We started our story seeing that Nehemiah was heartbroken for his city and the shambles that it was in. He left the comfort of the kingdom and his job to go and sacrifice himself for the sake of others. He has been criticized and threatened along the way but he was unselfish in his endeavor to help others so he stayed focused on the task that God had laid on his heart and did not let the distractions keep him from doing the will of God.
We are a distracted society because we have so many more things in our lives that keep us from staying focused on the things that really matter. In our homes we have a ton of channels on our televisions, computers and I phones that have more technology than we need, and we also have more distractions with the busyness of life. Some things are not always bad but still cost us time and focus from what we should really be doing. We are going to look at the continuing story of Nehemiah and see what he did to keep himself on track as well as what distractions he dealt with.
Read Nehemiah 6: 1-4
1) The Distraction of opportunities
Meeting with these men would have been viewed by the people to be a good thing to do. Groups of the people were dedicated to some of these men because they were related to them through marriage so the political thing for Nehemiah to do would have been to go and meet with them. The people would have not known that their goal was to kill Nehemiah and so the pressure from the people could have caused Nehemiah to go meet with them. Nehemiah knew from the start that they did not like him because he did not submit to their power and now that the wall was almost built it was a last ditch effort on their part to get rid of him.
We are to meet with brothers and sisters in Christ if there is a conflict between both of you (Matthew 18) but that does not mean you have to meet with people just because they want to have a meeting.
The enemy will always try to distract you from what you are to be doing and the choice is not always easy to discern. What has God called you to do? Then do that and you will have to ignore other things. There are many good things that we could be doing as a church and everyone has a ministry, a program and an opportunity for us to be doing. One of our focuses is to help families become better equipped at raising their children and to not be busy filling the calendar with many events so we do not take people away from others we are trying to reach.
When you say NO to other opportunities, or if you stay focused on what God has called you to do, just realize not everyone will be happy with you. Parents do not get distracted by the other opportunities that will rob you from being a parent. Spouses be careful that your career choice does not rob you from the assignment of being a loving spouse.
Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?
They never answer Nehemiah’s question as to why they should meet. When someone does not have a good reason why you should meet then you need to know that they are going to waste your time. When you know what your God given priorities are then you will know if the other things that are pulling at you are worthy of your time. When you do not have priorities that is when other people will pull you toward their priorities.
I am doing a great work
Jim Collins wrote a business book called “Good to Great” and in it he says Good is the enemy of Great. Author and speaker Jon Acuff says your “yes has to be bigger than your no.” Never forget your God given assignment is a great work and that includes being a great spouse, a great parent and great family member. The world will laugh at you for passing up opportunities for your family but at the end of the day you will never regret the time you invested in your spouse and your children.
One of the ways to set your priorities is to ask yourself, “In light of eternity what things really matter?”
And they sent to me four times in this way
They were persistent in trying to get Nehemiah distracted and so will others do to you when they want to get your attention and time. If you are not careful people can wear you down over time just like a child who continues to ask for the same thing over and over again. You think that by giving into their needs it will relieve the situation but in reality you just allowed them to have control over you. This is why you have to know the great work God has called you to do and prioritize your life around it.
John 17:4 have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.
This verse really bothers me because Jesus did what He came to do, no more and no less. It bothers me because there was so much more to be done but Jesus knew that He had one job to do and that was to do the will of the Father. Many people tried to pull at Jesus and make Him do what they wanted but Jesus stayed focused on His task even at the expense of making others mad at Him. In Luke 9:51 it says, “Jesus had set his face toward Jerusalem,” which meant nothing was going to detour Him away from the mission. The Samaritans became so angry with Jesus he went to stay in another village.
People will not always understand that you are doing a great work and they will not always agree that the work you are doing is greater than the work they want you to do. There is a great book by Andy Stanley called, “Choosing to Cheat” and in the book he makes the premise that you only have so much time and so someone is going to get cheated when you say yes to other things.
Read Nehemiah 6:5-9
2) The Distraction of Lies
With an open letter
Most letters sent to the King would have been sealed with a royal symbol pressed into wax and if they would have been opened then someone would have been punished for it with losing their life. An open letter meant that it could be passed around and read by everyone on its way to its intended person. You have seen these on face book to our president and other politicians so that everyone can read what you are trying to convey to the person you are writing to.
This was a way of spreading lies about Nehemiah to distract him from the work because this lie could have easily turned the King and the people against Nehemiah’s leadership and even cost him his life. This open letter worked before in Ezra 4 stopping the work so they thought it might work again.
Its been reported among the nations and Geshem also says it
Liars like to say “Everyone is talking about it, everyone is saying it and even so and so says it.” This is what liars do; they talk in generalities so that they cannot be pinned down by their own words. They make it seem like what they are saying is a really big deal when it really is not. When someone does not have specifics and only generalities or if they are making small things a bigger deal than they need to be, you do not need to address those people.
