Do you have any unfinished projects lying around collecting dust? Who doesn’t? It’s so easy to get sidetracked isn’t it? It takes determination to finish what we start because there are always so many competing distractions.
One thing that clearly emerges from our study in the Book of Nehemiah is that life is a battle from beginning to end. In every chapter there has been opposition, it started in Chapter 2 with smack talk, then it escalated by chapter four to organized opposition with plans of physical harm. In chapter 4 was the opposition from the outside. Chapter 5 the opposition is internal. In Chapter 6 we see even more opposition in the form of distractions, fear and intimidation.
Perhaps the greatest threat to you doing what God is asking you to do is in the form of a distraction.
- Say No to Some Meetings
When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it–though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates– 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together… Vs 1-2a ]
These enemies suddenly become Nehemiah’s friends and invite him to a meeting? He firmly declines, saying, “I am carrying on a great project, and I cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?”
That is a great answer even though it sounds rather blunt. But Nehemiah sees through their scheme by refusing their invitation four different times. You, too, may experience continuing pressure to change your mind and go along with something that is wrong. Some of us give in to repeated pressure. We might decline the first invitation but find our defenses weakened as the enticements continue. Nehemiah is persistent in saying no to these meetings, because he knows what his priorities are: “I am doing a great work. I have a great calling. God has given me a tremendous project. If I leave, it will be threatened.”
Sometimes these distractions come disguised as harmless options or even good things. Like meetings. I don’t have time for all the meetings that everyone wants me to go to. Don’t get me wrong some are worthy causes, but we have to learn the difference between good and best. Here’s a partial list of meetings people would like me to attend (I get invitations often, sometimes prodding, sometimes people try to guilt me to attend) : Pray Austin Meetings, Austin Christian Music Festival, Pregnancy Help Center, Children’s Home, Starry Adoption Agency, Leander Community Club, City Council, Chamber of Commerce, Hill Country Community Ministries. Those are off the top of my head. Now these are great things, great ministries, but I know what God has called me to do as a pastor. That means I have to say NO to certain things.
How many of you like meetings? I try to keep them to a minimum. I tell our leaders, “people only have so much time, would you rather they give their time at meetings or in serving? Keep meetings to a minimum don’t have training meetings, have on the job training, for people to watch and learn.” Even with this mentality I still have to attend planning meetings to organize and implement, various leadership meetings with our leaders, my connect group meeting. I attend various meetings and training opportunities of our Association of likeminded churches.
I read one time about a noted concert violinist who was asked the secret of her mastery of the instrument. This is what she said, “There are many things that used to demand my time. When I went to my room after breakfast, I made my bed, straightened the room, dusted, and did whatever seemed necessary. When I finished my work, I turned to my violin practice. That system prevented me from accomplishing what I should on the violin. So I reversed things. I deliberately planned to neglect everything else until my practice period was complete. And that program of planned neglect is the secret to my success.”
In a similar way, we’ve been called to a great task one that we have to prioritize or we’ll be distracted from it. If we don’t practice some “planned neglect” of other things, even good things, we’ll be distracted from God’s best. That’s what Nehemiah does. He’s involved in a great work, and he’s not going to forsake it for anything less, like a meeting.
- Say No to Isolation
…in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.” But they were scheming to harm me; Vs 2b
Their invitation to meet was “…in one of the villages on the plain of Ono. This plain, about 20 miles from Jerusalem, was considered more or less “neutral” but it was right next to the border of Samaria…Sanballat’s home.
Nehemiah cannot actually PROVE that this apparent “peace conference” is a trap, but he suspects they are “scheming to harm” him, So Nehemiah said, “Oh, no!” to Ono. Some commentators suggest that they were trying to trick him into leaving Jerusalem, where he had armed support, to come to a conference where they could ambush him. Nehemiah evidently senses this.
The opposition wants Nehemiah to leave the SAFETY of Jerusalem and the PROTECTION of his relationships there.
The enemy wants you on your own, wants you lonely, wants you isolated. CLOSE relationships with other believers (not “hi…how are you?” on Sunday relationships) frustrate him. He will try to draw you OUT of fellowship, giving you pride, giving you options and opportunities that seem “neutral” but will put you on your own and all alone and vulnerable to attack.
