Are you looking for a new beginning, perhaps in a relationship, a business, an athletic team, or even your own integrity? What lessons can be learned from Nehemiah, a civil servant from 2500 years ago, who rallied a community to rebuild their broken city wall, and by doing so, ushered in a new beginning for the Israelites?
Bible Gateway interviewed O. S. Hawkins (@OSHawkins) about his book, The Nehemiah Code: It’s Never Too Late for a New Beginning (Thomas Nelson, 2018).
What is the Bible book of Nehemiah about?
O. S. Hawkins: After the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem in 586 BC, the Holy City was virtually leveled and decimated. The leading Jews were taken captive to Babylon. After several years the Persians broke the Babylonian supremacy and allowed some of the Jews to return to Jerusalem. They began to rebuild the temple and the city, but the sheer magnitude of the task caused them to give up. Years passed and the city remained broken and burned in dire need of rebuilding.
In stepped Nehemiah, one of the Jews still in exile. Jerusalem was burning in his heart. He left Babylon and returned to the holy city with a single focused objective-to rally the people, rebuild their hope, and eventually rebuild and restore their Holy City. And he did!
He shows us all that no matter who we are or what our situation—it’s never too late for a new beginning.
What is the Code you draw from the book of Nehemiah?
O. S. Hawkins: Nehemiah had a plan for rebuilding. He saw the end from the beginning. He got started right, built a team spirit among those who were disheartened, and finished strong. In doing so he provides us with a sort of “code” that, if applied in our own experience, can enable us to rebuild some broken walls in our own lives and reinforce our own legacies. Nehemiah’s message to us is plain and powerful—it’s never too late for a new beginning!
Your book is divided into six characteristics of a successful rebuilder. What are those characteristics?
O. S. Hawkins:
- Rebuilders get started right: by making an honest evaluation of the situation, identifying with the need, taking personal responsibility and moving out of their comfort zones.
- Rebuilders build a team spirit: by starting with their goal in mind, seizing their opportunities, making a careful analysis of their situation, motivating their people to get off of dead center, and staying on track.
- Rebuilders let go without letting up. They master the art of delegation by setting clear objectives with specific tasks, picking the right person for the right job, being an example themselves, holding people accountable, and affirming people with genuine pats on the back.
- Rebuilders understand the concept of “YAC.” This acronym stands for the number of “yards after contact” football players make after they meet initial opposition. Rebuilders deal with conflict head on, make proper adjustments, keep doing what is right, and rally their troops to greatness.
- Rebuilders never cut what they can untie. They know that conflict can tear their team apart so they give attention to conflict resolution. They know there’s a time to back off, a time to stand up, a time to give in, and a time to reach out.
- Rebuilders finish strong. They stay off the side streets by keeping focused and they stay off the sidelines by keeping faithful.
Is it ever too late for a person start afresh? How can he or she learn to rebuild?
O. S. Hawkins: No. This is the message of The Nehemiah Code. It’s never too late for anyone to have a new beginning. We see this all through Scripture. Moses had a new beginning after 40 years in the wilderness and he became the great emancipator of his people. David got a new beginning. Read his prayer in Psalm 51 and see what prompted his fresh start. No matter how many times we may have struck out in life, the message of Nehemiah is that we get to bat again.
How does YAC determine success or failure?
O. S. Hawkins: This term, coined by John Madden, the former professional football coach and well know television analyst, stands for “yards after contact.” It’s the statistic that measures the success, or lack thereof, of a power running back. Madden began compiling the measurement by counting the number of yards a running back made after first being hit by an opposing player. It measures the ability to keep moving forward toward the goal after encountering opposition. Those with YAC do not fumble the ball away or crumble to the ground when met with opposition. This ability to keep moving forward after encountering opposition is what can determine the success or failure in our own rebuilding projects whatever they may be.
What are secrets to resolving conflicts?
O. S. Hawkins: The secret is to never cut what you can untie. I grew up with a kid in my neighborhood whose high top tennis shoes were never laced but about half way up. Every time the laces got in a knot he simply took out his pocketknife and cut the knot off taking several inches of the shoestrings with it. Those who resolve conflicts patiently work through the knots of interpersonal relationships instead of just cutting them off. They never cut what they can untie.
