So I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” — Nehemiah 6:3
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. — Hebrews 12:1
A long time ago a guy named Artaxerxes was the Persian ruler of the Jewish people. Despite some early friction between Artaxerxes and the Jews, he had an unexplained change of heart toward them as a people. Nehemiah was a servant — the king’s cupbearer — when all of this was going on. The cupbearer was a special job in the palace. This person would pour the wine and taste it before the king did. It wouldn’t have been a bad first job — unless someone was trying to poison the king and you got a mouthful. Then, not so much.
Nehemiah was someone the king trusted with his life, but he was also a slave to him. It was an odd juxtaposition but a deal many of us make all the time. Jerusalem was the big city. If you’ve read the history books, it was forever in the middle of a controversy, much as it still is. It was leveled twice, attacked more than seventy-five times, and recaptured almost as often. One group would overthrow the city, destroy it, and take over, then another group would arrive and do the same. The last group that overthrew the city of Jerusalem had the city walls destroyed and the gates burned (again).
- Nehemiah had a special love for Jerusalem and asked the king if he could leave court and help rebuild the city.
It was a bold ask for a slave, but the king trusted him and told him he could take leave and go.
There was a lot of work to do, but Nehemiah didn’t just think about it; he got to work. It wasn’t long afterward that some people tried to distract him. These men called him names, said mean things about him, and tried to intimidate him. Their hope was that Nehemiah would become so distracted that he would bail on what he had come to do. Nehemiah made a power move I hope you will adopt in your life. He looked down at the men below calling his name and declared: “I’m doing important work, and I can’t come down!”
- He was a guy who had cracked the code. He knew what he was there to do. He knew why he was doing it. And he wouldn’t be distracted.
Another group figured out where Nehemiah was and threw everything and the kitchen sink at him to get him off task — but once again it didn’t work. Nehemiah yelled down to them while stacking bricks on the wall.
“I’m doing important work, and I can’t come down!”
I can see him — head down, focused, confident, unwilling to yield to the noise around him. Nehemiah knew plenty about distractions, including the power of a distraction to interfere with his larger God-given purposes. He knew these distractions would come his way, and he figured out what he was going to say when they did. You should take a lesson from him.
- “I’m doing important work, and I can’t come down!”
He probably practiced in the mirror so he didn’t have to think about it on the spot. Do the same. Practice saying this to disruptions when they come your way.
“I’m doing important work, and I can’t come down!”
This phrase wasn’t just a slogan for Nehemiah; he had a strategy and a plan to back it up. Here is what he did. Half of the people with him worked on rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem while the other half protected them.
Here are a couple of questions I have for you: What are you going to say to the people and circumstances that come your way, conspiring to distract you from your greater purposes? Will you have the guts and grit to tell these people and the noise around you, “I’m doing important work, and I can’t come down”? Nehemiah couldn’t complete his work alone, and you probably won’t be able to either. Who’s got your back when you are doing the important work? Who is going to help you stick to the important work when you can’t come down?
There was a valley nearby called Ono, but it is pronounced “Oh no.” I’m not kidding. You couldn’t make this stuff up. The people who came at Nehemiah wanted to do more than just distract him; they wanted to take him out. To do this they tried to get him off the wall and down to the “Oh no” valley. I’m willing to bet you’ve been to a place called “Oh no” in your life at some point. Perhaps you’ve listened to the cautious and fear-laced advice from the people around you. “What about this? Oh no. What about that? Oh no.” You might feel like you are on the edge of this place, or perhaps you’ve been living there for a long time. Maybe you have fears born out of disappointments and letdowns in the past. Or anxiety about the future. Perhaps you are in the “Oh no” valley so often it feels like you should get a timeshare there and make it kind of like a lousy trip to Hawaii.
If you aren’t in the “Oh no” valley now or haven’t been there recently, I bet you know people who are the greeters. They are easy to spot because when a great idea comes their way, their first reaction is always: “Oh no. It’ll never work. Why try? Give up! You’re wasting your time. Be more realistic.” These phrases are the coin of the realm for people in a constant state of “Oh no.” Don’t be one of them, and for Pete’s sake, quit hanging out with people who are scaring you off the scent of your beautiful and lasting purpose. Remind yourself that you are doing important work, and you’re not going to come down.
Excerpted with permission from Undistracted by Bob Goff, copyright Bob Goff.
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God gave you important work to do. Wherever He has you, however small or large the tasks are, keep at it. Don't listen to the "Oh no" distractions. Keep doing your thing! Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you about being undistracted for Jesus! ~ Devotionals Daily