Nehemiah was an intense man. He was passionate, deeply feeling, full of godly emotion. At the same time he was shrewd, savvy, highly capable, elegantly spoken. He conducted his business watchfully, with precision. In the high-pressure environment of the royal palace, he served as one of the king’s closest and most trusted personal servants. Within the perfumed atmosphere of Gentile power, he never forgot that he was a Jew.
One day news came to him of his compatriots who had been allowed to return to Jerusalem under Cyrus’s decree. They were in a terrible state. They were being afflicted and persecuted. The city’s defensive wall was broken down. Its gates were burned.
Nehemiah wept. He mourned. And he turned to God in fervent, repentant prayer and fasting—for days (Nehemiah 1:4).
But he wasn’t just a man of emotion—he was a man of action. Nehemiah repented of his inaction and that of his people. He prayed that God would open a door for him to act.
God heard that zealous appeal and answered. He gave Nehemiah favor with the king, who granted his request to go to Jerusalem to address the crisis.
Clearly, God desires and rewards action.
The Ezra and Nehemiah booklet contains a chapter called, “Nehemiah: A Man of Zeal.” This is a terrific description of a remarkable man. He is a great example of what Herbert W. Armstrong called the fourth law of success: drive.
An Army of Nehemiah’s
In Jerusalem, Nehemiah immediately got to work. Taking a select few men with him, under cloak of darkness, he conducted a reconnaissance mission to assess the strength of the enemy. In the night they surveyed the damaged gates and broken wall. Then he decided what needed to be done (Nehemiah 2:11-16). This man of action was highly motivated to get something done—and quickly.
Nehemiah rallied the Jews with fervor and motivation, spelling out his plan. His energy was contagious! It lit a fire in those men. Those who had been failing on the job suddenly said, Here is a man to follow! “Let us rise up and build”! (Nehemiah 2:17-18).
This whole tragedy turned around because of one man! His presence was like that of Napoleon on the battlefield, who was said to make the difference of 40,000 men.
Nehemiah gave everyone a job and directed them how to build—and they went back to work! Under energized, godly leadership, these men accomplished much! Even when enemies rose up to try to stop them, they plowed right forward. They followed Nehemiah’s example of focus and determination, his zeal to build and battle at the same time (Nehemiah 4:16).
This is the power of drive. Drive gets things done. It inspires others to do the same. When you are driven to act and accomplish, it stirs others and has a multiplying effect.
As in Nehemiah’s day, God has given His Church today strong, driving leadership to move His Work forward. But we need to do more than just admire the example of our pastor general and of God’s ministers. We must also emulate their drive—act on it!
Ultimately we too will have to step up and lead others. We need to develop driving, energetic leadership that will inspire others to follow us! God needs a whole army of Nehemiahs to do the work of converting this whole world.
Fighting a Passive World
Are you driven? Do you follow that fourth law of success? When you do, your whole life goes better. You accomplish more on the job, in your marriage and family. You get more done in your free time. You have better control of your thoughts. Your prayer and study are more focused. You are happier and more positive. You have more to offer others.
Many of us lack drive. Our society is glutted with materialism, leisure, relaxation and empty stimulation. “[M]en shall be lovers of their own selves,” the Apostle Paul prophesied of our day (2 Timothy 3:2). People are focused on themselves and their comforts; they are covetous lovers of money; unthankful, expecting everything and taking it all for granted; “incontinent,” without self-control, giving in to every whim; “lovers of pleasures” in a soft age of easy work and easy play. Ours is a culture of indulgence.
How much have these ungodly attitudes and habits rubbed off on us? How hard it can be to drive ourselves consistently, and how easy to give in to feeling lethargic and unmotivated. Nevertheless, this is a crucial law of success that we must have!
This world even has “a form of godliness,” but people deny its power! Theirs is a weak, passive religion without drive or action. The more we absorb the spirit of this age, the more we deny the power of God.
There is power in true godliness. Power in 2 Timothy 3:5 derives from the Greek dunamis, which means force, miraculous power, might, strength and even violence. Nehemiah built a city-encompassing, fortified wall in 52 days. That’s might. He inspired and led men under him to do something hard, something great that has been praised through the ages.
Do we have a religion of power—miraculous power? Only if we successfully battle the influence of the world around us! We have to be driven, to fight to be different! “[F]rom such turn away,” Paul commands us!
God tells us to “walk circumspectly … [r]edeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). This means to regulate our lives, to make due use of opportunities exactly, accurately, diligently, carefully. The fact that these are evil days means we have to work that much harder to redeem our time—buy it up, make wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good. This is talking about effective time management in the last hour! It’s talking about exercising drive.
Would You Be a Successful Farmer?
