Leader Has a Clear Recognition of the Needs. The beginning of verse 4 reads, “It came about when I heard these words.” Nehemiah was not preoccupied; he did not live in a dreamworld, opposed to reality. He asked, “What’s the condition?” They replied, “It’s a miserable situation.” He heard what they said.

You may think recognizing needs is an elementary concept, especially for leaders. But I have met many people in responsible leadership positions who never seem to see the problems they ought to be solving.

I remember taking a course in seminary under a brilliant Bible teacher. In fact, he was known all over the World for his knowledge of Scripture. But he was so well read and had known the answers for so long that he had forgotten there could be any questions! We would raise our hands and pose a problem, and he would blink and say, “Problem? What problem?”

There is a very simple reason for this “no problem” mentality: preoccupation. Have you ever been around a preoccupied professor or boss? Some of you live with preoccupied husbands, and you know getting his attention is no easy task. You look at him behind the Wall Street Journal and say, “Honey, I want to talk with you about something that’s happened.”

“Uh huh.”

“It’s leaking . . . in the other room . . . it’s running out onto the floor.”


It’s remarkable how individuals who have a high level of responsibility often can no longer relate at the problem level.

I have a friend who is quite successful in the construction business. In fact, he is a prominent builder in his city. But he hates reality. As a result, his family has suffered. He has been deceived and ripped off and misused time and again because he hates to face issues and refrains from asking the hard, second questions. He is creative, visionary, warm, loving, very tender personally toward the things of God. But he just doesn’t see the problems. He avoids confrontation with them by saying, “Don’t tell me the problems; let’s talk about the good things.”

Now I think a person can be so problem-oriented that problems are all he can think about—and that’s not good either. But the person who is a real leader has a clear recognition of the needs.

Are you aware of needs? How about the needs in your own family? Are you sensitive as a parent or as a mate? Maybe you live alone. Do you know what is on your parents’ hearts, where the scales tip? If you teach, are you aware of the pupils’ needs—the kids who fill your classroom? If you are in business leadership, are you in touch with more than just that level of pleasurable activity called the “executive stra­tum”? What about those other areas where problems start and fester?

Charles R. Swindoll, Hand Me Another Brick (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998).

I have just completed a series of lessons based on the book of Nehemiah. They are available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription service. For a medium-sized church, lesson subscriptions are only $10 per teacher per year. Lessons correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines as well as the International Standard Series.