That Second Wind
Read – Nehemiah 4:1-23
Key Verse – Then Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall” (Nehemiah 4:10 NKJV).
Key Thought – That second wind comes when we keep praying, keep fighting, and keep looking unto Jesus.
It’s the end of the movie, the climactic battle royale between The Hero and the Big Bad… and The Hero is losing. After a long struggle, the Big Bad finally manages to get through the hero’s defenses and score what looks like a decisive hit. The hero crumples, looking to be in a dire strait indeed. Usually, at this point the villain takes the opportunity to gloat a bit and humiliate his opponent verbally or physically, believing the hero to be his to dispatch at convenience. Often, the hero’s loved ones will be watching them getting the beat-down in a horrified state, which adds to the despair of the situation (and is a pretty bad hit to the hero’s confidence). In more violent examples, the hero will have wounds that really ought to be fatal.
> Then, just when everything seems to be lost, something happens. With a sudden all-out effort, the hero rises, often presaged or accompanied by a Theme Music Power-Up, ready to rejoin the battle—and, this time, despite the apparently crippling injury just sustained, there’s no question at all that the hero’s going to end up standing over the villain’s smoking corpse—or, more generally, triumph in whatever way is appropriate for the genre.
You’ve seen it many times, haven’t you… this amazing recovery by the hero of a story, when he / she seemed to be down and out for good. Rocky, the hero, looks to be down for the count, when all of a sudden… out of nowhere… he finds something extra and unleashes another furious volley on his opponent.
Sometimes this phenomenal recovery from seeming defeat to all out victory is referred to as “getting your second wind.”
According to Wikipedia, “Second wind is a phenomenon in distance running, such as marathons or road running, whereby an athlete who is out of breath and too tired to continue suddenly finds the strength to press on at top performance with less exertion.”
A “second wind” is defined in the dictionary as “a person’s ability to breathe freely during exercise, after having been out of breath… a new strength or energy to continue something that is an effort… a feeling of new energy that allows you to continue to do something after you had begun to feel tired.. renewed energy or endurance.”
I find I want to ask some questions. For example, I wonder – have you ever felt like you needed a second wind?
Have you ever felt like you were just out of gas and running on fumes… like you didn’t have the energy to take another step? I’m not talking now about being physically depleted, even though I’m sure some here could relate to the term in that way. I’m talking about being spiritually depleted… feeling like you’re just out of breath and too tired to continue….
I have to answer that question in the affirmative. I’ve felt that way many times. I feel that way just about every Monday of the world.
Another question I want to ask, then, is – why would you ever need a second wind as a Christian? I mean, whenever I’ve found myself in such a depleted state, it is compounded by my wondering why I would feel so down. I mean, aren’t we Christians supposed to be victors? Aren’t we the ones who, in the end of the book, win? Aren’t we the ones who love to quote the great promises of Scripture… like “Greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world?”
Well, perhaps the experience here in Nehemiah can help us the next time we find ourselves running on fumes… running out of breath… needing a second wind.
If you’ll remember, we studied the entire book of Nehemiah some time ago. That entire study is now available in book form, should you be interested in it. We learned then that Nehemiah was overseeing the tremendously difficult project of rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem. At the point in which we pick up the narrative here in chapter 4, he and the men and women who are engaged with him in that effort have reached the half way point (vs. 6).
At that half way point, two things happen that takes the wind out of the people… two things that put them in that place where they really need to find their second wind. And so I’d like to suggest that the two reasons they needed a second wind, are the same reasons we sometimes do:
– Sometimes you need a second wind because the world will fight you, and
– Sometimes you need a second wind because life just gets to you.
Sometimes you need a second wind because the world will fight you.
Nehemiah described enemies aplenty in this chapter. He talked about Sanballat. He was an enemy from Samaria, to the north of Jerusalem. He talked about Tobiah, an enemy from Ammon, to the east of Jerusalem. He talked about Geshem, an enemy from the south of Jerusalem, and he talked about the Ashdodites, who were the Philistines, to the west of Jerusalem.
So they were literally surrounded by enemies… on all sides… from every direction… from the north, the south, the east and the west, they found themselves confronted with opposition.
Have you ever felt like you were surrounded on all sides by opposition? Like the whole world was against you?
It’s true – some people run out of breath in their walk for Christ because of outside influences. Other people can beat you down if you let them.
Sanballat tried to beat them down with ridicule, and sometimes you’ll find others using that on you. Have you ever been made fun of for being a Christian? Have you ever had to stand alone in a group at work, or school, and found yourself the object of amusement to others?
