Ministers are forced to deal with distractions every day. Our management of distractions is vitally important to our ministry. Distractions can force inappropriate responses toward others; they can pull us away from priorities; and they hinder our focus.
Nehemiah’s detractors sent him a word of distraction. They said, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me harm.” (6:2) Nehemiah saw through their scheme. These people sent the same invitation five times. (vs. 4, 5) Nehemiah’s response was “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.” (6:3)
Stanley mentioned three distractions we face.
- There are opportunities. Nehemiah was given the opportunity to make peace with his detractors. He did not see this as an opportunity but as a distraction.
- There are criticisms. The whole point of Nehemiah’s situation was enemies who criticized his work. They did not like what he was doing so they criticized him intensely. His enemies said the mere weight of a fox would break down the wall. (4:3)
- There were fears. Nehemiah’s enemies hired a hit man to instill fear in his heart. “For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me.” (6:13)
Fear comes from many directions: Satan, enemies, and critics. There is even the paranoia of our own hearts. I once heard someone say paranoia is F=false; E= evidence; A= appears; R=real. Paranoia can take many forms: fear of failure, enemies, the unknown, or fear of criticism. No matter the form, it is real.
As we study Nehemiah’s situation several solutions come to the forefront.
- In verse 3 (listed above) we see the first of Nehemiah’s answers to distractions. He saw the work as a significant work. He said, “I am doing a great work.” Some work is larger than the distractions that compete against them. That is focus! Nehemiah could not take his eyes off of the target.
- Nehemiah was a man of prayer. As he and the Israelite people worked, they also prayed. “Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.” (4:9) Prayer was a shield for God’s people as they worked. WOW! What inspiration!
- Nehemiah’s response to his enemies was a spirit of steadfastness. He would not stop because of detractors. In I Cor. 15 Paul shares a word of encouragement concerning steadfastness. “My beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” (vs. 58)
My fellow minister, the word still stands, be steadfast. God has a work for you to do!