And 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?” And they sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner.
- Nehemiah 6:3-4
Nehemiah said “No” to the people who would distract him from his great work. But he didn’t just have to do that once. Today’s passage shows that Nehemiah had to say “No” over and over and over again.
This is the way it often is when you embark on a God-given great work. Resist one distraction and another appears. Overcome one obstacle and you’re not done. The pursuit of any great work requires persistence.
Our capacity to exercise persistence is inversely proportional to our level of busyness. When we’re all maxed out mentally or emotionally or physically, we’re much more likely to be thrown off course.
Here’s how it works out: imagine that your great work involves restoring your strained marriage. That’s going to require a lot from you. And God can provide. But if you cram your schedule full of activity that pulls you away from your partner and bleed your budget in ways that create financial pressure and pour all of your emotional energy into drama in your office, don’t be surprised when you don’t have what you need to offer to your spouse. You may have to say “No” to a hundred things in order to say “Yes” to your marriage.
Now, that may not be your great work in this season. Some of us are single parents and focused on our kids. Others of us are starting non-profits or working on new creative enterprises. You may have to do some translation here. But we know you’re up to it. We believe in you.
In order to pursue your God-given great work, you need to make more than just one good decision; you need to string together a series of good decisions. You need to create and capture momentum. You need to remain vigilant. And the more momentum you have, the easier it will become for you to remain persistent in the face of obstacles and distractions.
What are the main obstacles and distractions that hound you as you pursue your God-given great work? What do you do to overcome those obstacles and resist those distractions? What new disciplines do you need to pursue to help you remain focused and persistent?