The Art of Perseverance: Nehemiah 6:1-9 (What To Do When Distractions Come)
Say it with me, “Distractions will come.”
Yup. Especially when we are called to focus on one thing. Many times I think I have a disorder called SpADD: Spiritual Attention Deficit Disorder. (I just made that up. Funny, eh?)
In other words, when times get tough and I’m supposed to press on through the storm, distractions look appealing to me.
I Thought I Would Die. Seriously.
About 12 years ago a few friends and I went deep sea fishing. We were about 70 miles off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. 7 of us were in a 22-foot cabin cruiser when a bad storm came out of nowhere.
Here’s something you need to know about me: I’m scared of storms. I dream about tornadoes all the time. I hate driving through storms. So when we were 70 miles off the coast and this summer front comes barging over us, I seriously thought I would see what Jesus really looks like. And soon.
The boat’s captain tried to outrun the storm at first, but we were hitting mighty waves. He was afraid he would bust up his boat. So he made the most awful-sounding decision I had ever heard. “Let’s turn around and drive right through it!” he said.
I thought he was crazy. “Drive through the storm! He’s gonna kill us all!” I thought.
I quickly began looking for something else where we could hook up to and ride it out. Lightning popped all around us, and we were holding onto medal poles just to keep from falling out of the boat. I knew I would soon drown.
I noticed an oil rig not too far off and a boat was docked underneath. I yelled to the captain to head to the rig. But he chose to keep going. “Dumb captain,” I thought. “I may not know boats very well, or sailing the seas, but I do know when to take cover.” I was desperate.
I saw the rig as way to save our lives. He saw it as a distraction. He knew what he was doing. I was looking for the quickest way out. The boat’s captain stayed the course.
Nehemiah Stayed the Course, Too.
Wanna see how? Read this.
There were actually two distractions here.
- Sanballat and Geshem wanted to meet with Nehemiah.
- Sanballat and Geshem falsely accused Nehemiah.
But Nehemiah recognized their wicked plan with the first distraction. His reply was cool: “Why should I stop this great work just to talk to you?”
Response to distraction #1. It’s a sign of a man of God focused on his calling. He knew his enemy’s plans, but chose not to give them the time of day. Talking with them could have had some benefit: seeking a resolution, telling them off, taking them captive, etc. But Nehemiah viewed them as the little people they were compared to the awesomeness of God and His calling on Nehemiah.
Response to distraction #2. Have you ever been falsely accused? Lied about? I have. Don’t really like it much. The temptation to retaliate is high for me. Perhaps it’s high for many people. Retaliation just feels good, doesn’t it? (Ever read any Facebook fights? They’re quite silly, really.) Most times we feel we have to explain ourselves to everyone. We feel we must get them to agree with us, or change their minds, or cause them pain for their actions toward us.
Not Nehemiah. His response? It was simple. “Nope. Never happened.”
And he went back to work.
There are many other points to make regarding this, but the main point I’m learning from it is that Nehemiah doesn’t allow himself to be distracted from God’s calling on him. Not even from those who seek to kill him.
And he is able to for one reason alone. His prayer, “Now strengthen my hands.”
Oh. The Storm.
By the way, I survived the big storm in the gulf. The captain had turned the boat around and drove us right through it. Within minutes we were out of the storm.
Back in the sunshine.
Later I found out that if the captain had taken the distraction of hooking up to a rig, we could have easily bounced right into the giant poles that held the rig up. Would’ve been dangerous.
That’s distractions for you. They’re dangerous.
Stay the course. Trust in God.
He knows what He’s doing.
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