Summary: Do you have any unfinished projects lying around collecting dust? It’s so easy to get sidetracked isn’t it? It takes tenacity to finish what we start because there are always so many competing distractions.
Some commentators suggest that they were trying to trick him into leaving Jerusalem, where he had armed support, to come to a conference where they could ambush him. Nehemiah evidently senses this. He firmly declines, saying, “I am carrying on a great project, and I cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?”
That is a great answer even though it sounds rather blunt. But Nehemiah sees through their scheme by refusing their invitation four different times. You, too, may experience continuing pressure to change your mind and go along with something that is wrong. Some of us give in to repeated pressure. We might decline the first invitation but find our defenses weakened as the enticements continue. But Nehemiah persists in his refusal because he knows what his priorities are: “I am doing a great work. I have a great calling. God has committed a tremendous project to me, and if I leave, it will be threatened.”
Sometimes these distractions come disguised as harmless options or even good things. In staff meeting this week we were discussing this passage and Geoff and I mentioned that we both recently turned down speaking engagements elsewhere because of the work we’re involved with here. Those speaking opportunities were good, but they could have become distractions. As we discussed during our meeting, there are many things that distract us from what’s really important things like meetings, TV, sports, reading, and even email.
That’s one of my biggest distractions. I like to get up early so that I can read and pray and jump into sermon prep while I’m still fresh. Lately however, when I arrive at the office, I’ve been turning my computer on and checking email before praying and reading. While that’s not really bad, it does serve as a distraction, especially when I take the time to respond to my emails. Unfortunately, when I start my morning this way, I don’t give God His proper place in my schedule and sometimes neglect meeting with him altogether.
One of the most helpful things that we can do to resist temptation is to remember that God has called each of us to a great task. This is true of every believer in Christ whether you’re just joining PBC today or you’ve been here for many years. We are called to make a kingdom impact. Our priorities as a church are summed up in the IMPACT acrostic printed on your bulletin and they are to be personal priorities as well:
Instruction in God’s Word. We are called to read, study, and apply the Bible. We are to do this on our own and also by listening to the Word as it is preached and by being involved in one of our small groups.
Mobilized for Ministry. We are to be involved in using our time, talents, and treasures in the work of the ministry.
Praying with Faith. We are to be engaged in regular and fervent prayer.
Adoring God in Worship. We are to worship God with reverence and with joy both individually and corporately.
Caring for others. As we mentioned last week, we must be the church before we can build the church. We must be committed to each other. About 50 women experienced this kind of caring this past Thursday at the “Gathering.”