“If we take care of our character, we can trust God to take care of our reputation.” Warren Weirsbe
It would have been easy for Nehemiah to try and defend himself and prove himself to be correct but he knew that would distract him from completing the assignment of God. We waste many hours when we answer our critics and enemies. Sometimes we just need to answer like Nehemiah who said, “No such thing has been done… you are making this up in your own mind”
In psychology there is a theory that says that people will place on you how they really are. Its called projection so they think that you act and think the way they do. So in other words, liars think everyone is a liar, cheaters think other cheat etc. Sanballat was accusing Nehemiah of what he really was and that is he wanted to be King or at least a powerful ruler in the area. That’s why sometimes you wonder how people even came up with stuff they say about you because they are projecting how they are onto you.
Nehemiah gave up luxury and a powerful position to sacrifice for this vision, yet he is being accused of doing it to gain power and control. Nehemiah was in a powerful position before he sacrificed for the rebuilding of the wall so if it was power he was after, he already had it. Nehemiah does what we all should do and that is say it is not true and then move on. People are going to believe what they want to believe so you just have to keep living your life and eventually the truth will come out.
1 Peter 2:12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
Overtime your life will show others who was really speaking the truth and who is lying.
Now strengthen my hands oh God
I love the simple prayers Nehemiah prays to God. He knows where his strength comes from and he prays a simple prayer to ask God to help him do what He has called him to do. He is asking God to help him stay focused on the task at hand and not losing focus by the false accusations that are being made about him. He asks God to help him through this painful time of hurt and lies to focus on the task.
Read Nehemiah 6:10-19
3) The Distraction of Fear and betrayal
I went to the house of Shemaiah
Shemaiah was one of the priests so being summoned by him would have been worth Nehemiah’s time and attention. (1 Chronicles 24:18) Shemaiah was confined in his house and some say that was to put on the appearance that his life was in danger just like Nehemiah’s. What Nehemiah discovered is that Shemaiah was a false prophet who was trying to trick Nehemiah into sinning against God.
One of the works of the enemy is to have a Judas or a betrayer close to you. These are people that will seem they are for you yet they will betray you for their own benefit or because their loyalty is with another person. These people are serving for their benefit of what they can get from you and not for the glory of God.
Nehemiah knew that Gods word said that he should not enter into the temple (numbers 18:7; 2 Chronicles 26:16-21) Anyone who tries to get you to do things contrary to the word of God is a false prophet even if they are your best friend.
Isaiah 8:20 Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn.
Nothing overtakes the Word of God and no relationship can come before your devotion to God.
Luke 14:26 If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.
What Shemaiah was trying to do was disqualify Nehemiah with God and among the people. Your enemies will do things to try and get you disqualified as a leader and if you are not careful people that you think are for you will distract you from the work of God. 1 Corinthians 9:27 Paul said that he makes sure that he does not disqualify himself from the prize.
Just like the open letters (gossip) it was an attack on Nehemiah’s character in the hopes of turning the people against him and this was a temptation based on fear and friendship that could have ruined him.
Should a man like me run away?
The word frighten is used 4 times to describe what they were trying to do to Nehemiah (9;13;14;19) There is always something bigger at stake than your safety and you are part of a bigger plan than you will ever realize this side of Heaven. Nehemiah had a legitimate reason to be scared because he did not know who he could fully trust and people were literally trying to kill him. Some of his Jewish brothers were loyal to Tobiah and they made sure that Nehemiah knew where their loyalties were.
Running is always the easy thing to do in the face of fear because fear is a powerful emotion. Fear should never override the calling of God on your life and Nehemiah knew that his position in the Kingdom would have devastated the people if he would have just run away from those who were threatening to harm him.
So the wall was finished
The best way to silence your critics is to complete the work God assigned to you.
“You are not accountable to your critics, though they will do everything in their power to make you think you are. You are accountable to the One who has invited you to partner with him to create what could and should be.” (Visioneering, Andy Stanley pg. 211)
And when all of our enemies heard of it they fell in their own esteem
All the attention brought to Nehemiah through the lies of a few actually brought Glory to God when the wall was finished. The negativity toward Nehemiah had people focusing on what he was doing and then the work showed that God was with them. Although the negative people may be a pain to you just realize that because of them God is using them to show more people what He is doing. Our lives should be such that God always gets the glory for what He has done in and through us.
They fell in their own esteem because they realized they were not the god of their own life. People do not like the idea of their being a God because then they would have to humble themselves under Him The work that was accomplished demonstrated that their was a God and their pride was broken by the work that had taken place.
What distractions do you have in your life keeping you from God’s calling?
What people are pulling you into a wrong direction?
What good opportunities are keeping you from the great things to be done?
What has been said about you that has stopped you in your tracks?
What are you afraid of that is bigger than our God?
I pray that your work for the Lord can only be explainable because God was involved in it.