

“Nehemiah caught the vision and he communicated the vision,” Rev Dr Tan explained. “The church needs to reach out to the people and communicate the vision. At least 15 times a year,” he told. Having separate visions is like two donkeys tied together going towards two different food sources. With both going towards different directions, they ended up hungry because they can never get to the source.

“Have a sanctified common sense,” he said on how to agree to work with one another. “All will be fed.” A church that moves forward learns to minimize quarrels.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish,” he said. Sometimes we do activities for the sake of activity reports. “Whatever we do, we want to reach out to a bigger vision.” The Israelites wondered for 40 years in the wilderness because they have lost the vision of the Promised Land. “We need to catch the vision again, of sharing the gospel, mending broken lives, empowering people in ministry, grow spiritually and be Christ-like.”

Jesus had a clear vision – to die for the sins of the world. He had many distractions, but He said ‘not my will’. He kept the vision clear.


Sharing with the church
Sharing with the church


“There is always opportunity to share the gospel,” he told. “Pray for boldness, the right words and the right time.” Rev Dr Tan closed. He continued with two more sessions on overcoming the odds (Nehemiah 4 -5) and building the community together (Nehemiah 8-12) before leading group bible study questions.


Rev Dr Tan was in Kuching for the Leaders’ Retreat 2013 at Barbara Mendu Auditorium, Parish Centre, from September 27-29, 2013. He lectures in the New Testament, Malaysian Church History and Homiletics at STM and Anglican Diocese of West Malaysia.



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