Distractions cause reactions.
Series of reactions stunts progression because one cannot step forwards as they are only responding to the things flying at them. I watched a recent UFC fight where the champion completely dominated the challenger through methodical technique and pressure. I listened to couple of analysts break down the fight and they were saying the champion achieved victory by dictating the pace thus forcing his opponent fight on his terms. The challenger of the world championship fight could not mount an offense or even impose his own will because he was caught responding to everything the champion was doing. The champion kicked first. The champion punched first. The champion clinched first. By no means am I an expert at fighting but those who are able to dictate the direction and pace of the fight will end up with the coveted victory of the night.
Distractions are like opponents in a cage match. They will do whatever they can to dictate the pace and direction of your life by trying to distract you from your goal by tempting you to respond to their suggestions. Distractions, if left to their own devices will not only derail you in your destiny but will leave you in a mess of confusion and frustration. The way we have victory with distraction is not engaging them first but pursuing what we need to get done!
Unlike a cage fight where the fighter wishes to be the initiator of engagement, the way we deal with the opponent of distraction that comes from Satan is to not focus on it but focus on God! The distractions of the enemy are dealt with when we choose not to highlight them and make them the focus of our attention but doubling down on our attention on God! Nehemiah is constantly harassed with distractions in today’s passage but his response was always geared towards doing what God is doing!
Nehemiah shows us the path unto dealing with distractions and their various types.
Distractions are persistent and wish to halt your path of obedience unto the Lord. Don’t stop your walk with the Lord (Neh. 6:1-4).
Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem saw how Nehemiah was progressing in the restoration of the walls of Jerusalem. The distractors sought to halt the progress of restoration by asking Nehemiah to come meet them four times! When we find ourselves progressing in God, don’t be alarmed when distractions rise in our lives to try and halt the train of obedience and following of the Lord! We must dispel any thought, of smooth sailing into the sunset with Jesus when we choose to follow Him! We are progressing and the enemy will do what he can to stop us at any costs because a Christian connected to Christ is a dangerous Christian to the kingdom of darkness. If the enemy can disrupt our connection to Jesus through distraction, than we begin to be a non-threat to Satan.
Nehemiah’s response to what seemed like a simple request to meet by these treacherous dogs was, “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?” Nehemiah is not stopping the will of God to entertain distractions. This doesn’t mean we cannot do anything for the people in our lives because we church work but some of us have completely put a halt in our devotion to God to fulfill our dreams first. We prolong our call to missions (which is everyone) in order to get into the school of our dreams or obtain our dream career but if you can’t obey God now due to your dreams, what makes you think you won’t have dreams later on which demand your attention first?
Having a career and studying to get into a university are good and necessary but not worth the price if it means halting your walk with God. Some of us believe we will always have the future but the future is not guaranteed as all we have is the present.
Distraction may come as an assault on your motivations and character. The answer is not entertaining a debate (Neh. 6:6-9)
Sanballat was not pleased so he sends a letter attacking the character and intentions of Nehemiah. He accuses Nehemiah of wanting to restore Jerusalem in order to place himself as king thus rebelling against Xerxes. With these accusations, Sanballat still asked Nehemiah to meet in order to offer his “help.” When our character and intention gets assaulted, we respond to this distraction by mounting a case of defense! It is only natural for any human being to defend themselves in a midst of threat and especially if it’s a personal attack on character.
Nehemiah’s response to the accusations of Sanballat is pure gold!
“No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind.”
Nothing more and nothing less! Nehemiah plainly refuted Sanballat’s statement and he didn’t mount any further defense but kept on doing the work of the Lord because he recognized the goal of the enemy is to get Nehemiah so consumed by distraction in hopes to stop completely the work of God. Getting into an ongoing debate with accusers on our character that is clearly false is a distraction from doing the Lord’s work and our response to should be asking God to strengthen our hands to continue in the work.
We acknowledge the accusation and refute it but don’t entertain weeks long debate over it for we have bigger matters to tend to! Our goal in life is not maintaining our reputation but worshipping God with our whole being and as Pastor John Piper has stated in his books that, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” Our goal is develop generations and nations that worship our God and King!
Distraction will tempt you to seek your safety at the expense of your holiness. The answer is knowing God’s ways and knowing yourself in Him
The last distraction actually came from within Nehemiah’s own ranks. Shemaiah was trying to get Nehemiah to meet in the house of God within the temple in order for Nehemiah to escape danger. There is one problem with Shemaiah’s plan to help Nehemiah, Nehemiah by right cannot enter into the temple for he was not a Levite and to do so will violate the law of God. Nehemiah knows this and responds with two answers
Nehemiah knew his identity as and didn’t choose to prioritize the preservation of his life at the expense of not operating within the bounds of the law of God. He could have agreed with Shemaiah by justifying his important position in leading the great restoration and thus believe that he was excused in breaking the law to preserve himself. However, Nehemiah didn’t think so highly of himself and didn’t excuse himself from keeping the law of God. But, this doesn’t mean he had a low view of himself but knew his importance. Nehemiah knew his position as the chosen leader of this time and thus did not allow himself to abandon the plans of God.
Nehemiah insight into this particular distraction was to cause fear in Him in order for him to sin and Nehemiah was having none of it!
A common thing about distractions is the ability to move your focus and energy away from God and what He is doing. The distractions can come in any shape or form but one thing it will do is try to cause fear because fear has a tendency escort you to the doorsteps of committing sin. Like Nehemiah, our response to distractions are to double down on our focus to God, know who we are in God, and knowing the ways of God so as not to sin against Him in the midst of the situation.
Let us double down and focus on our God for He is always moving!