How many of you struggle, like I do, with being easily distracted? Once we realize we have detoured and we return to the original task, valuable time has been lost.
I believe God knew we would struggle with distractions and detours. I’m so thankful He gave us examples in Scripture to learn the strategies they used to overcome that temptation.
One such example is ...
...Nehemiah! When we read the book of Nehemiah, we discover his deep passion to serve in his desolated country after the Babylonian captivity ended and the Jews could return to Israel.
His heart broke for the ruinous conditions in his beloved land. God granted him favor with the king to return home and accomplish the good work the Lord had put in his heart. So, Nehemiah came to the land, garnered support for the work, and began the process of rebuilding.
As is the case when anyone begins a work blessed by God, opposition arose from foes who did not want to see this great work succeed. They sought to thwart it and opposed it at every turn, even appealing to authorities for the work to be halted.
Yet, God had other plans. Although obstacles had to be overcome, still the work proceeded with God’s blessing.
Let’s consider the work Nehemiah set out to do, and delve deeper into his thoughts about it.
Once the enemies saw that their threats failed, they turned to deception. In Nehemiah chapter 6, we find the story. They tried to trick Nehemiah by calling for him to join them for a “meeting”, attempting to detour him from his mission. IF he had fallen for their scheme, he would very likely have been captured and taken prisoner, or worse, even killed. By any reading of the Scriptures, their plot was for evil and not for any good purpose.
Not only did they tempt him once, but they repeated this same appeal four times. When the fourth didn’t work, they threatened him further with a letter, which he also rebutted. Then, they hired someone close to him to trick him into going to the Temple as a place to hide in fear. But, again, Nehemiah stood strong and resisted, receiving revelation from God that this was a devious plot from the enemy.
Notice from this example that the enemy didn’t give up after using one tool. Oh, no. Rather, he reached for another type of cunning device when the first one didn’t work. Then, he tried another and another – unrelenting in his efforts. Still, the result was the same!
Consider Nehemiah’s answer, which formed his resistance. His conviction enabled him to stand strong in the face of their tactics.
“So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3, NKJV)
From Nehemiah’s words, we see the key to overcoming distractions and resisting constant temptations for detours.
The first thing that jumps out at me in his reply is his own determination of what he was doing: a GREAT work. Nehemiah had settled in his own heart, mind, and will that he had put his hand to accomplish a great work. He wasn’t engaged in useless efforts or unimportant tasks. It was great in size and in importance. It was necessary. It was urgent. It was worthy of attention and diligent labor.
Next, he resigned himself to the fact that it was WORK. He resolved early in the process that this project would take effort. He would have to endure heat, weather, and fatigue, but the work itself was worth these inconveniences. The finished product would prove worthy of his labors. He wasn’t expecting an easy job with lots of breaks and two-hour lunches. He knew it took grit and determination to endure and complete the work. He would finish what he began and would resist all attempts to the contrary.
Thirdly, notice how he says he CANNOT come down. He knew what his task was, and this distraction didn’t fit into its mold. We today might use terms such as “stay in your lane” to express staying true to our calling and not letting distractions pull us into some other lane besides our own. Nehemiah knew his calling and contented himself to stay there, work there, and finish the job there.
The fourth thing I note is that he could not COME DOWN. This reveals Nehemiah’s priorities. Because of his settled opinion of the value and importance of the work he knew he had to complete, Nehemiah established priorities before they were even challenged. He settled in his mind that that his work held a superior place to a “meeting” with these distractors. He wouldn’t let anything or anyone displace his priorities. The main thing was the main thing with him. And he knew it. He discerned what was superior and what was inferior – and he chose to remain committed to the superior.
Fifth, Nehemiah retorted with his own rhetorical question to them: “Why?” What greater value or importance could cause me to cease from doing this GREAT work to come to something of lesser value. Why would I allow something else to waste my time and halt the progress, just for me to “leave it” and go down to meet “with you?” Nehemiah stood strong, refusing to allow anything to halt the GREAT work in which he was engaged. He knew if he left the work, the work would stop. He would not allow such to occur.
Dear friend, I believe we should receive and implement every one of these five steps. Whatever God has called each of us to do, it is a GREAT work! We each put our “hand to the plow” in obedience to God’s call. We must settle in our own hearts and minds ahead of any enemies’ challenge that the tasks God calls us to accomplish are GREAT works for Him. Therefore, they deserve our dedication and deliberate prioritization as superior efforts. Therefore, we shouldn’t abandon these to pursue inferior undertakings. Even good things can be time-stealers and should be avoided.
None of us know how long remains in our lives. None of us know what ministry work we may still accomplish for our King Jesus. So, it’s imperative for us to make every day count. It’s of the utmost significance that we not allow anything or anyone to distract us. We need to be conscious of giving all of our remaining time, talents, and treasures to the GREAT work God called us to do.
Let’s not fall for the detours! Let’s memorize Nehemiah 6:3 and allow it to become our driving force daily. These two short sentences can bring us the same victory and delight to finish our tasks for our Savior, just like they did for Nehemiah.