August 13, 2019
We live in a world filled with distractions. There is a constant pull away from what is vital and essential to that which is secondary and even evil. The devil doesn’t have to destroy you in order to keep you from doing God’s work; he just has to distract you. It is one of his chief schemes.
Nehemiah, Chapter 6 is given to all of us, and particularly leaders, to teach us how to deal with this debilitating scheme. Notice how the temptation develops and how Nehemiah deals with it at every turn.
DISTRACTION #1: We receive a simple invitation to leave God’s work. It sounds innocuous, but there is behind it a deadly intent. This could be an invitation to be involved in a conversation, an entertainment, a game, a nice honor that seems a worthy thing to stop and engage in. It does not matter to your enemy. His one intent is to turn your hand away from God’s work.
Now when it was reported to Sanballat, Tobiah, to Geshem the Arab and to the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall, and that no breach remained in it, although at that time I had not set up the doors in the gates, then Sanballat and Geshem sent a message to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they were planning to harm me. (Nehemiah 6:1-2)
THE NEHEMIAH RESPONSE: A good leader recognizes the God-work that he is doing and refuses to be turned aside. He prioritizes everything that is presented to him, and only does what God has initiated. He is gladly willing to say “No” to every competing distraction.
So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” (vs. 3)
DISTRACTION #2: The temptation to turn aside comes back multiple times, often in multiple forms. The enemy’s thought is that surely the leader will be distracted if the temptation is repeated enough times.
They sent messages to me four times in this manner … (vs. 4)
THE NEHEMIAH RESPONSE: A good leader perseveres in his unwillingness to turn aside from God’s task. He will not give in and recognizes the repeated invitation as a repeated scheme.
They sent messages to me four times in this manner and I answered them in the same way. (vs. 4)
DISTRACTION #3: A false accusation comes, full of deception about the leader personally that they feel they must stop and take time to address. It is no longer just about the work, but about the leader’s motivations and character, designed to create such fear for the loss of their reputation that they will turn aside from the work.
Then Sanballat sent his servant to me in the same manner a fifth time with an open letter in his hand. In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Gashmu says, that you and the Jews are planning to rebel; therefore you are rebuilding the wall. And you are to be their king, according to these reports. “You have also appointed prophets to proclaim in Jerusalem concerning you, ‘A king is in Judah!’ And now it will be reported to the king according to these reports. So come now, let us take counsel together.” (vs. 5-7)
THE NEHEMIAH RESPONSE: A good leader refuses to stop from God’s work, even if they are personally assaulted. They simply rebuke their distractors, but then they do the most important thing: They PRAY, asking God to give needed strength to continue on. They leave their reputation in the hands of God, refusing to take time to defend themselves for the sake of God’s task.
Then I sent a message to him saying, “Such things as you are saying have not been done, but you are inventing them in your own mind.” For all of them were trying to frighten us, thinking, “They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands. (vs. 8-9)
DISTRACTION #4: The enemies conspire with others, enlisting them to try to pull the leader away from the work. Gossip and evil collaboration spread to try to frighten the leader and workers. The crowd of detractors grows. Some of these may be people that were once close to the leader.
When I entered the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined at home, he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you, and they are coming to kill you at night.” (vs. 10)
THE NEHEMIAH RESPONSE: A good leader is in such communion with God that they perceive the evil intent of this collaborative effort. They continue to PRAY, testing every temptation against the standard of God’s will, and refuse to give in to fear, never stopping from the work at hand.
But I said, “Should a man like me flee? And could one such as I go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.” Then I perceived that surely God had not sent him, but he uttered his prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. He was hired for this reason, that I might become frightened and act accordingly and sin, so that they might have an evil report in order that they could reproach me. “Remember, O my God, Tobiah and Sanballat according to these works of theirs, and also Noadiah the prophetess and the rest of the prophets who were trying to frighten me.” (vs. 11-14)
THE EXTRAORDINARY RESULTS OF AN UNDISTRACTED PEOPLE
The enemy’s greatest fear is that God’s people will put their hands to the work and not look back. He knows that, with God directing and empowering, and godly, single-minded leaders leading, and people willingly working, God’s work can be accomplished in rapid time.
The result of Nehemiah’s refusal to be distracted? “So the wall was completed … in fifty-two days” (vs. 15). This wall had been broken down for years. No one had even attempted to rebuild it. Now a leader comes who refuses to give in to the scheme of distraction, and it is accomplished with amazing speed and power.
If you are a follower of Christ, God has called you to a great work. He has more to accomplish through you than you can possibly imagine. Your enemy knows this and is in the business of throwing thousands of distractions in your path over and over again to detour you so God’s work will be delayed and ultimately thwarted. Remember, he is not after you, but the work of God (which he hates) through you. Understand the power of an undistracted life.
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