Summary: Don’t let distractions keep you from doing the work God wants you to do
Sue and I like to hike when we go on vacation. About ten years ago, we decided to check out the beautiful scenery along Lake Superior.
We walked along the sandy beach in the icy cold water and viewed the rocks on the floor of the lake. We walked through the woods and saw scenic geological formations. The area was truly a place of natural beauty, a reminder of God’s creative power.
The thing we remember most, though, was the flies - big, black deer flies. Oh, could they bite. Even though we sprayed with OFF they kept coming ON. They were a terrible distraction. So we’d take a swat and keep on movin’, take a swat and keep on movin’, .Finally we gave up hiking. We were paying more attention to the flies than to the scenery.
Are distractions ever a problem for you? I hope I’m not the only one who gets distracted when I’m working. It’s bad enough when you are doing your homework or cleaning the house and something interrupts you, but it is especially troubling when distractions keep you from doing the work God wants you to do.
As followers of Christ, we have a project. God has called us to join him in saving the world. That is why he sent Jesus. That is why he established the church. God is a missionary God and he has called us to join him in his mission.
• In Matthew Jesus said that we are the light of the world and the salt of the earth.
• In Mark he said to go into all the world.
• In Luke he sent out seventy messengers.
• In John, he said, “As the father has sent me, so I send you.”
• In Acts he established the church.
So here we are in 2006, serving as a band of Elm Street missionaries with a job to do and we dare not get distracted. Our scripture lesson today shows us how to take a swat and keep on movin’.
Nehemiah knew how to brush off distractions. After 70 years of exile, his people, the Jews, were given permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and the city. Nehemiah was in charge of getting that work done. They had rebuilt the temple and now they were rebuilding the city walls. But it hadn’t been easy.
In Nehemiah 4, we learn that the nations around them opposed their progress. In Chapter 5 internal strife threatened to destroy the unity of the people. And in Chapter 6 Nehemiah himself came under attack. These distractions could have kept him from finishing his work, but Nehemiah had learned to take a swat and keep on movin’. Today we want to examine the way Nehemiah cut through his distractions to carry out his mission.
But before we go there, take a look at how this story ends. In verse 15 we read that the wall was finished in 52 days. That sounds like a record. The people working on it were not stone cutters by trade, but Neh. 4:6 says, “The people had a mind to work.” Archeologists have dug up that wall and have found that it was not perfect. It was crooked in some places and the stones didn’t fit together well. But the fact that they got it done at all was a miracle. How did they get it done? With God’s help. Verse 16 says that even the surrounding nations “perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.” And that is the only way we can accomplish our mission -- with the help of God.
If you have been at Elm Street for awhile you know what Nehemiah is talking about. Where have you seen God at work in this congregation? What has happened here that could only happen with the help of God?
Now let’s turn to this scripture to see how to handle distractions.
1. Keep your Focus. In 6:1-4 we see that the rebuilding project was nearly complete. The walls were finished, but the doors still needed to be hung. Just a little more time and everything would be done. And that is when the first distraction came. You kids know what it is like when you are almost done with your homework and your mom calls you for supper. You’d much rather keep working, right?
Nehemiah had a different kind of distraction. Three guys were trying to derail the project. They had it in for Nehemiah. These guys had opposed him already in the 2nd chapter. Now they were asking to meet with him. That might sound reasonable, except that they wanted to meet at a place 25 miles away. That request was not only distracting, it was dangerous. How long do you think it would take to walk 25 miles? Two days? That would be four days away from his work. Would he be safe traveling that far? Probably not.