Mr. Burgess was born and raised in Southern Ohio and has worked in numerous capacities with Liberty University since 2004. He is married to Heather Burgess who also teaches at Liberty University. He has one son, Reagan.
I don’t know where you are on your own educational journey; you may be reading this today, and you’re close to finishing your degree. You may be half-way through, you may be just starting, but regardless, you’ve assessed your situation, and you’ve decided to do an honorable thing, which is to achieve a degree. And you’re doing it in a unique format as you continue your studies online.
Today I want to encourage you on this journey and talk a little bit about the book of Nehemiah and how that can relate even today as you pursue an online education. I just want to think about and talk about this idea of accomplishing your goal, and based on the book of Nehemiah, you see all throughout this idea of the walls being torn down in Jerusalem and being burned, and Jerusalem had lost their protection. Nehemiah comes in and assesses the situation, and of course, if you’re familiar with the story, challenges everyone to rebuild those walls and restore Jerusalem to a situation where they could be protected from their enemies. Nehemiah speaking, he says, “I inspected the wall of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire” (Nehemiah 2:13).
He looked at the situation, saw that the gates had been torn down and destroyed by fire and he rallies people together to rebuild the walls. It’s quite a goal, a huge accomplishment, just as you work on your education through the online format or trying to accomplish a goal of earning a degree. But I just want to remind you that the goal goes beyond just earning a degree; the goal becomes equipping yourself for ministry, possibly, or setting yourself up to expand your professional opportunities or maybe just on a personal level or earning the degree so that you could be more knowledgeable about a specific subject matter; whatever it is, the goal isn’t just to get the degree; the goal is what the degree will offer you ultimately, and so I want to think in terms of that briefly as we think about what it takes to be successful.
The first thing I want to talk about is “Keeping the vision in front of you.” This vision of what you’re doing because it gets hard, it gets difficult when you’re up early or when you stay up early or when you’re giving up a weekend or when people are doing things that you’d like to be a part of and you’re sacrificing so that you can earn a degree. He (Nehemiah) says, “Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision” (Nehemiah 2:17).
But this goal wasn’t just to rebuild the walls; it was for protection. Remember vision brings clarity when you know what your ultimate vision it, what your goal is and achieving this degree. Several years ago, I had to get glasses. I couldn’t see that well or read, I couldn’t see at night, and it was amazing how getting these glasses and all the sudden having the proper vision brought clarity to everything around me. You need to keep them in front of you as you pursue such a difficult task so that you can have the clarity to know what the vision is because there will be times when you get discouraged. There will be times when it will be hard; there will be times when it feels overwhelming when things are not going the way you hoped. Keep that vision in front of you.
The second the stay organized, we with Nehemiah that he divided the walls up into segments and several people rebuilt those walls. He made it attainable, and by staying organized, he was able to rebuild the walls and segments. Organization makes the ultimate goal manageable. If you are new and you have many hours ahead of you to earn your degree, it can feel pretty daunting as you look at what’s required of you and look at the degree completion plan and all the classes that need to be taken and what needs to take place. It can be just very challenging, but if you stay organized and stay the course and figure out just small segments of completion and working through an 8-week term, and maybe a 16-week class, and as you’re moving forward from terms to terms to semesters to semesters to year to year, stay organized so you don’t feel the sense of overwhelming this just overtakes you and you can work through that process.
Finally, Nehemiah says in Nehemiah 4:6, “So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.” Not only do you need to keep the vision in front of you, not only do you need to stay organized, but you need to work hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it, but you have embarked upon, which is achieving a degree is not easy. It’s difficult; it’s very difficult at times. It’s very frustrating at times, but just commit yourself that you’re going to work hard, pay the price, write those papers, study for those tests, and you’re going to find a way to achieve this degree so that you can achieve your ultimate goal both professionally and personally.