Mr. Armstrong himself was an amazing example of drive. He had a dynamic personality. In the business world, he constantly prodded himself to do better and do more. Once God called him, Mr. Armstrong used that zeal, determination and drive to repent and to fulfill the Work of God.
“Half-hearted effort might carry one a little way toward his goal, but it will never get him far enough to reach it,” he wrote in The Seven Laws of Success. “You will always find that the executive head of any growing, successful organization employs drive! He puts a constant prod on himself. He not only drives himself, he drives those under him, else they might lag, let down and stagnate.
“He may feel drowsy, and hate to awaken and get up in the morning. But he refuses to give in to this impulse.”
You might think, I don’t want to be some ceo. But God wants to make you a dynamic, active, driven, determined executive: a king-priest! It is a big challenge to realize who we truly are. This should demonstrate itself in our prayer life, our study habits, our love of God’s truth, our fellowship, our relationships, the way we work on the job—laboring to turn our time into something valuable! We must drive ourselves to redeem the short time we have to get ready for God’s Kingdom!
Mr. Armstrong wrote about those who stagnate far below the level of a determined leader. “Often workmen never rise above whatever job they may have because they have no drive. They slow down, work slowly, poke around, sit down, and rest as much as they can. In other words, they must have a boss over them to drive them, or they would probably starve” (ibid; emphasis mine throughout). This is why so many people work for others; they need someone with energy and purpose to drive them. “They would never become successful farmers—for a farmer, to succeed, must get up early and work late, and drive himself. … Without energy, drive, constant propulsion, a person need never expect to become truly successful.”
We have only a short time in this life. A worldly response is to have as much fun and pleasure as you can before you die. A godly response is to use what little time you have to develop God’s character.
If we lose an hour, we lose a part of our life. Thus, God inspired Solomon to write, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might …” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
No Retirement Plan
The Apostle Paul was another zealous, driven man for God. He felt privileged to hold the office he had, knowing he didn’t deserve it. Thus, he was driven to work as hard as he possibly could to prove to God the grace he’d been given wasn’t in vain (1 Corinthians 15:9-10).
Paul worked to become “all things to all men” (1 Corinthians 9:16-22). He diligently searched for any means to do his job better, to reach more people. He drove himself toward success and greatness.
“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain” (verse 24). Don’t just run the race to be in it. You’re in it to win it! Run it as if everything depends on you crossing that line—first. God didn’t create human beings in order to bring half-hearted beings into His spirit-realm Kingdom!
“Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (verses 25-27; Revised Standard Version). Don’t let anything get in the way! Drive through any and every obstacle!
Paul worked right to the end of his life. God offers no retirement plan. “[W]e desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end” (Hebrews 6:11). Labor today. Show the same diligence tomorrow. Then be even more industrious the next day. If you start to run out of energy, beseech God for more! No matter how hard the work, the output must increase! It’s only through that diligence that you are going to have the full assurance of hope.
You are only going to receive the gift of eternal life if you are working your tail off! “That ye be not slothful [lazy, sluggish], but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (verse 12). Look at the ones who have made it!—at Nehemiah, and Paul, and Mr. Armstrong. These men weren’t slothful—they were industrious, hard workers. They drove themselves. Don’t be slothful—follow their example.
Fight the Good Fight
Paul warned the young evangelist Timothy to beware the snare of riches and worldliness. “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (see 1 Timothy 6:6-11). Fleeing is an action, running away, escaping—and pursuing after and pressing forward to the things of God. This takes dynamic, robust, purposeful, driving effort.
If you were running from a grizzly bear, would you run half-heartedly? You are running from a satanic world!
If you were trying to catch the leader in a race—because the victor receives a million-dollar prize—would you run with 90 percent of your effort? You are running for a much greater prize: eternal life!
“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called …” (verse 12). Is eternal life worth driving yourself for? It will not be just handed over to you—you have to lay hold on it! You have to contend for it—today, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. That is a challenge. In fact, it’s a fight—but it is a good fight!
Jesus Christ said that “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12). The phrase “suffereth violence” is translated from a single Greek word that means the kingdom of heaven is forced, or overpowered, or taken by storm. “The violent” means a forcer, or someone energetic; and “take it by force” means to seize!
Only those who strive violently will enter God’s Kingdom! No one is going to accidentally make it. We must energetically drive ourselves in order to storm it and seize it like a conquered city!
Apply this important law of drive. Drive yourself with God’s Holy Spirit. Dream BIG! Ask God to open doors for you. Make sure He is behind you, then drive yourself to make those dreams happen!
As we do that, God will bless our labor. He is a rewarder of those who believe and who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). Just as He did with Nehemiah, God will answer fervent prayers and reward passionate action. If we have a mind to work, He will open doors of opportunity for us—and very soon, open to us the very doors to the kingdom of heaven!