Are you in fellowship with other believers? Are you accountable to anyone for the progress in your walk with Christ? If Satan can convince you that this is “just between you and God…and it’s no one else’s business” he will have you right where he wants you. Those are stubborn and very hard to shake lies. Please hear me, there is power in corporate worship, power in fellowship, and power in small group accountability. You will never grow to be all that you can be alone! Get into a Connect group, join a serving area and get to know people that will become a support network to you.
A reoccurring theme in this book: I need others. Others will help me and I must help others! I can imagine what it must have been like for the workers to get up every morning and look to their right and look to their left and for as far as the eye could see, they saw workers attacking the wall. I can imagine because it how I often feel as I look around our church and see people serving, teaching, cleaning, and those who help with outreach opportunities. Its inspiring! The sight of others working for God encourages those who are tired to keep on keeping on for God.
Nehemiah was not trying do what God called him all by himself. He was not isolated. He depended on others. They provided a great deal of support, encouragement and strength. To each other and to Nehemiah.
Who is in your life right now, who has God brought to your side to help you through whatever it is that you are facing? Can you picture that special person who came at the right time, with the right way and with the right stuff? They came with just what you needed at just the right time. If so, whisper a silent prayer for that person right now. Oh yes, one more thing, do they know how much they have helped you? Do they know it? Its saying no to isolation. It realizing you do need people.
Who do you need to come along side? Who in your life, do you need to put an arm around their shoulder, or a hand on their back, or give a word of encouragement? That is being Christ like. Have you made a phone call or an email to someone that hasn’t been in church in a while? Or maybe sent a card simply saying I miss you! Or what about going to the hospital when someone is ill, or even preparing a pot of soup for someone who is sick? When was the last time? That is saying no to isolation, in your life and in the lives of others.
In today’s church, we need to remember that we are ALL called to be ministers. We are all called to be servants and to be encouragers. Don’t isolate yourself. Get involved!
How did Nehemiah respond? He knew what he was called to do!
3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer. Vs 3-4
When they asked Nehemiah to come down and have a meeting he said, no because he was “carrying on a great project.” Nehemiah was very single minded. He said, “I’m going to do this. I’m going to stick with it. I’m going to keep the main thing the main thing. Here’s what I’m doing, here’s what I’m NOT doing.”
I read about a missionary in China whose abilities were so outstanding that one of the American companies tried to hire him. They offered him an attractive job with a salary to match, but he turned it down. He told them that God had sent him to China as a missionary. He thought that would end the matter, but instead they came back with a better offer and an increase in salary. He turned that down too, but again they came back, doubling the financial package. Finally he said to them, “It’s not your salary that’s too little. It’s the job that’s too small!”
What’s the big job for you? Is it money or retirement? Do you have a clear calling or purpose for your marriage? A clear purpose for your family? A clear purpose for your finances?
Let me tell you a purpose that will cause problems, I see this all the time. If you say, “The purpose for our family is to be happy!” Sounds good, like the American dream. But what happens when someone says, “To be happy I have to go to Disney! I have to have this or that! I think happiness is drugs, or an affair?” You can see that everything can collapse fast. I’ll be real honest I have found that to live for anything BUT Christ it is a let down, happiness comes as a result of honoring Christ.
For Niki and me, the purpose of our marriage is to honor Christ. Its not just about my happiness. Its not just about Niki’s happiness. Its about doing what Christ would have us to. Serving each other, loving each other, we have found that this is the greatest way to BOTH be happy.
The purpose of our finances? “Spend all we get!” No, that’s not it. Its to honor Christ with our finances. So our money is given this church for the continuation of Christ’s ministry on earth, that honors’ Christ, its also to spend, to enjoy and to help others. See how everything falls into place when Christ is first?
Let me tell you, the most important purpose in life, the greatest cause that you can give your life for is the cause of Christ. There’s nothing greater that you can invest your life in.
We need a clear purpose that is so over arching in our life, like honoring Christ, that we’re not distracted by the trivial. The game “Trivial Pursuit” describes a lot of people’s lives. What is it that’s taking up your time in life so that you don’t have time for the things that are really important in life? What things are important? Jesus summed up the whole bible into two things, “Loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself.” If you’re too busy to worship, you’re too busy. If you’re too busy to get involved in serving you’re too busy. These other things aren’t going to count years from now. We have limited amount of time. There may be some things we need to cut back so we can make time for things that count, make time for what God wants us to do.
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