I’ve been in the doldrums lately. Going through the motions without joy, the vision for the future was blurry. I contemplated easier options. And then I started last week’s Bible study and ran headlong into this: the enemies of Israel were terrified of the wall of Jerusalem being completed and they did not pull any punches in their attempt to distract Nehemiah. They attacked, spread lies, stirred up fear and tempted Nehemiah to sin. They sent messages asking him to meet them for peace talks, which sounds like a good thing, right? I love his response: “I am doing a great work and I can’t come.” Wow.
Nehemiah had a clear vision of what he was to do. He knew what God had placed in his heart and it was specific. When his heart was burdened for the people, he did not ask the king to let him go help them somehow. He went to build the wall. Remember, he did not immediately see the whole picture and have a complete plan as soon as he felt the burden of the need in his heart. He prayed…for months. How else can we know what God wants us to do but by asking Him and seeking to hear His voice? If the vision is from God we can know that it is a “great work.”
Nehemiah was completely convinced that then plan that God put in his heart to do was a “great work” therefore it was worth putting aside a comfortable life and rightly-earned amenities. Who would stand against constant opposition unless they truly believed that what they were doing was worth it? No one is willing to sacrifice for a mediocre work. A good work sounds nice but when we get tired there is little motivation to continue on. It must be a great work. If the vision is from God we know it is a great work because our God does not do anything mediocre.
Nehemiah refused to be distracted from his work, even by things that seemed good. I think he understood the lesson my Dad repeated to me countless times, “good is the enemy of the best.” Oh, to have such a clear vision and determined focus that I cannot be distracted by the ‘good’ opportunities that come along! Perhaps the hard part is that some things may be great things in one season but good things in another. And something what is a great thing for you may be a good thing (read distraction) for me.
I used to teach 3 year old Sunday School and loved it! It had its moments but for the most part it was a joy and blessing to me. Then my kiddos got a little older and we began homeschooling. Each week I felt more and more that I was not doing my best at teaching Sunday School or teaching at home because my time & energy were divided between the two. I labored over the issue, I tried to rationalize continuing with both. I felt that God wanted me to focus on the great work of educating my children and that, at least for a season, meant that Sunday School was a distraction. The guilt of stepping down when there was already a shortage of teachers plagued me…for a while. As I became more convinced of how great the work is that I am currently called to the guilt faded. You know what? That class has a teacher. Someone who may not have ever stepped up to offer to teach before but who is enjoying teaching the 3 year olds as part of the great work God has for her in this season. I know that God is in control but when I see Him work things out like that I can’t help but smile.
The are other types of distractions. You know the ones. The time wasters, fun but of little be benefit to anyone. Not everyone will be susceptible to distraction by the same thing but we all have something. I am currently battling a certain electronic distraction. I’ve thought about tossing the whole thing but it isn’t all distraction, there are some big benefits for me. My second thought was to answer every beep, bell, chirp and chime with a very loud “I am trying to do a great work here!”
ahem. Obviously, I’m still working through my distraction issues.
So what now? If I have a clear vision of the great work God has for me to do and I am completely convinced that it is great and I am carefully guarding against distractions, what then?
Do the work. Keep doing the work. And finish strong.
Stay the course, my friends. A great work will never go unchallenged. A work done by the power of God will be completed. When the wall of Jerusalem was completed everyone knew that “our God had done it.” (Nehemiah 6:16) No one praised Nehemiah for his wisdom and focus or his excellent plans. God received the glory. Ultimately, shouldn’t that always be our goal in all things?
So, what is your great work? What distractions do you battle and how do you fight them?
If you will excuse me now, I have a great work I need to get back to.