– Goliath ridiculed David (cf. 1 Samuel 17:41–47)
– Jesus was mocked by the soldiers during His trial (cf. Luke 22:63–65) and by the crowd while on the cross (cf. Luke 23:35–37)
– Still others had trial of mockings… (Hebrews 11:36 )
I’m aware of no time in US history when it’s been so in vogue to ridicule Christians and Christianity as it is now. We’ve heard it from our own politicians, from TV personalities, from the supposedly learned elite in our colleges and universities. It’s the in thing to consider Christians as uneducated and stupid and pitiful.
And it takes the wind out of many.
I mean let’s face it. How many never come to Christ at all because of the ridicule of others – friends or family make fun – fear of what people will think holds them back, and they never surrender to the Lord.
Even some who ARE saved… ARE born again… HAVE trusted Christ, don’t grow… don’t progress… sit like lumps and do nothing for God, because they are paralyzed by others thinking they are “holier than thou.” They too are paralyzed by the fear of ridicule.
Sanballat and his cohorts ridiculed, but they did not stop with ridicule. Their persecution went far beyond that… they threatened… they used fear to try and trip up the Israelites.
Do you ever think about persecution? Do you ever read about the persecuted believers in other countries? According to Open Doors’ World Watch List, North Korea takes the top honor for being most oppressive to Christians. Christians in North Korea are persecuted terribly. But that’s not the only country. Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Sudan, Eritrea, Yemen, Iran and India round out the top 10 list. Lately, we’ve read more and more stories of persecution of believers in Nigeria and China, and just recently Burkina Faso has been moving up the list, with many many Christians suffering persecution and even martyrdom there.
We come to the reality of persecution often in our Bibles. Even though it is not yet the problem here in America that it is in other parts of the world, it continues to grow here, and we should be prepared to face it when it comes into our lives.
all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12 NKJV)
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. (Matthew 5:10-11 NKJV)
Maybe you’ve faced some of it. In our FBC Book Club we just finished reading a book entitled “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus,” written by a man of Pakistani descent who was raised in Islam, and later in life found Christ. He painted a pretty good picture of what some people, even in this country, face when they turn to Christ.
I don’t want to belabor the point, but it’s something we need to recognize. Just as the Israelites on the wall faced not only ridicule but also outright persecution, we may too, at various milestones along our Christian walk.
And it can knock the wind out of you.
But the Israelites got the wind knocked out of them by something else that I actually think is worse. And ALL of us face it… often.
Sometimes you need a second wind because life just gets to you.
I mean, sometimes you just get tired… you get weary in the work of the Lord.
That’s what was happening with the Israelites here – The strength of the laborers is failing.. (vs. 10)
You will get tired in the task. You will get weary in serving the Lord. It happens to the best of Christians. It even happened to the Apostle Paul, who mentioned weariness as one of the ways in which he suffered – *… in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often… (2 Corinthians 11:27 NKJV)*
It’s often been stated that 80% of the work in a local church is done by 20% of the people. And it’s always the same 20%. If you’re one of them, you’re going to feel sometimes like the wind is knocked out of you and you’re too weary to continue.
Sometimes it’s not weariness that knocks the wind out of you, but rather discouragement.
I love vs. 10 – … there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall. I sometimes feel like I live in vs. 10 don’t you? This world is filled with so many problems. Our country is filled with so many problems. Our town… our schools… our neighborhoods… our families… our circle of friends… YOU NAME IT, there is trouble enough to go round. And it wears you down sometimes.
I’m reminded of John the Baptist, who because of all the trouble happening to him – jail and imminent execution, to name a couple – got discouraged and seems to have felt like giving up. And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to Jesus, saying, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Luke 7:18 NKJV)
I’m reminded of Elijah who, having won one of the greatest victories recorded in the Bible, having just called down fire from heaven, having just stood against 400 false prophets and been victorious in doing so, almost immediately thereafter fell into a funk of discouragement and fled into the wilderness where he prayed for God to take his life.
You and I are not immune from discouragement. Sometimes we feel like these Israelites – there is so much rubbish going on in my life that I simply cannot go on for God.
Sometimes we just get the wind knocked out of us. Sometimes we have run to the point of exhaustion and feel like we have nothing left. Whether it’s the world fighting against us, or life and its rubbish just getting us down, sometimes we need that second wind!
Let me close in two ways today.
First, let me point out how Nehemiah and the Israelites found a second wind, and finished the wall. They didn’t stop at the half way point. They made it all the way to the top. And they did it by sticking to a three-fold plan:
They prayed… they fought on… and they remembered who they served.
Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God… (vs. 9).
Everyone of the workers had his sword girded at his side as he built (vs. 18).
And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome…” (vs. 14).
– When you feel the ridicule of this world, pray on, fight on, and remember the Lord you serve.
– When you fear the persecution of the world toward you, pray on, fight on, and remember the Lord you serve.
– When you have labored to the point of exhaustion for Jesus… when you look around you and see others not pulling their load… not doing their share… and weariness threatens to force you out of the race, pray on, fight on, and remember the Lord you serve.
– When discouragement overwhelms… when you are overwhelmed by the rubbish that piles up around you in this life… when you are close to being buried by it, pray on, fight on, and remember the Lord you serve.
Runners in need of a second wind run on. Fighters in need of a second wind fight on. And if you need that second wind, do the same – pray on, fight on, and remember the Lord you serve.
But second, let me make a few of practical observations about this topic:
Getting a second wind is primarily a matter of the heart.
I read a bunch of definitions of that phrase “second wind” in the introduction, but I left out one particular definition. I left out the medical definition, which defines second wind as “recovered full power of respiration after the first exhaustion during exertion due to improved heart action.” Note what the medical world says will result in that second wind – improved heart action!
Solomon wrote, Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23 NKJV). Everything springs from the heart, including that second wind. Saving faith is centered in the heart – For with the heart one believes unto righteousness… (Romans 10:10 NKJV).
And the strength we need to get through the rubbish of this life also comes from the heart. If your heart is right with Him, you’ll find that second wind and go on for Jesus.
Getting a second wind is also a matter of the will.
Allow me to share a few quotes from an article entitled “How You Can Do More and Be More”. Psychologist G. Stanley Hall said, “Most of us do live far beneath the level of our possibilities. We use only a fraction of our lung power when we breathe; we are content to demand of our bodies and our minds much less than they can be made to deliver.” “Athletes, for example, run until they reach the threshold of fatigue, when it seems as if they can push themselves no farther; then suddenly, they ‘get their second wind,’ as we call it; they break through into a second reservoir of energy and can go on with renewed strength.” “All of us have reserves of energy on which we can draw at will – It is like having a little money in your pocket, and a lot more in the bank.”(Barton, Bruce, “How You Can Do More and Be More,An Interview with G. Stanley Hall,” “The American Magazine,” Volume 96, Crowell-Collier Publishing Company, 1923)
Dr. John Piper wrote something about this. When people tell him they tried and failed… tried but now they are giving up, he said,
> I ask, “How long did you try?” How hard did you exert your mind? The mind is a muscle. You can flex it with vehemence. Take the kingdom violently (Matthew 11:12). Be brutal. Hold the promise of Christ before your eyes. Hold it. Hold it! Don’t let it go! Keep holding it! How long? As long as it takes. Fight! For Christ’s sake, fight till you win! If an electric garage door were about to crush your child you would hold it up with all our might and holler for help, and hold it and hold it and hold it and hold it.”
You can go on. It’s a matter of your will. Gary Price, a former pastor and dear friend of mine, once said in a sermon, “You’re going to do exactly what you WANT to do.” I knew what he meant. No matter the excuse you couch your actions in… no matter the reasoned explanations you might provide for quitting on God, in the final analysis it’s a matter of will – doing what you want to do… what you will to do.
Though a righteous person falls seven times, he will get up… (Proverbs 24:16 CSB).
– It’s why we love the Rocky movies. He just keeps getting up.
– It’s why we love our Cleveland Browns. They just keep getting up (and starting over).
You CAN go on further. You might be tired and you might be discouraged and the rubbish might be piled over your head around you, but you don’t have to quit. You can go on. It’s a matter of your will.
The path to that second wind goes through the time of fatigue. You can’t experience the former, without going through the latter.
Sometimes you have to go through. Sometimes you have to fight on. Sometimes, even when you feel like you can’t take another breath, you have to force out one more step, because the only way you’ll ever get that second wind, is to get past the fatigue that made you need it in the first place.
William James said, “Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second.”
PRAY ON, and FIGHT ON, and REMEMBER THE LORD.
– Pray for a heart that won’t quit.
– Fight with a will that won’t quit.
– Keep walking through the rubbish, remembering the Lord who promised and promises you victory on the other side.
Then one day, the wall will be built. One day, the race will be run. One day, the labor will be over and your reward will be there before you.
And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. (Galatians 6:9 NKJV)
“And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. (John 4:36 NKJV)
knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:24 NKJV)
“His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ (Matthew 25:23 NKJV)