Nehemiah shows us that, in resolving conflicts, there’s a time to back off and listen to our hearts. There’s a time to stand up for what’s right. There’s a time to give in on a few non-essentials; to lose a few little battles in order to win the bigger war. And, a time to reach out in reconciliation. We were all in conflict with God having gone our own way. Jesus resolved this conflict. See him backing off in Gethsemane’s garden. Standing up before Annas, Herod, and Pilate. Giving in on the way to Calvary. He willingly walked the Via Dolorosa like a lamb to the slaughter. Finally, see him reaching out on the cross in order to reconcile us to God.
You say that rebuilders “let go without letting up.” What do you mean?
O. S. Hawkins: This is the essence of the art of delegation in the rebuilding process. Nehemiah delegated by picking the right people for the right jobs, then letting go of the ownership of the projects’ details by sharing them with others, while never letting go of his passion to see it through to completion, by holding everyone accountable for their tasks. Some want to dictate in the rebuilding process. Others seem to just abdicate. But rebuilders delegate knowing that it’s never too late for a new beginning.
What does Nehemiah teach us about motivating people and being a successful leader?
O. S. Hawkins: One of the greatest ways to become successful in leading and motivating people is to lead by example. Nehemiah never asked his people to do something he was not leading the way in doing himself. This is the principle we find in the book of Judges when Gideon, after pairing down his army to only 300 men to face the great Midianite hosts, turned to his people with these final words before going to battle, “Do as I do” (Judges 7:7). One of the principles of leadership is that those who are following us will eventually do just that. They will “do as we do.”
What is Mission:Dignity and why do you donate the proceeds from the sales of your books to it?
O. S. Hawkins: All the royalties from The Nehemiah Code and all the books in the “code series” go to the support of Mission:Dignity, a ministry that enables thousands of retired ministers and their widows who are living near the poverty level to live out their days with dignity and security. Many of them spent their ministries in small churches out in the crossroads that were unable to provide for their retirement needs. We’re on a mission to bring dignity to these good and godly servants so they’ll know the Lord has not forgotten them and that he cares for them in their declining years. All the expenses of this ministry are paid out of an endowment so that every dime of every gift goes straight to one of these in need. For more information go to www.guidestone.org or to oshawkins.com and click on the Mission:Dignity button. Or call toll free at 1-888-984-8433.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
O. S. Hawkins: I have so many but one on which I have climbed upon and stood upon over the years is Romans 8:28, “For we know that all things work together for the good to those who love the Lord and called to His purpose.” The key to me is in the first three words—“For we know.” This is a family secret known only to those of us in the family of God.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?
O. S. Hawkins: My wife, Susie, and I would be at a great loss if not for the incredible ministry of Bible Gateway and all its resources and help in growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord. We consider it one of God’s great gifts to the family of God.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
O. S. Hawkins: Again, all royalties to all our books go to the support of those in Mission:Dignity so when you purchase a “Code” book you’re being Christ’s hand extended to one of those in need. Information about The Joshua Code: 52 scripture verses every believer should know, The Jesus Code: 52 scripture questions every believer should answer, as well as all the rest of these devotionals published by Thomas Nelson can be found at oshawkins.com. This website also contains hundreds of other free sermons, book downloads, videos, and Christian growth helps.
The Nehemiah Code is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
Bio: O. S. Hawkins has served pastorates, including the First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, for more than 25 years. A native of Fort Worth, Texas, he has three earned degrees (BBA, MDiv, and DMin) as well as several honorary degrees and is presently a PhD candidate at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the president of GuideStone Financial Resources, with assets under management of 16 billion dollars, serving 250,000 pastors, church staff members, missionaries, doctors, university professors, and other workers in various Christian organizations with their investment, retirement and benefit service needs. He is the author of more than 40 books, and speaks regularly to business groups and churches all across the nation. All of the author’s royalties and proceeds from the entire Code series go to support Mission:Dignity. You can learn more about Mission:Dignity by visiting MissionDignity.org.
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